Finnish Church Embraces Gay Marriage, Loses 12,000 Members

Support for same-sex marriage voiced last week by one of Finland’s top religious leaders prompted thousands of Fins to resign their membership in the Finnish Lutheran Church

In the days following the statement, nearly 12,000 people resigned their membership in the Lutheran Church in Finland, according to Finland’s YLE news. A website making it easy for people to resign online continues to track daily totals. Comments on the website seem to suggest the majority of resignations are in response to Mäkinen’s statements.

 

(WNS)–Support for same-sex marriage voiced last week by one of Finland’s top religious leaders prompted thousands of Fins to resign their membership in the Finnish Lutheran Church.

Finland’s parliament narrowly approved a measure legalizing same-sex marriage by a vote of 105 to 92 on Friday. Following the vote, Kari Mäkinen, the Lutheran Archbishop of Finland, praised the outcome in a statement on Facebook.

“I know how much this day means for rainbow people, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them,” wrote Mäkinen, according to Europe’s Pink News.

Mäkinen noted Finland’s position as the last Nordic country to legalize same-sex marriage: “We are in the same situation as our neighboring Nordic Churches: our concept of marriage needs a fundamental examination. Speaking for myself, I think it is time for reconsideration.”

In the days following the statement, nearly 12,000 people resigned their membership in the Lutheran Church in Finland, according to Finland’s YLE news. A website making it easy for people to resign online continues to track daily totals. Comments on the website seem to suggest the majority of resignations are in response to Mäkinen’s statements.

More than 75 percent of Finland’s 5.5 million residents are members of the Lutheran church, a status requiring them to pay an income-based tax to the church. In order to leave the church, a person must register online as well as submit a paper statement to a church office, prompting some to think the actual resignation totals in response to Mäkinen will be less than reported online.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanin, leader of the Christian Democrats, has vowed to fight the same-sex marriage law as it works it way through the legislature. Rasanin was criticized for openly speaking against homosexuality, based on his Christian beliefs, during a live TV debate in 2010. An estimated 9,000 people resigned membership in the Lutheran church in the days following the debate, indicating the church is losing both conservative and liberal members over the marriage issue. In 2010, an unprecedented 83,000 resigned membership, according to Finland’s YLE.

Mäkinen noted opposition voices in his Facebook comments, but argued the measure will not change marriage or threaten the church.

“There are many who are now disappointed and feel concern. This is understandable,” Makinen wrote. “I would like to say to them: I don’t think anyone’s marriage will lose importance, the Church’s faith is not under threat, and human dignity is not in decline—quite the contrary.”

But members of parliament who voted against the measure disagree. Mika Niikko, a parliament member representing the nationalist Finns Party and one of the most outspoken critics of the same-sex marriage measure, said children have a right to a mother and a father.

“This is a question of the future of our children and the whole society, and such changes should not be made without thorough evaluation of their impact,” Nikko said before the vote.

Gay marriages in Finland are not expected to begin until 2017.

© 2014 World News Service. Used with permission.