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Church order - OrganisationChurch order - Organisation

Organisation and managementOrganisation and management

Church and state

In Denmark there is a strong relationship between the national church and the state. Since the establishment of the Danish Constitution of 1849 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (ELCD) has  been regarded as "the church of the people" as well as an official national church. As "church of the people", every parish council has to decide on activities in the local context and to select the pastor of the parish. As "official national church" the Danish monarch is the supreme authority when it comes to organisation, liturgy etc. whereas the national parliament (Folketinget) is the de facto deciding body with regard to church legislation. Thus when female theologians were allowed to join the clergy, it was the national parliament that took the decision. The ELCD is not regulated by a synod (a national church council) as is the case with most other Lutheran churches.

The parish council

In the ELCD the local congregation is the cornerstone of the church structure. All adult members of the church are eligible to vote for the parish council and entitled to stand for election to the parish council. The parish council is responsible for managing the economy, employing staff in the local church and selecting the pastor (who formally and administratively is then employed by the Ministry for Ecclesiastical Affairs of the national government).

The pastor is responsible for the service and liturgy but shares this responsibility with the parish council which must approve any changes to the liturgy.

The management of the church is in this way an expression of the priesthood of all believers, a key expression of Lutheran tradition. Read more on being a member of the parish council.

Finance and administration

The main part of the church income comes from a membership fee collected by the national tax authorities, plus ear-marked grants from the state budget. This is how the state contributes to the administration of the church.

Because of the old tradition of the parishes keeping church records, the administration of the official register of people living in Denmark is still kept by the church on behalf of the national authorities regardless of the religious affiliation of the citizen concerned. This includes registering the birth of citizens, naming and name change, marital status and time of death as well as the church-related events in life such as baptism, confirmation, marriage and funeral. In Southern Jutland this administration lies with the municipal authorities.

Church serviceChurch service

The Sunday service is the main service in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (ELCD). The Order of Worship is characterized by its two main parts: firstly the service of the word, including readings from the Old Testament, the Epistles and the Gospel as well as a sermon, and secondly the service of the table which surrounds the Eucharist. Also hymns play a great role in the theological consciousness and in popular appropriation of the Christian faith. In the Sunday service usually 6-7 hymns will be sung.

Baptism is usually performed at the Sunday service. The ELCD practises infant baptism for the most part, but all are welcome to be baptised.

Confirmation usually takes place during a Sunday service in the spring. Most young members of the church take confirmation classes at the age of 13 or 14.

Other rites in the church are wedding and funeral services. Some parishes practise confession as a part of special church services.