by Sven Triloqvist
Sat Oct 16th, 2010 at 05:50:53 AM EST
Helsignin Sanomat: Suhtautuminen homopareihin ajaa etenkin naisia eroon kirkosta (attitudes to gay couples lead women especially to leave the church)
Last week, a current affairs TV program ('Gay Evening') on church and lay attitudes to the status of Finnish gay couples has caused 10.000 to exit the church since the program was broadcast.
In Finland, if you want to be married in church, have your kids christened or confirmed (or as a friend of mine called it 'crucifixion camp'), get anything blessed, or be buried in consecrated ground, you must belong to the church in which the event takes place.
If you belong to the church, you pay church taxes (around 1% on top of the % you pay in state taxes. The tax is collected by the state). 80% of Finns belong to the Lutheran Church (85% a decade ago).
Attitudes among the pastors (a Masters in Theology required) appear to be a third in favour of the church blessing gay marriages, a third vehemently against, and the rest on the fence. This year, the Rev Irja Askola became the first woman to be elected as a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, a step described as a "milestone" by the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. She publicly favours the church blessing gay marriage. As indeed do a majority of Finnish women.
Women have been able to be ordained since 1986, though there has been considerable and continuing resistance from some male pastors particularly to joint services.
The recent exodus from the church, following the TV program, has mainly been a reaction to the bigoted comments of Päivi Räsänen, the chairwoman of the Christian Democrats. Now even the female pastors are telling her to moderate her comments. The pastor of the Helsinki Kallio church, Jaana Partti said "Räsänen should shut up. She's confusing her political view with the church view."
Finns are not generally active church goers - attendance is limited to Christmas, Easter etc events, and my impression is that it is women who drive this attendance. Women also are in favour of the 'crucifixion camps' for their kids. But this is not religious fanaticism - it is regarded by women with families more as a civilizing influence on the young. These women support libraries, museums and music schools etc for the same reason. They view the core values of christianity (with a small 'c'), summarised by some of the 10 Commandments, as being a useful foundation for society: Honor your father and your mother, Do not murder, commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, don't covet. The rest of the Decalogue (or is it 21) is irrelevant to them.
Leaving the Lutheran church is quite easy - there's a website for it. 3473 people resigned yesterday.