The test of forgiving

The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past ever happened.
- Lewis B. Smedes
in Forgive and Forget
as quoted on God's Politics

King on injustice anywhere

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
as quoted on Twitter

Luther Foundation's ordination in Orthodox parish hall

The Luther Foundation is at it again.
Last Saturday, September 17, three new pastors were ordained by the Foundation's bishop Matti Väisänen (see blogs here and here) in the Orthodox parish hall in Kuopio (eastern Finland). The ELCF had denied them any venue for the ordination, so they turned to the Orthodox Church. Its leading bishop, Ambrosius, asked the Orthodox parish of Kuopio to refrain from giving space to a schismatic group in the Lutheran church, but went unheeded.
Two of the new pastors will work in eastern Finland, and the third, Sebastian Grünbaum, will build and coordinate a Swedish-speaking community in Turku in the south-west. Grünbaum has studied theology in Swedish at Åbo Akademi in Turku, where there are several strongly conservative students and teachers (among a moderate majority, I hasten to add). The Luther Foundation will thus probably reap more fruit from that Theological Faculty.

The Luther Foundation protests against female pastors and against the increasingly positive and humane attitudes towards sexual minorities within the ELCF. It is akin to the Mission Province in Sweden and has for some years ordained its own pastors. In 2010, it consecrated its own bishop. These acts are, of course, schismatic, and neither the bishop nor the pastors have any standing within the ELCF. The Foundation refuses, however, to take the logical step and form its own denomination, which would allow it to build ecumenical relations to other churches, e.g. the ELCF. Since it repeatedly breaks the rules of the ELCF, it can go on pretending that it is persecuted, which I suppose gives its members a sense of righteousness.
But I don't feel that it is quite honest to do so.
Kotimaa om Nokia och Luther (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 16.10.06)
Missionsprovinsen till Finland? (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 4.12.06)
Förfalskade präster (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 26.1.07)
Yle: Ortodoksit tarjoavat Luther-säätiölle tiloja pappisvihkimykseen (Kotimaa 10.8.11)
Ambrosius toivoo Kuopion ortodoksisen seurakunnan peruvan Luther-säätiö-päätöksen (Kotimaa 10.8.11)
Pappisvihkimys Kuopiossa 17.9.2011 (Suomen Luther-säätiö 30.8.11)
Lutherstiftelsen får svenskspråkig verksamhet (Kyrkpressen 5.9.11)
Konservativa ÅA-teologer stöder Lutherstiftelsen (Hufvudstadsbladet 7.9.11)
Luther-säätiö vihkii ”kolme uutta pastoria” (Kotimaa 8.9.11)
Lutherstiftelsen vigde tre nya egna präster (Hufvudstadsbladet 17.9.11)
Luther-säätiö vihkii yhä pappeja kirkon vastustuksesta huolimatta (Helsingin Sanomat 17.9.11)
Paarma ennustaa: Luther-säätiö lähtee kirkosta (Ilkka 18.9.11)
Ilkka: Paarma ennustaa Luther-säätiön lähtöä (Kotimaa 18.9.11)

Algeria: Siaghi Krimo

Convicting a Christian convert for insulting the prophet of Islam, a judge in Algeria stunned the Christian community by sentencing him beyond what a prosecutor recommended.
In Oran, 470 kilometers west of Algiers, a criminal court in the city’s Djamel district on May 25, 2011 sentenced Siaghi Krimo to a prison term of five years for giving a CD about Christianity to a neighbour who subsequently claimed he had insulted Muhammad. Krimo was also fined 200,000 Algerian dinars (US$2,760), according to Algerian news reports.
The prosecutor had reportedly requested the judge sentence him to a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US$690).
The court tried Krimo based solely on the complaint filed by his neighbour, who accused him of attempting to convert him to Christianity.
“He gave a CD to a neighbour, and for that he has to spend five years in prison,” said the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), Mustapha Krim, trying to contain his disbelief. “The hearing went well, and the lawyer defended well, yet in the end the judge gave him the maximum punishment.”

Authorities arrested Krimo on April 14 and held him in jail for three days. On May 4 he appeared before the court in Djamel, where the prosecutor requested the two-year sentence in the absence of the neighbour who had accused him – the only witness – and any evidence.
The punishment the prosecutor requested is the minimum for Algerians found guilty of insulting Muhammad or “the messengers of God,” or anyone who “denigrates the dogma or precepts of Islam, be it via writings, drawings, statements or any other means,” according to Article 144 of the Algerian Penal Code.
Krim said that if the courts start interpreting the law as it did in Krimo’s case, then the future of Algeria’s Christians is grim.
“If they start applying the law like that, it means there is no respect for Christianity,” Krim said, “and pretty soon all the Christians of Algeria will find themselves in prison. If the simple fact of giving a CD to your neighbour costs five years in prison, this is catastrophic.”

The court delivered its verdict the same week that the governor of the province of Bejaia ordered the closing of seven Protestant churches.
Asked if he thought the court had instructions from higher officials to hand down such heavy punishment to Krimo, Krim responded with no hesitation: “It’s certain!”

Algerian Christian Sentenced Beyond Prosecutor’s Request (CDN 30.5.11)

Wilde on agreement

Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
Oscar Wilde

Rwandan proverb

You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.
- Rwandan proverb
as quoted on

Shaw asks "Why not?"

Some [people] see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.
- George Bernard Shaw
as quoted on

The Father Brown stories

G. K. Chesterton: The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
- The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy and detective fiction.
In the last category are a couple of dozen of short stories featuring Father Brown, a short, stumpy Catholic priest. From London to Cornwall, then to Italy and France, he runs to earth bandits, traitors, killers. Why is he so successful?
The reason is that after years spent in the priesthood, Father Brown knows human nature and is not afraid of its dark side. Thus he understands criminal motivation and how to deal with it.

The stories, collected in the two volumes mentioned above, are not straightforward modern-day whodunnits, but have a more psychological and philosophical outlook. This makes them far more interesting.
They are, however, rather dated in some ways. They take place in a world where imperial England is the strongest power, and where the attitude of the white race towards other races is condescending at best.
If you can raise yourself above these issues and reach the heart of the stories without gagging on the inherent chauvinism and racism of the background, Father Brown is well worth the effort.

Nokia Missio sacked its leader, Markku Koivisto

In the beginning of the 1990's, Markku Koivisto was vicar in the small city of Nokia outside of Tampere in central Finland. The electronics company Nokia was founded in that city, if wou're wondering (and even if you're not). Anyway, Koivisto (no relation to Mauno Koivisto, the President of the Republic in 1982-94) arranged charismatic meetings in his parish. While this is all right, it was felt that he as vicar failed to meet his responsibility to all his parishioners, and thus he got into hot water with the Diocese of Tampere (which I blogged about at the time). In the end, he had to step down as vicar.
He then founded an organisation, Nokia Missio, that arranged meetings at home and abroad, and in 2008 was reorganised as an independent denomination with Koivisto as one of the most prominent leaders. Some free churches feared that Nokia Missio would steal their members, but this threat failed to materialise. While its meetings drew thousands of people, the actual membership of the church stayed at some 400 people. Finns are often naturally conservative.

In August, 2011, came the news that Koivisto was on sick leave, and at the end of the month, Nokia Missio informed that he had been sacked. Apparently, there had been some sexual misconduct on his part. Nothing illegal - thankfully, no children involved! - but immoral. There were speculations about homosexual harrassment.
When Koivisto returned from his sick leave, he claimed that no harrassment had taken place. Last Sunday (11.9.11), he made a statement to his congregation, admitting to "wrong choices", and in particular to a homosexual relationship. Since he was married (to a woman, if that is relevant), the relation was adulterous, which is regrettable. More serious in Koivisto's eyes, however, were the homosexual acts, which he denounced, quoting one of the "clobber passages" from Romans. After his statement, one of the pastors pronounced God's forgiveness and a whole team of pastors prayed for Koivisto. He then left the gathering, and his future is still open.

I am no great friend of either Nokia Missio or Markku Koivisto. I went to a meeting they had in Porvoo a few years back and was not impressed. Neither do I know exactly what now has occurred.
That said, I am gratified that Nokia Missio has taken action. All too often, sexual and other immorality (especially paedophilia) among religious and other leaders is swept under the rug in the name of forgiveness and mercy, and those responsible are not held accountable for their actions. Thus, the situation can continue for years on end, and many people can get hurt. This has happened internationally within the Roman Catholic church and in Finland within the Laestadian revival movement. Hopefully, that will not now be repeated in Nokia Mission. Apparently, whatever else might be said about that church, its leadership is not spineless. Good for them!
I am a bit miffed, however, since the main issue here seems to be Koivisto's apparent bisexuality, not his adultery, which I personally think is far more serious.
Markku Koivisto sivussa Nokia Mission toiminnasta (Kotimaa 19.8.11)
Nokia Mission tiedote 29.8.2011
Kyrkoherdens sexliv gav honom sparken i Nokia (Hufvudstadsbladet 30.8.11)
Nokia Missio erotti Markku Koiviston (Kotimaa 30.8.11)
Markku Koivisto erotettu Nokia Missiosta ( 30.8.11)
Koiviston tehtävistä vapauttamiseen ei liity rikosprosessia (Kotimaa 30.8.11)
Nokiamissionen har sparkat sin grundare (Dagen 31.8.11)
”Koivisto-kultti on median luomus” (Kotimaa 1.9.11)
Radio Dei: Koivisto ahdistellut seksuaalisesti miehiä (Kotimaa 2.9.11)
Markku Koivisto medgav homosexuell relation (STT through Vasabladet 11.9.11)
Markku Koivisto tunnusti syntinsä seurakunnalleen (Kotimaa 11.9.11)
Kohupastori Markku Koivisto myönsi suhteen mieheen (Helsingin Sanomat 11.9.11)
Markku Koivisto tuli kaapista (Dosentin ikkunasta: Raamattu, kirkko ja köyhyys 11.9.11)

Dickens on heart, temper, and touch

Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts.
- Charles Dickens
as quoted on

The rainbow of the soul

The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.
- John Vance Cheney
as quoted on

Punny humour

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail. 
Thanks to Bailey's Buddy!

Hope on banking

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it. 
- Bob Hope
as quoted on Twitter

Keller on ancestry

There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors,
and no slave who has not had a king among his.
- Helen Keller
as quoted by Jeez

Mexico: Josué Ramírez Santiago

On Sunday, April 10, 2011, some 500 worshippers were gathered for a worship service at the Christian Center El Shaddai in the Mexican city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacan at about 8:15 AM when four masked men burst in firing machine guns into the air. Before the frightened believers realized what was happening, their pastor, Josué Ramírez Santiago, had been whisked away. The following day, the pastor’s family received news that the criminals wanted a ransom of 20 million pesos (US$1.7 million). Even if the family could raise such an immense sum – considered doubtful – payment would not guarantee that the victim would be returned alive.

Organized crime syndicates and drug cartels have targeted Christians because they view churches as revenue centers and because churches support programs for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. Furthermore, some 100 Mexican or foreign pastors who lived in Ciudad Juarez have had to abandon the city because of the threats and demands for money, and many pastors and their families have been victims of extortion, threats, kidnapping and homicide. 100 Mexican clergymen have been kidnapped in recent years, with 15 of them losing their lives to organized crime. 
Michoacan, the state where the abduction of Pastor Ramirez Santiago took place, has been a center of much criminal activity and also of severe reprisals by elements of the Mexican army.

Suspected Drug Traffickers Kidnap Pastor (CDN 15.4.11)

Estonia: "We do not tolerate homosexuality"

The Estonian Justice Chancellor Indrek Teder made a statement in May 2011, saying that Estonia should start registering partnerships, since the present system with exclusively heterosexual marriages doesn't give same-sex couples enough protection. In his opinion, the Constitution wouldn't bar a gender neutral marriage law, but that the time isn't ripe as yet. In 2010, the Conservative government stopped the preparations of a law on registered partnerships, but now the country has a new government.
In July, the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu), an ecumenical body consisting of the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran and the Roman Catholic churches, the two Orthodox churches (Moscow and Constantinople) working in Estonia, and a number of Free Churches, sent an open letter to the Ministry of Justice as a reaction to the Chancellor's statement. "The Council of Churches does not tolerate homosexuality," they wrote, and claim that the traditional marriage is a guarantee for the stability of the Estonian people and the Estonian State.
Most regrettable.

Õiguskantsler: samasoolistel peab olema võimalus kooselu registreerida (Postimees 23.5.11)
Õiguskantsler soovitab samasooliste partnerlussuhted reguleerida (Delfi 23.5.11)
Postimees: Viron oikeuskansleri haluaa Viroon rekisteröidyn parisuhteen (Ranneliike 23.5.11)
Viron kirkot ilmoittavat, etteivät ne suvaitse homoseksuaalisuutta (Ranneliike 9.7.11)

Criticism and respect

Respect for the people’s word need not mean approval for whatever they say. Any criticism becomes constructive when based on a fundamental attitude of respect and listening.
- Clodovis Boff
Catholic theologian in Brazil
as quoted on God's Politics

Ten Boom on forgiveness

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.
- Corrie Ten Boom
as quoted on God's Politics