Finnish Lutheran pastors ready to bless gay partnerships

Earlier this winter, I answered some questions from Suomen Lehtiyhtymä, a Finnish news conglomerate, and the results of this gallup were published just after Christmas. Apparently, we were 106 pastors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland who answered the questions, and over half of us are ready to bless homosexual partnerships. In the greater Helsinki area, the ratio is two out of three. This is, of course, encouraging.
The national broadcasting company YLE published the news on its website, and one of the comments there merits a countercomment. At the dateline 2008-12-27 16:02, the alias man o kvinna = barn (i.e. "man & woman = children") claims that homosexuality only occurs among human beings, not animals. I'd like to refer to my post Gayness is natural from two years ago, where I quoted an article in the Times, stating:
[...] homosexuality had been observed in no fewer than 1,500 species, and well documented in 500 of them. [...] “There are things that are more contrary to nature than homosexuality, things humans alone do — such as having religion or sleeping in pyjamas.”
The same piece of news was also published and discussed in e.g. Helsingin Sanomat and Vasabladet.

Christmas break!

God jul!

Hyvää joulua!

Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noël!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Head Jõulu!

Thanks to MadPriest!

Schoolboy Howlers 11

We had a longer holiday than usual this year because the school was closed for altercations.

Bonhoeffer on the Reconciliation of Christ

This love of God for the world does not withdraw from a reality into noble souls detached from the world, but experiences and suffers the reality of the world in the harshest possible fashion. The world takes out its rage on the body of Jesus Christ. But he, tormented, forgives the world its sins. Thus does reconciliation come about.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Meditations on the Cross
as quoted on God's Politics

Norwegian bankrupt bishop resigns

Bishop Ernst Baasland of the Diocese of Stavanger in the (Lutheran) Church of Norway has announced his resignation from June 2009. He and his wife were made bankrupt by their 34-year-old son's extensive Internet gambling activity. He said the situation would affect his work as a bishop.
"Becoming aware of the numerous loans and witnessing the pain inflicted upon the lenders has been very hard," bishop Baasland said in a press release issued by the Church of Norway. "On top of this came the bankruptcy petition, which is difficult to live with as a bishop."
In total, the bishop's son has debts of NOK 50M (5.4 M€), the bishop's wife NOK 33.7M (3.6 M€) and the bishop himself NOK 16.6M (1.8 M€). Most of the money is owed to friends of the family, which naturally makes the situation even harder for all concerned.
There are many addictions that can ruin a family. Most known are addictions to alcohol or different drugs, but these have a psychological side, too, in addition to the physical addiction.
Someone who is addicted to gambling (ludomania) doesn't have any obvious physical craving, but on a psychological level, the situation is similar to substance abuse. The addict can't stop, and just has to have more and more until the situation is totally out of hand, as with the Baasland family. And the addicts don't hurt themselves only, but everyone around them is affected. As in this tragic case.
Please pray for the Baaslands and others in similar dire straits.
Bishop Baasland is at the moment in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where he teaches New Testament exegetics at the university. He will return to Stavanger on March 15, 2009, and his resignation will be effective June 15.
Baasland velger å søke avskjed sommeren 2009 (kirken.no 10.12.08)
– Vanskelig å være biskop under konkursbehandling (Vårt Land 10.12.08)
Norwegian bishop bankrupted by son's Internet gambling debt (ENI 11.12.08)
– Er ikke du rik og berømt? (Aftenbladet 11.12.08)
Spelskulder tvingar norsk biskop avgå (Kyrkans Tidning 12.12.08)

Whose side of the family?

A little girl asked her mother, "How did the human race come about?"
The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children; and so all mankind was made."
Two days later she asked her father the same question. Her father answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys and we developed from them."
The confused girl returns to her mother and says: "Mom, how is it possible that you told me that the human race was created by God, and Papa says we developed from monkeys?"
The mother answers, "Well dear, it is very simple. I told you about the origin of my side of the family, and your father told you about his side."
Thanks to MadPriest!

About dogs and people 8

Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
- Ann Landers
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Discipleship

Discipleship is rooted in the experience of an encounter with Jesus Christ.
- Gustavo Gutierrez
Catholic theologian in Lima, Peru
as quoted on God's Politics

Worst one, ever 2

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

"A safe pair of hands"

My bearded face was published by MadPriest, who comments:
I must say that he looks like a safe pair of hands and that the faith in the Northern Lands is secure as long as K is around to keep the inhabitants in order.
Thank you, that is heartwarming - especially as my hands don't even appear in the photo!
Apparently my neighbours agree with you. The photo in question happens to be my candidate photo from the recent municipal elections - and it can't have been too bad, since I was elected to the City Council here in the city of Porvoo (in Finnish; "Borgå" in Swedish)...
And just for the record, I'm not from Sweden, but belong to the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland. Which, as you noted, MP, is outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Voltaire on doubt and certainty

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
- Voltaire

Norwegian pro-gay pastor boycotted

In Norway, a pastor is being boycotted because of his pro-homosexual views. Sindre Stabell Kulø, 29, holds opinions that are shared by a sizable fraction of pastors and members of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway. Another, more conservative, faction is against homosexual marriage and so forth. No surprises so far.
However, the parish that Stabell Kulø works for arranges confirmation camps at a nearby camp site owned by an interior mission organisation, that belongs to the aforementioned conservative faction. They have informed the parish that they will not rent their camp site to the parish as long as Stabell Kulø is involved in the camps. Because, you see, they don't want to have heresies preached in their hallow halls. In effect, they have declared a boycott on Stabell Kulø.
The parishioners back their pastor up. So do even many conservatives, who don't agree with Stabell Kulø, but see boycotting him as tremendeous overkill.
I was surprised to hear this piece of news. I myself hold similar views to Stabell Kulø (as my readers well know), and I've been boycotted in some quarters, called names and even recieved death threats - but then I live in conservative Finland, not in easy-going Norway.
But I suppose there are all kinds of people everywhere.
Boikotter prest for homosyn (Romsdals Budstikke 28.11.08)
Oppfordrer til boikott av presten i Bud (Stavanger Aftenblad 28.11.08)
Kirkeboikott etter homobråk (VG 28.11.08)
Homo-ja gir misjon-nei (NRK 28.11.08)
Boikottes for homosyn (Adresseavisen 28.11.08)
Vil boikotte prest (Vårt Land 28.11.08)
Präst bojkottas på grund av homosyn (Vasabladet 28.11.08)
Präst bojkottas - är för positiv till homosexuella (Dagen 28.11.08)
Religionsfrihet vs. Yttrandefrihet (Grovarbetare Rosenqvist 28.11.08)
- Glade for å ha ham her (Romsdals Budstikke 29.11.08)
Støtter preste-boikott (Romsdals Budstikke 1.12.08)
Konservativ, men støtter Sindre (Romsdals Budstikke 1.12.08)
Slo ring rundt presten (Romsdals Budstikke 1.12.08)
Homo-engasjement fylte kyrkjene (NRK 1.12.08)

Name That Animal

A first-grade class is having a game of Name That Animal.
The teacher held up a picture of a cat.
"What animal is this?" she asked.
"A cat!" said Eddie.
"Good job! Now, what is this animal?"
"A dog!" said Eddie.
"Good! Now what animal is this?" she asked, holding up a picture of a deer. The class fell silent. After a couple of minutes, the teacher said, "It's what your mom calls your dad."
"A horny bastard," called out Eddie.
Thanks to Tuija & Tom!

King on justice

It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Update: Sandell, Phelps, Haggard

Last summer, pastor Halvar Sandell showed a video of an authentic abortion to his confirmation class. In September, bishop Gustav Björkstrand gave him a warning for this unsuitable action, and criminal charges were subsequently filed against Sandell.
Now, the district attorney in charge of the investigation has dropped the case. Since the video is available on the Internet, it is available to all, until the motion pictures board has given it a rating. It has not done so in this case; that the video would be restricted for viewers under the age of 18 if the board were asked for a rating is immaterial.
Consequently, Sandell has committed no crime. The bishop's warning stands, however.
Sandell i farten igen (Kalle kyrkliga kommentarer 19.6.08)
Pastor gets warning for abortion video (Karl's comments 5.9.08)
Charges filed against Sandell (Karl's comments 10.9.08)
Sandell åtalas ej för abortvideo (YLE 10.11.08)
Förundersökningen läggs ner (Kyrkpressen 10.11.08)
Inget brott visa abortfilm (STT/FNB through Vasabladet 10.11.08)
Sandell åtalas inte för abortvideo (Hufvudstadsbladet 10.11.08)
Aborttivideon näyttämisestä ei nosteta syytettä (Kotimaa 10.11.08)
The sectarian leader Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas are renowned for their hatred of homosexuals and for the demonstrations they arrange at the oddest places. On November 10, 2008, they picketed the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C. The excuse was, of course, that Sweden does not actively discriminate against gays (click to enlarge the image).
The Swedish bloggers that I've seen commenting on this have been amused or annoyed or something in between - except one that agreed with the WBC so wholeheartedly, that he must have been ironic...
Arga demonstranter häcklade Sverige (TT through Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter and Sydsvenskan 10.11.08)
The former pastor Ted Haggard, who was caught doing men and drugs two years ago, entered three weeks of reparative therapy and claimed to have been cured of his homosexual leanings. Very efficient therapy, apparently. He now works as an insurance salesman, but is back in Colorado Springs. In November, he preached a sermon in a church in Illinois, so the pulpit still has its lure, apparently.
Haggard has claimed that he was sexually abused at the age of seven. This is terrible (if true), but doesn't really have too much bearing on his homosexual behaviour.
Nyhet: Antihomopastor anklagas för homosex (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 3.11.06)
Haggard fick sparken (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 5.11.06)
Haggard kommenteras (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 5.11.06)
Haggard i JT (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 27.11.06)
Haggards "pojkvän" i polisförhör (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 28.11.06)
Uppdateringar: Rohadi, Vammala, Haggard (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 1.8.08)
Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard claims he was abused as a child (PinkNews 13.11.08)
Ted Haggard: "Jag blev sexuellt utnyttjad som barn" (Dagen 13.11.08)
Haggard bounces back after gay hustler scandal (AP through 365gay 24.11.08)

The old man and President Bush

One sunny day in January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."
The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."
The old man said, "Okay", and walked away.
The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."
The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."
The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.
The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."
The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"
The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."
The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow, Sir."
Thanks to MadPriest!

Bonhoeffer on overcoming the world

The world is overcome not through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals, nor programs, nor conscience, nor duty, nor responsibility, nor virtue, but only God's perfect love can encounter reality and overcome it. Nor is it some universal idea of love, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Meditations on the Cross
as quoted on God's Politics

Sermon competition?

From ENI:
Stellenbosch, South Africa (ENI). A South African student has won top honours in a competition run by a Netherlands newspaper for a sermon, written in Dutch, on doubt. Almatine Leene, a 24-year-old doctoral student in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University, whose mother tongue is Afrikaans, entered the competition hosted by the Dutch newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad. The other two finalists were Maarten Trimp, aged 22, from Utrecht, and Hanna Blom-Yoo, who is 26, from Amsterdam. The final leg of the competition took place on 12 November in Utrecht's historic Jacobi church, when the finalists preached their sermons. Leene said the Book of Judges from the Bible had inspired her winning sermon.
It's good that people give good sermons, of course - but to compete? Why not a competition to see who is best at celebrating the Lord's Supper, while they're at it?
It all seems a bit strange to me. But maybe it is I that am strange...

Shaw on sticks in the mud

We must not stay as we are, always doing what we did the last time, otherwise we become sticks in the mud.
- George Bernard Shaw

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

Alexander McCall Smith: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Edinburgh 2007.
Having heard so many good things about Alexander McCall Smith's books about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana and its proprietor, Mma Ramotswe, I became curious. Finally, I was able to find one book in the series in the local library here in Porvoo. They are available in the local book stores as well, of course, but usually in translations. And out of principle, I always read books in the original language, if possible. Luckily, McCall Smith writes in English and not in Setswana...
The book I found, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, is the eighth book in this particular series (there is a ninth, and a tenth is due to be published in 2009). Not having read the others (yet!), I cannot compare them, but this was an absolutely charming novel. To my European eyes, the African setting seemed genuine - and McCall Smith was born in 1948 in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) and has worked in Botswana, so why shouldn't it be?
The characters in the book - Mma Ramotswe herself, her husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, her associate, Mma Makusi, and all the others, are warmly sketched with all the little flaws that people have. They are no sterile superheroes, but real people, that live in Botswana, but could equally well live in Finland or the U.S. Were it not for the African background, however. Their culture, their language, their city and their landscapes are African, of course, and so are these characters, as well. Universal - but African.
Ah, the language! It is clear that the characters actually speak Setswana, but the dialogue is in English, nevertheless. Luckily for me. The form of English used by the author is very colourful and full of Africanisms - technical terms, of course, such as names of animals and plants, but also the titels "Mma" and "Rra" for ladies and gentlemen, respectively, and notably the expression "to become late", meaning "to die". "The boy's mother is late" sounds far warmer than to say that "she is dead" or that "she kicked the bucket". I suppose the background of this novel expression is speaking of "the late Mr. Jones", but this form of it was new to me. And I liked it; not that I intend to use it.
This is, naturally, a detective story. The crimes that Mma Ramotswe investigates are not the high society murders of an Agatha Christie or a Ngaio Marsh, nor the brutal incidents of other more contemporary writers. They are, rather, small scale incidents that can make life miserable for those involved, but do not affect society as a whole - a theft of office supplies here, an unfaithful husband there. And that just makes the book the more charming.
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is no thriller. If you seek adrenaline and testosterone, seek elsewhere. If you, on the other hand, seek realistic people that you would like to befriend, you'd be well adviced to try the warm embrace of Mma Ramotswe!

Election fraud in Porvoo?

In Finland, we've always been proud of our reputation as an incorruptible nation - whether that's been founded in fact or not... The situation is admittedly good as a whole, but there are always things to be corrected.
Such as the (as yet alleged) case of election fraud that has surfaced in my own town of Borgå (in Finnish, Porvoo).
Apparently election functionaries studied the rolls on the day of the municipal election (October 26) to see which members of their own party hadn't voted yet, and then gave them a phone call to remind them to do so. I do not know, as yet, which party is in question, but that is beside the point. I hope, though, that it doesn't concern my own party, the Swedish People's Party, but somehow it sounds like something that some of us might get the idea of doing.
As election frauds go, this is, of course, on the mild side, internationally speaking, but it is a breach of the functionaries' impartiality, nevertheless. The fraudulent functionaries will be fined, if found guilty.
Påstått valfusk utreds i Borgå (Borgåbladet 7.11.08)
Valnämndsmedlemmar i Borgå anmälda (YLE 10.11.08)

Mother Teresa on feeding a hungry Christ

Every time you sacrifice something at great cost — every time you renounce something that appeals to you for the sake of the poor — you are feeding a hungry Christ.
- mother Teresa
in "Cry Freedom" by Charles Ringma
as quoted on God's Politics

Worst one, ever 1

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Nouwen on the future of the church

Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen
Sabbatical Journey
as quoted on God's Politics

Vicar changes sex - and jobs

In the region of Savonia in eastern Finland, a vicar in his fifties has announced that he always has felt that he is a woman, and that he consequently is going to undergo sex-change treatments. The vicar of Imatra, Olli Aalto (54), gave an anonymous interview to the newspapers Itä-Savo and Länsi-Savo (the names mean "eastern" and "western Savonia" respectively), and it was published on Sunday, November 9, 2008 (but I haven't been able to find it on the Internet).
Aalto's occupation wasn't mentioned in the original interview. As the tabloids always seem to find ecclesiastical sex lives very titillating, the tabloid Iltalehti was only too happy to announce it the following day. Aalto's name became public the day after, when the local paper Uutisvuoksi published it.
Salailu ja kaksoiselämä ovat olleet elämäni raskaimpia ja surullisimpia asioita. [...] Nyt viimein uskallan antaa luvan naiseudelle, joka on ollut minussa aina.
("Secrecy and living a double life have been the hardest and saddest things of my life. At last, I dare permit me the femininity, that always has been in me.")
As most courageous decisions, this one, too, will have repercussions. The bishop of the local diocese of Mikkeli, Voitto Huotari, says that although no laws are broken, a parish priest (let alone a vicar) changing his or her sex would be so confusing to the parishioners that it would get in the way of the real message. This is, I suppose sadly, a realistic assessment. Bishop Huotari draws the conclusion, that Aalto would have to change jobs. Aalto herself doesn't quite agree. Nor do I, although I understand the argument. Even if Aalto makes people confused and forces them (by her very existence) to confront their own prejudices, that is not grounds for dismissal - neither legally (to which all agree) nor in practice!
The bishop admits to finding the situation confusing. He is, however, retiring next February, so in the long run it will be his successor's, Seppo Häkkinen's, problem. But if Aalto had belonged to the diocese of Porvoo, as I do, the problems would have been smaller. Our bishop, Gustav Björkstrand, says in an interview:
[...] Björkstrand [...] håller med om att ett könsbyte inte inverkar på arbetsförmågan.
– Frågan är hur församlingen reagerar. Det är viktigt att församlingen har förtroende för kyrkoherden för att den skall kunna fungera.

("Björkstrand agrees that a sex-change doesn't affect a person's capacity to work.
- The question is how the parish reacts. In order for the parish to work, it is important that it has confidence in its vicar.")
Aalto will change her name from Olli to Marja-Sisko. There is a support group for her on Facebook.
Itäsuomalainen kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuolta (pod.fi 10.11.08)
Kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuolta (Iltalehti 10.11.08)
Kirkkoherralta vaihtuisi sukupuolen lisäksi työ (Länsi-Savo 10.11.08)
Papin ura tyssäsi sukupuolen vaihtoon (Savon Sanomat 10.11.08)
Imatran kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuoltaan talven aikana (Uutisvuoksi 11.11.08)
Imatralla kohu kirkkoherran sukupuolenkorjauksesta (YLE 11.11.08)
Imatran kirkkoherra korjaa sukupuoltaan (Kauppalehti 11.11.08)
Kyrkoherde måste avgå på grund av könsbyte (Hufvudstadsbladet 11.11.08)
Osäker karriär för könsbytande präst (Vasabladet 11.11.08)
Sukupuolta vaihtava pappi ei irtisanoudu vielä (Savon Sanomat 11.11.08)
Kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuoltaan (Kotimaa 11.11.08)
Yhteys-liikkeeltä tuenilmaus Imatran kirkkoherralle (Kotimaa 11.11.08)
Kirkkoherran sukupuolenvaihdos: Ollista tulee Marja-Sisko (Aamulehti 12.11.08)
Prästen Olli byter kön och blir Marja-Sisko (Hufvudstadsbladet 12.11.08)
Transsexuell präst skapar huvudbry (QX 12.11.08)
Rytsy: Kirkolla ongelmia naiseuden kanssa (Savon Sanomat 13.11.08)

About dogs and people 7

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
- Ben Williams
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

The old dog

An old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. He followed me into the house, down the hall, and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.
The next day he was back, resumed his position in the hall, and slept for an hour. This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: 'Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'
The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with ten children - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'
Thanks, Börje!

Edison on failure

I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.
- Thomas Edison

King's most famous speech on YouTube

The full version of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" -speech from 1963 can be found on YouTube here. Comments were disabled - apparently many of them were hateful and racist.
But, boy! What a speech, and what a speaker! As a professional speaker myself, I stand in awe!

Nouwen on the joy of giving

It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live as if our happiness depended on having. But I don't know anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has. True joy, happiness and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen
Life of the Beloved
as quoted on God's Politics

King on actions and silence

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Problems with electronic voting

In the recent municipal elections in Finland, an experiment with electronic voting was made in three southern municipalities. In Grankulla (in Finnish, Kauniainen), Högfors (Karkkila) and Vichtis (Vihti) over half of the voters chose to vote electronically, instead of using the traditional paper ballots.
Out of the 12,000 voters, however, over 200 did not successfully finish their session with the voting machine by pressing OK twice. Most, apparently, did so only once, and thought that was the end of it.
200 out of 12,000 is not a very high percentage, but since there shouldn't be any problem at all in such a serious matter as an election, even this percentage is unacceptable. It was not a question of faulty machinery or an untransparent inaccountability of the manufacturers (as in the USA - see video on YouTube), but simply human error and lack of experience. But that is serious enough.
Before we go to electronic voting, there are apparently a whole lot of bugs to get rid of. Get out the Raid, someone!
Lyckat försök med elektronisk röstning (YLE 26.10.08)
Röster försvann vid elektronisk röstning (YLE 28.10.08)

Schoolboy Howlers 9

In some rocks there are to be found the fossil footprints of fishes.

Tuovinen acquitted a second time

Lately, as the readers of my blogs have been able to discern, I've been engaged in my election campaign. Now, the campaign is (successfully!) over, and my blogging can resume more normal avenues. So, here goes:
Pastor Liisa Tuovinen performed something that has been called a lesbian marriage last summer; she claims that it technically was only a prayer meeting. A complaint was made against her to the diocesan chapter of Espoo, but she was exonerated.
Many people were dissatisfied with the process and its conclusion, and it was no surprise that another complaint was made. What was surprising was, however, that it again was made against Tuovinen. I'm not saying that the process wasn't a bit odd, but if there was fault to be found with it, surely the fault should be looked for among the members on the diocesan chapter. Tuovinen, the accused, naturally had nothing to do with her own acquittal!
Tuovinen was inevitably exonerated a second time - and the conservatives are still screaming bloody murder...
Tuovinen välsignade lesbiskt par (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 8.8.08)
Tuovinen blessed a lesbian couple (Karl's comments 18.8.08)
Uppdateringar: Koivisto, Phelps, Tuovinen (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 1.9.08)
Prosten Tuovinen frikändes (Kyrkpressen 30.9.08)
Protokollet i fallet Tuovinen publicerat (Kyrkpressen 1.10.08)
Tuovinens bönestund som video (Kyrkpressen 3.10.08)
Frågetecknen hopar sig kring bönestunden (Kyrkpressen 7.10.08)
Ny klagan i fallet Tuovinen (Kyrkpressen 13.10.08)
Espoon kapituliin kanneltiin jälleen (Kotimaa 14.10.08)
"Välsigna inte samkönade par" (Kyrkpressen 13.10.08)
Myös piispa Heikasta uusi kantelu kapituliin (Kotimaa 21.10.08)
Kapituli hylkäsi myös uudet Heikkaa ja Tuovista koskevat kantelut (Kotimaa 30.10.08)
Klagomålet förkastat (Kyrkpressen 31.10.08)

Luther on forgiveness

Forgiveness is not an occasional art, it is a permanent attitude.
- Martin Luther
as quoted on God's Politics

About dogs and people 6

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
- Mark Twain
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Churchill on martyrdom

Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.
- Winston Churchill

My sort of pastor

A church congregation had the same pastor for many years. Eventually the longtime pastor resigned and the church hired a new younger pastor with new ideas about church leadership. The first suggestion the new pastor made to the deacons was that they should hire a part-time person to take care of the church lawn and shrubbery.
"I’ll have you know, Rev. Jones, that our former pastor always took care of the church lawn himself," a member said indignantly.
"I am aware of that," the new pastor replied. "I called him and he doesn’t want to do it anymore."
Thanks to MadPriest.

Three Corporate/Political Lessons

Lesson Number One
A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A small rabbit saw the crow, and asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?"
The crow answered, "Sure, why not."
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.
Lesson Number Two
A turkey was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey,"but I haven't got the energy."
"Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. "They're packed with nutrients."
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fortnight, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot the turkey out of the tree.
Moral of the story: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.
Lesson Number Three
A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold, the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on it. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, it began to realize how warm it was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird underthe pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him!
The morals of this story are:
1) Not everyone who drops shit on you is your enemy.
2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
3) And when you're in deep shit, keep your mouth shut.
In summary:
An organization is like a tree full of monkeys, all on different limbs at different levels, some climbing up, some fooling around and some simply just idling.
The monkeys on top look down and see a tree full of smiling faces. The monkeys on the bottom look up and see nothing but assholes.

Thank you!

I want to thank the 124 voters in Porvoo who gave me their support and gave me a seat in the city council! I also want to thank all those who have supported me in various ways during my campaign! Now my work begins in earnest...
I'll be back with more details later this week.

King on accepting evil

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

King on Hitler

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Schoolboy Howlers 8

Homer wrote the Oddity*. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.
* Odyssey

Four husbands

An 80-year-old lady was being interviewed by the local news station because she had just gotten married - for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation.
"He's a funeral director," she answered.
"Interesting," the newsman thought. He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living.
She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she'd first married a banker when she was in her early 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, later on a preacher when in her 60's, and now in her 80's, a funeral director.
The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked her why she had married four men with such diverse careers.
She smiled and explained: "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."
Thanks to MadPriest.

St. Francis on gloominess

It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.
- St. Francis of Assisi

Surprise candidate

As you probably know, I'm running for a seat in the city council of Porvoo (Borgå in Swedish).
Rather to my surprise, I seem to be a candidate in another election, as well. Check out this video! And remember to vote...

Frightening ideas

I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened of old ones.
- John Cage

About dogs and people 5

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
- Andy Rooney
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Heard on a golf court

A golfer is in a competitive match with a friend, who is ahead by a couple of strokes. "Boy, I'd give anything to sink this putt," the golfer mumbles to himself.
Just then, a stranger walks up beside him and whispers, "Would you be willing to give up one-fourth of your sex life?"
Thinking the man is crazy and his answer will be meaningless, the golfer also feels that maybe this is a good omen so he says, "Sure," and sinks the putt.
Two holes later, he mumbles to himself again, "Gee, I sure would like to get an eagle on this one."
The same stranger is at his side again and whispers, "Would it be worth giving up another fourth of your sex life?"
Shrugging, the golfer replies, "Okay." And he makes an eagle.
On the final hole, the golfer needs another eagle to win. Without waiting for him to say anything, the stranger quickly moves to his side and says, "Would winning this match be worth giving up the rest of your sex life?"
"Definitely," the golfer replies, and he makes the eagle.
As the golfer is walking to the club house, the stranger walks alongside him and says, "I haven't really been fair with you because you don't know who I am. I'm the devil, and from this day forward you will have no sex life."
"Nice to meet you," the golfer replies, "I'm Father O'Malley."
Thanks to MadPriest

Romero on the Poor

Those who have created the evil are those who have made possible the hideous social injustice our people live in. Thus, the poor have shown the church the true way to go. A church that does not join the poor in order to speak out from the side of the poor against the injustices committed against them is not the true church of Jesus Christ.
- Oscar A. Romero
The Violence of Love
as quoted on God's Politics

A blessing by +Gene


The blessing given by the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire (ECUSA), at the end of services at All Saints Church Pasadena on Sunday, July 15, 2007.
I found it on the blog An Apple Not Far from the Tree, through a hint by MadPriest. Thank you!
May we all share in the blessing that +Gene gives us!

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Harold S. Kushner: When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York 1981) 164 p.
In 1963, Rabbi Harold Kushner had a son, Aaron, who suffered from progeria, "rapid aging". He was never to grow much beyond a metre in height, would be completely hairless, look like an old man already in childhood, and die in his early teens. Aaron Kushner did, in fact, die in 1977, two days after his fourteenth birthday.
Rabbi Kushner had grown up with a God who punishes bad people and makes good people prosper. Naturally, he asked himself what he had done to deserve this fate - he, a man of God, spending his days trying to help others. The answer he found was that his postulate was wrong. The suffering in this world is not caused by God, and it is not meant as a punishment for those who suffer. The suffering itself is amoral, void of meaning.
What is important for us who suffer is to create meaning out of the suffering. The question, "Why did this happen to me?", as natural and understandable as it is, is meaningless. The correct question, Rabbi Kushner writes, is "Now that this has happened, what shall I do about it?" We should not concentrate on the past and on the pain, but open doors into the future.
The facts of life and death are neutral. We, by our responses, give suffering either a positive or a negative meaning. [...] If suffering and death in someone close to us bring us to explore the limits of our capacity for strength and love and cheerfulness, if it leads us to discover sources of consolation we never knew before, then we make the person into a witness for the affirmation of life rather than its rejection.
Kushner here refers to the German theologian Dorothee Sölle (1929-2003).
I have been in ministry for over a decade now. I have seen sorrow and joy in close quarters. I myself have had to deal with the deaths of loved ones and with my own serious illnesses. Yet, this thin book has given me new insights and answers to questions that have tormented me. I read it with many tears and with much recognition. Rabbi Kushner is a Jew, of course, and not a Christian, but he has helped me, both personally and professionally, in ways that no Christian book has been able to - it's not that they were bad, but this is better.
On the cover of the paperback volume I'm holding (Anchor Books, 2004) it says that over 4 million copies of the book have been sold. Even that is too few. More people need to read this book, and it should be required reading in courses on pastoral theology and counseling.

Justice and mercy

The pearl of justice is found in the heart of mercy.
- Catherine of Siena
as quoted on God's Politics

About dogs and people 4

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
- Will Rogers
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

The immorality of moralism

In a Church of England newspaper, the south London priest Giles Fraser writes under the heading Beware of the morality of legalism (Church Times August 1, 2008). It was very interesting to read his text. He argues that it is a great mistake to turn "gospel faith into moral uprightness," and that the conservatives within the Anglican communion are trying to do exactly this.
This is very reminiscent of one of the first texts I wrote on Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer, There is no Christian ethics (May 9, 2006), based on some thoughts by the influential Swedish Christian writer Peter Halldorf. My conclusion there is "... to confuse faith with ethics leads to moralism, phariseeism and many other tragedies."
All the more interesting to read Fraser's article.

Schoolboy Howlers 6

POLITICS:
When Caesar was assassinated, he is reported to have said: "Me too, Brutus!"

The ultimate measure of a man

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Charges filed against Sandell

Last week, I reported that pastor Halvar Sandell from Helsinki received a warning from bishop Gustav Björkstrand for showing a video of an authentic abortion at a confirmation camp.
Now, charges have been filed against Sandell. Birgitta Dahlberg, a politician from the moderately liberal Swedish People's Party (Svenska folkpartiet, sfp) says that if an adult that's supposed to be an authority, a pastor and a teacher forces minors to watch such a material, it's a very serious matter. Anyone should understand, Dahlberg says, that the video isn't suitable, but on the contrary quite harmful, for children of 14 years of age.
The police are investigating the charges, and estimate that the investigation will be ready by Christmas. It is as yet unclear what, if any, crime Sandell has commetted. This case is not urgent, the police say, so they'll take their time.
"Som att visa pornografi för minderåriga" (Hufvudstadsbladet 8.9.08)
Aborttivideon näyttäneestä papista tutkintapyyntö poliisille (Kotimaa 8.9.08)
Vihdin poliisi tutkii aborttivideon (Kotimaa 8.9.08)
Sandell polisanmäld (Kyrkpressen 8.9.08)
Kaplan fick anmärkning av biskopen (Nya Åland 8.9.08)
Aborttifilmin näyttäneestä papista tutkintapyyntö poliisille (STT through Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat 8.9.08)
Halvar Sandell polisanmäld (YLE Nyheter 8.9.08)
Sandells straff (Anja Kuusisto's editorial in Åbo Underrättelser 8.9.08)
Halvar Sandell polisanmäld (Österbottens Tidning 8.9.08)
Polisen utreder abortfilmen (Hufvudstadsbladet 9.9.08)
Vichtispolisen inleder förundersökning (Kyrkpressen 9.9.08)
Förundersökning inleds mot Halvar Sandell (Vasabladet 9.9.08)
Förundersökning om abortvideo (YLE Nyheter 9.9.08)

About dogs and people 3

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
- Roger Caras
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

My sort of cat

A cat died and went to Heaven. God met her at the gates and said, "You have been a good cat all these years. Anything you want is yours for the asking."
The cat thought for a minute and then said, "All my life I lived on a farm and slept on hard wooden floors. I would like a real fluffy pillow to sleep on."
God said, "Say no more," and instantly the cat had a huge fluffy pillow.
A few days later six mice were killed in an accident and they all went to Heaven together. God met the mice at the gates with the same offer that He had made to the cat.
The mice said, "Well, we have had to run all of our lives from cats, dogs and even people with brooms. If we could just have some little roller skates we would not have to run again."
God answered, "It is done." All the mice received beautiful little roller skates.
About a week later God decided to check on the cat. He found her sound asleep on her fluffy pillow. God gently awakened the cat and asked, "Is everything alright? Are you happy?"
"Everything is wonderful," the cat replied. "I have never been so happy. The pillow is so fluffy and those little Meals on Wheels you have been sending over are delicious."
Thanks to MadPriest.

Pastor gets warning for abortion video

Just over a year ago, pastor Halvar Sandell from Helsinki wanted to refuse me the Lord's Supper because of my views on homosexuality (some media report that he actually did refuse me, but that is incorrect). He had no right to do this, of course, so in the end our bishop, Gustav Björkstrand, gave him a warning.
Sandell's been at it again in June this year. This time he's in trouble for showing an authentic abortion video to his confirmation pupils, aged about 15 years. Their parents were in an uproar about this and reported him to the Parish Council, which refused to do anything. The parents also sent a copy to the Bishop, who consulted the governmental motion pictures board, and after receiving their report gave Sandell another warning.
The problem was not that Sandell is a hard core anti-abortionist ("pro-life", as it is sometimes euphemistically called); that is his right. He had discussed abortion in class, which also is his right (and perhaps even his duty). The problem was that, having failed to convince the teenagers, he showed them a detailed and bloody video showing an abortion (performed with a method not used in Finland). He had downloaded the video from the Internet. This shocking video, showing close-ups of a dismembered foetus, was too strong for the teenagers, according to the board, and could hurt the development of 14-15-year-olds if shown to them.
A positive note in all this is that Sandell has apologized for his excessive zeal.
Warnings of the kind Sandell seems to be collecting do not, as such, lead to anything worse. If someone is given several warnings for similar offences, however, they can be construed as aggravating factors if the offence is repeated yet again.
In other words, if Sandell keeps his nose clean, this might be the end of it. If not, well...
Disciplinärt förfarande i församlingen 4 (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 18.7.06)
Ingen sakramental gemenskap? (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 3.9.07)
Sandell i farten igen (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 19.6.08)
Biskopen gav kaplan Sandell skriftlig anmärkning (Kyrklig tidningstjänst 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (YLE 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (Kyrkpressen 4.9.08)
Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning (Hufvudstadsbladet 4.9.08)
Halvar Sandell får skriftlig anmärkning för abortvideo (Vasabladet 4.9.08)
Aborttifilmin rippileirillä näyttänyt pappi sai huomautuksen piispalta (Helsingin Sanomat 4.9.08)
Präst klandras för abortfilm (Sydsvenskan 4.9.08)
Visade abortfilm för unga och kritiseras (Kyrkans Tidning 5.9.08)
Präst prickas för abortfilm (Dagen 5.9.08)

Registered lesbian pastors

Gay marriage and blessings of registered same-sex partnerships are a much debated issue in many places. This is the case also in Finland and within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. No end to the debate is yet in sight; no cooling of tempers either. Rabid arguments have been used on both side of the argument - along with civilized "agree-to-disagree" -type situations, I hasten to add.
Last week, the Finnish church paper Kotimaa (the name means "home country", "fatherland") published the news that two female ELCF pastors from southern Finland have registered their partnership. As such, this is legal, of course. It has even (reportedly) been done once before, last year. In addition to two pastors registering their relationship, there are pastors living in registered partnerships with laymen in at least four of the nine ELCF dioceses, Kotimaa writes without specifying. I myself have heard of cases in the diocese of Helsinki and in my own diocese, Porvoo, but surely there are many more.
Nobody can deny two adult citizens of the Republic of Finland to do this, and the legality won't be an issue. What can and will be argued, however, is whether this really is something Lutheran pastors should do - i.e., whether homosexuals should be allowed to become or to remain pastors. Some bishops have refused to ordain openly homosexual theologians; some haven't refused, but demanded that the gay pastors be discreet about their sexuality.
The two ladies now in question say to Kotimaa:
"We don't want our names or our home city published. Our mental resources are such at the moment, that we don't want to appear in front of the media with our names. There has been that much gossiping and smearing in our parish."
I can understand and respect the need of discretion, but I lament it. What should by rights be a happy time in the life of two loving people, has to be kept under wraps. Gossiping is born from the need for secrecy and smearing from intolerance - and neither should have any place in a Christian community. But, alas, we Christians are only human, not angels...
A support group (in Finnish) has been founded on Facebook. At the moment, it has over 500 members.
I wish the loving couple all the best! May God richly bless you!
Kaksi pappia rekisteröi parisuhteensa (Kotimaa 25.8.08)
Kotimaa: Kaksi pappia rekisteröi parisuhteensa (ranneliike.net, starting 26.8.08)

Merton on Love and Mercy

A Christian is committed to the belief that Love and Mercy are the most powerful forces on earth.
- Thomas Merton
in Passion for Peace
as quoted on God's Politics

Schoolboy Howlers 5

HISTORY:
King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery*.
* chivalry

Churchill on pigs

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
- Winston Churchill

About dogs and people 2

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.
- Sigmund Freud
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Power cut

In some parts of the world, power cuts are frequent, I am told. Not so in Finland; not so in Porvoo. Therefore, I felt a certain amount of surprise at the power cut at 8:25 this morning. It was a fairly long one, as well - almost ten minutes. I don’t know what caused it.
Luckily, it was already light out; even more luckily, my coffee was ready!
This summer, Porvoo had another episode that normally happens only in other countries: Our tap water was contaminated. A thunder storm burned out a water purification plant, and at the same time, torrential rains flooded the water intake with surface water. In consequence, intestinal bacteria made their way into the water supply. We had to boil our drinking water for weeks, while the water company raised the chlorine levels sharply, in order to purify the water and the pipes.
Now, the situation is normal again, but it was a reminder of the vulnerability of our technological society in the hands of natural forces.

Iceland celebrates!

On June 28, I got an e-mail:
Dear friends
Yesterday [27.6.08] was a double celebration for us here in Iceland. Samtökin 78, the National Queer Organization, celebrated it's 30th birthday with a big celebration at the Reykjavík art museum. On the same day, a law that allows religious denominations to register partnerships if they so wish, came into action. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is the first state church in the world to allow its priests to perform partnership registrations according to an official ritual for such events, agreed on in the last pastoral Synod. Already one couple have registered their partnership using this ritual, which is legally binding as priests in the ELCI are representatives of the state in this matter. The ritual is based on the marriage ritual already in use with slight variation in text and form. The rituals have the same status within the official rituals of the ELCI although one is for registered partnership ("staðfest samvist") and the other for marriage ("hjónaband"). Next step is to have only one word for both marriage and registered partnership; hjónaband (marriage). I'm sure that will happen in the very near future. Already people in Iceland use the word marriage when referring to registered partnerships and it's been like that for many years. Both have exactly the same legal status in every way, only separated by the forementioned words.
Love to all of you from from the small island in the north
Grétar Einarsson
Good news, indeed!
I mentioned the process last year in the post Iceland: Church blesses gay partnerships (3.12.07). See also Discrimination against same sex couples ended (GayIce.is 31.5.08) and First Gay Couple in Iceland Marries in Church (Iceland Review 27.6.08). The Box Turtle Bulletin also reports 27.6.08.

Minds and parachutes

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.
- Sir James Dewar

Bible publishers sued for "clobber passages"

In my blog, Hbt-bibeln, I've explored different Bible texts alleged to deal with homosexuality. The conclusion is that most of the allegations are misunderstandings or mistranslations. The blog is in Swedish, but there are a number of English links.
On the same note, American gay author Bradley Fowler is seeking US$60 million in damages from Zondervan Corp. and $10 million from Thomas Nelson Publishing, charging that the publishers are guilty of malice, negligence and violation of his civil rights. He claims the publishers misled consumers and Christian Bible readers into believing "homosexuals would not inherit the kingdom of God."
While conducting research for a book he was writing, Fowler says he "grew concerned about the variation of scriptures from one Bible to the next." According to Fowler, he was "flabbergasted to find out this Christian publisher had imposed its own opinions upon religious sectors, by fraudulently implementing the terminology - homosexual - to its Bible; then removed the term from its 1994 Holy Bible - without informing the general public."
One of the text alterations Fowler attributes to Thomas Nelson Publishing comes from 1 Corinthians 6:9. In the text from a 1976 Bible version by Thomas Nelson, the passage reads: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [...]"
In the text from a 1982 version, the passage has been changed to: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites [...]"
Finally, in a 2001 version, Fowler claims the passage was changed yet again to read: "Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God's kingdom. Do not be fooled, those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob, these people will not inherit God's kingdom."
In a statement released to the press, Fowler says that imposing terminology that "conveys a message of hate and discrimination towards a particular sector or group of individuals, solely based on bias opinions" has caused countless homosexuals to be "assaulted, discriminated against, and or, even murdered." He claims that Christians historically believe biblical scriptures are the "authentic word of God" and that the alterations of passages by Bible publishers to depict homosexuality as a sin is a wilful manipulation of society into "mistreating homosexuals."
A spokesperson for Zondervan Corp. says: "Since Zondervan does not translate the Bible or own the copyright for any of the translations we publish, we are not in a position to comment on the merits of how a word should or should not be translated."
Well, what can one say? Zondervan has a point; it is the translators that have the greatest responsibility for the wording of the translations. I do think that the publishers share the responsibility in some fashion, but going after them with a law suit is perhaps not the way to start. But it's the USA, of course.
Fowler also has a point, however. The misconceptions about the sinfulness of homosexuality per se are largely based on 1Cor 6:9 and a few similar verses being mistranslated according to the prejudices of the translators or their backers. This misuse of a text perceived as authoritative is serious, since it leads to so much suffering and even violence against those who are seemingly singled out by "the Word of God". From the viewpoint of society, this is a serious offence; from a Christian viewpoint, this is a grave sin!
But how to remedy the situation? By law suits, creating "martyrs"? I doubt it, but it is perhaps worth a try. We'll see how it turns out.
'Gay' man sues Bible publishers (WorldNetDaily 9.7.08)
Gay man sues Bible publishers for $70 million (Advocate News 10.7.08)
Gay man sues Bible publishers over "homosexuality" passages (PinkNews 11.7.08)
Here comes that money they promised you (Of course, I could be wrong... 11.7.08)

Tuovinen blessed a lesbian couple

The president of a Christian association for LGBT rights, Yhteys-Gemenskap, pastor Liisa Tuovinen (b. 1938, see image), has blessed a (female) same-sex couple, Annukka Matilainen och Veera Lange, in a chapel in Kirkkonummi (west of Helsinki) on July 12, 2008.
She then informed her bishop, Mikko Heikka, who said that the diocesan chapter of Espoo will deal with the case only if someone makes a complaint. Not many days went by before not one, but two, complaints were made. Since Tuovinen is no longer in active duty, she cannot be barred from any position within the church; if anything, she can only be defrocked.
Bishop Heikka himself was also the object of a complaint, stating that he had neglected his duty as bishop when he didn't bring the case before the chapter himself, rather than wait for a complaint to be made. All three complaints will be dealt with starting August 19, but it is expected to take several months before the chapter reaches a decision.
A couple of years ago, a complaint was made to the chapter of Helsinki against pastor Leena Huovinen for a similar deed. She was exonerated on February 6, 2007. This is not binding for the chapter of Espoo, since the chapters are largely autonomous in cases like this, but the Helsinki decision will shurely influence Espoo.
The process against my colleague Tomas Ray and myself before the chapter of Porvoo in 2007 was not parallel, since we hadn't actually done anything; we had only expressed our opinions. It was unpleasant anyway, of course, although we, too, were exonerated.
See links and sources in the Swedish post.

Schoolboy Howlers 4

GEOGRAPHY:
A consonant is a large piece of land surrounded by water.

Singer on free will

You must believe in free will; there is no choice.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer

California Methodists perform same-sex marriages

In June, I wrote about, and lamented, the decision of the United Methodist Church not to change its rules on the treatment of homosexuals. Apparently, I am not the only one lamenting; in the UMC dioceses in California, several retired clergy are taking a stand by marrying same-sex couples (which recently became legal in the State of California).
More than 80 retired Northern California clergy from the United Methodist Church are offering to perform same-sex marriages, saying they want to help out active ministers who would risk more severe consequences for presiding over these ceremonies. [...]
"We're willing to challenge the injustice and contradictions of this," said the Reverend Don Fado, retired pastor of St Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento. [...]
If disciplined, the clergy could be defrocked, said Fado. He believes that is unlikely.
When same-sex marriages were legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, retired Methodist clergy there began performing weddings, Fado said.
Retired clergy offer to perform gay marriages in California (The Guardian 25.6.08)
Not all, however, are retired. Those on active duty risk more, of course. But:
"I'm tired of being part of a church that lacks integrity," said the Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen of Santa Monica's Church in Ocean Park, who plans to conduct weddings for two gay couples in August and September.
"I love my church, and I don't want to leave it. But I can't be part of a church that is willing to portray a God that is so hateful. I would rather be forced out."
Pastors defy United Methodist officials to conduct gay weddings (Los Angeles Times 17.7.08)
I know how she feels... As to how this isn't such a break with Scripture and tradition after all, a pastor tells a Texas newspaper:
"It is our UM tradition to interpret Scripture with attention to its context and purpose," said the Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, pastor of Claremont (Calif.) United Methodist Church.
"We create misunderstandings when we choose some texts to be understood as literal and others not," she said. "We once excluded women as clergy based on Scriptural authority; we once justified slave-holding based on Scripture. We're doing the same thing now with regard to homosexuality."
Wulf said the church's unity does not necessarily lie in the unanimity of practice in all things. "We are fallible human beings, and our covenant is imperfect. We all know that because we get together every four years to adjust it," he said of the church's General Conference.
"To those of us in the West who feel a calling to offer a different kind of message to same-sex couples, there is a sense in which the whole church wants to hem us in and prevent us from following that calling," Wulf said.
"... We know the world is in flux, particularly on this issue," he said. "So we do this - not as an act of disrespect to the people of Africa or the people of (other parts of the United States) - but as a way of speaking the Christian Gospel compassionately to a group of people who deal with this every day."
California United Methodists make strong pro gay rights statements (The Dallas Morning News 9.7.08)
And a gay blogger concludes:
The support of [California's] United Methodists is most welcome. As more houses of worship declare their opposition to exclusionary political efforts, this debate becomes less a battle between the Holy and the Profane and becomes better understood as an effort by a few to introduce discrimination into the state’s constitution.
California United Methodists Support Marriage (Box Turtle Bulletin 10.7.08)
There's some truth in that, isn't there?
See also:
Methodists choose hypocrisy (Of course, I could be wrong... 17.7.08)
LA Times Article on Methodist Support (Box Turtle Bulletin 18.7.08)

An nescis...

An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur.
- Axel Oxenstierna (1583-1654)
as quoted by Andreas Elfving

Translation:
If you only knew, my son, with how little wisdom the world is ruled
.

"No homosexuals in the Sudan" - oh, really?

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and bishop of Juba, said at the Lambeth conference on July 22, 2008, that there are no homosexuals in the Sudan. "They have not come to the surface. We don’t have them." The Anglican Journal (of Canada) reported this.
Is the archbishop being obtuse, is he stupid, or is he deliberately twisting things, I wonder? If I were gay and Sudanese (like the blogger, Ali), I would not come "to the surface" or "out of the closet" either - it would simply not be healthy!

Theologian vs. church leader?

The Archbishop of Canterbury ("ABC"), the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, presided at the Lambeth conference this summer. He made it clear that gay inclusiveness was to be regarded as a kind of splinter movement and that the (mainly North American) church provinces that engaged in gay marriages and the like were to cease doing so, in order to preserve the unity of the Anglican communion. The African and South American provinces that are actively creating parallel structures in North America were also to subside. Neither group has reacted favorably to his request.
When Williams was elected ABC five years ago, he was Archbishop of Wales, and known as a fairly liberal theologian. Today's the Times published an article, Rowan Williams: gay relationships 'comparable to marriage', by its Religion Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, where she quotes some private correspondance shown to her by Williams. In an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written some eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, he described his belief that biblical passages criticising homosexual sex were not aimed at people who were gay by nature. The letters, written in the autumn of 2000 and 2001, were exchanged with Dr. Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian living in his former archdiocese in South Wales, who had written challenging him on the issue. [Update: Another article by Gledhill, New light on Archbishop of Canterbury's view on homosexuality, was published later the same day.]
Williams told Pitt that by the end of the 1980s he had "definitely come to the conclusion" that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay. In his 1989 essay The Body’s Grace, Dr Williams argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant that it acknowledged the validity of nonprocreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.
That is all well and good. Liberals have, however, been bitterly disappointed that a man whom they regarded as chosen to advance their agenda has instead abided by the traditionalist consensus of the majority.
In a recent interview, the Archbishop said: "When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why."
I wonder. His statement seems to mean, as one commentator put it: "If I’m asked for my views, as a church leader rather than a theologian, I have to be dishonest."
As a pastor, I have the same responsibility regarding Church teachings as the ABC, although not the same visibility or influence. My view is that I will teach "mainstream" Christianity as long as it does not clash with my own considered opinions. I will not lightly deviate from Church dogma. If I find myself in opposition to the dogma, however, I have a responsibility to follow my conscience and be true to what God has revealed to me, be it through the Bible, through tradition, through my intellect or through my conscience.
Then, of course, I'll have to bear the consequences of my stance - if my church finds that I deviate too much, it will discipline me in some way, I suppose. So far, it has refrained from doing so; instead, I have been exonerated by the Diocesan Chapter of Porvoo.

Thinking alike

When all think alike, no one is thinking very much.
- Walter Lippmann

Different kinds of exclusion

... at the end of the day, there is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. Brother and sister Anglican walking away from the table because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptised is a sinful thing.
- Susan Russell
in A flock abandoned (the Guardian 31.7.08)

Does this count as 'gay bashing'?

On July 27, 2008, Jim D. Adkisson, 58, opened fire in a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. He was unemployed and strongly influenced by some right-wing talk show hosts, so he blamed his problems on the "liberals". His wife had left him; since she at some point had attended the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and since it can be branded as "liberal", it became a focus point for his frustration and anger, and so he chose it as the venue for his act of desperation.
Unitarian Universalism is a religion that, while it has Christian roots, no longer can be said to be Christian (in a theological sense), but has a creedless, non-dogmatic approach to spirituality and faith development. "Unitarians" believe God to be a single entity, as opposed to the Trinity of the Christians; "Universalism" implies that everyone will be saved in the end, i.e. there is no concept of Hell or eternal damnation.
Just as many other non-Christians (and even some Christians, believe it or not!), the "UU's" are well worth our respect for their strong engagement in questions of social justice, working for the benefit of those who have least, those on the fringe of society. This has often meant activism in political causes, notably the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the social justice movement, and the feminist movement. In the 19th century, Unitarians and Universalists were active in abolitionism, the women's movement, the temperance movement and other social reform movements. The first six (!) presidents of the USA (Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and J.Q. Adams) were what today would be called "UU's".
Some European news reports claimed that the Knoxville shooting took place in a Presbyterian church, but that is clearly a misunderstanding, probably based on the fact that there are very few "UU's" on this side of the Atlantic.
Adkisson killed two and wounded seven of those gathered for the church service, before he was wrestled to the ground. One of the two stood deliberately (heroically!) in front of the shotgun, trying to protect the rest of the congregation.
Adkisson was motivated by hatred of liberalism and by extension homosexuality. The church is liberal and gay-friendly, and this was one reason why it was chosen. No homosexual was killed, but this was a hate crime, none the less. I only wonder whether it qualifies as a gay bashing.
During Europride in Stockholm, Sweden, a number of gay bashings took place. One hate crime targeted churches - luckily much less seriously than the events in Knoxville. The church buildings of Högalid parish and two other parishes in Stockholm were covered with flyers. The flyers, posted by a group calling itself "orthodox Christians", were taped to the exterior walls of the churches and strewn on the ground with rocks to hold them in place. One flyer, containing 95 theses, was nailed to the church door, mimicking the 95 theses Luther nailed to the church door in Wittenberg, thus starting the Reformation. The theses in Stockholm were of far poorer quality, though...
This is, of course, not the most aggressive act imaginable. However, in combination with the Knoxville shooting and other similar incidents lately, it is clear that it is not only gay people that are targeted by homophobic so-called "Christians", but anybody who is making an effort to spread God's love to those who are considered "unworthy". Witness the processes against myself and other pastors within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, who have dared to speak out for gay rights - and the threats (including death threats) that we have recieved!
Knoxville, Tennessee:
2008 Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting (Wikipedia)
Kyrkobesökare öppnade eld (Dagen 27.7.08)
Två döda i skottdrama i kyrka (Dagen 28.7.08)
Gunman Kills 2, Wounds 7 At Gay Welcoming Church (AP through 365gay 28.7.08)
Accused church shooter threatened to kill wife, himself (Knoxville News Sentinel 28.7.08)
Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list (Knoxville News Sentinel 28.7.08)
Two killed in gun attack on US church supportive of gay rights (PinkNews 28.7.08)
Shooter hated church's pro-gay, liberal views (AP through Advocate News 28.7.08)
Knoxville Shooter Hated "Blacks, Gays, Anyone Different" (Box Turtle Bulletin 28.7.08)
Knoxville update (Of course, I could be wrong... 28.7.08)
Police: Man Shot Churchgoers Over Liberal Views (AP through 365gay 28.7.08)
3 Wounded In Shootings At Gay-Friendly Church Improving (AP through 365gay 29.7.08)
Kyrkan som attackerades var öppet gayvänlig (Antigayretorik 29.7.08)
Hate for Liberals and Gay People Drove Gunman, Police Say (New York Times 29.7.08)
Madpriest's thought for the day after Knoxville (Of course, I could be wrong... 29.7.08)
The word on the streets (Of course, I could be wrong... 29.7.08)
Sköt ner två i USA - kyrkan var för liberal (Dagen 27.7.08)
Suspect's note cites 'liberal movement' for church attack(Knoxville News Sentinel 29.7.08)
Tenn. church shooting victims recovering (AP through Advocate News 29.7.08)
Tennessee UU Church Gunman Motivated by Hate; Shooting Leaves Trans Teen Fatherless (365gay 29.7.08)
"A Whole Lotta Ugly" in Church Shooting (Washington Post 29.7.08)

Högalid, Stockholm:
Churches vandalized for Europride involvement (The Local 30.7.08)
"Ortodoxa kristna" vandaliserade kyrka (Dagen 30.7.08)
Protest mot Högalids församlings prideengagemang (Kyrkans Tidning 30.7.08)
"Orthodox Christians" target EuroPride churches (PinkNews 30.7.08)
Terrorists - our Archbishop feels your pain (Of course, I could be wrong... 31.7.08)