- The Reformation came to Norway in 1537, following its acceptance by King Christian III of Denmark (r. 1534-59), then sovereign of Norway as well. Norway officially accepted Lutheranism in 1539, and those bishops who remained loyal to Rome were removed from their posts. The church was subsequently placed under the authority of the king, who confiscated Roman Catholic property.At the end of 18th century, Norway was influenced by Pietism, with its demands for personal faith and its questioning of church hierarchy. Hans Nielsen Hague (1771-1824), the primary exponent, organized a number of small informal groups for prayer and worship that unofficially competed with sunday worship at established churches. While Hague's movement remained within the ecclesiastical structures in Norway, in America his followers established an independent synod that eventually merged into what is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.Norway's constitution, adopted in 1814, affirmed freedom of religion though it retained Lutheranism as the official religion of the state; the king and more than half the members of the Council of State had to profess the official religion. (At the same time, Norway accepted an act of union with sweden that continued until 1905.)Non-Lutheran churches began to establish a presence in Norway early in the 19th century, beginning with the Quakers in 1818. Baptist work initiated in the 1850s led to the founding of the Norwegian Baptist Union. Other streams were Methodism (1853), the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1887), the Salvation Army (1888), and Jehovah's Witnesses (1891). Most of these churches came from North America, but the Mission Covenant (1850s) was a Free Church community from Sweden. The primary Free Church movement within the Church of Norway emerged late in the century under the leadership of Rev. Paul Peter Wettergren (1835-89), who called for acknowledgment of Jesus (not the king of Norway) as the only leader of the church and hence for a strict separation of church and state. His efforts led to the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway.Pentecostalism in Scandinavia had its beginning in Oslo, Norway. On a visit to New York in 1906, Thomas B. Barrett (1862-1940) experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He shared his experience with readers of his magazine, Byposten, and began holding Pentecostal meetings in December. Word spread around Europe, and between visitors to Oslo and Barrett's own travels, Pentecostalism reached most European countries within a few years. In Norway, it was a loosely organized movement with each congregation constituting an autonomous organization. Eventually, the congregations joined in a loose fellowship called Pinesebevegelsen (or Pentecostal Revival). By the end of the 20th century, there were some 300 congregations. More than half the non-Lutheran Protestants in Norway are now affiliated with Pentecostal and Charismatic fellowships.The Church of Norway has remained the state church, but it has suffered from the extreme secularization of the nation. Membership includes 96 percent of citizens, but church attendance is less than 5 percent. A law passed in 1953 introduced a number of democratic reforms into what was a staunchly hierarchical structure little changed from before the Reformation.The Church of Norway is a member of both the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches. Norwegian Methodists are an integral a part of the United Methodist CHuRCH, also a council member. Several of the Protestant groups have formed the Norsk Frikirk-erad (Free Church Council).Further reading:■ Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van der Maas, eds. International Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic Movements, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2020)■ The Church of Norway (Hegdehaugen, Norway: Church of Norway Information Service, 1990)■ L. S. Hunter, Scandinavian Churches: A Picture of the Development of the Churches of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden (London: Faber & Faber, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.