One proposal supported the Traditional Plan and called for a gracious exit for congregations disagreeing with the decision. Another proposal included a statement for full inclusion, and the establishing of a fast-working commission for a pathway to implement this – within or outside og the UMC. The commission would have a close eye to the processes and seek cooperation with AC in Denmark, Germany and other European AC. A third proposal called for theological studies and making church weddings only a religious ceremony. Many voiced their opinion in the debate and two more addendums were presented.
It was clear that there was a solid majority for full inclusion. But there were no ordinary votes on the proposals. Instead a consensus process was used to guide the AC to a broadest possible consensus on the matter. Every delegate was given orange/blue colored papers to indicate agreement or disagreement. The minority was given time to voice their concerns and the proposals were adjusted accordingly.
The people behind the different proposals where asked to work on a joint proposal, weighted by the consensus indications given. They came back with a single proposal that included:
- an agreement that the large majority wants full inclusion.
- a willingness to respect the view of the minority that wants to uphold the discipline.
- a strong determination to keep UMC Norway together.
- to establish a broad commission to seek a way to fully include LGBTQ+ persons and map consequences for the discipline, finances, organization and international connections.
- to deliver a report to the UMC Norway AC 2020 for deliberations and actions.
The AC and members are not of one mind in this matter. At the same time, it’s clear that this is the will of a large majority, and that this majority is willing to make concessions to include as many as possible. This achieved a consensus and a broad platform for our upcoming work for the next year.
Sven-Tore Dreyer Fredriksen is a lay delegate from Harstad in Northern Norway. He participated in the discussions and is one of the few open gay Methodists in the AC. He said he experienced the debate and process as balanced and fair.
- We all got to share our experiences, reflections and views. This is how our church should be! The conference was a textbook example for how dignity can rise in a difficult debate.
He was pleased with the result, as he sees this as an opportunity to reach even more people.
- I’m happy for this gives us a greater possibility to reach more diverse people with a broader life experience with the gospel.
Only hours after debating the church view of human sexuality, Sven-Tore was elected to the Annual Conference Council (a single board that lead the AC, unique to the Northern-Europe and Baltic Central Conference Book of Discipline). He will be the first open gay person to hold such a high office in Norway AC.
Chair of the Annual Conference Council and General Conference lay delegate Audun Westad commented:
- I must admit we were a bit worried about how the conversation would go, given that the past General Conferences has had a huge impact on our conversations here in Norway. But where the hard words at General Conference weakened the church, I would say that the process at Annual Conference strengthened the UMC in Norway. Even though we know this result is hard to grasp for some of members, we are proud to have written history at this Annual Conference.
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