"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: OALC Elders

Thursday, October 21, 2004

OALC Elders

The elders are the leaders of the OALC from Finland and Sweden. They make occasional visits to the United States for "Elders' Meetings." How do elders become elders? Unlike many Christian sects, the preachers in the OALC do not learn Greek or Hebrew, or formally study Scripture or pastoral counseling (although Laestadius did as an ordained Lutheran pastor). They are all men, it goes without saying. Apparently young men are given test-runs during gatherings, where they are asked to speak about points of OALC doctrine. I don't know of any preachers with college educations. I've been told it is different in Sweden and Finland, where the OALC is still under the Lutheran Church. Can anyone lend some light to this subject?
OALC Elders
Gunnar Jonsson, Johan Stockel, Isak Niku, Frans Parakka, Isak Kuoksu, K.R. Erlandsson, Viktor Bjorkman, William Erickson


  1. Probably our poster from Finland can shed a lot of light on it. I do not understand how they got pictures of these elders as pictures were a sin then. Maybe, they had to have them taken for the state church. Also, the one with the trimmed beard. What's up with that? I was brought up that trimmed beards are a sin. The only ones I recognize are Gunnar Johnson and William Erickson. Since I was brought up in an area that was small we got to know the preachers and elders more as they were not whisked away. Gunnar was always nice. When I got married and moved to Michigan it was Gunnar that told the congregation of Detroit that they should be praying out loud together the Lord's Prayer. Now they are saying that that is wrong and Detroit should get in sync with the other congregations and NOT pray out loud. So who hurt Christ more and dug the crown of thorns in deeper by doing what was wrong and making Him suffer more? Us then that were silent in prayer and then were told to pray out loud or the people now that are silent again while praying? (More of man's traditions) God says to go into a closet and pray to Him. Matt 6:6 Why do things keep changing with the Laestadians? God's Word does NOT ever change.
    I also remember Gunnar getting up and singing a solo in front of the Detroit congregation years ago. Can you imagine anyone doing that today? They would consider that a sin I'm sure.
    The young men who could be potential elders are asked to speak about the points of OALC doctrine it says here not the doctrine of the Bible. What more can one say? They don't know that they don't know.

  2. On this page You will find more information

  3. And here comes another page:

  4. Traditionally, OALC preachers do not want the job. They do it out of obedience.

    People are often encouraged to seek help or advice from their clergy. Why would one seek help or advice from people who don't want the job in the first place?

    Seems that members of any church are better served if their clergy is willing and interested.

  5. Excellent point! I think most don't want to but there are few that like the status as do a few of their wives as they are then 'preachers' wives.

  6. Thank you so much free for posting this entire sight! About 20 years ago I heard a tape of Gunner playing the gundolay (not sure how to spell it). I wasn't supposed to hear it, apparently only a few 'christians' had one. I wonder if they preach instruments are a sin, how did he play that AND tape it for it to be passed around. I would also like to know how the elders come up with decisions on things. Do they have a meeting and sheet of paper with all of the problems, then have a vote? I have asked this several times, no one in the 'christianity' seems to know, they just accept. I was also at a service the first time they pulled a man from the audience to be the next 'preacher'. It was the saddest thing I have ever witnessed and that was the last time I went to church there. I don't know how these men, can be unwilling preachers AND counsel all of the congregation, right down to "should we buy a motorcycle or not?" You know, we as humans often have a hard time coming to conclusions about what we should do or not in life, maybe its just easier to blame it on a preacher if something goes awry? I am amazed at the things they run to preahers for advice for. They can't make any moves without consulting first. I know a man who could have had a job that paid twice the wage he is getting now, he hates his present one, and would have been happy with the other. Well, the 'preacher' said maybe he shouldn't make change at this time. I have never seen such an angry man. Now he cannot leave the job that pays very little and one he hates to better his family because he will go against the 'preachers' and THAT is a sin. So instead he can be angry at them AND his job, take it out on his wife and kids and hardly pay the bills, and this is supposed to be BETTER? This might not be the right place to post this blog, I started with an elder playing an instrument, even though it is preached against. It just goes to show that you can do anything as long as it is within the walls of the OALC.

  7. Hello, I seem compelled to add my 2 cents to every topic. I remember Gunnar Jonsson and William Erickson from my childhood, when they traveled around together (both considerably older than their photos). Even in translation, Gunnar was a very compelling, even charismatic, speaker.
    The instrument you mentioned is a "kantele." It is a stringed instrument, native to Finland. The daughters of one of our preachers had one and were practicing playing it (I was rather shocked, I must say, but because it was traditional and from Finland, it was apparently OK). I only saw it once; I don't know if they gave up because they had no talent or if preacher-father decided it was verboten after all.
    Bev, I would have to disagree with you on one point. "God's Word" does change, even tho' "God's Truth" does not. Words, whether "divinely inspired" or not, are human inventions that attempt to convey truth. The place we are most likely to discover that truth is from the "still, small voice" within, and it rarely speaks in the English (or any other) language, but rather in the language of the heart, which is the language of unconditional love. Wishing you many blessings. Virginia

  8. Thanks virginia for spelling that correctly. There are alot of 'things' that go on in the OALC that I am not supposed to know, but whispers go on when I am in another room. Like the tape being played, I really DO have ears and can hear whispers, I am not that far away. There have been many changes over the years, like a camera for instance. It's ok to take pictures now, as long as you don't SHOW them to anyone. My, my! One woman said she wished she had pictures of her wedding, but, and she sighed, it was a sin back then. I know when I got married, I had to have a flat cake with NO decorations on it, there were not allowed any decorations of any kind, flowers, father walking the bride up, white wedding dresses. This has all changed, depending on what part of the coutry you live in.

  9. I think it's interesting that in your examples you don't include any preacher who has a theological education. I grew up in the ALC, and even there a seminary education was highly suspect in many if not most circles. The ALC has its own seminary, but it was considered somewhat controversial to get a seminary education. There were some congregations that insisted on keeping their pastors uneducated, and would not accept preachers who had come from the seminary.

    That said, I don't believe the ALC "seminary" is even accredited, so it may be a huge overstatement to even bring it up as evidence that any sect of Laestadianism has an interest in theological education.

  10. Link to Inter-Lutheran Seminary:


  11. Roughly speaking, the number of Laestadians serving as ordained pastors of the Lutheran Church in Finland is in the region of 150, if I´m not greatly mistaken. Every single one of these has a university-level degree in theology ( either from Helsinki, Turku or Joensuu University ). Of these, about 100 are Conservative Laestadians (that is, LLC). The Firstborn Laestadian (OALC) pastors can be counted with the fingers of one hand. The rest belong either to the Rauhan Sana group (the same as the ALC), the Reawakenists or the Elämän Sana group. In the other Laestadian groups, if you are an ordained pastor and a member of their group, it in practice always follows that you are asked to act as a preacher at their meetings (in addition to your regular job as an ordained Lutheran pastor), but with the Firstborn Laestadians this doesn´t follow as automatically as in the other branches of Laestadianism.
    Btw, at least in Finnish Laestadianism it´s never said that the community is "under" the Church. It´always said that it is "in" the Church, as the influence it wields is considerable, especially in those large parts of the country where Laestadianism is the dominant form of Lutheranism, the "Laestadian Belt"... In Sweden and Norway, Laestadianism has less influence within the Church.

  12. Helena says:
    Hi Norah,
    I went there. This is how far I got:
    "The Inter-Lutheran Theological Seminary was founded in 1967 to train men..."
    Anyway, to the anon above who talks about education: I agree, the congregations and church structure is set up very differently in Finland, and makes for a different church dynamic. If you don't want to believe "allegations" that the preachers told us not to study, that is fine. For us they are not allegations, however, because we have been directly told not to read the Bible, because it is dangerous and a person may think they can understand it for themself. So we are eligible to speak of it, because it is not hearsay for us.
    Thank you for sharing information on higher education in Finland. In other areas of the country, such as Minneapolis and Detroit, it is commonplace for people to pursue college degrees. There aren't many jobs available there without one. Also, thank you for pointing out the minimal cost for education there. If people aren't required to stretch so far financially, perhaps they are better able to consider post-high school education as an option.

  13. "These are some factors which make it easier to raise large families in Finland, Sweden, Norway etc than in America."

    I lived in Finland for several years and I disagree with this statement. It's a matter of personal opinion.

    I second the fact that there are well over 100 ordianed pastors with theology degrees in the Finnish state church that are Laestadiens.

    I believe the number of Laestadiens in Finland is closer to 150,000. At the rate they reproduce and the rate non- Laestadiens reproduce, they are becoming more and more of a force in the country.

    Also Bible reading is encouraged and not limited to the KJV in many Laestadien churches. Although the KJV is prefered.

    This is coming from a very, very, disillusioned American Laestadien.

  14. Helena,

    I don't have an opinion about the seminary one way or the other, except that if someone was looking to take classes in this part of the country it might be something to check out. If I'm not mistaken, there are some women taking classes there also. Not knowing anything more about it, that's all I'm qualified to say.

  15. Well, Another Finn, you are quite the writer! I enjoyed reading your posts and learned a lot about Laestadianism in Finland. You mentioned an "all-emcompassing Finnish-Lutheran identity..a mixture of culture, ethnicity and religion" in Finland. That does not exist in quite that way in the US, except perhaps among newer immigrants.

    Definition of stereotype: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.

    I hope you'll visit and study the US in person some day.. I just don't see it as dark and grim as you've painted it here :-) - with or without government help...

    We watched a video not long ago about the war you wrote about.. conditions were about as bad as they can get in wartime. The Finnish people have much to be proud of, in that they were able to withstand against an enemy which was much larger than they.

    Bless you!

  16. "I know I have slight credibility gap here, but every citizen of the European Union worth his salt who knows something about American popular culture."

    You've got a huge credibility gap.

    Come to the US. I'll show you many Laestadien families that have 10 children with college educations, and a comfortable lifestyle. One thing I realized in Finland is that some Finns don't realize that when people take care of themselves they usually do quite well, ESPECIALLY Laestadians. I also experienced this America hatred (that's what it is) by some Finns. I don't know why there is so much anger.

    By the way, I don't think there is one Lastadien family anywhere that has ever lived in a trailer park. It's time to stop spoon feeding yourself with dogma and go out and experience things. If you look with open eyes you'll realize they are not at all bad. Both systems have good things and both have drawbacks.

    Weather one is better than the other is a matter of personal opinion.

    I'd like to add that these are exactly the types of posts that you find on Finnish extoots types of sites.

    On a more positive note, I must say you have an incredible grasp of the English language for a foriegner.

  17. Just had a long post that didn't show up. frustrating!

    I lived in northern Finland, north of Oulu, and there where many very poor families with many children in the countryside. Many had little or no access to public transportation and only one family vehicle. Imagine going somewhere in a small vehicle with 8 kids. Not that easy.

    People were happy though and neighbors really helped each other out in the Lastadien community through carpooling, babysitting, and helping each other with projects. It was amazing how much could be done with so little extra money.

  18. Social status/money/security certainly doesn't have anything to do with happiness. Not having a lot of money does not mean you are poor; self-worth does not depend on how much money you have. From my experience in dealing with people and by observation, things like character make a big difference. Many poor people pay their bills, for example, while many middle and upper class do not.

  19. To another Finn,
    As an American citizen, I found you post insulting. I don't know whether you really believe all of you rantings about America to be true, or not, but I sense an underlying hatred of western culture.
    I don't know much about Finnish culture, but it must not include manners.
    About your free health care, free education, and government handouts for each child in the family, I have one question. Where does all this free stuff come from. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. What is your tax rate? 50, 60 ,70 percent?

    As for myself ,I would rather live in a trailer, next door to a barefoot, banjo playing redneck, than live next to a rude, smug, European Union holier than thou socialist!
    Do me a favor, and stay away from America.

  20. That was interesting reading with my morning coffee.

    I think you might....





  21. another finn
    PLEASE try to limit your posts to a novel, at least! Man, when I am reading it I just have to scroll and scan because when I am net expecting to read a book, I have a hard time reading so much. Thats all.

  22. To another Finn,

    After reading your last post, I feel the need to apologize for my comments of my last post. I took everything you said seriously, and took much offence.
    Keep posting but maybe shorten up a litle bit!

    Anon 12:14..

  23. I never mentioned anything about Bush, Democrats, Hussien,etc. At this point you have no idea what I think about Bush and Iraq and you would be quite surprised if I was to share it with you, but that is not the point of this post.

    After 9/11 I received emails and had conversations w/Finns that told me that the Americans who died in the attacks deserved to die and one even said he thought more should have died. There are people in Finland who hate America. I did not say that there was a lot, but they are there and there is enough of them that a person who has many connections in Finland will run into them. Funny thing is that most of them tend to be well educated.

    Most Finns of course were greatly saddened by the events of 9/11.

    Most of the "haters" I've ran into know very good English and actually know quite a bit about the US. They are all into conspiracy theories. They are also quick to catorgerize me when I begin to defend my country in the sightest bit. I feel like it's an obsession they have and for the life of me cannot understand it. I've never met an American that feels that way about any other country, except for Americans that feel that way about the US.

    There are many conspiracey theories that are eaten up and believed by normal people in Europe because they do not have exposure to an opposing viewpoint. This why the "haters" in Finland bother me so much. Their poisonious ideas infect other minds.

    Finland Poster, I'm not saying your a hater and I also misunderstood your intent in your original post (along with some others). But I've also been on the receiving end of long diatribes like yours from people that were "haters". I've been pigeonholed by people who have had no idea what I really think and dont' care because they already "know" everything. They "know" that I don't know anything. This emotional thinking and hatred boogles my mind.

    Your comments about Finns fighting a "real" war and whatnot are also things I've heard. A "hater" starts on one topic and then goes into a whole litany of others, ripping America from our foriegn policy to our affinity for backyard BBQs. Haters also have a very skewed view of their own country. They cannot see what is plain to others.

    When quoted the credability gap I was refering to most of your post, with the exceptions of the parts about Laestadians.

  24. Just in case: that former post was to Anonymous. I forgot to mention that. But here´s another to Anon2. I´ll remember to keep it short.
    surely you know that most people who are into conspiracy theories are crackpots anyway. So you must have run into some rather strange people...
    How do you explain that I never heard anybody say that 9/11 was all right and that there should have been more victims? The only person I know who actually wrote an opinion piece to that effect is an oddball writer who lives alone in a forest cabin, supports himself essentially by fishing (although now he recieves a pension already) and has quite openly stated that the only good political regime of modern times was Cambodia when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ruled there from 1975 to 1979. He´s basically for dismantling modern industrial society by all the means it takes and he has said in tv interviews and written in his books and articles that large-scale violence will be necessary. He has a small cult following.
    But, as I said, he´s the only one I know or have heard of.
    The probable explanation seems to be that those few America-haters are, for natural reasons, attracted by Americans. Why would people like that seek ME out, for instance, to vent their anger? You, as an American, are of course an obvious target for them. Makes sense, doesn´t it?
    I refer again to these opinion polls about Americans being among the most popular nationalities in Finland. Solid facts, I should say.
    The part about you having probably just run into some heavy criticism of George W.:s foreign policy was just my guess. As I personally haven´t met any real America-haters in Finland, that was the only explanation I could think of.
    Thanks anyway for setting me straight on that one.
    Another Finn

  25. "The probable explanation seems to be that those few America-haters are, for natural reasons, attracted by Americans. Why would people like that seek ME out, for instance, to vent their anger? You, as an American, are of course an obvious target for them."

    You are exactly right here. "Haters" unleash their full fury on Americans, but they only share their opinions in bits and peices with Finns. If they acted the way they do to Americans to a normal Finn, they know they would immeadiatly get tuned out. But bits and peices of propaganda (sound familiar) do make a difference when dispensed by a shrewd person, which most haters are.

    I'd know that Bush policies have stirred anti- American sediments in Finland, but I lived in Finland long before Bush was around and I stilled heard the same B.S. about the states. People ripped on everything from BBQs, to laugh tracks on TV, to the two party(it's not actually) political system. Things they can only see through their own prism and relate to how it would work in their own country.
    If I was to be the same way I would say that the last time I voted for president I had over ten choices. In Finland there is only 2. THAT'S CRAZY! Or maybe I should delve into freedom of religion as it pertains to the state church. But of course I don't get into that because I understand that because it seems rediculious from the American perspective that does not actually mean it is rediculous. American thinking for you!

    I think in the US we are bombarded with so many different ideas, religions, races, cultures, and viewpoints that we don't jump to label things. Polarized politics has it benefits. It means there is ideas on the table. In Finland's homogeneous society people are like different flavors of ice cream. They have differences but they are essentialy all the same thing. Whereas in the US you have such a wide spectrum of people that something that maybe a labeled a wild idea in another culture is at least given consideration here. Unless the idea is presented to American Lastadiens :) ;they tend to be very Finnish in their approach to things. "I've never read that bible because already know the devil wrote it" type of thinking.

    These are all general statements and don't apply to everyone or every situation %100. If you are an American and you think what I'm saying about the US and American thinking is not true and we are actually much worse than that, go live in another country for awhile and you'll change your mind no matter what your political persuasion is. We are not perfect, but I thank God that we are who we are in many ways.

  26. Another Finn, I chuckled as I read your explanation of Finnish humor. I could help but think though of another Finnish joke about how two Finns are the only people in the world who can sit in a room for a half hour, never say a word, and walk out thinking they had a good visit! Somehow you don't seem to fit the mold...

    I find it interesting that the Finnish system views education as purely a merit system. Many of our American universities now put a great deal of emphasis on what a student has done in elementary and high school outside of academics. They believe there is great value in a person being whole in their support of social programs, teams -- whether they be athletic or some other form, and even work habits. I support that concept, as I have known too many people who were "book smart" and who were the most socially inept, pigheaded, uncooperative, and miserable individuals anyone could ever know or work with. One or two of them were even Republicans.

  27. Anon2,
    I´d like to point out a factual error in your last post. You claim that in Finland we only have a choice of two candidates when we elect a president. That is very far from the truth indeed.
    Let me elaborate.
    Our last presidential elections were held in January 2006. The important thing is to understand that Finns choose their president by exactly the same procedure as the French. This means that to get elected, any given candidate must recieve over 50% of all valid votes. As Finland has many political parties and the number of presidential candidates typically is about eight (as in January 2006), a second round, held two weeks after the first round, is normally necessary. the rules are simple enough: if no single candidate recieves over 50% of valid votes in the first round, all candidates except the two having recieved most votes are eliminated. After this, those two candidates (numbers 1 and 2 of the first round) go on with campaigning and debate against each other on tv a couple of times, speak at meetings etc, until a second round is held exactly two weeks after the first one. In January 2006, the two rounds were held on January 15 and January 29, respectively. Since the second round only has two candidates, one of them is bound to get over 50% of valid votes, which is required of a president-elect. In the utterly unlikely case of both candidates recieving the exact same amount of popular votes, lots would be used. Of course this has never happened...
    So: the people usually get to vote twice. The lowest number ever of presidential candidates has been three. This has only happened twice, in 1950 and 1968. Pretty democratic, I should say. So, if you will permit a friendly but somewhat puzzled question: what is your kvetching all about?
    Another thing: the fact of Finland, for historical reasons, having two "established" churches (The Lutheran with 84% of the population and the Orthodox with 1%) with certain ties to the state actually means very little in practice these days. In earlier times it was, of course, a more clear-cut state-church system in which, for instance, elections to elect new bishops were held (as they are still), but the President was in theory not obliged to appoint as bishop the one with the most votes. Instead he could (I write HE, because Tarja Halonen is both our first female President and the first President lacking that right) nominate either number two or three as bishop if he so wished. President Kekkonen actually used this right a couple of times. After him it has never been used and was abolished before President Halonen was elected. Nowadays, the election of a bishop does not require the President´s confirmation. The candidate (who has, of course, to be a pastor) receiving most votes automatically becomes bishop.
    In our schools we have religion as a subject. Those students who belong to the Lutheran Church have classes in Lutheran religion. Those who are nondenominational have nonreligious civics classes instead. Those who are for instance Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim get classes in their own religion if there is a minimum number of students (I think 6, but I´m not sure) in the school who belong to their religion. If there isn´t, they normally take the civics classes or, if both they and their parents so wish, the Lutheran classes.
    So the bottom line is this: you are never required to attend any religion classes but those of the religion you actually belong to. Not very oppressive, I should say.
    The US State Department, btw, issues regular reports on the state of religious freedom in the different countries of the world. Quite unsurprisingly, they had nothing negative to say about Finland. If you wish, you can check out the State Department´s website.
    I guess that´ll be enough for today. But I´ll be back! That´s not a threat, that´s a promise...:)
    Another Finn

  28. I am a student of Finland. I know how the political system works, state church, etc. I wouldn't claim to know everything, but ALSO I don't claim to think things are crazy or stupid even if they seem to be so when I look at them through my cultural lense.

    I think the State Church of Finland is fine an doesn't really restrict the freedom of religion. I also think the Finnish electoral process is respectable, democratic process.
    My point was that if I would choose to look at these things ONLY from my cultural point of view, I may think that they are wierd or crazy; but I don't look at them that way because my cultural prism distorts the view of another culture e.g. Finland.

    That's why when one person makes a mockery or skewers everything from top to bottom of a another advanced, democratic, first world culture, I tend to think that persons view is a view based in negative emotion rather than human respect and logic.

    What does it matter is their is a laugh track on TV or not? How do you know that people in the US even like it? When I read sentance after sentance of minutia of that type, it begins to reflect on the author.

  29. Another Finn,

    You're adorable. Are you single?

    Amerikkalainen Tytto