Membership in National Church of Iceland Gradually Declining

New data published by Registers Iceland shows that registered membership in the National Church of Iceland continues to decline, albeit slowly. Meanwhile, the pagan Ásatrú Fellowship and the Ethical Humanist Association have both been quietly gaining members.

As of September 1, there were 229,714 people registered as members of Iceland’s National (Lutheran) Church. This is a decline of three members since December 1. And while this is not a dramatic decrease in membership, it does appear to be part of a consistent pattern. From December 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, the church lost 75 members from its registry.

The Catholic Church has the second-highest membership, or 14,709 members. Fríkirkjan, the independent Lutheran Church of Iceland, which operates apart from the national church, comes in third with 10,040 members. The Ásatrú Fellowship and the Ethical Humanist Association had the greatest jump in membership—279 new members. (Statistics Iceland shows a total of 5,118 members of Ásatrú and 4,084 members of the Ethical Humanist Association as of January 1, 2021, but the current National Registers round-up offered no more specific, recent data regarding total membership in either organization.)

As of September 1, there were 28,926 people (7.7% of the population) registered as not being part of any religious organization. There were additionally 58,514 people listed as ‘Other and Not Specified,’ or 15.7% of the nation.


Norse Pagan Fellowship Considers Crowdfunding Temple Completion

Iceland’s Ásatrú Fellowship is currently constructing its first and only Norse temple in Öskjuhlíð, but construction costs have already exceeded the budget set for the project, Fréttablaðið reports. The religious organisation is now considering crowdfunding part of the money needed to finish the job.

The Ásatrú Fellowship is Iceland’s official Norse religion organisation. Despite being founded in 1972, the fellowship has never had an official temple to house its operation, until now. The original budget for the temple was 127 million ISK, a number they’ve already exceeded with the temple half-built. They now estimate that the temple will cost 270 million ISK to complete.

“We’ve had so many people contact us asking if they can support us in any way,” says musician and fellowship’s Allsherjargoði, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. “We’ve been trying to find a way to do this without begging, but instead work out a deal where our supporters will get something in return.” The fellowship is currently considering working through crowdfunding sites like Karolina Fund to raise at least 18 million ISK in donations.

“We’re considering all options. We want to do this with a certain amount of dignity,” the Allsherjargoði adds.

At the fellowship’s official Lögrétta meeting last December, it was revealed that the financial situation of the fellowship is much better than it has been in previous months, making it possible for the fellowship to pay bills and temple-building costs without hurting their day to day operations. This, says Hilmar, is possible in part due to donations from benefactors.

“We haven’t been forced to take out a bank loan yet and we want to see what we can pay for by ourselves and with this crowdfunding initiative. The original idea was to do this without getting ourselves into debt, and we’re still persevering.”

Hilmar says the most optimistic prediction for a date of temple completion is in December 2019, but he’s hoping parts of the temple will be able to host the fellowship operations earlier than that, possibly in the fall.