Finnish Confessional Bishop Ordains First Pastors

Rev. Markus Pöyry leads the procession into Sacred Heart Chapel in Helsinki, followed by the four ordinands.

(October 2, 2010) Finnish Confessional Lutheran Bishop Matti Väisänen ordained four young men as pastors Saturday at Sacred Heart Chapel in Helsinki. About 400 people came from all around Finland to participate in the first ordinations held in Finland for the Luther Foundation Finland (LFF). Bishop Väisänen was consecrated in March as an auxiliary bishop in the Mission Province in Sweden and Finland.

Consecration of bishops by the Mission Province was made necessary when the bishops of the Church of Sweden and the Church of Finland began refusing to ordain Confessional Lutheran men. The last Confessional bishop in the Church of Finland retired in 2000.

The Mission Province was formed in 2003 and LFF affiliated with it. LFF has had eight pastors ordained in Sweden by the Mission Province bishops, but the movement in Finland has grown to the point that it needs its own bishop.

"This is a natural step for us," notes Rev. Juhana Pohjola, founder and Dean of the Foundation, "to have a bishop who speaks the same language as these pastors, and being able to ordain more shepherds for God's flock. Matti Väisänen shall use the Word of God to encourage all those faithful Christians, who at the present can't hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland."

Bishop Matti Väisänen places the stole on Ordinand Eero Pihlava

The Finnish movement has not had enough pastors to meet all the requests to establish new congregations, or "koinonias" (worshipping fellowships) as they are often called. The four newly ordained pastors have each been called to serve a LFF koinonia. In addition, about a dozen retired Church of Finland pastors are serving LFF koinonias.

The four newly ordained pastors are Sami Liukkonen, who will serve St.Titus in Mikkeli (S:t Michel), Eero Pihlava, who will become an assistant pastor in St. Mark in Helsinki (Helsingfors), Markus Nieminen, who will serve St.Matthew in Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus) and Jani-Matti Ylilehto, who will shepherd the St. Andreas koinonia in Kokkola (Karleby).

Three of these are newly developed koinonias that have grown large enough to support a full time pastor. The fourth has grown to the point that it needs an assistant pastor. Over the past ten years, LFF has grown from one to 24 koinonias, and has requests from believers in additional towns when more pastors become available.

Bishop Väisänen was assisted by Mission Bishop Roland Gustafsson, who was consecrated March 27 to replace Mission Bishop emeritus Arne Olsson.

Bishop Väisänen, who studied at the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's Concordia Theological Seminary in 1961-63, served as a parish pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland from 1963 to 1966, then as General Secretary of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission from 1967 until he retired in 1995. From 1985 to 1995 he was the editor of 'Vie Sanoma' ('Spread the News'), a missiological journal. He has also published articles in numerous magazines, journals and books.

Väisänen is the author of 20 books in Finnish on a number of aspects of the Christian faith, most recently two books on baptism, 'Pyhä kaste Raamatussa' and 'Pyhä kaste kirkossa' (Holy Baptism in the Bible and Holy Baptism in the Church) and a commentary on Romans. He has also completed a ThD (Helsinki University) on the baptismal theology of Uuras Saarnivaara.

The newly ordained pastors with Bishop Matti Väisänen. From left, Eero Pihlava, Jani-Matti Ylilehto, Bishop Väisänen, Markus Nieminen and Sami Liukkonen

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More Coverage from Finland

Official LFF Press release translated by Rev. Tapani Simojoki

Video and more pictures supplied by Rev. Simojoki

Thoughts by newly ordained Pastor Eero Pihlavi with introduction by Rev. Simojoki