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A few days ago I received an e-mail from Dr. Martti Vaahtoranta. Dr. Vaahtoranta leads the Finnish Lutheran "Evangelical Lutheran Institute of Religion—Mannheim" (ELRIM, www.elrim.org), a Lutheran research agency dedicated to mission to Muslims, especially the Turks living in Germany. A few years ago he wrote a great German dissertation on Johann Gerhard and union with Christ.
Now, sadly, he and other confessional Lutherans you may know, such as Dr. Anssi Simojoki, are facing troubles from their home church, the Lutheran Church of Finland. Here is my translation from Dr. Vaahtoranta's German e-mail to me, dated April 16, 2007:
"You probably already know this, that the spiral of division in the Finnish Church is spinning ever more rapidly. Investigations are being conducted in two cathedral chapters against two good pastors just because they have refused to conduct services with female pastors. A good friend of mine has taken sabbatical from his service as a chaplain in order to avoid this 'examination' and to learn a new occupation (bus driver). One pastor is on an educational sabbatical, but after its end he too will be placed under examination. One brother is even being investigated by the police.
"And now it's my turn, together with brother Dr. Simojoki. In February we together sent a letter to the cathedral chapter in Turku with both of its bishops and in this letter protested, admittedly somewhat sharply, the latest developments in the church and especially the treatment of the two aforementioned brothers. (For support of these brother, approximately 90 pastors published an open letter. In this letter they affirmed that they would act similarly in a similar situation. This letter, however, was very moderate in style, something that can probably not be said for our private letter.)
"Last Wednesday the reaction came: official research is now taking place in our cathedral chapter to determine whether we with our letter have perhaps acted contrary to our duties (above all against loyalty toward the bishop or against our pastoral vow) and for this should be punished."
Then today, April 19, 2007, this e-mail came:
"+ Dear brother Mayes,
"I haven't been able to write you a proper report on the situation with us in Finland. Of course, this actually would be impossible to do, since almost every day new, terrible things happen.
"Today it has gone so far that the police—yes really, the police—are officially investigating a few pastors and a laywoman due to a possible infringement of the Equal Treatment Law. A missionary from the Finnish Lutheran Gospel Society, who is confessional and conservative, had been invited to preach at a mission festival which also was the regular worship service of the congregation. A lady from the congregation, who had organized this service, had long before made sure that no female pastor was scheduled for the aforementioned Sunday.
"Shortly before the beginning of the service, a female pastor nevertheless appears in the sacristy and says that she was supposed to help in the distribution of the Lord's Supper. To this, the missionary who had been invited to serve as preacher said that this would be against his convictions, but that he could get out of the way. After that, however, the female pastor said that she had a lot to do anyway, and left.
"And now this encounter is being investigated as a possible crime. The maximum penalty for this is a half-year in prison.
"These developments should be made public internationally and ecumenically. Yet I myself have almost spent all my energies with many internet discussions and also with many difficult things and now I don't know how to go forward. Perhaps someone else in Finland will take over responsibility for this.
"In a collection of essays from the symposium in Oberursel [Lutherische Theologische Hochschule, Oberursel/Ts., Germany] last fall I reported on the situation in Finland in general. The book should appear soon.
"I ask you to pass this matter on to the brothers and sisters as you are able, and to pray for Pastor Ari Norro, the pastor affected by this, and for us all.
"Be commended to God, Your
As you can see, our fellow Christians in Finland need our prayers. If you can't think of the right words to pray, I'd encourage you to pray the Litany (Lutheran Service Book, p. 288; The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 110) or this collect:
Almighty God, cast not away Thy people who cry unto Thee in their tribulation (especially Pr. Ari Norro, Dr. Marrti Vaahtoranta, Dr. Annsi Simojoki, and all those who suffer under unjust laws), but for the glory of Thy name be pleased to help the afflicted; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Benjamin T. G. Mayes
St. Louis, MO USA
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