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)

8 comments:

Mathias Junell said...

can't we all just get along...

Kalle af said...

That would have been nice. But no, I wasn't allowed to.

Jay said...

I have been following your blog for about a year. I am working in one of the groups which generally oppose same sex unions. I personally prefer to listen as I have a lot of questions about sexual ethics that we see in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. I would be interested to hear more about your views on sexual ethics in general.

Kalle af said...

Jay, I'd be happy to oblige. Your question has a rather large scope - perhaps you could be kind enough to specify a bit?

Ellie Finlay said...

I have asked that many times, Mathias.

That must have been terribly hurtful, Karl.

Kalle af said...

Yes, Ellie, it certainly was.

JCF said...

five of the ten ELCF bishops are being boycotted by groups within and without the ELCF for being too liberal. ... The groups honoring these bishops are the neopietist revival movement Kansanlähetys (the People's Mission) and some Free Churches, including the Pentecostals.

Just FYI: I don't think you meant (in English) "honoring"?

I think you meant condemning.

Sad to hear that same kind of theological politics so prevalent here in the US, are also occurring in Scandinavia.

Kalle af said...

JCF: That is, of course, my intent. I did, however, choose the word (which I sadly misspelled; should be honouring), since I feel that it is an honour to be singled out for doing what is right.
I.e. the condemnation of the bishops honours them.