Pastor Olli Viitaniemi announced during the Palm Sunday service at Kuopio Cathedral that the collection that day would go to benefit youth work at the Finnish Bible Institute Foundation.
Although everything appeared to be normal, the choice of beneficiary for Lutheran churches around Finland was a very controversial one. There had been talk in some congregations a collection boycott.
At the Kallio congregation in Helsinki, there had been talk of deviating from the instructions and channelling the funds to the ongoing Yhteisvastuu (“Common Responsibility”) drive. However, it was not legally possible to deviate from instructions laid down by the Church Council.
The Finnish Bible Institute is one of the conservative Christian groups behind a recent campaign aimed at persuading homosexuals to change their lifestyles through Christian faith.
The institute is also opposed to allowing women to be ordained as ministers in the church.
ArchbishopKari Mäkinen and the other bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church distanced themselves from the campaign late last month, and Mäkinen called for the campaign to be suspended. However, the organisations in question stayed firmly behind it.
A quick survey of opinion on the steps of Kuopio Cathedral showed that opinion was divided on the issue. One elderly couple said that they would put their coins in the basket as usual, noting that the money was going to benefit Christian youth work. Jukka Väänänen and his wife Sirpa Väänänen had different ideas. “The target is not the right one this time, and I don’t think I’ll open my wallet during the collection”, Jukka said.