THOUSANDS of churchpeople resigned their membership of the
Finnish Lutheran Church last week in protest at its Archbishop's
support for same-sex marriage.
In a vote in the Finnish parliament on 28 November, prompted by
a citizens' petition, legislators voted in favour of gay marriage -
the last Nordic country to do so.
The Archbishop of Turku & Finland, the Most Revd Kari
Mäkinen, Primate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, to
which 75 per cent of Finns belong, wrote on Facebook: "I know how
much this day means to the rainbow community.
"I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them. Our
concept of marriage needs a fundamental examination. . . I think
it's time for reconsideration." His remarks attracted 10,930
But they were opposed by other members of the Church, whose
synod elected the Archbishop in 2010 by 593 votes to 582 (for a
more conservative candidate); and 41 per cent of whose clergy
oppose gay marriage, a recent poll suggests.
The Church of Finland is a membership Church. Members must pay
about 1.5 per cent of their salary as "church tax", which is the
Church's main source of income. Members are increasingly leaving,
aided by the website Divorce the Church.
The day after Archbishop Mäkinen's comments, 2600 people
resigned from the Church, up from a daily average of about 200
resignations at this time of year. By Tuesday, more than 17,000 had
done so, representing a loss of about €5 million for a Church of
which many parishes are already in debt, owing to falling
Kaj Torkulla, of Divorce the Church, explained that there were
differences between those who had left the Church since the
Archbishop's comments, and those who normally did so: "They are
more rural; they are slightly older than the average; and they are
more likely to be men."
Oulu, in the north, is regarded as the most conservative
diocese. The Bishop of Oulu, the Rt Revd Samuel Salmi, said that
the Church would follow "thousands of years of tradition and broad
consensus" in conserving the Christian concept of marriage. The
Interior Minister and Christian Democrat leader in Finland, Päivi
Räsänen, said that she would fight to overturn the legislation.