Pastors and alcohol

Some months ago, on a Saturday morning, I was driving to work. I had a funeral. All of a sudden, the police stopped me. They were having a razzia to check the alcohol level in the drivers' blood stream. Many have alcohol in the gas tank, as well, but that they didn't check.
When the officer came to me and saw that I was a pastor, he said: "Oh. But in the interest of equality, we'll check you, too." And I was stone sober, of course, as I have been the last 21 years. No problem.

Sadly, the officer's assumption that a pastor would be sober behind the wheel is not self-evidently true. The latest example of the opposite comes from eastern Finland. Savon Sanomat reports (25.7.13) that a pastor, having performed a  funeral, drove off, only to be arrested by the police after having been found to have 1,89 promille alcohol on his breath (in Finland, 0,5 is the DUI limit, and 1,2 is the limit for aggravated DUI). Apparently, this is not the first time this pastor has shown signs of alcohol abuse.
The police will charge him, and his vicar has reported the case to the Diocesan Chapter, who will deal with it later in the fall.

Same-sex couple sent as missionaries

A same-sex couple in a registered partnership will be sent as missionaries to Cambodia by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), Kotimaa reports 29.5.13. They will be blessed for their task in June, and one of them will also be ordained.
According to the article, this is probably the first time in history that a same-sex couple is sent as missionaries anywhere.
Very few details are available about the presumptive missionaries, not even their gender, but I suppose more will be forthcoming.

There is some controversy about the appropriateness of publishing news of this kind, i.e. stressing someone's ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or the like. From the point of view of journalistic ethics, there might be a problem, but it's an interesting item, all the same.

Gay marriage law celebrated with rainbow coloured communion bread

Minnesota's legalization of gay marriage has one church feeling pretty happy, the New York Daily News reports.
Revolution Church in Minneapolis served congregants rainbow-colored communion bread during its inaugural service last Sunday. Head pastor Rev. Jay Bakker thought the bread - and the state's embrace of gay rights - tasted "kind of sweet."
"So many people have been hurt by the church and by Christianity," Bakker told the News. "But this was a beautiful moment."
The colorful nod to gay rights was baked up early Sunday morning by photojournalist Courtney Perry. She thought of the idea after Minnesota's House approved a same-sex marriage bill on May 9. State leaders expected the bill to pass the Senate as well and Perry was ecstatic.

Bakker said he's received plenty of backlash from conservative social media users after news about his rainbow communion bread spread online.
"They've missed out on the higher message of the Bible and who Jesus is and what he did," Bakker said in response to those negative comments. "They've become victims of tradition."
Bakker admits that his church is "pretty liberal" when it comes to social issues. The New York branch of his Revolution Church meets at Pete's Candy Store, a bar in Brooklyn. In Minneapolis, his church launched its meetings at Bryant Lake Bowl, a theater space with a bowling alley and a restaurant.
"A bar is neutral ground," Bakker said.
He wasn't expecting the colorful communion bread to strike a chord with so many people. Bakker guesses that the bread will likely be a regular guest at his church.
"I think Christ's table is very inclusive," Bakker said.
Hmm. While I'm happy that the state of Minnesota has approved gay marriage, I'm not sure about this way to celebrate it... Seems a bit over the top...

Archbishop of Finland supports same-sex marriages

When the current government was formed in Finland a few years back, the Christian Democrats demanded that it would not propose any legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, or the party would not participate in the government. The other parties agreed to this.
Therefore, MPs from the other parites tried to introduce a motion to legalize same-sex marriages. This failed, however, since the motion didn't gain the necessary support; only 76 of the 200 MPs signed the motion.
As a consequence, a citizen's motion was created. If 50 000 signatures are gathered, such a motion could be discussed in Parliament. When this motion was introduced on 19 March on the home page of the Ministry of Justice, it gathered the necessary signatures in less than one day - the first such motion ever to collect enough signatures. At 11:47 today, a week later, the motion had been signed by 138 226 citizens. The motion will remain on the home pages for six months, and the Ministry will then take it to Parliament for discussions.

Archbishop Kari Mäkinen
The Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Kari Mäkinen, appeared this morning on the TV channel MTV3 and gave his support to the proposed legislation about same-sex marriages.
"I think it is an important goal, and I hope that equality will be achieved in this," Mäkinen said in the programme Huomenta Suomi (Good morning Finland). "Within the church, marriage has traditionally meant a covenant between a man and a woman. The present discussion creates a dicsussion within the church as well, where the foundations of the concept of marriage are evaluated. I see in this discussion an immensly positive will to relate to every human being equally."

The proposed legislation would not compel the churches to perform same-sex marriages.

Update: Later the same day, the Archbishop denied that he had taken a stand on the legislation, saying he talked about "treating people and their relationships equally." Helsingin Sanomat published the comment.

Mekane Yesus severs relationship with ELCA, CofS

The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is severing its relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Church of Sweden and “those churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage.”
The action for “all Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus departments and institutions (at every level) to implement this decision” was ratified at the denomination’s general assembly, which met Jan. 27-Feb. 2 in Addis Ababa. The denomination’s church council took action at its July 2012 meeting to initially sever these relationships.
“The ELCA is very saddened by this decision,” said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission. [...]
To ensure that the decisions by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are implemented, members of the denomination “will not receive Holy Communion from the leadership and pastors of the (ELCA and the Church of Sweden). The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus will not distribute communion to these churches,” as stated in the minutes of the denomination’s July 2012 council meeting. [...]
While the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is “closing the door to this partnership,” Malpica Padilla said that the ELCA and the Church of Sweden “are not locking the doors from our side. It is open for when you decide it is time to resume this journey together. It is my hope that in the near future, we will again walk together in Christian love. We will do this not because of doctrinal agreements or consensus, but because the gospel compels us to do so.” [...]
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said the actions of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are “deeply troubling.”
“Our own statement on human sexuality acknowledges that the position held by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is also held by members of the ELCA. We are not of one mind, but we are one in Christ, in faith and in baptism,” said Hanson, adding that the relationships between Lutherans in North America and in Ethiopia “has been sustained through periods of oppression, divisions within the Ethiopian church and in times of turmoil among Lutherans in North America. The action of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus church diminishes our capacity together to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to serve our neighbors and to care for the creation. [...]” 
ELCA 7.2.13

St. Valentine performed illegal marriages

On February 14 around the year 278 A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed,
History.com reports. Interestingly enough, Claudius II died in 270; in 278, Probus was emperor. But hey...

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.

Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine."
For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February." One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
Wikipedia has more information. 

As a comment on this: What would happen today to a pastor or priest who performs illegal marriages? Would they be killed? Probably not, at least in Finland. Other sanctions would occur, however.
But whom are we not allowed to marry today? Do I have to spell it out?...

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Emerson on words and deeds

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
as quoted on God's Politics

Wrong extension!

A man joined a big Multi National Company as a trainee.
On his first day, he dialed the kitchen and shouted into the phone: "Get me a cup of coffee, quickly!"
The voice from the other side responded: "You fool, you've dialed the wrong extension! Do you know whom you're talking to?"
"No" replied the trainee.
"It's the Managing Director of the company, you idiot!"
The trainee shouted back: "And do you know whom YOU are talking to, you IDIOT?"
"No!" replied the Managing Director angrily.
"Thank God....!!" replied the trainee and put down the phone. 
Thanks to MadPriest!

Vicar elect

The diocesan chapter today decided to appoint me vicar of the Swedish parish of Lovisa, where I have been working as vicar pro tem since January. I will become vicar proper starting December; the rest of November I might be called vicar elect.
I thank the Lord for the possibility to serve as vicar. Just a few years ago I was convinced that I’d never have a chance to do so because of my controversial opinions on a certain subject, but the situation has changed more rapidly than I had thought possible.

Lovisa is a small town east of Porvoo/Borgå where I live. It is situated about 90 km east of the Finnish capital Helsinki, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland (an arm of the Baltic Sea). My parish, consisting of the Swedish-speaking members of the ELCF in the centre of Lovisa, had 2.661 members as of the end of last year.

On the Sunday after Epiphany, January 13, 2013, I will be officially and ceremoniously installed in my new office by Bishop Björn Vikström. The festivities start at noon in the church and continue in the Högstadiet school, as the parish’s own buildings probably would be too crowded. Welcome to attend!

What a pun!

I've decided to marry a pencil.

I can't wait to introduce my parents to my bride 2B.


Merton on the comforts of the Bible

There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible - until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves. But then we are perhaps too used to it and too at home in it. Let us not be too sure we know the Bible ... just because we have learned not to have problems with it. Have we perhaps learned ... not to really pay attention to it? Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it?
- Thomas Merton
from his book Opening the Bible
as quoted on God's Politics

The makem and the geordie

A makem (man from Sunderland) applied for a job at a factory in his home town. A geordie (man from Newcastle) applied for the same job and since both applicants had similar qualifications, the manager asked them to take a test. When the results were in, both men had scored 19 out of 20.

The manager went to the makem and said, "Thank you for coming to the interview, but we’ve decided to give the geordie the job."

The makem said, "Why? We both got 19 questions correct. This being Sunderland and me being from Sunderland surely I should get the job."

The manager replied, "We have made our decision not on the correct answers, but on the question you got wrong."

The makem said, "And just how would one incorrect answer be better than another?"

The manager said, "Simple. On question number 7 the geordie wrote down, 'I don’t know.' You put down, 'Neither do I.'" 
From MadPriest. Who else?

Mozart on eloquence

To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
as quoted on Facebook

Better to love badly

I find that it is better to love badly and faultily than not to try and love at all. God does not have to have perfect instruments, and the Holy One can use our feeble and faltering attempts at love and transform them. My task is to keep on trying to love, to be faithful in my continuing attempt, not necessarily to be successful. The quality of my love may well be the most important element of my spiritual guidance.
- Morton T. Kelsey
from his book Companions on the Inner Way
as quoted on God's Politics

Finnish for foreigners

järki = reason, sense, intelligence
järjestää = organize
järjestelmä = organization
järjestelmällinen = organized
järjestelmällistyttää = organizationalize
epäjärjestelmällistyttää = unorganizationalize
epäjärjestelmällistyttämätön = antiunorganizationalized
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys = antiunorganizationalization
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättomyydellä = with antiunorganizationalization
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellään = with his antiunorganizationalization
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänkö = is it with his antiunorganizationalization?
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänköhän = I wonder if it is possible, with his antiunorganizationalization?
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänköhänkään? = I wonder if it is possible, even with his antiunorganizationalization?

Seventeen syllables in one word - how about that? You just have to love that language!

MadPriest and the other cheek

Turning the other cheek because of personal cowardice is not what Jesus was on about. 

Walesa on peace and justice

In many parts of the world the people are searching for a solution which would link the two basic values: peace and justice. The two are like bread and salt for mankind.
- Lech Walesa
from his Nobel Lecture
as quoted on God's Politics

Churchill on rebuilding the world

If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire. 
- Sir Winston Churchill
as quoted on Child of Illusion

Power and influence

If you really want to be powerful, if you really want to be influential, then just serve.
- Rev. Willie Barrow,
civil rights activist who earned the nickname "Little Warrior"
as quoted on God's Politics

King on nonviolence

[Nonviolence] is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil. It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil.
- Martin Luther King Jr.,
from his book Stride Toward Freedom
as quoted on God's Politics

No need to protect God

Never think that you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshipping an idol.
- Stanley Hauerwas
as quoted on God's Politics

The elderly pick-up line

A handsome elder gentleman, about 90, sidles up to a handsome elder lady of about 85, in bar.
He inquires of her: "So ... do I come here often?"
Thanks to JCF, commenting at OCICBW...!

Good news to the poor

The gospels record that Jesus preached good news to the poor, and an essential part of that good news was that they were to be poor no longer.
- Dorothy Day,
quoted in Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean
as quoted on God's Politics

Hammarskjöld on what God is

God is something so simple: always to live for others, never to seek one’s own advantage.
- Dag Hammarskjöld,
from his book Markings
as quoted on God's Politics

Thought provoking or just provoking?

I read an interesting article on the net the other day. It was called Christians Who Are Against LGBT Misuse The Bible, written by Greg Carey (Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary) and published on the Huffington Post 11.8.12.
Hiding behind the Bible doesn't exempt us from responsibility for our beliefs and behaviors. The Bible is a complicated book. Using the Bible to condemn sexual minorities requires that people make a series of choices and assumptions,
Carey writes, and the goes on to analyze some of those assumptions. It all comes down to your interpretation. And whenever you read something - anything - you automatically interpret it. You just can't avoid it. Saying you read something the way it is written means you close your eyes to the fact of your own interpretation. And then you will go astray more surely than if you acknowledge your interpretation and take it into account. Professor Carey writes:
There's no avoiding the problem of interpretation - or the responsibility that goes with it.
Julius Caesar said, "People believe what they want to believe." Modern psychology has confirmed his wisdom: Our moral choices tend to reflect our biases and passions more than an unbiased process of moral reflection. Let's be honest: if you're anti-gay, you're anti-gay. Just don't blame the Bible for your bigotry.
Please read the whole thing - it isn't all that long. Perhaps it will provoke you - which is healthy enough - but hopefully it will also be thought provoking.