Lutheran Synod votes for compromise on gay couples
Bishops Conference asked to draw up instruction on prayer ceremony
The Synod of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church voted on Friday morning to authorise the holding of prayer services for teh union of same-sex couples.
The measure was passed by a vote of 78 to 30. Many delegates would have wanted to authorise a blessing ceremony for lesbian and gay couples, but settled for the compromise, under which next year’s Bishops’ Conference will be asked to prepare instructions for ministers and parish employees for prayers.
The guidelines will not involve a strict formula for a ceremony, giving plenty of leeway to arrange the proceedings as the people involved see fit. Church workers will also be allowed to decline to participate in such an event.
Archbishop Kari Mäkinen was pleased with the outcome.
“The decision accepts the human value of every person. No type of insulting or denigrating attitude toward homosexual people is acceptable. But at the same time, this keeps marriage as a union between a man and a woman”, Mäkinen said.
Mäkinen feels that the controversy has touched upon a number of issues going beyond that of the same sex couples.
“One question has become a window, through which people have looked and spoken about many other matters: sexuality, human value, confronting differences, and how to interpret the Bible.”
“From the point of view of how the Church lives in everyday life and on its basic level, I do not feel that this is quite as big a question as what it has turned into, although certainly from the point of view of those whom it affects, the question is a big one.”
There was a general sense of satisfaction after the vote, with many who would have wanted to go further and approve a formula for a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples yielding to the recognition that the passage of such a formula would not have had a chance of success.
The group of 30 delegates who wanted to avoid the whole issue of same-sex couples were disappointed. Lengthy speeches given by many of the more conservative delegates caused the Synod to be drawn out.
“Gay theology represents an interpretation of the Bible which means a weakening of its position of guidance for values”, said Keijo Rainerma, Vicar of Kankaanpää.
Taking aim at the more conservative elements was Wille Riekkinen, the Bishop of Kuopio, who sought to put the Biblical prohibitions on homosexual activity into the proper context.
“Let’s adjust our pacemakers, and show a bit of respect toward all people. Or should we not eat our Christmas ham this year? It is one of the things that are prohibited in the Fifth Book of Genesis”, he pointed out.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Values debate over gay issues reaches fever pitch in Lutheran Church publications (9.11.2010)
Gay rights discussion cause of only one in three of recent church resignations (2.11.2010)
Poll: Most Finns want Lutheran Church to be more tolerant toward gays (1.11.2010)
Some 30 congregations do not have controversial gay issue in their election candidate selection engines (26.10.2010)
Record numbers of Finns resign from church after gay rights panel discussion on TV (14.10.2010)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland