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New Bishop in the Diocese of Aalborg

Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen, dean in Hjørring Søndre deanery, won with 52% of the votes and will officially be the new bishop of the Diocese of Aalborg from December 1, 2021.

Photo: Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen

The consecration will take place on December 12 at the Cathedral of Aalborg. Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen replaces bishop Henning Toft Bro who retired in October 2021, after 11 years in office.

Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen is interested in ecumenical relations, and he is a member of the theological working group in The Council on International Relations of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark.

Before he was elected as the new bishop, Thomas Rasmussen wrote an article about his thoughts and motivations for the work as bishop which was published by the Diocese of Aalborg. He furthermore answered question posed by the diocese about the work and what his foci would be, if he were to be elected. It is these earlier publications that this article relies upon.

What was the motivation to run for the bishop’s election?

Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen writes: “It is to maintain the ecclesiastical freedom that I run for bishop of Aalborg Diocese. Freedom to be a church wherever you are. Freedom to receive the gospel. This freedom is best preserved in the parishes, because the Church is local. It is through the parishes that the Church draws oxygen and renews itself. We benefit from talking to each other and listening to each other. But the starting point is in the parish, where life is lived and where children are baptized, young people confirmed and married, and old people buried. It is also in those actions that human lives can be moved: Moved from sorrow to joy and moved in a meaningful context. We must have space and time for this. We must have space to prepare and give good speeches, and good music.

This the core of our Church. And that core thrives best locally. We always talk about the local pastor and the local church. The Church has support locally. Here, the Church collaborates in the best way with schools, institutions and associations. I want to defend freedom both inside and outside the Church.”

It is clear that Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen’s motivation for his work as bishop is to maintain the freedom of the Church which he finds central and essential, especially locally in the parishes. He is very much focused on the parish and the local work as the heart of the Church, which he elaborates further below.

What are the focal points of the bishop’s work?

“I want to focus on theology, on the organization and on the work environment. Everyone should feel happy and proud to work in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark. In concrete terms, this means, for example, that the investigation of violations in the Church must be initiated. It is necessary to know where we stand. We have a good workplace with skilled and dedicated people, and we must continue to have that. Next, in relation to the organizational, it is the parish councils and priests who are the cornerstones of the Church. We must not remove the church from the local community. The parish councils need support in relation to technicalities such as hiring etc., but the political decisions undoubtedly belong to the parish councils. And we must not relinquish more priest positions. Finally, in regarding theology: We must give good answers to the questions of our time, and we must have a theology with local roots to keep it from becoming too abstract. Therefore, the Diocese of Aalborg itself must be able to provide many of the theological answers that is asked in our time. Both in order to stay relevant and credible in society but also so that we can continue to attract the best people in the future.”

Thus, a threefold focus on organizational and theological affairs and on the work environment is what we have in store for Rasmussen’s upcoming work as the new bishop of Aalborg Diocese. 

Where is Thomas Reinholdt Rasmussen positioned ecclesiastically?

“I am chairman of the Grundtvigian Forum in Hjørring, so to say I'm placed in the vicinity of the Grundtvigian thought is not entirely wrong. I focus on a freedom in the Church of Denmark where the parish is the central focal point. The Grundtvigian thought means that it is baptism and communion that form the basis of the Church. That's what we're gathering for, and it’s the foundation upon which we’re being sent out into the world.”