Lutheran Church removes renegade bishop
Luther Foundation’s Matti Väisänen plans to perform ordinations
Matti Väisänen, who has been named a Bishop by the Luther Foundation - a conservative religious group that opposes the ordination of women - says that he plans to continue serving as a bishop, and to ordain ministers, even though the official Evangelical Lutheran Church removed him from the ministry on Wednesday.
The move is seen to further distance the Luther Foundation from the established church.
“I will continue in the post of bishop, into which I have been placed. I stand with Church members and those who have quit the Church, who are suffering from the current situation in our Church, and who find help with us”, Väisänen says.
In a controversial move, Väisänen plans to ordain four graduates of the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki at the beginning of October. They will function as clergy of the Swedish-based Mission Province organisation at congregations of the Luther Foundation.
The Mission Province group ordained Väisänen as bishop earlier this year.
Neither the conservative Mission Province nor the Luther Foundation have set up a separate church, hoping instead to wield an influence in the Lutheran Churches of Finland and Sweden.
The Cathedral Chapter of Tampere Diocese decided on Wednesday to relieve Väisänen of his right to serve as a minister of the church.
According to the Cathedral Chapter, Väisänen has violated ecclesiastical law and his oath by taking on a leading post in another church or religious community.
The Luther Foundation reiterated its support for Väisänen on Wednesday.
“When the shepherd is hit, the flock hurts. This matter will certainly reverberate around Finland”, says Juhana Pohjola , Dean of the Luther Foundation.
As Mikko Malkavaara, a Docent in Church History at the University of Helsinki sees it, the Luther Foundation is already acting as if it were a separate denomination.
“It seems that the present church is ripping apart and a new church is emerging”, Malkavaara notes.
Matti Repo, the Lutheran Bishop of Tampere, says that if Väisänen starts ordaining ministers, it will be an indication that the Luther Foundation considers itself a church unto itself.
“Real bishops guide the Church to unity, not disunity”, Repo says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Luther Foundation bishop and ministers could be removed from established church (24.3.2010)
Dispute over female clergy leads to first sackings of church employees (11.3.2009)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland