Priests Alarmed by Proposed Continuation of Budgetary Cuts

Priests in Iceland are alarmed by the proposed continuation of budgetary cutbacks within the Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to the Director of the Minister’s Association, Ninna Sif Svavarsdóttir. Budgetary cuts will be discussed at an annual Church Assembly, which begins tomorrow.

Reduction of full-time equivalent units

In an interview with, Ninna Sif Svavarsdóttir – pastor at the Hveragerði parish and Director of the Minister’s Association – stated that priests were “alarmed” by the proposed continuation of budgetary cutbacks passed at an extraordinary Church Assembly in January of this year. The proposed continuation, which will be submitted to the Church Assembly (Kirkjuþing) beginning this weekend, involves the temporary cessation of new hires within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland and the Bishop’s Office, along with continued retrenchment of church’s staff (e.g. a decrease in the number of salaried priests and the consolidation of parishes).

According to a memorandum published on on October 20, the Evangelical Lutheran Church hopes to reduce the number of full-time equivalent units from 169.7 to 157.7 – the number originally proposed in the church agreement from 1997 – and thereby save approximately ISK 180-190 million ($1.4-1.5 million / €1.2-1.25 million) annually.

No replacements for retired priests

According to Ninna, January’s budgetary cutbacks had an immediate impact on church services: “Several priests retired, and no replacements were hired. More priests are expected to retire in the coming weeks, and there will probably be no new hires to replace them either,” Ninna remarked. “Priests worry that they’ll be asked to take on more responsibility for the same wages and that they’ll be unable to maintain the same level of religious services.”

Priests are dependent on the national church for employment, Ninna notes: “They are, of course, worried about these positions; we can’t apply anywhere else … the church agreement – which is the basis for the financial relationship between the church and state – stipulates that the lion’s share of the church’s budget be dedicated to the salary of priests.”

In addition to budgetary proposals, the priest and mediator Kristinn Ágúst Friðfinsson has proposed that lay representatives at the Church Assembly, which constitute the majority of those assembled, be chosen at random.