Renegade bishop switches sides in Finland

A bishop who was kicked out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland this week, has said he will continue to serve with a conservative religious group that opposes the ordination of women. Matti Vaisanen has been named as a bishop by the Luther Foundation in a move that is expected to distance the group further from the established church.

“I will continue in the post of bishop, into which I have been placed,” Vaisanen said in a report by Helsingin Sanomat. “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.”

Vaisanen was relieved of his right to serve as a minister by the Cathedral Chapter of Tampere Diocese last Wednesday. According to the Chapter, the holy man had violated his oath and ecclesiastical law by taking a leading post in the Luther Foundation.

In a controversial move, Vaisanen also plans to ordain four graduates from the University of Helsinki’s Theological Faculty in October. The men will act as clergy for the Swedish-based Mission Province at Luther Foundation congregations.

Both the Luther Foundation and the Mission Province have delayed setting up a separate church in the hope of wielding influence in the Lutheran Churches of Sweden and Finland.

Speaking after Vaisanen’s redundancy on Wednesday, Dean of the Luther Foundation, Jushana Pohjola, reiterated his support for the minister. “When the shepherd is hit, the flock hurts. This matter will certainly reverberate around Finland,” he said.

According to Mikko Malkavaara, a docent in church history at the University of Helsinki, the Luther Foundation already sees itself as a separate denomination. “It seems that the present church is ripping apart and a new church is emerging,” Malkavaara said.

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