(10 June 2013) Irja Askola, The Church of Finland’s Bishop in Helsinki, blessed a pair of homosexual “registered partners” Sunday to serve as missionaries in Cambodia. The blessing, at the closing service of the annual missionfest of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (aka Finnish Missionary Society), followed a narrow vote the previous day to authorize the sending of same-sex couples.
Delegates approved the new policy by a vote of 222 to 205, with 30 abstentions. The vote came after the organization’s chief attorney warned that failure to adopt the policy would violate Finland’s anti-discrimination law and expose the society to possible criminal charges. Despite this warning, less than half the delegates voted for the change.
The decision to send homosexual missionaries continues a pattern in which Western liberal church bodies attempt to impose their theology and views on churches in developing countries. Scandinavian and American missionaries played key roles in founding many African and Asian churches, and many of these mission agencies have remained biblical. In recent decades, however, mission agencies associated with liberal church bodies, notably the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), have undermined the authority of Scripture and promoted causes such as women’s ordination and the homosexual agenda.
This campaign of spiritual subversion has led several African national churches to refuse or terminate mission efforts and development projects sponsored by liberal churches. Most recently, the largest Lutheran church body in the world, The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, in February ended all ties with the Church of Sweden and the ELCA and prohibited communion fellowship with both.
The Finnish Missionary Society is one of seven legally independent mission agencies endorsed by the Church of Finland. It should not be confused with others such as The Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF) or its Swedish-speaking sister organization SLEF, which continue to do good work. Likewise, several other Scandinavian mission agencies not connected to the national churches have remained faithful.
Bishop Irja Askola said she has received many email responses to the “blessing,” about one third angry, one third supportive and the rest bewildered. She stressed that the blessing ceremony is not a commitment by the Church of Finland to supporting same-sex marriage.
“However, it is a commitment to the right to work within the church,” she said.