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Gay marriage comments spark exodus from Church of Finland: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland.
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A potential vote on gay marriage in future sessions of the General Synod of the Church of Finland has enlivened elections for trustees and parish councillors held on 9 Nov 2014 for the state Lutheran Church with approximately 19,300 candidates contested 9,300 seats for election. Parish councillors and trustees have powers to set church tax rates, which vary between one and two percent, as well as dictate parish financial matters, and decide on construction projects and humanitarian activities. Parish councillors also elect delegates to the church’s general synod and should a law permitting homosexual marriage be adopted by parliament during the next term, synod members will decide whether to allow church unions between same-sex couples. In 2010 17 per cent of the church’s 3.5 million registered members turned out to vote, the highest turnout in almost 30 years. Conservative groups have sought to mobilize lay members of the church to block calls made by some bishops to support gay marriage, and hope to achieve a majority to block proposals to follow the Church of Sweden in solemnizing gay marriages.

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Finland consecrates first woman bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 17, 2010 p 8. September 20, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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Bishop Irja Askola of Helsinki

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Finland has consecrated its first female bishop.  On Sept 12 the Rt. Rev. Irja Askola was consecrated Bishop of Helsinki for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

A member of the Porvoo Group of churches in Communion with the Church of England, Finland now joins Norway, Sweden and Denmark in appointing women bishops.  Women bishops from Sweden, Denmark and Germany were among those laying hands on the new bishop.  The former Bishop of Limerick the Rt. Rev. Edward Darling served as a co-consecrator and the Dean of Leicester, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, and the suffragan Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid, represented the Church of England.

The consecration of Bishop Askola has come at the price of soured ecumenical relations in Finland, however.  In June, the head of the Orthodox Church of Finland said the consecration of a woman bishop would drive Lutherans and the Orthodox father apart.  In an interview with Kotimaa the leader of Finland’s Catholics, Bishop Teemu Sippo, said that while he would work with the new Lutheran bishop, her consecration would drive the two churches farther apart.

The chairman of the Pentecostal Church of Finland, Vesa Pylvänäinen, said his group was concerned over her theological views.  Her support for same-sex blessings would likely push traditionalists out of the Lutheran Church.  “I am quite sure that this will happen,” Pastor Pylvänen told the Helsingen Sanomat.

In her address to the congregation, Bishop Askola said, “people have a longing for trust. If we do not know how to speak with each other, even with those who have different opinions, backgrounds or lifestyles, we are on the way to destruction. Disagreement does not destroy us.”

The new bishop added that people need to hear that someone shows unconditional mercy toward them, the Helsingen Sanomat reported.

The consecration of the new bishop follows close upon the dismissal of traditionalist Bishop Matti Väisänen.  On Aug 11, the Diocese of Tampere removed Bishop Väisänen from the ranks of its ministers after he was consecrated by traditionalist Lutheran bishops from Sweden and Africa to serve members of the state church who are unable to accept the oversight of a woman bishop.

In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.  The church has also refused to ordain clergy opposed to women priests.

Church of Finland deposes traditionalist bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 3, 2010 p 6. September 8, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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Bishop Matti Väisänen

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Finland has defrocked the leader of the church’s traditionalist movement, the Luther Foundation, saying that by accepting consecration at the hands of foreign Swedish and African Lutheran bishops, Bishop Matti Väisänen had violated his ordination vows to the state church.

On Aug 11, the Diocese of Tampere removed Bishop Väisänen from the ranks of its ministers.  Spokesman Leevi Häikiö told STT television the diocese had no choice in the matter.

“Defrocking Väisänen will influence how his actions and the religious ceremonies he administers will be evaluated. In our eyes Väisänen is now a layman,” Mr. Häikiö said.

Formed in 1999, the Luther Foundation began as a confessional movement within the state church for those opposed to the ordination of women.  In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.  The church has also refused to ordain clergy opposed to women priests.

In 2007 a state court fined the Rev. Ari Norro 20-days pay for refusing to con-celebrate the Eucharist with a woman priest.  The Hyvinkää District Court held that religious convictions cannot trump the state’s sexual discrimination laws, and that by agreeing to serve in the ministry of the state church, a clergyman forfeited his rights of conscience.

The church’s purge of traditionalists has led to the formation of 17 congregations that operate within the tradition of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, but are self-governing and financially independent.  In March, the leaders of the Church of Sweden’s traditionalist movement, the Mission Province, consecrated Bishop Väisänen to provide episcopal oversight to the ‘free diocese’ in Finland and to ordain new clergy for the movement.

On Aug 12, Bishop Väisänen released a statement saying the state church’s action would have no bearing on his ministry, and that the failure of the state church to be faithful to its confessional standards had led to this situation.

“Because shepherds who bind themselves to the apostolic view on the office of the ministry are no longer being ordained in our church, I have received the office of bishop. The justification for this ecclesial emergency right is based on the Holy Bible and the Lutheran confessions. It is not an offence against the ordination oath but in the most profound sense precisely acting in accordance with the duties of that oath,” he said.

While the Luther Foundation has not yet broken with the Church of Finland, the issue may be put to the test in October, when Bishop Väisänen is scheduled to ordain four graduates of the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki.  Bishop Matti Repo of Tampere told the Finnish press that if Bishop Väisänen starts ordaining ministers, it will be an indication that the Luther Foundation considers itself a church unto itself. “Real bishops guide the Church to unity, not disunity,” he said.

Woman bishop for Helsinki: The Church of England Newspaper, June 12, 2010 June 12, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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Bishop Irja Askola of Helsinki

The Church of Finland has elected is first female bishop.  On June 3 Pastor Irja Askola was elected Bishop of Helsinki of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

A member of the Porvoo Group of churches in Communion with the Church of England, Finland now joins Norway, Sweden and Denmark in appointing women bishops.  However, the election of Pastor Askola will likely cause difficulty for some of the diocese’s clergy, members of the traditionalist Finnish Lutheran Gospel Association.

In September 2006 a committee of the Finnish House of Bishops chaired by the Bishop of Espoo, the Rt. Rev. Mikko Heikka recommended that congregations no longer be permitted to allow ministers to absent themselves from services where they would have to serve with a female priest, nor would the parish be permitted to accommodate traditionalist clergy by scheduling male clergy only services.

In 2008 a court convicted the Rev. Ari Norro of “criminal discrimination” under the country’s human rights laws for refusing to concelebrate the Eucharist with a female minister.  Mr. Norro, a member of the Lutheran Gospel Association, was fined 20-days pay by the Hyvinkää District Court, which held that religious convictions cannot trump sexual discrimination laws.

In the second round of voting, held in each of Helsinki’s deaneries, Pastor Askola received 591 votes against the 567 polled by the Dean of Helsinki Cathedral, Pastor Matti Poutiainen. The new bishop will take office Sept 1, and will be consecrated on Sept 12 at Helsinki Cathedral.

Bishop-elect Askola received her divinity degree in 1975 and was ordained in 1988.  From 1991 to 1999 she worked for the Conference of European Churches and at the time of her election was the Special Assistant in Theological Affairs for Bishop Heikka.

Finland rejects gay marriage: CEN 2.17.10 p 8. February 25, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Archbishop Jukka Paarma of Finland

The Bishops of the Church of Finland have rejected gay church marriages.

Following a two-day meeting in Helsinki, on Feb 10 the bishops released a statement saying that formal blessings of same-sex partnerships will not be permitted in the country’s Lutheran state churches.

Pastors may provide pastoral and prayer support for homosexual couples, but may not offer wedding-like ceremonies, the Finnish bishops said.

Last week’s decision was a compromise, Archbishop Jukka Paarma told reporters. A partner of the Church of England through the Porvoo agreements, the Finnish state church had not “taken a clear stand on these matters, but now we have,” the archbishop explained.

Gays may be members of the church, and the church will permit, on a case by case basis, gay clergy to officiate. Clergy may also pray for gay couples using the words of the Finnish prayer book.

However, the prayers may not be taken from the marriage service or nuptial blessing, no exchange of rings or other wedding-like rituals are permitted, and no parish or minister will be obligated to perform the gay-friendly prayers, the archbishop said.

Same-sex blessings have divided the Nordic churches and have led to broken relationships with the orthodox churches of the region. The Church of Sweden last year permitted gay marriage in churches, while the Baltic Lutheran churches—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—have followed the Russian Orthodox Church’s line and declared such innovations as heretical.

Finnish priest suspended in row over women priests: CEN 10.09.08 October 9, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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The Archbishop of Turku has suspended a male priest for refusing to serve alongside a woman priest.

On Oct 7, the Turku cathedral chapter informed the pastor of Vammala, the Rev Markus Malmivaara that his license to officiate as a minister of the Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church had been suspended for 90 days by Archbishop Jukka Paarma for contumacy. Mr Malmivaara had refused to celebrate the sacraments alongside women clergy. His claim to be acting out of conscience and theological principle was not held to be grounds for disobedience.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Finnish priest suspended in row over women priests

Finnish Pastor Guilty Over Women Priest Ban: CEN 12.07.07 p 8. December 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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ari-norri.jpgA court in Finland has convicted a pastor of the state Lutheran church of “criminal discrimination” for refusing to concelebrate the Eucharist with a female minister.The Rev. Ari Norro (pictured) was fined 20-days pay by the Hyvinkää District Court on Nov 30, which held that religious convictions cannot trump sexual discrimination laws.

A member of the traditionalist Finnish Lutheran Gospel Association, Mr. Norri had been invited to preside at a worship service in Hyvinkää.  However, at the start of the service a female minister on the staff of the congregation arrived, saying she had been scheduled to assist.  Mr. Norro replied that he would have to withdraw as he did not believe in the validity of women’s orders; however, the female minister withdrew instead.

The exchange was witnessed by a parish warden, a policeman, who reported the incident to state prosecutors.  The state charged Mr. Norro with “discrimination while in office” and indicted two other parish leaders with facilitating the discrimination.

The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that Mr. Norro’s defences of religious conscience and the free exercise of religion were not strong enough in the mind of the court to overcome the charge of discrimination.  By agreeing to serve in the ministry of the state church, Mr. Norro had waived his rights of conscience and could not place his views above canon laws providing for the equal treatment of ministers, regardless of gender.

In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.

Mr. Norro said he would appeal the decision.

Pastor on trial for refusing to work with female minister: CEN 11.09.07 p 6 November 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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A Lutheran pastor who declined to celebrate the Eucharist with a woman priest has been charged with “criminal discrimination” by prosecutors in Finland.

The Rev. Ari Norro, a member of the traditionalist Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF) was invited to preach in March at a parish church in Hyvinkää. Upon arriving at the church, he found a woman priest had been scheduled to celebrate the Eucharist.

Mr. Norro told the church wardens he could not in good conscience participate in the service as he did not believe in the validity of women’s orders. He offered to withdraw, but the woman priest left instead.

After a complaint of discrimination was filed, charges were brought by the Hyvinkää District Prosecutor against Mr. Norro for “criminal discrimination”, while charges were laid against the parish rector and leader of the local LEAF branch for facilitating the discrimination.

The Helsingin Sanomat reported last month that a charge of criminal discrimination was warranted as the female priest was victimized due to gender in her workplace. Trial has been set for Nov 16.

Traditionalist leaders within Finland’s state church have protested the enforcement of civil discrimination laws in theological disputes, and see the prosecution as the “thin end of the wedge” in bringing about change.