Stavanger, Norway/Geneva, 29 January 2003 (LWI) – As a prominent Church of Norway representative, Tjørhom was instrumental in ecumenical developments at both regional and international levels. He participated in the process that led to the Porvoo Common Statement, and was research professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. He was also a Lutheran member of the Anglican-Lutheran International Working Group.
Tjørhom’s decision to become Roman Catholic has drawn considerable attention not only in Norwegian media, but also in ecumenical circles. But he has emphasized on several occasions that he remains a committed ecumenist and stands by what he has contributed ecumenically as a Lutheran.
The conversion has raised questions about Tjørhom’s status as professor at the School of Mission and Theology, a confessional Lutheran institution. According to a recently issued statement by the Board of the School of Mission and Theology, Tjørhom’s conversion is in breach of the school’s principles and bylaws. The board decided, though, to dispense him from the relevant principles and by-laws, so enabling him to continue as professor at the school, but to no longer teach dogmatic theology. While Tjørhom’s new teaching profile is still undetermined, research and teaching in the field of ecumenism will remain an important part of his responsibilities.
The board, furthermore, proposed that steps be taken to appraise the school’s profile as a Lutheran educational institution of ecumenical openness.
Speaking to Lutheran World Information (LWI), Lutheran World Federation Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs, Rev. Sven Oppegaard said, “An ecumenical understanding of the one universal church belongs to our wide framework for Christian self-understanding.” Conversions, therefore, appear to be becoming rarer among ecumenically dedicated persons. “But in certain cases there are individual needs that must be respected,” he continued. “If we as Lutherans take seriously our recognition of the ecclesial character of the churches with which we are in communion—or in dialogue, with a view to possible unity—a conversion such as this cannot be viewed as switching over to an opponent.” Oppegaard pointed out that in cases of conversion, the Roman Catholic Church no longer requires negation of the church that was left. He expressed hope that contact and cooperation with Tjørhom would continue into the future.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland. Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF’s information service.Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units.
© 2003 LWF