Saturday, 24 November 2007

The End of Tolerance in Finland?


Please read this report in conjunction with the quote from Krauth in the post below it. The picture above is of Turku cathedral.

"Discrimination against a female pastor in court for the first time"
16.11.2007
(Translated from the Finnish: http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/oikea/id75184.html)

The Magistrates’ Court of Hyvinkää [Finland] is hearing a case against an associate pastor of Hyvinkää parish, a member of the Parochial Council and a visiting preacher, on a charge of discrimination against a female pastor.
The charges are related to events in the vestry of Hyvinkää church last March.
The male pastor who had come to the church as visiting preacher refused to work with the female pastor of Hyvinkää parish who was designated to serve in the service that Sunday. A heated conversation was held in the vestry only a quarter-of-an-hour before the start of the service.
The situation was resolved when the female pastor left. She was replaced as communion assistant by a member of the gathered congregation.
The male pastor facing charges of discrimination is employed by the Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland (LEAF), which does not accept the ordination of women. He had been invited to preach in Hyvinkää church by the chairwoman of the local branch of LEAF. The day in question marked a local LEAF celebration.
Also the chairwoman of the local branch, a member of the Parochial Council, has been charged with discrimination. According to the charge, she supported the male pastor and told the female pastor that she should not be at the service.
The associate pastor of Hyvinkää parish, who at the time was acting as the senior pastor, is charged with discrimination in the workplace and a breach of official responsibilities. According to the charges, the senior pastor should have intervened in the debate in the vestry and ensure that the female pastor on duty be able to carry out her duties.
The prosecutor is demanding the accused to receive fines. All the accused have pleaded not guilty. The opponents of the ordination of women appealed in court to the freedom of religion. The [acting] senior pastor did admit that he was unable in the rush of the moment, the fifteen minutes in the vestry, to take charge and resolve the matter.
The bishops’ conference recommended in September 2006 that male pastors no longer have a right to refuse to serve with female pastors. Hyvinkää Magistrates’ Court will now give the first secular verdict on the question of the equality of the sexes in the duty rotas of the church.

Postscript
Two separate developments were made public yesterday [21 November] in Finland, creating a wonderful (sic!) irony that accurately describes the state of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland(1) Pastor Jari Rankinen, who has been under investigation by the cathedral chapter of the archdiocese of Turku for a good part of this year on account of his refusal to share an altar with ordained women has been suspended both from his position within his congregation and from the pastoral office for three months for that crime, pending any appeal he may launch. He is the second pastor, following Vesa Pöyhtäri of Oulu diocese last month, to face suspension for non-co-operation with female pastors. Pastor Rankinen's appeal to his Word-bound conscience was not considered a valid defence.(2) Pastor Leena Huovinen has been named Pastor of the Year by the Pastors' Union, the professional body for Lutheran pastors in Finland. Earlier this year, Ms. Huovinen came to nationwide prominence by openly admitting that she has blessed same-sex unions on her own initiative. For her, to act thus is a matter of conscience.Please pray for pastors Rankinen and Pöyhtäri, their congregations, and for the whole, sorry Church of Finland.
by Tapani Simojoki, Finnish Lutheran student of theology at Westfield House, Cambridge, UK.

Thanks to David Buck for this report.