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Weak compromise

Political governance is not always good.


[23. March 2007] Over the past few weeks, vicar priest Svein G. Josephsen's life has seemed like a long action movie, where the action is constantly moving from one extremity to the other and you do not know whether it will end well or not. First he got a job from prost Trond Bakkevig, in a short temporary office in the Skøyen congregation. Then he was promised a job in Bryn ward by the pastor, Liv Rosmer Fisknes.

Josefsen received a work plan, started work and performed at a funeral on February 19. For a former long-term sick man, the job was a calling and a pleasure. But then Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme decided to take his job from him. Bishop Kvarme is, as most interested people know, expressed opposition by gay priests in general. This time it went beyond Josefsen in particular, which mentions the farewell which, with the exception of the heart problems, "the heaviest message I've ever received". Today, Josefsen works in a record store, while he awaits the legal decision whether he can return to work at the church or not.

At the same time, the Labor Party has presented the least fundamental proposal of the time to change the state church. It is being downplayed from all commentators, so we must leave the criticism against the lack of will on principle. Still, it's worth looking at the background of the proposal. The debate over the existence of the state church has divided not only the Labor Party, but the Norwegian population for long years. The strong feelings attached to the church as an institution in society have made it impossible for the Storting to adopt any dissolution of the state church.

Therefore, the two long and thorough investigations led by Bakkevig and Gjønnes, both of which are in favor of organizing the relationship between church and state in new ways, have so far received no constitutional consequences. The best part of the proposal is an amendment to the Constitution, so that Norway no longer has a state religion. This change should come the longest and is the only right, Norway should be a state for all citizens, equal in faith and conviction. But the Labor Party is not going far enough.

In the proposal, politicians do not want to relinquish power to appoint bishops until the church becomes democratic and has a higher participation in ecclesiastical elections. Rather, they should advocate a new system of elections, which will be able to mobilize well enough for those who believe something about the church to be able to join and decide more easily.

The appointment of the Gunnar Steel Set is used as evidence that state governance can provide a more open, inclusive and liberal church. But the appointment of Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme proves that political power can also be used to the contrary. Had the church managed itself, Trond Bakkevig would have been a bishop in Oslo. Svein G. Josefsen would probably appreciate that.

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