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Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Classification Protestant
Orientation Lutheranism
Polity Episcopal
Primate Archbishop of Turku
Associations Conference of European Churches
Lutheran World Federation
Porvoo Communion
World Council of Churches
Region Finland
Origin 1809
Separated from Church of Sweden
Members 4,034,235 (73.7%)[1]
Official website Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Official Website

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (Finnish: Suomen evankelis-luterilainen kirkko; Swedish: Evangelisk-lutherska kyrkan i Finland) is a national church of Finland. A member of the Porvoo Communion, the Church professes the Lutheran branch of Christianity, and is actively involved in ecumenical relations. It is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is Finland's largest religious body. By the end of 2014, 73.7% of Finns were members of the Church.[1] With four million members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world. The head of the Church is the current Archbishop of Turku Kari Mäkinen, who succeeded Jukka Paarma on 1 June 2010.


  • History 1
    • Catholic bishopric 1.1
    • Part of the Church of Sweden 1.2
    • An independent state church 1.3
    • Disestablished national Church 1.4
  • Position in Finnish society 2
  • Teachings 3
  • Organisation 4
    • Pastoral formation 4.1
    • Dioceses and bishops 4.2
    • Current bishops 4.3
  • See also 5
  • Other Nordic Evangelical-Lutheran churches 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Catholic bishopric

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland traces its lineage from the medieval Diocese of Turku which more or less coincides geographically with present-day Finland.[2] Christianity was introduced to Finland slowly. The first sign of Christianity can be found in prehistorical burial sites dated to the 11th century. Based on etymological evidence, it seems that the very first influences came from Eastern Christianity.[3] The archaeological evidence shows that in the middle 12th century, Christianity was already dominant in the region around present-day Turku. A later legend recounts a crusade dated around 1054, but no contemporary or archaeological evidence backs the story. The legend of the martyr-bishop St. Henry founding the Finnish Church is also most likely fictional.[4] The introduction of Christianity was mostly a peaceful, slow process, and at the same time, Finland was integrated with Sweden. The first historical bishop whose name is known was Thomas who lived in the first half of the 13th century. The ecclesiastical hierarchy was finally established during the Second Swedish Crusade

During the Middle Ages, the Diocese of Turku was under the primacy of the Archbishop of Uppsala, mirroring the country's Swedish political rule. The diocese had a school, making it capable of educating its own priests, and several Finns also studied abroad in the universities of Paris and Germany. Before the Reformation the most important monastic orders active in the bishopric were the Franciscans, Dominicans and the order of the Bridgettines. The liturgy of the diocese followed the Dominican model.[5]

Part of the Church of Sweden

The sixteenth-century Hollola church which was converted during the Reformation.

The Swedish Reformation was started during the reign of King Gustav Vasa in 1527 and reached its conclusion in 1560. Sweden, like other Nordic countries, adopted the Lutheran form of Protestantism. In Finland, Kuusisto Castle, the medieval residence of the Bishops of Turku, and most monastic estates were confiscated by the Swedish crown. The first Lutheran Bishop of Turku was Martinus Johannis Skytte, the former Vicar General of the Dominican Province of Dacia. He retained most of the old Catholic forms within the Diocese, which was part of the now-independent Church of Sweden.[6]

The doctrinal reformation of Finnish Church took place during the episcopacy of Mikael Agricola, who had studied at the University of Wittenberg under Martin Luther. He translated the New Testament and large portions of Old Testament into Finnish. In addition, he authored a large amount of Finnish liturgical texts in the spirit of reformation, while preserving a number of decidedly Catholic customs such as the retention of many holy days, e.g., Visitation of Mary, Holy Cross Day, and use of the bishop's mitre. The images and sculptures of saints were retained in the churches, although they were no longer as venerated.[7][8][9] Agricola was also the first Bishop of Turku who was married.[10]

The seal of the Diocese of Turku during the 16th and 17th centuries featured the finger of St Henry. The post-Reformation diocese included the relic of a pre-Reformation saint in its seal.

By the end of the 16th century, the Swedish Reformation was finally complete, and the following century is known as the period of Lutheran orthodoxy. Membership in the Church was obligatory, as was weekly attendance at Divine Service. In newly conquered Finnish Karelia, the Lutheran Church suppressed the Eastern Orthodoxy of the local population, which drove a large number to Russia. The Church at this time also started laying the foundations for comprehensive education, where every person was required to know the basics tenets of the Faith. To ensure this, parish vergers incurred the duty of instructing children in reading and in the Catechism. The education of priests was also improved, not least with the founding of The Royal Academy of Turku. The educational system formed at this time was codified in the Church Act of 1686.

In the early 18th century, Finland was occupied by Russia for a decade in the Great Northern War. It took several decades to recover. A large portion of Finland was annexed by Russia, where the Lutheran church remained active despite being under Russian rule. The two branches of Finnish Lutheranism were reunited in the early 19th century. In both Russia and Sweden, Lutheranism was greatly affected by the theology of Enlightenment which had the effect of secularizing the Church. This, and the lavish lifestyle of parish vicars, caused public resentment which became visible in local, popular revival movements.[11]

An independent state church

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is a successor to the Church of Sweden of which it was a part until 1809, when the Grand Duchy of Finland was established as a part of the Russian Empire. After this, the church shared the state church status with the Finnish Orthodox Church. In 1869, A new Church Act was passed by the Finnish Lantdag. The Act separated Church and the State, giving the Church its own legislative body known as the central Synod. Changes in ecclesiastical form could only be made by the central Synod, which had the sole right to propose changes to the Church Act. These changes could subsequently either be passed or vetoed by the Lantdag and the Russian Emperor.[12] A year before, Lutheran parishes were differentiated from the secular municipalities, with both being given their own finances and administrative bodies. The general responsibility for comprehensive education and for the care of the poor was transferred from the Church to the secular municipalities. The Church accepted this separation from the state without qualms, as it wished to gain more independence, and considering that the head of state was the Orthodox Russian Emperor, complete integration with the state had been problematic for the Church.[13]

In 1889 an act was passed allowing other Christian religions to act freely in the country. The members of the Lutheran Church were given the right to leave the church to join other Christian communities.[14] Since 1923 it has been possible to leave the state church without having to join another religious congregation.

For the Church itself, the 19th century was marked by several revivalist movements, four of which were particularly prominent. These movements were:

The revivalist movements were all born during the first half of the century. They met strong opposition from the bishops and the educated part of the population, but drew large followings in the countryside. In modern Finnish histriography, the revivalist movements have been considered to be a part of the social upheaval caused by the modernization of society.[13][15]

The Cathedral of Turku is considered the national shrine of Finland, and is the seat of its de facto primate.

In the late 19th century, the Church started to face opposition from

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland – official site
  • The Church in Finland today- thisisFINLAND
  • Finnish Seamen's Mission
  • Finnish Church in London, U.K.
  • Catechism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland

External links

  1. ^ a b c d [1] 5 February 2015
  2. ^ The table of Bishops and Archbishops of Turku Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  3. ^ Kristinuskon varhaisvaiheet Suomessa Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  4. ^ Vuolanto, V. Kristinusko tuli Suomeen yli 850 vuotta sitten. Sana. Kansan Raamattuseura. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish) Archived 24 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Piippo, M. Kerjäläisveljestöjen saapuminen Itämerelle. Historiallisia papereita 7. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  6. ^ Martti Skytte (Martinus Johannis), 1528–50. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  7. ^ Entisiä pyhäpäiviä. Retrieved 23 November 2007. (Finnish)
  8. ^ Pirinen, H. Luterilaisen kirkkointeriöörin muotoutuminen Suomessa. Retrieved 23 November 2007. (Finnish) Archived 7 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Paarma, J. (2005) Seurakunnallista elämää Maskun Hemmingin aikana. Retrieved 23 November 2007. (Finnish)
  10. ^ Mikael Agricola. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  11. ^ Suomen kirkkohistoria. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  12. ^ Kirkkolaki vai laki kirkosta. Hallinto-oikeudellinen tutkimus kirkon oikeudellisista normeista ja niiden synnystäLeino, P. . Abstract. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  13. ^ a b 1800-luku – kirkon itsenäistymisen ja herätysliikkeiden aika Suomessa. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  14. ^ Suomen uskonnonvapauden historia. Retrieved 10 October 2007 (Finnish)
  15. ^ Kansan- ja herätysliikkeet tutkimuskohteina. Retrieved 10 October 2007 (Finnish)
  16. ^ Kalleinen, K. Monumentti monumentista. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  17. ^ UE5 Mihin suomalainen uskoo? Retrieved 10 October 2007
  18. ^ (Finnish)Peura, S. Esitelmä Teuvalla Ingman-seminaarissa 30 July 2005. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  19. ^ Yle Elävä arkisto. Jumalanpilkka oikeudenkäynti. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  20. ^ Nykänen, M. Rukouspäivät. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  21. ^ Uusi virsikirja täyttää adventtina 10 vuotta. The information center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  22. ^ Raamatun lukijalle. Pyhä Raamattu. Suomen evankelisluterilaisen kirkon kirkolliskokouksen vuonna 1992 hyväksymä käännös. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  23. ^ Naispappeuden vaiheita. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  24. ^ Population structure: Religion 24 March 2014 Statistics Finland
  25. ^ Internet Deconstructing State Church in Finland.
  26. ^ "Up to 18,000 leave Lutheran Church over statements on gay current affairs programme", Helsingin Sanomat, 18 October 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  27. ^ Mikko Alanne, "30,000 Leave Church in Finland over Gay Rights: A lesson in homophobia", Huffington Post, 21 October 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  28. ^ "Wallin blames Räsänen for church's PR disaster", Helsinki Times, 18 October 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  29. ^ Pastoral instruction concerning free prayer with and for those who have registered their civil partnership (in Finnish).
  30. ^ Suomen ev.lut kirkon tunnustuskirjat. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  31. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki 1:1§. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  32. ^ Catechism, Christian doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, p. 2. Retrieved 11 October 2007. Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ a b c d Catechism, Christian doctrine of EVL, pp. 32, 35–57, 43–44. Retrieved 11 October 2007. Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ a b c d Catechism, Christian doctrine of EVL, pp. 16, 18–22. Retrieved 11 October 2007. Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Johdanto piispainkokouksen parisuhdetyöryhmän lausuntoon. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  36. ^ Liian paljon?Huovinen, E. Kotimaa 26 July 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  37. ^ Acricola 2007 -juhlavuosi. Mikael Agricolan Piispanvihkimyksen 450-Vuotismuisto. Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  38. ^ (1055/1993)Kirkkojärjestys 2:13§. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  39. ^ a b Catechism, Christian doctrine of EVL, pp. 67–70, 74–78. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  40. ^ (1055/1993)Kirkkojärjestys 2:9–12§. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  41. ^ Hiilamo:Kirkon yhteiskunnallinen rooli mullistui. Sana 19 December 2005. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  42. ^ [2]] Statement on the Future of the Welfare Society by the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, March 1999. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  43. ^ Kenen puolella kirkko on? Puheenvuoro. Helsingin hiippakunta. Retrieved 11 October 2007. (Finnish)
  44. ^ Helsingin Seurakuntayhtymä Esittelylista 11/2007. Yhteinen kirkkoneuvosto. 8-16-2007. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  45. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki. 3:2 §. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  46. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki. 4:1 §. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  47. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki. 6B:13 §, 8:1 § and 4:2§. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  48. ^ Kirkollisvero. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  49. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki. 7:1 § and 22:8. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  50. ^ (895/1941)Laki kirkon keskusrahastosta 8 §. Retrieved 11 October 2007
  51. ^ (1054/1993)Kirkkolaki. 7:2 §. Retrieved 10 October 2007. (Finnish)
  52. ^ K. Niemelä, Suomalaisten Uskonnollisuus Uuden Vuosituhannen Alussa. Retrieved 2009-06-01. (Finnish).
  53. ^ Scheme outlined on the Church's website (in English).
  54. ^ Deails of Bishop's Conference and Chaplain General to the Defence Forces (in English) here.
  55. ^ The Finnish Military Bishop is a special case, as it is only a rank and the officeholder is not technically considered an actual bishop. Unlike the Military Ordinariates of other countries, the Military Bishop does not govern a diocese, with clergy still under the jurisdiction of their posts' respective territorial bishops.


Other Nordic Evangelical-Lutheran churches

See also

Current bishops

Diocese Founded Cathedral Incumbent
Archdiocese of Turku 1156 Turku Cathedral Archbishop Kari Mäkinen (2010– ),
Bishop Kaarlo Kalliala (2011– )
Diocese of Tampere 1554 Tampere Cathedral Bishop Matti Repo (2008– )
Diocese of Oulu 1851 Oulu Cathedral Bishop Samuel Salmi (2001– )
Diocese of Mikkeli 1897 Mikkeli Cathedral Bishop Seppo Häkkinen (2009– )
Diocese of Borgå 1923 Porvoo Cathedral Bishop Björn Vikström (2009– )
Diocese of Kuopio 1939 Kuopio Cathedral Bishop Jari Jolkkonen (2012– )
Diocese of Lapua 1959 Lapua Cathedral Bishop Simo Peura (2004– )
Diocese of Helsinki 1959 Helsinki Cathedral Bishop Irja Askola (2010– )
Diocese of Espoo 2004 Espoo Cathedral Bishop Tapio Luoma (2012– )
Military Bishop[55] 1941 none Pekka Särkiö (2012– )

Eight dioceses are regional, with the remaining one covering all of the country’s Swedish-language parishes. The Church's supreme decision-making body is the Synod, which meets twice a year. Laymen comprise a majority of the Synod, but a fixed number of seats are reserved for the clergy. The Synod proposes changes in the Ecclesiastical Act and decides on the Ecclesiastical Order. The Synod deals with questions of doctrine and approves the books of the church. The Synod directs the Church's common activities, administration and finances. Congregational elections are held every four years to determine administrative posts at the local level.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is divided into nine dioceses. Each diocese is headed by a Bishop and a Cathedral Chapter. The Archdiocese of Turku is headed by the Archbishop, who is personally responsible for leading two Deaneries within that diocese. He is assisted by a Bishop of Turku who takes day-to-day responsibility for running the rest of the diocese,[53] leaving the Archbishop free for his duties of national leadership and international representation. The bishops meet together regularly in the Bishops' Conference, which has eleven members; these are the Archbishop, his assistant Bishop of Turku, the other eight diocesan bishops, and the Chaplain General of the Defence Forces, whose title is kenttäpiispa ("field bishop"), although he is not necessarily in bishop's Orders.[54]

Dioceses and bishops

In addition to religious worship, local Lutheran communities arrange many non-religious activities as well. In Finland as in other Nordic countries, most people go to church only occasionally, such as Christmas and weddings.[52]

In order to be eligible for the position of a Vicar General (Finnish: tuomiorovasti, Swedish: domprost) or Diocesan Dean (Finnish: hiippakuntadekaani, Swedish: stiftsdekan) the Higher Pastoral Degree of the Church (Finnish: ylempi pastoraalitutkinto, Swedish: högre pastoralexamen) is compulsory.

A Master's degree in Theology is compulsory before ordination. The Church also has its own vocational postgraduate educational system. A newly ordained pastor is eligible for the position of Parish Pastor (Finnish: seurakuntapastori, Swedish: församlingspastor; formerly Assistant Priest: Finnish: apupappi, Swedish: adjunkt). In order to be eligible for the position of Chaplain (Finnish: kappalainen, Swedish: kaplan) or Vicar (Finnish: kirkkoherra, Swedish: kyrkoherde), the Pastoral Degree of the Church (Finnish: pastoraalitutkinto, Swedish: pastoralexamen) is required. Before being able to apply for the post of Vicar, a degree in leadership skills (Finnish: Seurakuntatyön johtamisen tutkinto, Swedish: Examen i ledning av församlingsarbete) is also compulsory.

Pastoral formation

The structure of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is mainly based on geographical division. Every member belongs to the parish of their domicile, with parish boundaries following municipal boundaries. Large cities, on the other hand, are usually divided into several parishes, with the geographical location of the members' homes determining parish membership. The membership of a parish varies from a few hundred of a small municipalities to around 60.000 members of the parish of Malmi, Helsinki.[44][45] According to the Church Act, the parish is responsible for all the practical work performed by the church.[46] The parish is headed by the vicar and the parish council. Both are elected by the members, using equal, closed voting. The term of the parish council is four years, while the vicar is elected for life (or until he reaches 68 years of age.)[47] A parish is a legal person of public nature, capable of taxing its members. The amount of tax collected is decided by the parish council and falls between 1–2.25 percent of personal income. In practice, the tax is collected by the state, for a fee.[48] Financially, the parishes are responsible for themselves. However, poor parishes can be assisted by the central administration. On the other hand, all parishes are responsible for contributing 10 percent of their income to the central administration of the church and the dioceses.[49][50] The day-to-day affairs of the parish administration are taken care of by the vicar and the parish board, elected by the parish council. In cities, the parishes of the city have a common parish council but a separate parish boards.[51]

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanko from the Hanko water tower.


There were five Revivalist movements in the history of the Church: Beseecherism, Evangelicalism, The Fifth Revivalist Movement, The Laestadian movement and the pietist Awakening Movement.

The Church does not control its members strictly. Rituals such as weddings and funerals are often considered to be the most important reasons to remain a member.

The position of the Church on society has changed largely during the last century. While the Church was formerly considered to be a socially conservative force, it is now seen as leftist, even radical. The synod of bishops has in several occasions criticized the market economy sharply, and the Catechism calls repeatedly for moderation in private pursuits, e.g. equating profiteering and exploitative practices with theft. Publicly, the Church supports strongly the existing Finnish social welfare model, which it sees threatened especially by neoliberalism and globalization. This has led to the church being criticized from the political right for being the religious arm of social democracy. The church has answered that it takes no political sides but strives to work for the weakest in the society.[34][41][42][43]

The saving grace becomes visible in the two sacraments, the Holy Communion and Baptism. The baptism is administered even to children, as it is effective regardless of personal attitudes, "for Baptism and faith are God’s work in us." Any Christian may perform a valid baptism, but in normal cases, the priest should perform the sacrament. An emergency baptism performed by a member of the church must immediately be reported to the parish where the baptism took place.[38][39] In the Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Altar, Christ gives his own, real body and blood for people to eat and to drink. The Church practises closed Communion but does not put any limitations on its members for partaking the Holy Communion. The only prerequisite needed is faith, however fragile. Children may take part in Communion after their parents have instructed them to understand the meaning of Communion. If a person is in mortal danger and wishes to receive Holy Communion, any Christian is allowed to administer him a valid sacrament. Normally, nonetheless, the administering the sacrament is reserved to priests.[39][40] The ordination of women is allowed.

The central point of the Church doctrine, does not, however, lie in the areas of sexuality and creation but in the doctrine of justification. The human being is always a sinner, completely unable to reach God by his own merit. However, Christians are atoned by the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, completely undeservedly. The Christian is simultaneously a sinner and a righteous person.[33] At the end of time, the Christ will return and subject all to his judgment. Then everlasting perdition can only be avoided by Christ's mercy.[33]

The apostolic succession of the church is considered to have remained intact through the proper ordination of bishop Mikael Agricola, but it was broken in 1884, when all the Finnish Lutheran bishops died within a year. The succession remained valid in the Church of Sweden where it was returned from in the 1930s in the ordination of the bishop of Tampere. However, the concept of apostolic succession is important foremost in ecumenical contexts, particularly in dealings with the Anglican Communion. In the theology of the church herself, the valid signs of the church include only the "pure preaching of the gospel and the performance of the sacraments according to the decree of Christ"[36][37]

[35] issues, the Church has adopted a moderate position. The synod of bishops has stated that the sexual minorities should not be shunned or persecuted, but that they are, as all people, responsible for the applications of their sexuality. Homosexuals should refrain from practising sex, but they should be guided with love to understand their sexuality and the limitations and positive aspects caused by it.LBGT Abortion is accepted, because the church deems that the woman has the right to decide to terminate the pregnancy. However, the woman must not be left alone when she makes the decision. In [34]Divorce and subsequent remarriage is accepted, with reservations.
Sexuality disconnected from love and from responsibility enslaves people, bringing harm to themselves and others.
[34] The relation of the church to sexuality is somewhat ambiguous. It strictly condemns extramarital sex but in relation to pre-marital sex it states only[34] The Church allows its members to work as military personnel or as judges, considering these duties important to the welfare of the society.[33] and bodily birthThe Church accepts the doctrines of the
God is the Creator of all. With his word he created the entire universe. Science studies the mystery of the genesis of the world as well as the evolution of nature and people. Faith trusts that underlying all is God’s creative will and love for the creation.
[33] but statescreationismIn most contemporarily controversial doctrines, the Church takes a moderate position. The Church does not embrace

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland sees itself as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It is Lutheran in doctrine, following the teachings of Martin Luther. The church is a member of the Lutheran World Federation and the Porvoo Communion, but does not sign the Leuenberg Agreement. The faith of the Church is pronounced in the three confessions of the old church (Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) and the Lutheran confessional documents as defined in Liber concordiae[30][31] The practical faith is described in the Catechism of the church, which is based on and literally includes the Short Catechism of Martin Luther. The latest version of the Catechism was accepted by the General synod in 1999.[32]

A Juhannus ceremony.
A wedding in Kiuruvesi.


On 9 February 2011, the ELCF Bishops' Conference issued a "Pastoral instruction concerning free prayer with and for those who have registered their civil partnership", which can be conducted either privately or publically in a church with or without guests, but which is not to be confused with "the blessing of a parthership comparable to marriage".[29] Despite such a compromise, the exceeding number of Finns giving up their ELCF membership has shown no signs of decreasing. In 2014, the second biggest number of annual departures ever recorded took place, with 78,300 people leaving.[1] On the other hand, a record number of 15,701 people also joined the ELCF in 2014.[1]

Avoidance of the Church tax (between 1 and 2 percent depending on location) has been a popular reason cited for defections from the Church.[25] In 2010 the number of defections hit a record of 83,097, caused partly by an exposure of the Church's view that homosexuality is a sin on a Finnish television discussion programme broadcast on 12 October 2010 concerning gay rights, in which church clergy and laymen were divided both for and against proposed legal amendments to increase LGBT rights.[26][27] Indeed, Stefan Wallin, Finland's minister responsible for church affairs, accused Päivi Räsänen, the Christian Democrat leader, of deliberately taking a public position against homosexuality and gay rights in order to drive away from the church those people who might hold more liberal views on gay acceptance.[28]

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has a legal position as a national church in the country alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church. Finnish society has experienced a general secularization, and membership in the Church has decreased in recent decades. Nevertheless, the Church retains the allegiance of a large majority of the population, a special role in state ceremonies and the right to collect Church tax from its members in conjunction with governmental income taxation. In addition to membership tax, businesses also, to some extent, participate by a way of taxation in contributing financially to the Church.

Religion in Finland[24]
year Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Finnish Orthodox Church Other No religious affiliation
1950 95.7% 1.7% 0.4% 2.7%
1980 90.3% 1.1% 0.7% 7.8%
1990 87.9% 1.1% 0.9% 10.2%
2000 85.1% 1.1% 1.1% 12.7%
2005 83.1% 1.1% 1.1% 14.7%
2009 79.9% 1.1% 1.3% 17.7%
2010 78.2% 1.1% 1.4% 19.2%
2011 77.2% 1.1% 1.5% 20.1%
2012 76.4% 1.1% 1.4% 21.0%
2013 75.3% 1.1% 1.4% 22.1%
2014 73.7% 1.1% 1.4% 23.8%

Position in Finnish society

The Church answered to its unpopular situation by modernising. During the 1970s, work on new Finnish Bible translations and a new hymnal were begun. The hymnal, which incorporated a large number of revivalist and youth hymns, was adopted in 1986, while the new Bible translation (based on dynamical equivalence) was finished and approved for use in 1992.[21][22] In 1986, the Synod opened the priesthood to women. The change had initially been discussed by the Synod in 1963, but the motion did not pass, meeting heavy opposition and continuing controversy.[23]

In the 1960s, the Church met strong opposition from the radical left, who considered it an old-fashioned fortress of reaction and was critical of the rudiments of the Church's position within the state. The 1966 blasphemy trial of novellist Hannu Salama became a cause célèbre for the antiestablishmentarian position. Salama was sentenced to three months in prison but placed on probation, before subsequently being pardoned by President Urho Kekkonen.[19] Another particularly criticised aspect of the Finnish Church-State relationship was the prohibition to hold public dances or screen movies on Saturdays preceding certain Sundays; this was eventually lifted in 1968.[20]

During the Second World War, the Church was an important factor in Finnish nationalism. The common nationalist cry during the war was Kodin, uskonnon ja isänmaan puolesta (Swedish: För hem, tro och fosterland; English: "For the home, the religion and the Fatherland"). However, during the war, the church participated actively in social work, becoming closer to the labour movement. The military chaplains, who shared the life of the common soldiers for several years, also grew closer to the life of the working class. After the war's end, these so-called asevelipapit/vapenbrödra präster (English: brother-in-arms-priests) continued their work in factories and elsewhere in the society. Liturgical, family and youth works emerged as new forms of Church activity and the position of laity within the Church was strengthened. The so-called fifth revivalist movement also begun as a result of revivals experienced during the war. Two Finnish archbishops, Martti Simojoki and Mikko Juva, were former military chaplains, their terms of archepiscopy covering two decades.[17][18]

A Finnish military chaplain administering Holy Communion during the Second World War. The shared experience of battle shaped the Church and the society for decades and affected the stance of the Church in social policy strongly.

Finnish independence in 1917 was immediately followed by the Finnish Civil War, with the Church undoubtedly assuming the White (nationalist) position as the Red side engaged in anticlericalism, even murdering priests. In the new Constitution of 1919, the new republic was deemed to be non-confessional and freedom of worship was enshrined as a right. In 1923, this right was further implemented through Freedom of Religion Act. Although the Act gave the right for every adult Finn to leave the Church–and consequently be free from the duty of paying Church tax–the vast majority of the people remained members, regardless of their political opinion.

In the early 20th century, the old landtag, based on the four estates of realm, was changed into a unicameral parliament selected by equal vote. In 1908, an amendment of the Church Act freed Church members from the legal duty to participate in Holy Communion at least once a year. After this, church attendance dropped and has since become an indicator of personal religious opinion.

Disestablished national Church


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