Kari Mäkinen elected Lutheran Archbishop in narrow vote
Opponent of blessing gay couples defeated by 11 votes
It was a razor-thin 11-vote margin that gave Kari Mäkinen, the Bishop of Turku Archdiocese, the victory in Thursday’s election to determine the next Archbishop of Finland’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church. The closeness of the race did not come as a surprise to the winner.
“In debate before the election, it could be seen that this could go either way”, said Mäkinen soon after the vote, in which he got the backing of 593 electors against 582 for Miikka Ruokanen, Professor of Dogmatics at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki.
Mäkinen replaces Archbishop Jukka Paarma on June 6th.
Media attention in the race for the Lutheran leadership was largely focused on the issue of whether or not the church should give its blessing to same-sex civil unions, which Mäkinen supports and Ruokanen opposes. The question of ordination of women also came up.
“There was nothing new for me in this debate. Already as Bishop of Turku I have encountered strong opinions in these matters."
The question of homosexuality was seen by Mikkko Malkavaara, assistant professor of church history at the University of Helsinki, to be the decisive factor in the close race.
“Now a narrow majority was held by people who feel that the Church can also be led by a person who can give blessings to homosexuals as well”, Malkavaara says.
He does not believe that the result of the vote will lead to a split in the church.
After the vote, Mäkinen was cautious not to make any strong statements on the future of the Finnish Lutheran Church. He hoped that debate on church matters would continue after the election.
During the election campaign Mäkinen was seen by many to be a liberal churchman. According to Malkavaara, he is a traditionalist.
“I would nevertheless say that he is more liberal than Ruokanen, because he feels that the church is in the middle of society, and that changes in society affect the church and its members, and that society gives an agenda to the church as well”, Malkavaara says.
Mäkinen was the overwhelming favourite on his home turf in Turku.
Ruokanen lost on his home turf of Helsinki and Espoo.
In most of the rest of the country, however, Ruokanen got more votes.
Ruokanen attributed his defeat in Helsinki and Espoo to his conservative views on the issue of gay relationships.
“Half now feel that the church should operate according to public opinion, and the other half feel that the church should be faithful to its teachings”, Ruokanen noted.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Polarised Lutheran Church seeks new referee between reformists and conservatives (14.2.2010)
Race for Lutheran Archbishop: Runoff between conservative and reformist (19.2.2010)
HS put three questions to seven candidates seeking post of Archbishop (14.2.2010)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland