Mary took action

I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God."
- Ed Bacon,
rector of All Saints, Pasadena, CA
as quoted on Telling Secrets

Security or opportunity?

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.
- James F. Byrnes
as quoted on Bailey's Buddy

Ecumenical News International News Highlights

First woman to lead Church of Norway bishops
Oslo (ENI 21.10.10). The (Lutheran) Church of Norway has for the first time elected a woman as its presiding bishop, although her tenure is for an interim period, the Norwegian News Agency (NTB) reports. Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of Borg is to succeed Bishop Olav Skjaevesland of Agder, who has held the post since 2006, the bishops' conference in Norway said. Byfuglien's term will end in mid-2011, as the Church of Norway then will have its first permanent presiding bishop based in the country's ancient ecclesiastical capital of Nidaros or Trondheim as it is known now.
US Catholics approve baptism accord with Reformed churches
Baltimore, Maryland (ENInews/RNS 19.11.10). The U.S. Roman Catholic bishops on has approved a mutual agreement with four Reformed Protestant denominations to recognize each other's baptisms as valid, a pact that was six years in the making. Gathered here for their annual autumn meeting, the bishops voted 204-11 to approve the baptism agreement with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church, and the United Church of Christ, Religion News Service reports. Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the ecumenical and interfaith committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the agreement a "milestone on the ecumenical journey."

Schoolboy Howler

In the middle of the 18th-century, all the morons moved to Utah.

The Missing Gravy Ladle

John invited his mother over for dinner. During the meal, his mother couldn't help noticing how handsome John's roommate was. She had long been suspicious of Johns' sexual orientation and this only made her more curious.
Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between John and the roommate than met the eye.
Reading his mom's thoughts, John volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you, Mark and I are just roommates."
About a week later, Mark came to John and said, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?"
John said, "Well, I doubt it, but I'll write her a letter just to be sure." So he sat down and wrote:
"Dear Mother, I'm not saying you 'did' take a gravy ladle from my house, and I'm not saying you 'did not' take a gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner."
Several days later, John received a letter from his mother which read:
"Dear Son, I'm not saying that you 'do' sleep with Mark, and I'm not saying that you 'do not' sleep with Mark. But the fact remains that if he was sleeping in his own bed, he would have found the gravy ladle by now. Love, Mom."

God's strength and weakness

The cross is a symbol reminding the world that God is at God’s strongest when God seems to be at God’s weakest.
- Choan-Seng Song
Taiwanese theologian
as quoted on God's Politics

Let the snowploughs through!

On a bitterly cold winter's morning a husband and wife in Sunderland were listening to the radio during breakfast. They heard the announcer say, "We are going to have 8 to 10 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the even-numbered side of the street, so the snowploughs can get through".
So the wife went out and moved her car as instructed.

A week later while they are eating breakfast again, the radio announcer said, "We are expecting 10 to 12 inches of snow today. You must park your car on the odd-numbered side of the street, so the snowploughs can get through".
The wife went out and moved her car again.

The next week they are again having breakfast when the radio announcer says, "We are expecting 12 to 14 inches of snow today. You must park......." Then the electric power went out. The wife was very upset, and with a worried look on her face she said, "I don't know what to do. Which side of the street do I need to park on so the snowploughs can get through?"
To which the husband replied "Why don't you just leave the bloody car in the garage this time?"

Thanks to MadPriest! 

Schoolboy Howler

As he walked through his room he heard the sound of heavy breeding.

The value of Christianity

What is the value of a Christianity in which Jesus is worshipped as Lord, but Christian discipleship — "the way of Jesus" — is regarded as largely irrelevant to life in the modern world?
- René Padilla
Argentine Baptist theologian
as quoted on God's Politics

YLE: No Evidence of Homophobia Within the Finnish Defence Forces

Homosexual members of the armed forces in Finland do not face discrimination, according to the Defence Command of the Finnish Defence Forces.
The Defence Command further stated that the armed forces operated as a sub-section of Finnish society, and that homosexuals existed in the army just as they did anywhere else. It stated that no form of homophobic discrimination was permitted within the defence forces.
The Defence Command office was clear that no questions are asked about a person's sexuality either on joining the defence forces or at any point during a person's time within the service. It said that no complaints had been received from members of the armed forces about homophobic discrimination.
Seta, The Finnish NGO which works to protect the rights of sexual minorities, stated that they had received no complaints about homophobia within the Finnish Defence Forces, but commented that no study has yet been carried out on the issue.

YLE 3.12.10

Politics and economics as Christian duties

The Switzerland-based news agency Ecumenical News International recently published a couple of pieces that show that we as Christians have a responsibility for more than just the salvation of souls. As these Asian church leaders show, we must also take a stand in fields like politics and economics, in order to battle injustice, poverty, and over-exploitation of natural resources.
Thank you, Rev. Tabo-oy and Ms. Chhungi, for your inspiring example!

Privatisation deters poor's access to water, say Asian church leaders
Manila (ENInews 1.12.10). More and more poor people in Asia are being deprived of what was once seen as a free "God-given resource", as water has become a paid-for asset controlled by private companies in recent years, say Asian church leaders. "Now considered as a commercial commodity rather than as heritage and a natural resource that should be protected, water … is now being increasingly controlled by private corporations," said the Rev David Tabo-oy, evangelism officer of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of the Philippines.Tabo-oy was reflecting on "Water as a gift from God and as a human right" during the second day of a 28 November to 3 December consultation on "communities' rights to water and sanitation in Asia" held in Manila.

Wrong reading of Bible story 'legitimises' earth's exploitation
Manila (ENInews 3.12.10). Asian Christian leaders have challenged what they describe as a distorted interpretation of the Bible's Genesis story about God telling Adam and Eve to "subdue" the earth and to "have dominion" over other living species and non-living resources on the planet. "The misinterpretation, which has been blamed on Christians, has helped legitimise the wanton profit-oriented exploitation of the planet and its resources," said Hrangthan Chhungi of the Presbyterian Church of India. She said that the more appropriate translation from Hebrew, the language in which Genesis is written, is "to over-see and take care, rather than to subdue and have dominion".

Previously published on my political blog.

That's bad!

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on 280 Interstate. Please be careful!"
"It's not just one car," said Herman. "It's hundreds of them!"
Thanks to Wounded Bird!

About dogs and people

If a dog jumps in your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer.
- Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Boesak on obedience

Because God does not expect blind obedience from God’s children, Christians cannot even think of giving unconditional obedience to a worldly sovereignty.
- Allan Boesak
South African minister
as quoted on God's Politics

News on Churches and LGBT

Dominican Republic’s Cardinal rails gays (Dominican Today 30.9.10)
Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic’s Catholic cardinal affirmed Wednesday that he’ll oppose “until death” same sex marriages, gays in the military and abortion, comparing them with the crime and drug trafficking he said are challenges society must face.
“We disagree with homosexuals in the Armed Forces. Once a colonel starts flirting with a general the line of command is finished," said Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez. [...]
The Santo Domingo Archbishop also called the international organizations “good for nothing comedians” who “scheme” a macabre plan to exterminate humanity.
“God forbid that what’s being plotted in the world, through congresses and parliaments by nongovernment institutions, which is a perverse, macabre and insolent plan, God forbid its materialization, because the intention is to end with, to erase all of what’s the Judea-Christian tradition from the map, because what they seek is to pervert, damage and corrupt everything,” the Cardinal said.
***
Colonels and generals flirting, indeed! That risk is the same with heterosexuals where women can become soldiers and has nothing to do with homosexuality as such. The Cardinal only erected a straw man, didn't he?
Rwanda: Anglican Archbishop-Elect Vows to Fight Gay Marriage (allAfrica.com 30.9.10)
Kigali - Archbishop elect, Onesphore Rwaje, who is set to succeed Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini in January, 2011, has vowed to follow in his predecessor's footsteps by taking a firm stand against homosexuality. [...]
Rwaje said homosexuality was a practice introduced by individuals who wanted to secularize theology. [...]
Archbishop Kolini is one of the African church leaders who took a strong stance against gay marriage, which resulted in Rwanda Anglican church province joining a splinter group.
Kolini has in the past referred to homosexuality as "moral Genocide" among Christians, and a new form of "cultural imperialism".
***
MadPriest comments on this piece of news.
Washington DC Methodist Church approves same-sex marriages (PinkNews 8.10.10)
Worshippers at Washington DC's Foundry United Methodist Church voted 367 to 8 [...] to allow same-sex marriages to take place at the church and to allow its clergy to perform said ceremonies.
[...] the progressive church has long been a champion of LGBT inclusion and in making this move, has put itself in conflict with United Methodist Church rules which do not allow ceremonies that "celebrate homosexual unions".
John R. Schol, bishop of the United Methodist's Baltimore-Washington region, wrote to the church's congregation saying [...] "As a bishop of the church I am responsible for upholding our Book of Discipline and will process and follow through with any complaint or charge against a United Methodist clergyperson of the Baltimore-Washington Conference who performs a same gender wedding or holy union."

Schoolboy Howler

The end of the world will make a turning point in everyone's life.

About dogs and people

Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that's how dogs spend their lives.
- Sue Murphy
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

That's bad!

I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

Thanks to Wounded Bird!

The ELCF takes a mini-step forward

A meeting of the General Synod of Finland's Evangelical Lutheran Church voted Friday [November 12] to permit pastors to offer prayers on behalf of same-sex couples. The vote was postponed by a day because of extended debate on the issue. The annual meeting of representatives of Finland's dominant church approved a committee proposal that allows pastors to pray on behalf of same-sex couples, but not offer a blessing as is done in traditional weddings. The prayers will not be classed as a formal church service. This means that pastors will not be required to offer prayers for same-sex couples.
All 108 delegates voted, with 78 approving the plan and 30 opposing.
The committee backed the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
Although a vote had been planned for Thursday, so many representatives asked to address the Synod that the debate was scheduled to continue late into the evening and the vote delayed until Friday.
Roughly eight out of 10 people in Finland are registered as Lutheran. The church suffered an upswing in resignations this autumn linked to gay rights issues.

YLE 12.11.10

You know that your dog has trained you well when ...

... you believe it is your duty to talk to, pat, and even feed every dog in the neighborhood. You know their names.

Ecumenical News International News Highlights

Indian forum says state agencies colluded in anti-Christian violence
New Delhi (ENI 25.8.10). A "people's tribunal" that heard testimonies from victims of anti-Christian violence in India's eastern Orissa state in 2008 has criticised state agencies for aggravating the suffering of those caught up in the attacks. "There is a shocking level of institutional bias on the part of state agencies (including police) leading to their collusion in the violence, connivance in efforts to block the subsequent process of justice and accountability," declared the jury in New Delhi at the end of the unofficial 22-24 August National People's Tribunal on the violence in Orissa's Kandhamal jungles.
Italian Protestant denominations approve same-sex blessings
Rome (ENI 30.8.10). The joint synod of Italy's Waldensian and Methodist Protestant churches has, as the denominations' highest governing body, agreed to authorise the blessing of same-sex couples in church under certain conditions. Synod president Marco Bouchard described the 26 August decision as "a clear and firm step forward that needs to be placed into a context that will be better defined, especially the relationship between churches and homosexual couples". The synod statement said, "The words and practice of Jesus, as seen in the Gospel, call us to welcome each experience and each choice marked by God's love, freely and consciously chosen." Before the synod, a group of Waldensians including a member of the Italian parliament, Lucio Malan, took out a paid advertisement in the Protestant weekly newspaper Riforma, warning that same-sex blessings risked splitting the churches, and affecting ecumenical relationships.
US Presbyterian cleric plans to appeal same-sex marriage ruling
New York (ENI 30.8.10). A retired California Presbyterian minister, rebuked on charges that she violated her ordination vows by marrying same-sex couples, plans to appeal against a ruling that she said sent contradictory messages about the church's support of gay rights. "Who does the Presbyterian Church think we are?" said the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, who is a lesbian. "We are they, they are us." The 27 August ruling by a court of the Redwoods Presbytery, a church district of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Napa, California, rebuked Spahr for violating church policy on same-sex marriage by conducting marriage ceremonies for couples between June and November 2008. Same-sex marriage was already legal in California then. Still, the court commended Spahr for "her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to 'people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied'". The court called upon the Presbyterian Church "to re-examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject … inclusiveness" and it noted that the denomination's own rules offer "conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel".
Previously on this blog 2.10.07, 23.6.08, 18.8.10.
Trust is needed, says Finland's first female Lutheran bishop
Helsinki (ENI 13.9.10). Finland's first female Lutheran bishop has been consecrated at a service in Helsinki Cathedral at which she said that both Church and society need to strengthen trust. "People long for trust," Bishop Irja Askola said in a sermon at her 12 September consecration. "If … we cannot get into good terms in order to be able to communicate with those with different opinions, backgrounds or ways of life, we are on the way to destruction. Different opinions will not destroy us."
Previously on Karl's comments 3.9.10.

Steinem on truth

The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.
- Gloria Steinem

A majority of Finns support gender neutral marriage

According to a poll made this summer and comprising over a thousand Finns, 54 percent are for and 35 percent against a gender neutral marriage law. The margin of error is 2,5 percentage points in either direction. Young people, women and people in the southern (more densely populated) parts of the country are more positive to such a law than others. Among Lutherans, too, a majority was for.
People who vote for the Christian Democrats or the populistic True Finns were generally against gender neutral marriages. However, most voters aren't interested in having the marriage law become a central issue in the Parliamentary elections next spring.
YLE, HS, Hbl 21.8.10
A poll made in October 2009 showed that 44% were positive and 39% negative to same-sex marriages performed within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (blog here).
In December, 2008, 106 pastors from the ELCF answered a poll, and over half of us are ready to bless homosexual partnerships. In the greater Helsinki area, the ratio is two out of three.
Another poll showed in August 2010 that a third of the 700 pastors interviewed would perform same-sex weddings (which isn't the same as blessing partnerships), while over half aren't ready to do so. Female pastors were in general more positive than male. A majority wanted to retain the Church's right to perform legal weddings, regardless of whether the State introduces gender neutral marriages or not.

Just a thought...

Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is just a sign that we have been strong for too long.

That's bad!

I want to die while asleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.
Thanks to Wounded Bird!

The effects of conversion

Conversion pulls us out of our hiding places and takes us, "where we would rather not go" in following Christ.
- Segundo Galilea
Pastoral worker in Santiago, Chile
as quoted on God's Politics

The parrot auction

One day, a man went to an auction and bid on a parrot. He really wanted this bird, so he got caught up in the bidding. He kept on bidding but kept getting outbid, so he bid higher and higher and higher. Finally, after he bid way more than he intended, he won the bid. The parrot was his, at last!
As he was paying for the parrot, he said to the auctioneer: "I sure hope this parrot can talk. I would hate to have paid this much for it, only to find out that he can't talk!"
"Don't worry," said the auctioneer. "He can talk. Who do you think kept bidding against you?"
Thanks to MadPriest!

Many Parish Candidates Approve Gay Relationships

From YLE:s News in English:
The majority of candidates for the upcoming parish elections of the Evangelical Lutheran Church [of Finland] approve of same-sex relationships.
In a candidate test that opened on Monday on the Church homepage, 72 percent of respondents support Church prayer vigils for same sex couples, while 48 percent of the candidates support gay marriage and blessing same-sex relationships. A total of 7,800 candidates were quizzed on the matter. The web-based candidate test, which helps voters find a suitable candidate, jammed on opening due to a large numbers of hits.
Following recent media discussion on homosexuality, interest in the upcoming parish elections is forecast to be exceptionally high. The elections will be held in three weeks' time, while advance voting commences next week.

PR catastrophe for the ELCF

These last couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
It started on Tuesday, October 12, when the national broadcasting company aired a long discussion about homosexuality. The discussion leaders had chosen participants that were more extreme than not, probably in to achieve a colourful discussion. Among the participants were the Christian Democrats' parti chair, Päivi Räsänen (by profession a physicist, but now an MP), bishop Mikko Repo of Tampere and pastor Leena Huovinen, who has performed blessings of lesbian couples. Especially Räsänen's views - standard conservative stuff: homosexuality is against the Bible, marriage is for one man and one woman, homosexuals can be healed, and all that croc - sparked an unheard-of reaction among the viewers.
A website that helps people leave the Church (and that I'm not going to link to!) usually has about 140 customers per day. Even during the programme the numbers began to spike, and in the days following the website had up to 8,000 customers per day. Tens of thousands of people (out of some four million members) have left the ELCF during the weeks following the programme, and all sorts of wild opinions and rumours florished.
Naturally, the leading figures of the Church should have been much quicker to react, but that is, of course, easy to say in hindsight. As it was, it took nearly a week for the Archbishop and the other bishops to issue statements, and by then it was rather too late to limit the damages. Of course, the General Synod will debate the issues in mid-November, so it might have been difficult for the bishops to anticipate its decision, in case they'd have to retract. Half of the bishops (the left half, I suppose) would like to see blessings of homosexual couples. These are the same bishops that some conservatives would like to boycott, as I noted earlier - archbishop Kari Mäkinen, Irja Askola (Helsinki), Mikko Heikka (Espoo), Wille Riekkinen (Kuopio) and my own bishop Björn Vikström (Porvoo).
Räsänen's colleagues in the medical profession have issued statements distancing themselves from her ideas of the causes and treatment of homosexuals. On the other hand, the Christian Democratic Party reports rising numbers of new members. But then, so do the populistic True Finns.

On the same note, a new survey shows that 64% of Finns are for and 20% against the blessing of homosexual couples. 49% are for a gender-neutral marriage, while 36% are against. 44% are for gay marriages in church, with 39% against. Compared to a similar survey in April, the yea's have increased.

Homophobic Attacks in Oulu, Finland

Finland's national broadcasting company YLE published the following in its News in English yesterday, 20.10.10:

A series of homophobic attacks have been reported in the northern Finnish city of Oulu, according to the University of Oulu’s student body. Its chair, Ilari Nisula, says the attacks have taken place near a night club frequented, in particular, by gays and lesbians.
”Customers have been subject to verbal abuse, provocations and physical attacks,” Nisula adds.
Police in Oulu remain reticent on the matter. Local police commissioner Risto Viippola denies any reports of such incidents. However the university student body says at least one attack has been reported to the authorities.
The student body has issued a statement calling for an atmosphere of tolerance and community spirit.
It adds that recent discussions have caused a dividing line to be drawn between mainstream society and minorities. People in the city of Oulu should be able to live without confronting discrimination and intolerance, the statement concluded.
The student body has demanded the University of Oulu work in cooperation with local police and NGO’s to promote an atmosphere of tolerance and security.

A tear gas attack against the Helsinki Pride gay festival in Helsinki in July inspired many Finns to actively support rights for members of sexual minorities. The country's leading gay rights organisation, SETA, reported a surge in membership in response to acts of homophobia. Many leading politicians condemned the attack.

Church of Estonia defrocks gay pastor

Pastor Heino Nurk (b. 1958) of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) was ordained in 1983, while Estonia still was a part of the Soviet Union. At first, he worked in a few parishes in Estonia, but after a few years he specialised in hospital counselling and worked and studied both in Estonia and in the USA. Lately, he has been teaching pastoral care. He is also a founding member of a Christian gay organisation that was started earlier this year.
On October 5, 2010, pastor Nurk was defrocked by the EELC. The reasons given were that he has been found guilty of an indecent act and of teaching heresy. Apparently Nurk himself hasn't been heard during this process, which strikes me as odd. This decision has been much publicised in Estonia.
Estonian society is, as a rule, rather homophobic. What's more, the EELC and the other Baltic Lutheran (and other) churches are in general more conservative than their Nordic counterparts. If, as seems to be the case, Nurk was defrocked because he is (openly) gay and because he teaches that it's OK for a Christian to be gay, it is sad. This is a decision that even the ELCF in Finland would not have made, not to mention the Church of Sweden. But in Estonia they did make it.
I hope that Heino Nurk and other Estonian Christians in his situation will have it easier in the future. I also hope that the road to this future will not be too hard to travel. But I have my doubts.
Õpetaja Heino Nurk E.E.L.K. Seabrooki koguduse hooldaja õpetajaks (Vaba Eesti Sõna / EELK Uudised 8.2.01)
Kirikuvalitsus tagandas vaimuliku ametist Geikristlaste Kogu asutajaliikme (Geikristlaste Kogu 8.10.10)
Heino Nurk: Meie kogudustes on alati olnud geikristlasi (Geikristlaste Kogu 11.10.10)
Heino Nurk tagandati vaimuliku ametist (Eesti Kirik 12.10.10)
Tagandatud hingekarjane: "Peapiiskop teadis juba aastate eest, et olen homo!" (Õhtuleht 12.10.10)
Eesti Evangeelse Luterliku Kiriku konsistoorium: vaimulik ei saa avalikult olla gei (Valgamaalane 12.10.10)
Viron kirkko erotti homopapin (Kotimaa24 12.10.10)
Soome kirikuõpetaja Karl af Hällström väljendab nördimust geipastori tagandamise pärast Eestis (Geikristlaste Kogu 13.10.10)
Pastor sparkad från Estniska kyrkan (QX.se 17.10.10)
News from the East (OCICBW... 19.10.10)
HBT-vänlig präst avsatt (Kyrkans Tidning 20.10.10)
Homosexuell präst avsatt - och öppet brev till Dagen (Karin Långström Vinge 20.10.10)
Republished on UK Gay News 18.10.10.

Church and State in Finland

I do not allow anonymity on my blogs, since those who are legitimate should have no problem in showing their face (or at least, their pseudonyms). Neither do I, for that matter, allow disrespectful comments. All of these will remain unpublished.
An anonymous commentator asked me a respectful question. Since it is anonymous, I won't publish it, but it might nevertheless be interesting to my readers, so I lift it up here.
Is the Church of Finland still established by law? If so, are you planning to become independent?
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) is not a State Church, the definition of which is that the state rules in the Church's internal affairs (as in Denmark). That relationship was severed in Finland through the Church Law of 1869, which separated Church and State as well as Parish and County. The direct answer to the first question is thus "no", and the second question is moot.
That said, it must be noted that some 80% of the population of Finland belongs to the ELCF. Therefore, it is in the interest of both Church and State to maintain a good working relationship. The Church provides some services to the State and vice versa, and these services are payed for.
As examples I might mention that the Church maintains registers of its members (in cooperation with the magistrates) and can issue certain official documents. The Church also owns almost all cemetaries in the country (most at a financial loss) and allows everyone, regardless of creed, to be buried there. You must, however, be dead first.
An example in the other direction is the so-called church tax. It is not really a tax at all, but the membership fee of the Church. It is collected by the taxation authorities at the same time as state and municipal tax, and the Church pays for this service. There are other potential methods for collecting the membership fee, e.g. to bill all members, but that would be less efficient and probably far more expensive.
But no, the ELCF hasn't been a State Church for almost a century and a half. This system is called a People's Church - although some members of the Free Churches refuse to see the difference. Which is no hair off my back.

The benefits of privatization

An interesting example of the "benefits" of privatization:
Since the family hadn't payed the fee of 75$ that would have entitled them to the services of the Fire Department, the fire fighters stood by and let their house burn down.
The Young Turks have their say - and, man, do I agree!
Only in America - I hope...
Thanks to Ellie!

Conservatives boycott ELCF bishops

I noted earlier that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland consecrated its first woman bishop, Irja Askola in Helsinki, on 12 September, 2010, and that some sister churches abroad boycotted the event.
Now, five of the ten ELCF bishops are being boycotted by groups within and without the ELCF for being too liberal. These are, in addition to Askola, archbishop Kari Mäkinen, Mikko Heikka (Espoo), Wille Riekkinen (Kuopio) and my own bishop Björn Vikström (Porvoo). The groups honoring these bishops are the neopietist revival movement Kansanlähetys (the People's Mission) and some Free Churches, including the Pentecostals.
This boycott seems to be mainly a Finnish-speaking affair. The Swedish-speaking Free Churches in Porvoo aren't keen on an actual boycott, even if they, too, have misgivings about the Bishops' support for a so-called "homosexual lifestyle". But (they say) they have a good relationship with bishop Björn, who has been invited to speak at some of their conferences.
That's all well and good. I do, however, feel that the Pentecostal Filadelfia Church is behaving rather hypocritically in this matter. Let me explain.
A few years back, I was responsible for the ecumenical relationships of my congregation. We had monthly meetings, the Free Church pastors and I, and our relationship was warm and cordial. We arranged common events and preached in each other's services. The system was that I would preach at one of the Free Churches (Pentecostal, Methodist, Adventist, Mission Church and, at times, the Salvation Army) twice a year, and they would reciprocate. In March that year, the Pentecostal pastor preached a fine sermon in one of our services, and I was supposed to preach in Filadelfia in May. A couple of weeks before my sermon was due, the Pentecostal pastor called to tell me that it was off. Despite the pastor's efforts, the Elders of Filadelfia had decided that I was too controversial to preach at their church; that if I did so, someone might think that they, too, were in favour of "the homosexual lifestyle".
This came as a shock, and the whole ecumenical cooperation, that thus far had worked so well in Porvoo, was shattered. Since they rejected me as the Lutheran representative, they rejected the Lutheran Church, too, and we had no choice but to withdraw for a couple of years. Now, we have sent another representative, but the relationship is not the same.
Not all of the Free Churches had the same hostile attitude, I hasten to add. The Methodists and the Adventists would have liked to continue their cooperation with us, but I was (we were) so dejected by the blow we had recieved that it seemed impossible for us to continue at that point.
Of course, Filadelfia have a right to their opinions, as do we. Of course, they don't have to agree with us, as we don't with them. But ecumenism is not about agreeing, but about working together in spite of our differences. And Filadelfia refused.
Now, they're singing a different tune about how important it is that the Churches discuss with each other. Hypocrites! Do you think our memory is that short? What is done cannot be undone, but wouldn't at least an apology be in order?
Konservativa grupper vill bojkotta finska biskopar (Kyrkans Tidning 27.9.10)
"Alla har rätt att föra fram sin åsikt" (Kyrkpressen 27.9.10)
Frikyrkorna sväljer inte vigsel av samkönade par (Borgåbladet 28.9.10)

Denmark: No same-sex marriage, blessing only

The discussion about the churches' role in same-sex marriages or registrations of partnership is rampant in Denmark, as in so many other countries.
The Government minister for ecclesiastical affairs created a board of experts, that was to look into the matter. The experts in question are pastors, bishops and others that are active in the Church of Denmark.
According to the church newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, the board has not been able to agree on much; same-sex relationships cannot be called ”marriages”, but a ceremony for the blessing of registered partnerships must be developed in future.
The political opposition is disappointed that the board doesn't suggest a proper marriage ceremony. So am I.
Forslag om kirkeritual skuffer politikere (Kristeligt Dagblad 16.9.10)
Inga äktenskap för danska homosexuella (Kyrkans Tidning 16.9.10)

Finland's first woman bishop consecrated under boycott

The first Finnish woman to become a Lutheran bishop was Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund, who was consecrated Bishop of Härnösand in Sweden in November last year (as I noted at the time).
Now, the first woman has become bishop in the ELCF. Irja Askola has succeeded Eero Huovinen as Bishop of Helsinki, and will be consecrated by our new Archbishop Kari Mäkinen in the Cathedral of Helsinki next Sunday, 12 September. As usual, the Archbishop is assisted by domestic and foreign dignitaries. Representatives from at least Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Namibia, England, and Ireland will be present in different roles.
Not all who are invited will attend, however. The Lutheran churches of Latvia and Ingria (in present-day Russia) have declined, apparently because of Askola's gender. Neither church ordains women; the Ingrians never have and the Latvians have stopped doing so.
Neither church admits to this being the reason, though. In Latvia, preparations for a synod in December apparently demand such an effort that no-one can be sent to Finland for a Sunday in September. That will surely be quite a synod! The Bishop of Ingria simply declined without giving a reason, which naturally is more honest than the Latvians' pretext.
Another ecumenical problem concerns the Church of England. Suffragan Bishop David Hamid, who will represent the CofE in Helsinki, cannot participate in blessing Askola with laying on of hands, since the CofE is still struggling with the decision whether to consecrate female bishops or not. Hamid will have other roles during the service, however.
The CofE will, apparently, not accept pastors ordained by Askola as priests in England, in accordance with the Porvoo Agreement. Lutheran pastors (such as I) that are ordained by male bishops are fully accepted in the Anglican churches of the Porvoo Communion (and vice versa, of course), but women bishops will pose a problem.
Which seems weird to me - but then, I'm not Anglican...
Kaksi kirkkoa ei lähetä edustajaa Askolan vihkimykseen (Kotimaa 3.9.10)
Kotimaa: Osa kutsutuista ei tule naispiispan vihkimykseen (Helsingin Sanomat 3.9.10)
Utländska kyrkor bojkottar biskopsvigning (Hufvudstadsbladet 3.9.10)
Kyrkor bojkottar biskopsvigning (Dagen 3.9.10)

Fred's Note

Ol' Fred had been a religious man and was now in the hospital, near death. The family called their preacher to stand with them. As the preacher stood next to the bed, Ol' Fred's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on.
The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol' Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died. The preacher thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket.
At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realised that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Ol' Fred died.
He said, "You know, Ol' Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."
He opened the note, and read out loud, "Hey, you're standing on my oxygen tube!"

Seven deadly socials sins

Politics without principle
Wealth without work
Commerce without morality
Pleasure without conscience
Education without character
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice
- Gandhi

Bangladesh: Christians Suffer Extortion, Beatings

Two Christian women in Bangladesh’s northern district of Jamalpur said village officials extorted relatively large sums of money from them – and severely beat the husband of one – for proclaiming Christ to Muslims.
Johura Begum, 42, of Pingna village said a member of the local union council, an area government representative and the father of a police officer threatened to harm her grown daughters if her family did not pay them 20,000 taka (US$283). The police officer whose father was allegedly involved in the extortion was investigating a fabricated charge that Christians had paid Muslims to participate in a river baptism on May 26.
Begum had invited seven converts from Islam, including three women, to be baptized on the occasion, she said. Only six men among 55 converts were baptized by the leaders of the Pentecostal Holiness Church of Bangladesh (PHCB), Christian leaders said, as the rest were intimidated by protesting Muslims; the next day, area Islamists with bullhorns shouted death threats to Christians.
Begum said her husband is a day-laborer at a rice-husking mill, and that 20,000 taka was a “colossal amount” for them. She was able to borrow the money from a Christian cooperative, she said.
“I gave the extortion money for the sake of our safety and security,” Begum said. “It not possible to say aloud what abusive language they used against me for inviting people to God.”
Villagers backed by a political leader of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party also allegedly extorted 250,000 taka (US$3,535) from another Christian woman, 35-year-old Komola Begum of Doulatpur village, whose husband is a successful fertilizer seller.
The villagers claimed that she and her husband had become rich by receiving funds from Christians. After the baptisms, local Muslims beat her husband to such an extent that he received three days of hospital treatment for his injuries, she said.
Komola Begum, who had invited 11 persons including three women to the baptisms, told Compass that her husband’s life was spared only because she paid what the Muslims demanded.
“My husband is a scapegoat – he simply does business,” she said. “But he was beaten for my faith and activities.”
For three days after the baptism ceremony, Jamalpur district villagers announced through bullhorns the punishment Christians would receive for their activities, chanting among other slogans, “We will peel off the skins of the Christians.” They also shouted that they would not allow any Christians to live in that area.
Johura Begum said that when she became a Christian 20 years ago, area Muslims beat her and forced her to leave the village, though she was able to return three years later.
“Local Muslims bombarded us with propaganda – that when I became a Christian, I would have to be naked in the baptism before the Christian cleric,” said Johura Begum. “Recently they are bad-mouthing Christianity with these kinds of disgraceful and scurrilous rumors, and my daughters cannot attend their classes.”

Wiesel on neutrality and silence

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Finland: Schismatic bishop defrocked

In March, 2010, I reported:
On March 20, 2010, D.Th., pastor Matti Väisänen (76) was consecrated bishop by the Swedish Mission Province, that thus expands into Finland. Up till now, it has been the Luther Foundation (Luther-säätiö) that has embodied the opposition to the humane ideas of the ELCF, but now it seems that the schism is acute.
On 11 August, the Chapter of the Diocese of Tampere, under whose jurisdiction Väisänen falls as a pastor, decided to strip him of his pastoral rights (pdf in Finnish). In essence, the motivation is that Väisänen tries to eat the cake and have it, too, just as I wrote in March. This is a logical and welcome step that clears tings up. The conservatives scream bloody murder, but that is their problem.
As a footnote, it can be noted that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) is theologically akin to the Luther Foundation and to the Mission Province, despite its name being very similar to the ELCF and the ELCA. The ELCE doesn't even belong to the Lutheran World Federation, as main stream Lutheran churches generally do, but to a conservative parallel organisation called the International Lutheran Council (ILC). This is their right, of course. Other members of the ILC are e.g. the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in the USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, where Walter Obare is Archbishop.
I recently had reason to research the ELCE in the line of duty, so I wanted to share some of my findings here.

Some media reports:
Lutherstiftelsens Väisänen förlorar prästämbetet i lutherska kyrkan (Kyrkans Tidningstjänst 11.8.10)
Luther-säätiön piispaksi vihitty Matti Väisänen menettää pappisvirkansa luterilaisessa kirkossa (Kirkon Tiedotuskeskus 11.8.10)
Lutherstiftelsens Väisänen förlorar ämbetet i lutherska kyrkan (Kyrkpressen 11.8.10)
Luther-säätiön piispa menettää pappisvirkansa (Helsingin Sanomat 11.8.10)
Luther-säätiö pitää erottamista vääränä (Helsingin Sanomat 11.8.10)
Finsk biskop definitivt avstängd (Dagen 12.8.10)

Quotation from Bailey's Buddy

You only live once - but if you work it right, once is enough.
- Joe E. Lewis
as quoted on Bailey's Buddy

You know that your dog has trained you well when ...

... no matter how large your bed is, it is not large enough for you and your dog(s).

Schoolboy Howler

Parallel lines never meet unless you bend one or both of them.

Gay Christian Europe - website launched

I got a comment on an old blog, and thus learned about a new website called Gay Christian Europe. It describes itself as follows:
The Gay Christian Europe ministry was born out of a need for a space with a European feel, and to reach out to LGBT Christians in Europe in their own language.
We support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Christians all over Europe in a safe and caring environment. Our aim is to support each person in their own personal journey, whatever their denomination and whether they feel called to celibacy or beleive that God Blesses same sex relationships, and to welcome those who are drawn to Christianity.
We also aim to connect LGBT Christians in all European countries with groups, welcoming churches and resources local to them, as well to build both an online and in person community.
The website exists in a multitude of European languages: Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian; that's 23 languages, if I'm not mistaken. But there are more languages in Europe (notably one of the largest, Russian, is missing), and many of the 23 listed are not complete. Translation help is therefore constantly needed - please volunteer!
Through the website, you can find books (e.g. in English or Finnish, but not yet in Swedish) or other resources for LGBT Christians (general, UK, Russia, Sweden, Finland and more; my blog Hbt-bibeln is still missing). There are a few testimonies from LGBT Christians in a few languages. The section listing gay friendly churches in different countries is, through sad necessity, pass word protected.
Please visit the website Gay Christian Europe and contribute, if at all possible!

To create God in your own image

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
- Anne Lamott
as quoted by the Episcopal Padre

Schoolboy Howler

Pompeii was destroyed by an overflow of saliva from the Vatican.

Finland: Gender-neutral marriage law in the making

Sweden and Norway have had gender-neutral marriages laws for some time now, and in June, Iceland joined them. The first to get married under the new law was Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, as I noted last week. We still wait for Denmark.
Now, the debate accelerates even in Finland, that oh, so often shows conservative tendencies. Justice Minister Tuija Brax (Green Party) says she hopes that the law will be a part of the negociations when a new government will be formed after next year's Parliamentary elections and that the law will be in place in 2012. Of the larger parties, only the agrarian Center Party hasn't taken sides yet. Only the conservative Christian Democrats and the populistic True Finns are against, and all other Parliamentary parties would accept a law of this nature - with varying degrees of enthusiasm, of course. These parties are the conservative National Coalition, the Social Democrats, the social liberal Swedish People's Party (that I represent), and the postcommunistic Leftist League; there are eight parties in the Finnish Parliament at the moment.
A gender-neutral marriage law would not change the rights of opposite-sex couples, but same-sex couples would gain the right to e.g. take a common surname and to adopt children from outside their families ("external adoption", as it is called). The present registration of partnerships gives some of the rights that marriage gives, e.g. inheritance, some tax breaks and internal adoption, i.e. the right to adopt the other partner's children.
As to getting married in church ... well, that's some way off in the main churches in Finland. The law in question would not compel the churches to marry same-sex couples. My personal view is, of course, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, where I serve, should start marrying all couples, but I'm afraid that still is a long way off. The Bishops' Council made a decision earlier this year that allows pastors to pray for same-sex couples, but not call it a blessing. This is, of course, a craven compromise. A comment in English here.
We'll have to wait and see what comes of all this. More disappointments, I fear.

Schoolboy Howler

The 19th-century was when people stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine.

Widespread acceptance of same-sex marriages in Finland

According to a survey, 60% of the Finnish population is ready to allow blessings of same-sex partnerships in church. One-third would like to see same-sex marriages. Presumably, that third part is included in the 60%.
It is to be noted, that this is the general population speaking. The question was not limited to Church members. However, since about 80% of all Finns belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), we can assume that the figures are significant.
Another survey was published in October, 2009.
But the question is not decided through surveys. The General Synod will meet in May to discuss the issue. The Bishops, as I have noted earlier, decided in February, 2010, to propose that pastors may pray for a same-sex couple with impunity, as long as it is not called a blessing. This is possibly a step forward, albeit a tiny one. We'll have to see what the Synod makes of it.
I'm not too hopeful, though, since the present Synod is one of the most conservative we've had in years.
YLE, Dagen

Dom Helder Camara on reform

Instead of being so eager to reform others, let us first make a serious effort to bring about out own revival.
- Dom Helder Camara
Brazilian archbishop
as quoted on God's Politics

Schoolboy Howler

If anyone should faint, put her head between the knees of the nearest medical man.

Springtime is here!

Emerson on experimenting

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
as quoted on Bailey's Buddy

I withdraw!

I'm sorry to have to inform you that I won't be running for Parliament in 2011 after all. My family and my work demand more of me than I would have been able to give during the campaign and a possible term in Parliament.
I will, however, continue my work in the City Council of Porvoo as before. And there is always another election. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
I wish to thank all my supporters very warmly!

Quotation from Bailey's Buddy

It's never too late to be who you might have been.
- George Eliot
as quoted on Bailey's Buddy

Schismatic bishop consecrated in Finland

On March 20, 2010, D.Th., pastor Matti Väisänen (76) was consecrated bishop by the Swedish Mission Province, that thus expands into Finland. Up till now, it has been the Luther Foundation (Luther-säätiö) that has embodied the opposition to the humane ideas of the ELCF, but now it seems that the schism is acute.
I don't mind that someone ordains pastors or consecrates bishops. What I do mind is that they refuse to realize that this is a formal step outside the church organization they've belonged to before. Eating the cake and having it, too, has always been difficult. And it doesn't matter whose fault it is - the ELCF's for falling away from the Christian faith or the Mission Province's for being so intransigent - the fact remains that the rift is there. And someone will have to draw conclusions from that fact sooner rather than later.
Kommande Lutherbiskop redo lämna folkkyrkan (YLE 19.3.10)
Kari Mäkinen: Piispanvihkimys oli Luther-säätiöltä selkeä irtiotto (Helsingin Sanomat 29.3.10)
Matti Väisänen lämnar inte kyrkan (YLE 30.3.10)
Archbishop-Elect: Luther Foundation Breaking With Church (YLE 30.3.10)

Mäkinen archbishop elect

Before taking a vacation, I wrote about the first round of the Finnish archiepiscopal elections, and noted that the two candidates going to the second round were bishop Kari Mäkinen and professor Miikka Ruokanen.
In the second round, held on March 11, Mäkinen beat Ruokanen with 593 votes to 582 - a very tight result, indeed, but a good one!
Kari Mäkinen will succeed archbishop Jukka Paarma, who retires in June.

About dogs and people

My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $3 a can. That’s almost $21 in dog money.
- Joe Weinstein
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Election of Archbishop of Finland goes to second round

Yesterday, the electors of the new Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) cast their votes in the first round of the election. If none of the candidates would get a majority of the votes, the two most successful candidates would go to the second round to be held on March 11, 2010.
Of the seven candidates, the two most successful were the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Turku, Kari Mäkinen (55) with 393 votes and professor Miikka Ruokanen (56) with 285. Since there were more than 1.200 electors, they both fell short of the mark, so a second round will be needed. The third candidate, Bishop Seppo Häkkinen, gathered 263 votes and crowded Ruokanen.
This result means that there will be a dichotomy among the electorate, since Mäkinen is fairly liberal, while Ruokanen is a conservative. Om the other hand, Ruokanen is a far more charismatic personality than Mäkinen, who is rather unknown outside the Archdiocese. In the electorate, the Archdiocese is, however, strongly overrepresented, and Mäkinen has a solid following there. Perhaps we can expect him to be elected to succeed the present Archbishop Jukka Paarma, who will retire in June.
News and links here, here, here (with the usual disgusting debate) and here. And surely elsewhere, as well...

On success

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.
- Bessie A. Stanley
as quoted on Bailey's Buddy

That's bad!

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.
Thanks to Wounded Bird!

Archbishop Elvis

This is actually rather funny:
Elvis may have long ago shuffled off this mortal coil, but his spirit still has a home at a Newmarket veterans' hall that stands in as a church.
That's where Archbishop Dorian Baxter has channelled the King of Rock `n' Roll each Sunday for seven years. An eclectic mix of more than 300 people gathered Sunday to mark the breakaway Anglican church's anniversary and celebrate what would have been Elvis's 75th birthday on Jan. 8.
But as Baxter, who also performs as impersonator Elvis Priestley, is quick to point out, the main reason they assemble in the Spartan surroundings of the Royal Canadian Legion hall is to praise God.
"We honour Elvis's commitment to the Lord," said Baxter, 59, who explained he first heard Elvis when he was 5 and has been "trying to sing like him for 54 years.
"Like Elvis, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, we worship Jesus, the King of Kings."
It's perhaps not my cup of tea, to quote MadPriest, but at least it's not boring...
The report came from The Star (Canada), that published it on January 18.

Humanity or tyranny?

We can move in the direction of justice, but if our personal relationships don’t become more human, we haven’t moved in the direction of the reign of God and, in the long run, we will discover that our point of arrival is just another form of tyranny.
- Arturo Paoli
as quoted on God's Politics