A Lutheran church in Norway held a name change ceremony for a 49-year-old transgender woman, which officials say marked the first such event at a place of worship in the Nordic country.
Elin Stillingen legally changed her name and gender last year. She marked the occasion during Saturday’s ceremony at medieval Hoff Church north of the Norwegian capital, Oslo.
Stillingen said it was especially important to her that the event take place in a church.
“I am a member of the Norwegian church and I am also about to come out of the closet as a Christian, so this ceremony is important to me,” Stillingen told Norwegian television station TV2 ahead of the ceremony on Saturday.
The occasion was led by Pastor Stein Ovesen who planned the ceremony with the Stensveen Foundation, a Norwegian non-governmental organization that supports people facing challenges related to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
“I know so many people are grateful that this event has come true because it touches people’s lives so deeply,” Ovesen told TV2.
However, Ovesen admitted that not everyone in Norway approves of celebrating such an event in a church.
“In the conservative wing you will find priests deeply concerned about what we are doing today. But for me, it’s an important act that expresses the grace and openness that God is showing me, ”Ovesen told TV2.
Video footage from TV2 showed Stillingen kneeling in front of Ovesen in the church packed with friends and family. After the ceremony, Stillingen said “I’m fine with it” and “I’m very, very happy”.
The day after the ceremony, Stillingen wrote on Facebook that the ceremony “was like coming home, and Jesus was there”.
She added that she is very proud to be among the first trans people to hold such a ceremony in a church in Norway, and that she knows other trans people who would like to have similar ceremonies in the future.
Norwegians, like their Nordic neighbors in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, are predominantly Lutheran. The liberal-minded Nordic countries are strong advocates of LGBTQ rights and women’s rights.
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