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AWOL in Helsinki

Abstract: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland faces conflict over acceptance of women in ministry.

In 1986, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) approved the ordination of women to the church's pastoral ministry. More than 20 years later, however, a significant number of the church's male pastors are unreconciled to cooperation with their female colleagues. According to a 2006 survey, approximately 2% of the denomination's clergy oppose working with female pastors in worship. The church is currently investigating incidents in which a male pastor scheduled to serve at the altar with a female pastor has failed to report for duty.
In 2006, the ELCF Conference of Bishops proposed that this conflict be addressed through pastoral discussion and guidance from the respective bishop, asserting that church workers are required to carry out all duties of their assigned positions. The Bishops also noted that the 1986 resolution was a "guiding recommendation" and not a "legally binding ordinance."
When the ordination of women was approved, the ELCF also adopted a resolution stating that those opposed to women's ordination should be free to work in and be ordained by the ELCF. That resolution calls all church members and officers to joint responsibility in overcoming difficulties caused by the change, with the aim to protect the unity of the church.
ELCF Archbishop Jukka Paarma expressed deep disappointment: "The exclusion of female pastors cannot be accepted." If pastoral discussion fails to resolve the conflict, the church may be forced to resort to sanctions.

(Vol. I, xli August 23, 2007 )

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