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Norway appoints conservative bishop despite protests

Norway appoints conservative bishop despite protests

A split Norwegian government on Friday appointed a new Oslo bishop for the state Lutheran Church, despite fierce debate over his conservative views on such issues as homosexuality. The church, which claims more than 85% of Norway's 4.6 million residents as members, is funded by the state, and its employees are technically public servants appointed by the government. Ole Christian Kvarme, 56, will succeed retiring Oslo bishop Gunnar Staalsett on April 3. Staalsett is an unusually popular clergyman and former member of the Nobel Peace Prize awards committee who became a symbol of tolerance and liberal theological views. Kvarme's appointment was such a hot issue that two government members, including gay Conservative finance minister Per-Kristian Foss, voted against the decision of the 19-member coalition center-right government led by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, himself a Lutheran clergyman. The bitter debate over Kvarme's candidacy reflects a deep split in the Church of Norway on theological issues, especially whether clergy openly living in gay partnerships can hold consecrated posts, such as those including preaching. "After such a polarizing debate, its is an extraordinarily important challenge," said Kvarme. "I want to meet the people of the diocese with openness, to listen." The local church council for Oslo did not want Kvarme. But the national Council of Bishops did, which swayed the government in his favor. (AP)

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