After their annual meeting, Norwegian Baptists may have edged closer to staying together in one church union, although some churches are at odds with the majority.
182 Baptist delegates from all over Norway recently met near Oslo Airport defying the coronavirus threat in order to handle a heated situation in the church union over disagreements on same-sex marriage.
The final outcome is yet to be seen, but the process within the union might lead to the exclusion of Bærum Baptist Church (just outside the capital Oslo). At least one other Baptist church shares the theologically liberal position of the Bærum church, without yet electing any homosexuals living in same-sex relationships to their council.
The annual meeting on October 30th to 31st took place under a cloud of unusual suspense after the conservative network Veien Videre (The Road Ahead) earlier threatened to leave the union because the church in Bærum in 2018 elected a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage as a member of the local church council.
This is contrary to The Norwegian Baptist Union’s rules and regulations which do not allow people in same-sex relationships to hold such positions. Veien Videre have not felt that the Baptist Union leadership have been eager enough to make the Bærum church change the composition of their council and fall in line with the majority of Baptist churches.
The meeting made it clear that the Bærum church only is supported by a minority of other churches and delegates.
131 of the 179 votes cast supported a submission made by the board saying that the annual meeting emphasises “the lifelong marriage between one man and one woman” as the biblical form of cohabitation. This confirms a statement made by the annual meeting in the year 2000 saying that living together in same-sex relationships is not compatible with holding leadership positions in The Baptist Union churches. Therefore the annual meeting asks all the union’s churches to act accordingly.
The Veien Videre spokesman Magnar Mæland is satisfied with the outcome of the marriage poll.
“What has happened shows that our analysis has been right. The Baptist Union has a moderately conservative grass root and the annual meeting clearly shows that what we may call ‘the tolerant group’ is a minority. Their proposals have fallen, and the vote pattern is pretty clear”, Mæland says to Christian news agency Kristelig Pressekontor (KPK).
[photo_footer] "The Baptist Union has a moderately conservative grass root", says conservative spokesman Magnar Mæland. / Photo: Stein Gudvangen, KPK.
In his opinion, “a clear mandate has been given” to put pressure on churches that do not follow the union rules.
Mathias H. Eidberg was the leader of the Bærum Baptist Church local council when the lesbian woman was elected as a member back in 2018. He now represents the church in the dialogue with the union board. He also acts as spokesman for the church.
Eidberg tones down the importance of the fact that the liberal delegates lost the polls during the annual meeting. Neither does he highlight that the majority believes in the lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.
“The important thing for us is the decision to confirm what was said in the 2000 decision. The Baptist Union leadership has confirmed that this decision was of a preliminary character in order to ensure calm”, says Eidberg to KPK.
He points to the so-called BID22 process which is about formulating a document that will describe the present day Baptist union identity, the union’s biblical view and the understanding of liberties and obligations within the Baptist community.
“When we reach the point of completion of the BID process, it will stand on its own feet independant of the decisions in this annual meeting”, Eidberg says to KPK.
The outcome of the annual meeting may have made it less likely the Veien Videre network will leave The Norwegian Baptist Union.
This is made even less probable after the conservative block succeeded in overthrowing union board chairman Jon Vestøl with whom Veien Videre have not been too pleased.
He was replaced by Sissel-Merete Uv Berg. She is considered a more conservative leader and was elected by a 145 majority of the 169 votes cast.
Also a new general secretary, Bjørn Bjørnø, was elected during the meeting. He got the vote of 175 delegates with three blank votes being cast.
Bjørnø made it clear in his speech to the annual meeting that he believes what the Bible says in Genesis 5:2: «He created them male and female».
“I believe in God’s order of creation”, Bjørnø added, not elaborating further on the matter.
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