Bishop Expresses Regret Over Minister's Moral Infractions Skip to content

Bishop Expresses Regret Over Minister’s Moral Infractions

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.
Photo: Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir..

The Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has met with the five women who accused rev. Ólafur Jóhannsson of sexual harassment and reported him to the Church of Iceland Complaints Board. The bishop and two suffragan bishops have released a statement expressing regret that the incidents took place, calling the minister’s infractions unacceptable while stressing that they believed the women’s stories.

The bishop sent Ólafur on leave in the summer of 2017 after the women’s accusations against him, which included picking them up, kissing them and hugging, and licking their ears, were reported to the Complaints board. The board’s ruling was appealed and the appellatory committee found that Ólafur had morally violated two of the women but denied that the violations were sexual. The Church has been criticised before for handling matters of sexual harassment internally instead of directing accusations to the police. All of the women were in contact with the minister through their work or volunteering for the church.

In a statement from the church, the Bishop of Iceland and the Suffragan Bishops of Skálholt and Hólar, Sólveig Lára Guðmundsdóttir and Kristján Björnsson, regret that the infractions committed by the parish minister, rev. Ólafur Jóhannsson happened and declare the fact that the women had to suffer his moral infractions for years, painful. They also state that they believe the women’s stories and are pained by the fact that the women had to go through the “trial by fire of defending their own boundaries and morality through official complaints and other public means.” Finally, they state their hope that the changes to the way sexual harassment cases are handled within the church will lead to better and more efficient ways to protect victims of sexual and disciplinary violations.

The bishop suspended rev. Ólafur in December of 2018 but a committee on the rights and duties of government employees found that his suspension wasn’t legitimate. Despite his intention to resume his duties, that never happened as his office as Parish Minister in Grensás Parish was abolished and Grensás and Bústaðasókn parishes combined into one.

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