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2017

June 2017: Asylum seekers
The war in Syria and political disturbances in Iraq caused an influx of asylum seekers to Finland in 2015. According to the Finnish Immigration Service, 32.476 people (...)

  • June 2017: Asylum seekers

The war in Syria and political disturbances in Iraq caused an influx of asylum seekers to Finland in 2015. According to the Finnish Immigration Service, 32.476 people came to Finland in 2015 (as compared to 5.657 in 2016 or 3.651 in 2014). This caused a lot of public outcry and worry; some citizens demanded a stricter border control, and the turning back of asylum seekers. The hardening of people´s attitudes could be seen in newspaper articles and in social media. The Church responded by reminding that the Evangelic Lutheran Church of Finland is not meant for Finnish people only (Archbishop Mäkinen), but intends to help and support every person regardless of their religion or nationality. Most bishops and priests took the same attitude. As a protest, some Finns withdrew from the Church. Taking a positive stand on every person´s human rights has also resulted in hate speech and hate mail directed at some high profile clergymen and –women e.g. the bishop of Helsinki, Irja Askola. There has been some debate over whether the Church and the government take different views in this case. The bishops and the Minister of the Interior Paula Risikko met on November 2016 to discuss mutual worries, and came to an understanding about the need to secure the rights and well-being of everybody in Finland.

  • June 2017: Same-sex marriage

In Finland, the new law on the registered partnerships of same-sex couples came into force in 2002. The General Synod was thereafter presented with two initiatives; one of them stated that those living in registered partnership should not be allowed to work in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The other one proposed that same-sex partners could have their registered partnership blessed by the Church. Both initiatives were rejected. A working group was established and both the Bishops´ Conference and General Synod considered the new situation. They came to a compromise according to which the pastors can pray for and with those who have registered their partnership. However, the event should not be compared to a wedding, and it should not comprise elements belonging to a wedding such as exchange of vows and rings.

The much debated law on same-sex marriages was passed in parliament in March 2017. The Church in Finland has now to decide how to proceed if some of the priests were to defy the decisions of the General Synod of the Church, because some priests are prepared to marry same-sex couples even though it is not permitted in the Church Service Book. The Bishops´ Conference commissioned a study in spring 2017 on the alternatives of the Church when in the future secular legislation can be opposed to the Church´s dogma. It is doubtful whether any new decisions about this dilemma will be reached in the near future.

D 30 June 2017    ATommi Heino

2011

Sexual abuse in religious communities
In Finland, the problem of the sexual abuse of children came up at the end of 2009. Most of the abuse cases had occurred in small religious communities, (...)

Sexual abuse in religious communities

In Finland, the problem of the sexual abuse of children came up at the end of 2009. Most of the abuse cases had occurred in small religious communities, especially in Laestadian communities. In April 2011, the leadership of the movement held a press conference in which it apologized for their incapacity to handle correctly the child abuse cases revealed. The exposure of child abuse cases sparked a lively discussion on the confidentiality of confession. In negotiations between the state and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, it was agreed that the Church will examine how to combine the Child Protection Law and Church Law. A report, that was approved in the Bishops´ Conference in February 2011, emphasised that the duty to report does not conflict with confidentiality, but that the confidentiality of confession can be preserved while still furthering the protection of children. In the Church, the issue led to increasing training and information.

D 16 June 2016    ATommi Heino

2010

October 2010 : The Civil union Law
The issue of the rights of homosexuals in the Lutheran Church was discussed in a TV panel. The audience’s main impression was that the Church does not approve (...)

  • October 2010 : The Civil union Law

The issue of the rights of homosexuals in the Lutheran Church was discussed in a TV panel. The audience’s main impression was that the Church does not approve homosexuals. As a consequence almost 40,000 people resigned the Church in a month which was more than ever before in a one-month period.
In November 2010, The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland approved basic principles of the Church on the consequences of the Act of Registered Partnerships. According to the resolution, the Bishops’ Conference was given the task to formulate pastoral guidelines for a free-form prayer or intercession with and for those persons who have registered their partnership. Free-form prayer does not equal blessing the same-sex relationship. It does not establish a new liturgical rite to the Hand Book. The proposed resolution was passed with a simple majority vote as the proposal was understood to bring no chances to the Church Doctrine.

D 21 October 2010   

2009

September 2009 : The Civil union Law
The law regarding same-sex partners was passed by the Parliament of Finland at the end of September 2001, and came into force in March 2002. Under this (...)

  • September 2009 : The Civil union Law

The law regarding same-sex partners was passed by the Parliament of Finland at the end of September 2001, and came into force in March 2002. Under this legislation the same rights and obligations as spouses, with certain exceptions, are conferred on those registering their same-sex union. However, the pair relationship is a legal institution of a different nature from matrimony.
The ramifications of the law manifested themselves in the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in May 2002, when two motions put forward by delegates were addressed. In one of these it was proposed that a person living in a registered same-sex union should not be allowed to hold office or work as an employee of the Church, while the other motion proposed the preparation of alternative forms of service to bless the same-sex union and the home. In November 2003 the General Synod decided that the matter of the ramifications of the law in the Church be transferred to the Bishops’ Conference in order to explore its theological and juridical dimensions.
A working group mandated by the Bishops’ Conference prepared a document for the Bishops’ Conference about the theological and legal aspects related with the consequences of the Civil Union Law. It was discussed in the Bishops’ Conference in September 2009 and the Bishops’ Conferences statement was published in February 2010. The Bishops’ Council proposed that there should not be a separate ritual for blessing same-sex unions, but a moment of prayer for and with the couple.

D 30 September 2009   

2008

October 2008 : Same-sex partnerships
A discussion has started in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland about same-sex partnerships. The General Synod has assigned the Bishops’ Conference the (...)

  • October 2008 : Same-sex partnerships

A discussion has started in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland about same-sex partnerships. The General Synod has assigned the Bishops’ Conference the task of studying the consequences of the new Partnership Act, which regards the civil registration of partnerships between same-sex partners.
Within the Church opinions diverge on anthropology, human relations and sexuality. The differences are based on differing understandings of the interpretation of the Bible and of Christian ethics. The discussion takes place in interaction with other churches and the society.
A working group mandated by the Bishops’ Conference is preparing a draft for the Bishops’ Conference’s report to the General Synod about the theological and legal aspects related with the consequences of the Partnership Act.

More information: Churches and homosexuality on the Church Research Institute website (Lutheran Church of Finland).

D 5 November 2008   

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