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From the website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania

AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Date: April 29, 2010

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THE DODOMA STATEMENT

1.        INTRODUCTION

1.1        The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT hereinafter), thanks GOD that in His immeasurable wisdom, and through His Son Jesus Christ, all believers worldwide have been joined as one body; thus, making us be in communion. In this way, we can walk together to prosper in God’s mission.

1.2        In our relationship as one body, we have co-operated in many and varied ways through both trying and undemanding issues. We were able to hold together all this time because of God’s favor, and also through our unrelenting devotion in the entire Church, in regular services, where we confess the Creed and believe in God’s Church as being One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic. Therefore any action in any church which is abnormal and non-conforming to the received and affirmed position and teachings of the church over the centuries in the whole Church of God, will inevitably produce shock and varied reaction from other churches around the world.

(more…)

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Just over a week ago, the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE) hosted a two-hour panel discussion on homosexuality. The biblical viewpoint was represented primarily by two ladies, one of them the chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, Dr. Päivi Räsänen. There was also a bishop on the panel, who apparently came across as agreeing with the conservative viewpoint.

The reaction has been phenomenal. Since the broadcast, over 30,000 people have resigned their membership of the church, according to a web service provided by the Free Thinkers. That’s over 50% of normal annual membership loss rates. On the other hand, the Christian Democrats have gained nearly 1,000 new members (despite most of the other front-liners distancing themselves from Dr. Räsänen’s (very measured and winsomely presented) views. Several bishops, including the Archbishop, have made it clear that she does not represent the church’s view. The Abp has gone so far as to suggest that there really ought to be new regulations that will ensure that clergy bless same-sex unions.

The media have indulged in a sustained attack on Dr. Räsänen, with some prominent columnists being allowed to write hateful comments in national newspapers. One Professor of Astrology  suggested that she should be forced into a same-sex marriage in order to cure her. This in a national newspaper.

Now the church is hitting back: a demonstration was held today in central Helsinki to protest the fact that the church is inclusive and not homophobic. Mikko Heikka, bishop of Espoo, took part, declaring that “this is the church’s mainstream”.

And this morning it was reported that Pastor Ari Norro, who was fined for refusing to share the altar with a woman pastor when a visiting preacher in Hyvinkää, Finland, has had his fine upheld by the High Court. The term ‘abuse of human rights’ was used in the judgement.

These are dark times.

[Sources:

http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/news/2010/10/male_pastor_fined_for_discrimination_2080361.html
http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/news/2010/10/church_resignations_now_exceed_20000_2064653.html
http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/news/2010/10/bishops_church_must_out_on_gay_question_2069059.html
http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/news/2010/10/pm_religion_and_politics_should_not_mix_2072064.html

On the pro-gay demonstration: http://www.kotimaa24.fi/uutiset/629-tama-on-kirkon-valtavirtaa (Finnish)

The latest stats on people leaving the church: http://www.eroakirkosta.fi/media/none/tiedote_19_2010.html?year=2010 (Finnish only. The larger figure is for the year to date)

And the professor’s column: http://www.ts.fi/online/mielipiteet/kolumni/167507.html (in Finnish; Google translate does a passable job. ‘Eheyttämishoito’ refers therapy used in some quarters to ‘heal’ people of their homosexuality. And the losing candidate in the Abp elections was Miikka Ruokanen, not Miikka Your Food (‘ruokanne’)…)

An official announcement from Luther Foundation Finland. (More info plus photos will follow anon)

Matti Väisänen, a bishop in the Mission Province of Sweden and Finland (Missionsprovinsen i Sverige och Finland), conducts his first ordination service on 2nd October 2010. The ordination, taking place in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Helsinki, will be the first Mission Province ordination in Finland.

The four candidates for ordination have been called by koinonias of Luther Foundation Finland. Sami Liukkonen will serve St.Titus in Mikkeli (S:t Michel), Eero Pihlava will become an assistant pastor in St. Mark in Helsinki (Helsingfors), St. Matthew in Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus) will receive Markus Nieminen, and Jani-Matti Ylilehto will shepherd St. Andrew’s koinonia in Kokkola (Karleby). After this newest addition, the network of koinonias in Finland will be served by fifteen employed pastors – among them the eight pastors ordained by Arne Olsson, now emeritus Mission Bishop of Mission Province – supported by a dozen or so retired shepherds .

The bishops of the established church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, have maintained that only those willing to work together with female clergy are eligible for ordination. The retirement of the last confessional bishop, Olavi Rimpiläinen, in 2000, meant that it has been practically impossible for those who reject the unbiblical doctrine and practice of women’s ordination to be ordained and thus admitted into the pastoral office. Many congregations and parachurch organizations would issue calls, but the ‘confessional quarantine’ imposed on the theologically conservative minority by the bishops of the established church has prevented this. The service to be held on 2nd October will thus be the first ordination in Finland for ten years with candidates fully holding to the apostolic understanding of the Office of the Ministry are ordained.

Matti Väisänen was consecrated as bishop on 20th March 2010. His responsibility is not only to serve congregations by ordaining pastors as they are called, but also to act as a seelsorger for those already in the Office, thus being a ‘shepherd of shepherds’. For young pastors, receiving their first call in a turbulent ecclesial situation, this kind of pastoral care is priceless. To share the burden, a consistory of five members has been assembled, entrusted with the tasks of, for example, examining new candidates for the pastoral office as well as handling disputes, if any arise.

Luther Foundation Finland is an organization founded in 1999 with the purpose of helping faithful Finnish Lutherans, left homeless by the increasingly liberal established church, to build up koinonias, i.e. communities formed around the pure proclamation of Word and the correct administration of the Sacraments. During the eleven years of its operation, the work has now spread to 24 cities, with the demand for new koinonias still being strong.

Esko Murto
Theological Secretary
Luther Foundation Finland

I’m sure there were countless others who were horrified and saddened to hear or read about the apparently random murder of Claire Wilson in Grimsby last weekend. To make the story even more tragic, she was seven months pregnant at the time. The baby died with her.

Apart from the tragic incident itself, there is something very striking about this news item. Apparently without exception, the UK news media have referred to the the killing of a pregnant woman and her “unborn child” or “unborn baby”. And well they should. However, almost without exception, the same news media refer to “foetuses” and “potential life” when babies—some of them in the eighth month of pregnancy like Claire Wilson’s baby—die as a result of procured abortions.

What’s the difference? In the one case, we had a mother who was pregnant and had allowed the child to grow—and this life was brought to an end by a horrific attack by a violent stranger. In the other, we have mothers who are pregnant and do not allow their children to grow, but rather ask a medical professional to end its life. In the one case, we hear of the murder of an unborn child; in the other, of the termination of a pregnancy.

What’s the difference?