Holmsbu Church in Oslo. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix
The ranks of the Church of Norway shrunk by 25,743 members in August, it said on Thursday.
The church said that 24,653 of those who left used a new web page
that was launched on August 12th as a way to allow people to verify their status within the church but also easily withdraw.
Only 1,177 people used the new digital solution to join the church.
The head of the of the Norwegian Bishops' Conference, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, said she wouldn't characterize the trend as a mass exodus.
“The number of withdrawals must be seen in relation to the large number of members of the Norwegian Church,” she said.
She said that the church's new digital tool for sign-ups and withdrawals received extensive media attention, so the church was prepared to see a large number of people leave.
“We have great respect for individual choice,” she says.
Jens-Petter Johnsen, the head of the Church Council, acknowledged that 25,000 is an awfully big number but predicted that August's bottom line would be an anomaly.
“We expect and anticipate that withdrawal numbers will go down dramatically when the focus of this dies down in the media,” Johnsen told Dagen.
The Norwegian Church has 3.9 million members, including those living abroad. So far this year, the church received a total of 34,331 withdrawals and 2,035 new enrolments.