"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Finnish Lutheran Sex Discrimination Case

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finnish Lutheran Sex Discrimination Case

This interesting article popped up in my feed reader this morning:

from HELSINGIN SANOMAT: Woman pastor wins sex discrimination case

Pohjanraitio had been scheduled to serve at the altar, handing out communion. However, before the service, she was told by the visiting pastor that his apostolic beliefs prevented him from working with a woman pastor at the altar.

Does the phrase "apostolic beliefs" mean that the visiting pastor was Laestadian? Does anyone know if the pastor in question was definitely Laestadian?

This article raises lots of interesting questions for me regarding the relationship between religion and the state. Because the Lutheran church is government supported in Finland, does that give the state the authority to enforce civil rights?

If this had happened in the United States I think the courts would never had gotten involved, due to the separation of church and state. In the United States Laestadians are not part of a state church --they control who gets ordained and women are not allowed to be ordained in any Laestadian denomination, so that's another reason this never could have happened in the U.S.

On the one hand, I very strongly support freedom for religions to practice and ordain as they see fit without government interference. But on the other hand if any tax dollars are supporting an institution I very strongly believe that then the public has a valid interest in regulating what goes on in said institution.

Finally, I think that churches that choose not to ordain women are really missing out. My current priest is a woman, and she is the most talented and capable clergyperson I have ever had, bar none.


  1. This is really an interesting question. I wouldn't know if the Finnish pastor in question is Laestadian or not. It could well be; however, it is probably the case that there are some (non-Laestadians) in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland that oppose the ordination of women, just as there is a vocal minority in the Church of Sweden, in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, and in many other denominations. I suspect that's less true in the ELCA, since there are so many other conservative Lutheran options in the U.S.

    But besides the question of the ordination of women, what's really interesting (at least to me) is how the Laestadians in Finland and Sweden have carved out an existence for themselves within the larger national churches. Here in the U.S. they have largely isolated themselves from the broader Lutheran populaces out of a desire for confessional and practical purity, but in the "homeland" they are part of the broader and more comprehensive church.

    I would expect, therefore, that as a result they are moderated, at least a bit, by having pastors attend the national churches' theological schools, participating in the broader synodical government, sitting next to more mainstream parishioners, and the like. But at the same time, the Laestadians there also have the opportunity to influence the beliefs and practices of the broader church. Here in the U. S., they are certainly better able to maintain their own doctrinal and practical purity, but they are also significantly sidelined, in that few very Christians, even Lutherans, know of them.

  2. According to the linked article, the pastor in question is part of the LEAF (Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland) movement. The LEAF website lists Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg (1811-1893) as the founder of the Finnish evangelical movement, having ministered in southwest Finland. It doesn't mention Lars Levi Laestadius. So I would think that the pastor in the discrimination case is not Laestadian. The English introduction to the LEAF website is here: http://www.sley.fi/inenglish

  3. The pastor in the discrimination case is not Laestadian. The Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland has several non-Laestadian "churches within the church" in the same way as the different Laestadian faction are "churches within the church". Some of them are very much opposed to the ordination of women. As it is becoming more and more difficult for those people to exist inside the "state" church, there are indications that they will eventually end up outside of it. The big question is whether they will be able to form a big united conservative Lutheran church or if there will be many smaller churches.

    In fact, the biggest Laestadian faction in Finland, the SRK (whose equivalent in the US is the LLC), tends to be far more ready to cooperate with female pastors than some of the conservative non-Laestadian communities within the Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland. They are officially opposed to ordination of women, but that doesn't necessarily show in their actions. Lutherans pastors who are part of that faction are allowed to serve with female pastors and member of that faction also are allowed to take communion from female priests. The OALC and ALC are stricter in this regard. The OALC members are not supposed to go to church if there is a female pastor officiating, and they are also expected to leave if they come to church and see that there is a female pastor. When the OALC in Finland has communion in connection with their meetings, they go to the Lutheran "state" church, but make an arrangement that there won't be any female pastors. If that is not possible, they will not include a communion servive in the meeting program. They also specifically ask to get a male pastor to do their baptisms, weddings and funerals.

  4. Many Finnish SRK laestadian believers, especially younger ministers of the Lutheran Church who also are members of SRK support ordination of women. Some of them have publicly requested SRK to rethink its position in this matter.

  5. Anonymous wrote:

    "Many Finnish SRK laestadian believers, especially younger ministers of the Lutheran Church who also are members of SRK support ordination of women. Some of them have publicly requested SRK to rethink its position in this matter."

    I do agree, yes, this is one of the most interesting lines in the discussion inside the SRK-Laestadian movement in Finland.

    If interesested, you will find
    here information on the meeting in at the Helsinki Assembly of Peace (Rauhanyhdistys):


    and a statement by a Laestadian priest Stiven Naatus on this issue:


    (just in Finnish, but by using Google translate you might find the main lines of the story).

    However, there has been a hearsay about an interrogation (healing meeting) held at the Helsinki Assembly of Peace to blaim one of the priests. He was one of the priests who have recently openly given statements in the media about his supporting views towards ordination for Laestadian women.