Pastors and alcohol

Some months ago, on a Saturday morning, I was driving to work. I had a funeral. All of a sudden, the police stopped me. They were having a razzia to check the alcohol level in the drivers' blood stream. Many have alcohol in the gas tank, as well, but that they didn't check.
When the officer came to me and saw that I was a pastor, he said: "Oh. But in the interest of equality, we'll check you, too." And I was stone sober, of course, as I have been the last 21 years. No problem.

Sadly, the officer's assumption that a pastor would be sober behind the wheel is not self-evidently true. The latest example of the opposite comes from eastern Finland. Savon Sanomat reports (25.7.13) that a pastor, having performed a  funeral, drove off, only to be arrested by the police after having been found to have 1,89 promille alcohol on his breath (in Finland, 0,5 is the DUI limit, and 1,2 is the limit for aggravated DUI). Apparently, this is not the first time this pastor has shown signs of alcohol abuse.
The police will charge him, and his vicar has reported the case to the Diocesan Chapter, who will deal with it later in the fall.

Same-sex couple sent as missionaries

A same-sex couple in a registered partnership will be sent as missionaries to Cambodia by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), Kotimaa reports 29.5.13. They will be blessed for their task in June, and one of them will also be ordained.
According to the article, this is probably the first time in history that a same-sex couple is sent as missionaries anywhere.
Very few details are available about the presumptive missionaries, not even their gender, but I suppose more will be forthcoming.

There is some controversy about the appropriateness of publishing news of this kind, i.e. stressing someone's ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or the like. From the point of view of journalistic ethics, there might be a problem, but it's an interesting item, all the same.

Gay marriage law celebrated with rainbow coloured communion bread

Minnesota's legalization of gay marriage has one church feeling pretty happy, the New York Daily News reports.
Revolution Church in Minneapolis served congregants rainbow-colored communion bread during its inaugural service last Sunday. Head pastor Rev. Jay Bakker thought the bread - and the state's embrace of gay rights - tasted "kind of sweet."
"So many people have been hurt by the church and by Christianity," Bakker told the News. "But this was a beautiful moment."
The colorful nod to gay rights was baked up early Sunday morning by photojournalist Courtney Perry. She thought of the idea after Minnesota's House approved a same-sex marriage bill on May 9. State leaders expected the bill to pass the Senate as well and Perry was ecstatic.

Bakker said he's received plenty of backlash from conservative social media users after news about his rainbow communion bread spread online.
"They've missed out on the higher message of the Bible and who Jesus is and what he did," Bakker said in response to those negative comments. "They've become victims of tradition."
Bakker admits that his church is "pretty liberal" when it comes to social issues. The New York branch of his Revolution Church meets at Pete's Candy Store, a bar in Brooklyn. In Minneapolis, his church launched its meetings at Bryant Lake Bowl, a theater space with a bowling alley and a restaurant.
"A bar is neutral ground," Bakker said.
He wasn't expecting the colorful communion bread to strike a chord with so many people. Bakker guesses that the bread will likely be a regular guest at his church.
"I think Christ's table is very inclusive," Bakker said.
Hmm. While I'm happy that the state of Minnesota has approved gay marriage, I'm not sure about this way to celebrate it... Seems a bit over the top...

Archbishop of Finland supports same-sex marriages

When the current government was formed in Finland a few years back, the Christian Democrats demanded that it would not propose any legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, or the party would not participate in the government. The other parties agreed to this.
Therefore, MPs from the other parites tried to introduce a motion to legalize same-sex marriages. This failed, however, since the motion didn't gain the necessary support; only 76 of the 200 MPs signed the motion.
As a consequence, a citizen's motion was created. If 50 000 signatures are gathered, such a motion could be discussed in Parliament. When this motion was introduced on 19 March on the home page of the Ministry of Justice, it gathered the necessary signatures in less than one day - the first such motion ever to collect enough signatures. At 11:47 today, a week later, the motion had been signed by 138 226 citizens. The motion will remain on the home pages for six months, and the Ministry will then take it to Parliament for discussions.

Archbishop Kari Mäkinen
The Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Kari Mäkinen, appeared this morning on the TV channel MTV3 and gave his support to the proposed legislation about same-sex marriages.
"I think it is an important goal, and I hope that equality will be achieved in this," Mäkinen said in the programme Huomenta Suomi (Good morning Finland). "Within the church, marriage has traditionally meant a covenant between a man and a woman. The present discussion creates a dicsussion within the church as well, where the foundations of the concept of marriage are evaluated. I see in this discussion an immensly positive will to relate to every human being equally."

The proposed legislation would not compel the churches to perform same-sex marriages.

Update: Later the same day, the Archbishop denied that he had taken a stand on the legislation, saying he talked about "treating people and their relationships equally." Helsingin Sanomat published the comment.

Mekane Yesus severs relationship with ELCA, CofS

The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is severing its relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Church of Sweden and “those churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage.”
The action for “all Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus departments and institutions (at every level) to implement this decision” was ratified at the denomination’s general assembly, which met Jan. 27-Feb. 2 in Addis Ababa. The denomination’s church council took action at its July 2012 meeting to initially sever these relationships.
“The ELCA is very saddened by this decision,” said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission. [...]
To ensure that the decisions by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are implemented, members of the denomination “will not receive Holy Communion from the leadership and pastors of the (ELCA and the Church of Sweden). The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus will not distribute communion to these churches,” as stated in the minutes of the denomination’s July 2012 council meeting. [...]
While the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is “closing the door to this partnership,” Malpica Padilla said that the ELCA and the Church of Sweden “are not locking the doors from our side. It is open for when you decide it is time to resume this journey together. It is my hope that in the near future, we will again walk together in Christian love. We will do this not because of doctrinal agreements or consensus, but because the gospel compels us to do so.” [...]
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said the actions of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are “deeply troubling.”
“Our own statement on human sexuality acknowledges that the position held by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is also held by members of the ELCA. We are not of one mind, but we are one in Christ, in faith and in baptism,” said Hanson, adding that the relationships between Lutherans in North America and in Ethiopia “has been sustained through periods of oppression, divisions within the Ethiopian church and in times of turmoil among Lutherans in North America. The action of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus church diminishes our capacity together to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to serve our neighbors and to care for the creation. [...]” 
ELCA 7.2.13

St. Valentine performed illegal marriages

On February 14 around the year 278 A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed, reports. Interestingly enough, Claudius II died in 270; in 278, Probus was emperor. But hey...

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.

Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine."
For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February." One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
Wikipedia has more information. 

As a comment on this: What would happen today to a pastor or priest who performs illegal marriages? Would they be killed? Probably not, at least in Finland. Other sanctions would occur, however.
But whom are we not allowed to marry today? Do I have to spell it out?...

Happy Valentine's Day to all!