"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The Power of "I'm Sorry"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Power of "I'm Sorry"

As election year heats up and divisive politics rule the day, I hope you are as touched by this story as I was. Even though I can't, as an "ex," speak on behalf of Laestadians, let me say that I am so sorry for the pain the church has caused our gay sisters and brothers. So sorry.

(By the way, you don't have to register to make a comment anymore. Please leave a comment and tell us what's on your mind.)



  1. EX FALC says:

    I agree with you and it makes me sad for all who have been hurt. The sad thing is that as a child, I really didn't have a realistic view of the world and I didn't know any better. We grew up only concerned about anyone in our "church group". I totally reject that worldview now. There are so many great people in the world that I have met through the years. The problem is that their is an element of the church that is very judgmental and is very powerful. When a decent rational person wants to voice their opinion, their is no way to get their voice heard. This is why many of those people have left, and the church is becoming more extreme. The FALC is very nervous about the power of the internet and made some FALC members take down a FALC church page on facebook a few years ago. I have to wonder what the motives were behind that.

  2. I'll preface my remarks by stating I still attend the FALC, though purely for the family/community aspect as religiously I consider myself a Rational Spiritualist or Freethinker (hence my moniker). Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the FALC (and I'm sure all churches of the Laestadian tradition) is still an unfriendly place for openly gay people, and frankly I don't see that changing much in my lifetime. Overcoming centuries of ingrained dogma does not occur overnight.

    Having said that, I must politely disagree with EX FALC in regard to the FALC becoming more extreme. I would argue they're more or less the same as they've always been, if not perhaps even a little more liberal as most of the younger generations (those who grew up with 'wordly' influences like TV and Internet) get older. You can argue their current 'official' views (we're the only ones who are saved, mild homophobia etc.) are extreme, but it's just as extreme as it's always been.

    Just my two cents, I don't want to get into another vicious fight like before. As I said, I disagree with the official church stance on just about everything, but at the end of the day the vast majority of the people I meet/know are good, kindhearted souls, and it strikes me as bad juju to singlemindedly paint everyone with a broad, extremist brush.

  3. Also, in the spirit of the link posted by Free2beme, I'd like to say "I'm sorry" if members of the FALC mistreated you in any way. I'd like to think it's not what I would have done.

    For many, including most of the posters on this Web site, leaving the Apostolic/Laestadian church or any of its iterations was a positive thing in their life. I certainly understand and don't begrudge anyone their choice to do so.

  4. I'd like to echo your thoughts, Free. I am very sorry as well for what has been done and the hurts that have been inflicted.

  5. Many readers here will remember Markus, who blogged about living life as a gay Laestadian before cancer stole him away. I am making plans to visit Minneapolis in July and it saddens me greatly that I won't be seeing Markus. I will be meeting other extoots readers, however. Let me know if you'd like to join us for coffee. You can email me directly at seattlehorn (at) gmail (dot) com.

  6. Eyeswideopen said...
    I wish I could meet you for coffee. I have you to thank for starting this blog, and because of that I was able to be comforted that I was not the only one in that terrible situation...a Laestadian questioning the truthfulness of Laestadianim. All of us here know how that is, without the need for tons of explanation; something not found elsewhere. You have to be one to know one :) Reading this blog brought so much to light for me and answered so many questions.

    Thank you also for bringing back the anonymous feature! Hopefully this blog will get more active again. I have really enjoyed it over the years and it has been a great help for me on my journey. I hope it continues to help others as it has for me.

  7. Thank you for comments, everyone . . . and for the kind words about the blog, Eyes. Lately I've been laid low by grief and it feels good to think that this blog has been helpful to others.

  8. When we are born into a religion and are told what to believe and what is right and what is wrong, we then head out into the world doing as we were taught...as good little children. We didn't think about the gay people we hurt by being good.

    We believed our parents and the churches ideology and only upon growing older, having experiences with different folks, do we begin to question the truth of what we were taught.

    It is my belief, that if they can keep us away from outside influences, we would be none the wiser.

    The only way strict cult like religions can function is to limit the access to other ways of life.

    We can hardly be blamed for what we were taught...Brain Washing means you don't freely think, but blindly follow.

    It is even hard to have regrets for having a mind that was under the influences of a fear based ideas.

    The blogs are a good place to share experiences and to allow others to see a different viewpoint. To even dare ponder a new thought.

    If I was in charge of the churches, I would be feeling less control, for the access to the internet is huge.

    Just connecting with folks on this blog would be impossible. And to speak without names, allows even the most fearful to engage by reading if not commenting.

    Beth (Huhta) Jukuri

  9. EX FALC says...

    To free thinker...hard to believe now (since I have been out for a long time), but I was once in your shoes. I disagreed with just about all of the religious doctrine. None of it made sense to me. I stayed because of the family and friends connection, so to an extent I understand that. But what would be your breaking point to leave, or would you ever? To understand my point of view, you need to know where I am coming from and what I have experience in my life. My awakening began when I met and married someone that grew up in a well known cult where people were murdered and it made national news. Even now some of them still have some of the religious beliefs. What some people will do for religion is difficult for me to comprehend. I realize they will never change so I keep my distance from most of them.

    So, back to my awakening...when me and my spouse began looking at our childhood and all the control mechanisms that were placed on us, we realized together how similar our childhoods were. My spouse really helped me get over my issues with the FALC, but for my spouse, healing will take a lifetime and the scars will never completely heal. Today neither of us have much interest in religion. I have spent a lot of time trying to help my spouse heal from a horrible childhood. My spouse has a lot of depression issues because my spouse went through abuse as a child that would just blow your mind. My spouse's view of the FALC is that it is a very dangerous religion and has the capability of inflicting significant damage to a person's mind and identity. Remember this is coming from a person who grew up in a well known cult. Does the FALC hurt everyone? No. But we have seen and talked to people it has hurt. Do we dare to take the chance that what has happened to some in the FALC, could happen to us, or our kids? Just because some of the people are nice to hang out with? No way. There are millions of nice people in the world. We have seen enough hurt caused by religion, we will just keep our distance from it.

  10. EX FALC,

    My "breaking point" would be the second the bad outweighed the good. I was extremely fortunate growing up in that I (and my family) did not experience any of the trauma (sexual or otherwise) that has affected a number of former FALC members. Indeed, my memories of church growing up are mostly positive -- outside of boredom and antipathy -- and the disagreements I have with the church came later in life as a process of developing my own philosophy.

    I don't worry about that trauma affecting my children and family, and so I will continue to be part of the flock as it were. While I disagree with Christianity in general, if you're going to have a message pounded into your noggin week after week, there are worse ones than forgiveness. To be honest, religion is hardly discussed at all among FALC members outside of church, and while it bothers some people -- notably those who left to become Grace Apostles -- I appreciate it. It's nice just being able to have a community of likeminded families and friends to visit, play golf with, etc.

    (While I am not technically likeminded in re: Christianity, these people do share my moral, familial and political values).

  11. I was reading the Columbian and I wonder if 'I am sorry' is going to be sufficient for the victims of the Laestadian Ponzi Scheme which was mentioned. It turns out that some Apostolic Lutheran type out east was running his own 'trust fund' and he lost $20 million or more of church people's money. (Staying anonymous on this one)

  12. BTW, my above post should include the word "apathy" instead of "antipathy." Sometimes I get too verbose for my own good.

    I have relatives in South Carolina, Greenville area, and there are several different Apostolic churches. Apparently they are offshoots of ALC churches from the New Hampshire area ... does anyone know if they are ALC, IALC, or what? (Just curious).

  13. EX FALC says
    Free thinker, I wonder what the FALC would think of you if they know your true identity...My view of the FALC is like a fraternity...keep status quo and you will fit in. Attend your one hour church service each week (which I slept through and never paid attention to) and then go hang out with your fraternity friends to play a round of golf or watch the vikings game. Truth is, it isn't really a church...More like a social club.

    Yes, there are some ALC churches out east and some IALC churches, but the IALC churches are much less organized than the ALC. The IALC has traveling ministers that go from one congregation to another and because of that, they don't have church every Sunday. I know it is like that in MN, WI and MI, but not sure how it is out east. I have been to church services in all the major laestadian groups. I think they share a lot of similarities, and the differences are minor. Kinda funny what is important to each group. For example, FALC and IALC refuse to put a cross on a church and don't pay ministers. Women members of IALC members can have their ears pierced and wear makeup. LLC members kids can't play school sports. Women members of the OALC have to wear a scarf on their heads during the church service.

    I am interested in hearing more about the ponzi scheme an ALC member was involved in. He is not the only Laestadian follower involved in criminal activity. There was a LLC member who was indicted on multi million dollar mortage fraud two years ago. His name is Richard Laho and he lived in Buffalo MN. I am not sure what his prison sentence was but his case is public information. http://www.startribune.com/business/88919982.html

  14. (Freethinker)

    EX FALC,

    Some would no doubt express concern were they to read my views. Some would agree to disagree, and leave it at that. Some wouldn't care. Some can probably already guess my identity. I don't think I would be shunned ... at the same time, I don't feel it necessary to rock the boat and shove my philosophical views in their faces. They're content believing what they believe, and I'm ok with that.

    It absolutely is more like a social club. And as I said, that's what I like about it. I've got a ton of friends and family I enjoy spending time with. I also think it's gotten less exclusionary over the years, for instance at hockey every week there are a number of guys who've left the church, and nobody cares. We're there to play hockey and have a good time.

    I've always been curious to know what it's like at other ALC/LLC churches. I was fascinated by Ed's book and the history of the church. It's always been my contention that most of the splits have been "cult of personality" conflicts, and the dogmatic differences probably are so minor that outsiders couldn't tell the difference (though my mother would vehemently disagree -- all the others are heretics who lost the faith, etc. "They're law-minded and not 'grace' minded" is the usual argument).

    I wonder if members of any of the other churches still "rejoice." There is a vivid description elsewhere on this site -- I think it was IALC -- of women running up and down the aisles waving their arms and speaking in tongues, etc. The last time I saw someone rejoice was about 20 years ago at St. John's, an elderly lady kept screaming "Thank you God" over and over. Is that a thing they used to do back in the olden days? Do people still do that at other churches?

    In regard to criminal activity, my guess is the rate is probably no more or less than the general population at large. There are some who claim the church (pick your denomination) is a hotbed of sexual molestation and pedophilia. I'm sure if that was something you suffered, it would de facto appear that way. Do such people exist? Unfortunately. Is it a "hotbed?" Again, I'd guess the rate is the same as anywhere else, and it's certainly not endemic to the church itself, at least in my experience.

    (Please note I am not trying to play down the effect of these horrible crimes or start another flame war. We can all agree that abuse of any kind is abhorrent and should not be tolerated in a civil society).

  15. That kind of rejoicing still occurs to some extent in the OALC in Finland and Sweden, not so much in Norway and the US. Most often they walk/run/jump around and keep repeating "Thank you Lord Jesus" in a loud voice, sometimes clapping their hands. This takes place at the end of the sermon, while people go to the preachers and ask for forgiveness. Often a big crowd of people gathers around the preachers in the "altar" area of the church at the end of the sermon and ask the preachers and each other for forgiveness. Especially in America, and to some extent in Finland, it is relatively common that this takes place also in the pews, while especially in Norway all the action takes place around the preachers. In America it seems like this part of the service is usually much louder than elsewhere, a lot of crying and asking for forgiveness in a sad, crying voice, while in Europe, it is done in a more subdued voice.

    1. I am writing as a current member of the IALC. There is "rejoicing" but not speaking in tongues. Rejoicing is typically expressions of joy in some form, like jumping up or screaming or running all around the church or standing and crying. It is generally loud but not always. I have not seen anyone crying for forgiveness or going up to the altar, although I have only been a member of the church since young adulthood.

  16. A correction here: The IALC does not have a tradition of speaking in tongues.

  17. Hibernatus, your description of OALC rejoicing is in some respects very similar to the current FALC tradition of Communion/forgiveness, in that there is a lot of crying and asking for blessings, etc. though it tends to be quite subdued. From descriptions I've read of historical Laestadianism, current worship bears little resemblance to the loud and raucous rejoicing of past "Awakenings.” I remember reading that Copper Country Apostolics were once known "Hihhulis," an apparent reference to the sound worshipers made as they rejoiced/wept. (There’s also the still-used nickname "Bangers," short for Bible-Bangers, which none of our ministers do any more either. It was always a pain trying to explain to outsiders the differences between the Bangers, Bunners, and Hoyvelainens (the latter is spelled here phonetically)).

    Personally, I've always kind of admired the "Praise Jesus Hallelujah" rhythmic swaying/clapping/stomping traditions of "urban" Christian churches. Making worship a celebration seems more fun than hearing the same monotone exhortations week after week.

    Also, my apologies for the IALC speaking in tongues remark. It was a careless and lazy bit of misremembering.

  18. Wow, I did not know where the term "Bible Bangers" came from...now I do.

    And are not the Bunners and the Hoyvelainens the same?

    Very interesting to watch its evolution too....from splits to what naturally falls away.

    Beth Jukuri

  19. I always thought the Hoyve's were the Laurium Apostolics, which I think are ALC.

  20. I think you're meaning "huivilainens," the practice of women wearing scarves on their heads during worship services. When my grandma talked about them, she meant the OALC in her Gackle, ND community.

  21. So I just asked my wife, who grew up in the U.P. (I grew up in MN), and apparently I've had it wrong all these years. Huivilainens = Bunners = OALC. FALC = Bangers. The ALC church in Laurium was just the "Laurium side."

    Where I grew up it was just Laestadians and Apostolics (FALC), and that's just what we called each other (except for "heretics" once in a while :)

  22. Does anybody have a link to the piece Bob Pieti wrote several years ago in regard to the FALC? There used to be a yahoo group that had it but I can't find it anywhere anymore.

  23. I had read that too years ago. I wonder if he is still online. It was very interesting to read about the inner workings of the board and ministers.

  24. Many may misunderstand FALC. They may not understand why we ask others for their blessing and for our sins to be forgiven. I will never be perfect, I sin all of the time. But to have that all forgiven just comes with believing that all your sins are forgiven. My soul feels so free after I have been blessed. It's so simple, just to believe and accept. I feel so much joy when I think that I am saved and I want to share that with my friends and family. I want to share the joy and peace knowing that they are saved as well. It is not for show. It is not for control. Blessing is a gift that is to be shared, but the other person has to accept this gift, to believe it for it to work.I am crying as I write this for I wish everyone could feel the joy that is in my heart. A joy god has given, but god cannot help you if you push him out, refuse him regardless.

    Imperfectlady I have read that you never want to recover. What a horrible thing, to have to hold onto something and forever have it be there, never finding any peace. To never heal. I do not know details of what many have wrote, I do not know if what is said is true. But the things you say could happen anywhere, and It does.

    People do write things out of anger. Out of fear. To condemn a whole because of the actions of a few would be wrong. We are all sinners. God did not condemn us all because we are sinners, instead he saved us and sent his only son to die on the cross for us, to wash away our sins.

  25. "I feel so much joy when I think that I am saved and I want to share that with my friends and family."

    If that is the case, why doesn't the FALC do any mission work in the community? Why do they keep to themselves? Why don't they want to share their so called precious gospel? You don't have to walk into that church to believe your sins are forgiven.

  26. In reply to Anonymous on Aug 20th.

    We don't do mission work like that because it teaches people that through our works we are saved, which is not what we believe in. We don't raise money, we do not ask the community to give our church any sort of donations.

    We believe that your holy spirit must be awakened and if it is it will guide you to your faith. It is not that we will not share it. We keep to ourselves because we understand each other. We have the same faith. The way others mock like you have just done is hurtful, would you choose to be around people that mock and hurt you for what you believe in if you had the choice?

  27. Anonymous:

    What about James 2:14-26? (Faith without works is dead).

    In any event, your last paragraph is among my biggest disagreements with our church (I say "our" as a dues-paying member). It appears on its face absurd that out of all the billions of people in the world, many if not most begging God for the "holy spirit" to show them the way, only a tiny handful of less than 100 asked God in the proper manner. If that's your version of God, that is one selective, vengeful, and even cruel God. No thanks.

    I also dislike the persecution complex some people in our church have. Don't kid yourselves: to the extent we are "mocked," it is because we are insular and exclusionary, and don't make much of an effort to connect with outsiders. Not to mention, we do more than our fair share of mocking those outsiders, to say nothing of homosexuals etc.

    1. The way that "faith without works is dead" is interpreted, at least by the IALC, is that through faith, you have the desire to do spontaneous "good works". But we are not supposed to get credit or make a shoe of these good works, or do them in a deliberate or attention seeking way.

      There is supposed to be a trust that God will bring people to the church and faith, and that is how new people come in. We are also told that if we "bear the fruits of faith" that people will be drawn to us and come to the church through us.

      Arguing and judging people who are in this faith isn't going to do you or them any good. We are all on our own journey. Don't take it personally if someone believes something and you don't. It's not about you :)

    2. I mean "make a show of" instead of "make a shoe of"! Sorry!

    3. Hi current IALC. Glad you found a faith community in the IALC, and I hope its a place where you feel you have a home in which you feel supported, loved, and part of a community. No one here would want to interfere with that. This blog here is to support people who have already left or are considering leaving the church. I would assume, since you're "from the world" if you left today, you would still have your own bio-family who would support you, but things might get complicated with your IALC family--perhaps you married into the church? If you can remember when you converted into the church--did you ever have conflicting feelings about the church "being the only ones?" yet wanting to be part of your fiance's family and seeing much good and even fun in the people and in the lifestyle? You were able to make a choice and you decided you wanted IN, so you confessed your faith, asked forgiveness for your sins, and went into the communion line. Hopefully everything has been good for you ever since.

      What about those who had no choice, they were born in the church, and decide, after two, three, or six decades later that they cannot live with the exclusivity doctrine? If they want to leave, they may have family members who judge, gossip, criticize or condemn them, or may even tell people their family member is "crazy" because they decide to leave?

      Well, of course, some people who leave are not necessarily bitter or hateful, or wish to judge people in the church. They might have lifelong friends who deserted them, and even family members who have judged or even shunned THEM for having left the church. But they do not necessarily have a bio-family to turn to for support, because they were born and raised in the church. You are absolutely right that we are all on our own journeys here. You're probably one of the people who, being "from the world" don't judge the ones who left, and you're probably kind to everyone. You may even have seen some of the things that happen to people who opt-out, maybe heard unkind things from a sniping sister-in-law who criticizes everyone she sees as not fitting her worldview or a mother-in-law who can't stop gossiping--for example--since I have no idea who you actually are.

      I'm sure you're a force for good in the IALC! Thanks for being there! --Ex-IALC of 23

  28. Thanks bunches for this. I attended on OALC in Wilmington, NC for a long time and loved the congregation. I was very welcomed. I left for fear that if they found out I was gay, they would shun me (which is probably very true). I still think of them often and wonder what would have happened had I not been gay.

  29. Thank you for writing, Anonymous above. There are many gay men and women in the OALC and other Laestadian churches who are suffering.

    Markus was one of them, and if he had lived longer, his voice would have reached more people through is blog: http://gaylaestadian.blogspot.com/

    Perhaps you would consider writing a guest post about your experiences?


  30. I am an ex member of Independent Apostolic Lutheran--- I have been out for 10 years but it still causes issues in my life especially with my family. I am so glad my "googling" brought up this site. I think that IALC is a church shrouded in secrecy, cynicism, fear and absolute hypocrisy. I love my family and friends from there and just wish this ridiculous doctrine did not have such a hold on them and cause such rifts in people's lives. I'm functioning very well and don't think of it that often but when I do it has come to the point of just being annoying. What a joke it all is!

  31. I am a current member of the IALC in Minnesota. It's a total disaster! I have no family of my own so I am stuck. It's ok though. Most of the congregation is starting to leave me alone, which is good. It is a social club. The immediate family is absolutely more important to most people that go. They will disagrree but they are full of it. Little clicks here and there like high school. everything is about making money to these people too. but there is alot of outside influences penetrating this religion so it won't be long before the entire thing falls down. The main families will eventually seperate from the non family people, which is growing. non family people are close to outnumbering the blood line, lifers. everything that used to be wrong happens all the time now in this church. it's actually pretty funny. the original families, lifers, just don't care, because they have their family (religion is an excuse to these people to gather, a habit.). they are building larger churches to house all these people that really don't believe in their teachings. it's kinda funny. they say people from the outside make fun of them. that's not true. they, this religion, isn't religion, but family based. they are just like everybody else. they say this to make it seem like they are special or something. bottom line. their are tons of people who attend this church regularly that don't believe in their relegion. no one cares, it's a social club, don't mess with my family and you can do whatever you want. most things they are forbidden to do are gone. they pretty much do everything everybody else does. most go just to feel better and visit with family.