Finnish Lutheran Church in conflict

religionThe Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church is desperately seeking reconciliation between conservatives and reformists as it searches for a new Archbishop to preside over what is becoming an increasingly acrimonious conflict.

With the first round of elections due this week, no candidate is expected to gain a significant number of votes due to the polarised opinions of the church members. “The internal debate involves sabre-rattling from the opposite ends. Ever since it was made clear in 2006 that it is not permissible to avoid working together with female clergy, the atmosphere has been unsettled,” claimed the University of Helsinki’s church historian Dr. Mikko Malkavaara.

Online message boards have been bombarded by ardent conservatives to such an extent that opposition reformists have become radicalised. Helsingin Sanomat reports that most of the debate centres on the roles of homosexual acceptance and women in the clergy.

“The reform-minded are losing patience with the bickering, which has meant that the church is not present in the everyday concerns that people have, which would be important from the point of view of leadership in values,” said Malkavaara.

The conflict has led many to wonder whether the position of Archbishop would be a poison chalice. “There is no position in which an archbishop would be spared criticism. The role is a combination of the burden of wielding power and of speaking on behalf of a dreary institution to the outside world,” according to Helsinki University’s Professor of Social Ethics Jaana Hallamaa.

Hallamaa said that since as recently as the 1990s the Finnish Lutheran Church has been in decay, with Lutheranism blamed for negative work attitudes, a national inability to express emotion and lack of aesthetic culture.