Pastor openly rejects the Creator
by Michael Matthews, AiG–US
20 June 2003
The Lutheran Church in Denmark is not sure what to do with a pastor who has gone public with his atheism. In a newspaper interview, Thorkild Grosboell openly said he believes ‘there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.’1
The pastor’s local bishop, Rev. Lise-Lotte Rebel, felt compelled to suspend him, pending clarification of his views. In response, hundreds of his parishioners rallied to Grosboell’s side, demanding his return.
‘The church must be tolerant!’
‘If there is no place for our pastor in this church, then there is no place for many of us either,’ says the head of the parish council, Lars Heilesen. ‘The Church must be able to tolerate points of view that are not necessarily its own. There must be some room allowed to express one’s doubts openly without being sanctioned.’2
Actually, the bishop’s demands were not heavy. She simply wanted Grosboell to clarify ‘that he did not want to sow doubt about the Church's confession but rather trigger a debate.’3 When he would not back down, she suspended him.
Because it is a state church, however, the Lutheran Church cannot defrock Grosboell.
A government committee seeking to clean up the state church from charges of corruption has actually come to Grosboell’s defense, claiming he is a victim of censorship. It has filed a formal complaint claiming a violation of the Danish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Others are on his side, too. According to an AP report, Mogens Lindhardt, who heads Denmark's Theological College of Education, considers Grosboell’s claims ‘refreshing.’1
‘I was just misquoted!’
After his suspension, Grosboell told the press that his words have been misunderstood: ‘I feel that I was misquoted. My statements were presented in a way that was oversimplified and categorical.’ He says he believes ‘in something divine, but not in a God who created man and the ant.’2
The media seems shocked by this strange turn of events.
Yet Denmark’s church has been a harbinger of the depths to which Christians can sink once Pandora’s box has been opened—once Christians reject the authority of every word in the Bible, beginning with its historical account of a six-day Creation and a worldwide Flood in Genesis.
One hundred years ago, who would have believed that the church would employ atheists as pastors? It seems that there’s no ‘bottom’ to the depths of society’s decline, once the door has been opened. (See Ken Ham’s article The big picture.)
For follow-up news on this article, please read our Update on ‘atheist pastor’.
1. Danish priest suspended after claiming God, eternal life don’t exist,
2. Danish pastor suspended for refusing to believe in God, Agence France-Presse,
3. Parishioners demand return of atheist pastor, ABC News Online,
More Details here
Thorkild Grosbøll (born February 27, 1948) is a parish priest in the Church of Denmark. Grosbøll has said that he does not believe in God, but he still wants to serve as a priest. While quoting just these two views out of context is an oversimplification of his position, they have resulted in Grosbøll being at the centre of a controversy among Christians, mostly in Denmark. After various other services, Grosbøll became parish priest in Taarbæk June 1991. In the spring of 2003, Thorkild Grosbøll published the book En Sten i Skoen (A Stone in the Shoe), resulting in very limited reactions, though he wrote in it that he does not believe in God. On May 23, 2003, the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen published an interview with Grosbøll, in which he repeated statements from his book, in particular that he does not believe in a creating or upholding God. After a public outcry, the bishop in Elsinore, Lise-Lotte Rebel, started talks with the priest on June 3, 2003 about his faith. Simultaneously, she relieved him of his duties as parish priest in Taarbæk as she believed Grosbøll had failed in four accounts:
* neglected the creed of the Church of Denmark.
* subverted the respectability of the service.
* ignored orders.
* created profound confusion about the Church of Denmark.
On July 23, 2003, Thorkild Grosbøll was allowed to continue his service as a parish priest in Taarbæk, subject to special surveillance by the bishop. On June 3, 2004, Grosbøll was instructed to resign no later than June 4, or he would be suspended. On June 7, 2004, the chairman of the elected parish council in Taarbæk, Lars Heilesen, informed the parish about the situation in the church in Taarbæk. On June 10, 2004, Rebel again relieved Thorkild Grosbøll of his duties. During all these events, the parish community in Taarbæk stood by Thorkild Grosbøll. There was an animated public debate, occasionally fuelled by statements from Grosbøll like: "God belongs in the past. He is actually so old fashioned that I am baffled by modern people believing in his existence. I am thoroughly fed up with empty words about miracles and eternal life." (Ude og Hjemme, week 24, 2005). At the same time he maintained that the bishop and the press misunderstood him, taking quotes from his sermons out of context. July 12, 2004 the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs transferred the case to an ecclesiastical court. The first stage of this process, a hearing of the involved parties, was concluded February 2005. On May 11 2005, the ministry relieved bishop Rebel from her surveillance of Thorkild Grosbøll, and transferred the surveillance to the bishop in Roskilde, Jan Lindhardt. Thereby the ministry put the ecclesiastical court case on hold. May 20 2006 Grosbøll confirmed his priestly vows before Lindhardt in the presence of witnesses and by his signature, and was allowed to serve again as parish priest, but was instructed not to talk to the press. Thus the case was put to rest till autumn 2007, where it was decided that the surveillance was to be transferred to the bishop in Århus, Kjeld Holm, by May 1 2008, when Lindhart would retire. Shortly after this decision, Grosbøll announced that he will seek early retirement when he turns 60 in February 2008.