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.

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