Gay rights and the church

Let me draw your attention to a current, heated debate that’s taking place in Finland which has not yet been picked up by the international media.

On Tuesday, a Finnish current affairs programme Ajankohtainen Kakkonen, debated on gay rights. Whether gays should have the right to marry in church, can same-sex couples adopt and so on.

The debate polarised when Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen and the Bishop of Tampere, Matti Repo, voiced their opinions that essentially, gays and lesbians don’t have the same rights as hetero-sexual couples.

As a result of this programme, around 15,000 people have resigned from the church via an online service, (=

The numbers are massive for a country of 5 million people.

Since the programme aired, a number of bishops have pointed out that Räsänen and Repo did not represent the official line of the church (they have none) and that there are parishes where gays and lesbians are treated as equals.

My facebook feed has been livid with the topic, the debate has clearly touched a nerve.

This blog is by no means political and I promise to keep it so but this debate defines current Finnish society. Now we can only hope this wasn’t just a brief public outrage but will add some momentum to the legislative process and make everyone equal.


2 thoughts on “Gay rights and the church

  1. A graphical illustration of the exceptionality of the situation:

    The title translates to “All years”. The graph shows the cumulative number of resignees via the service for last few years. As you can see, the last few days have seen daily resignation rates that have absolutely no precedence, even the sharp jump in Feb 2008 was only 1000 resignations on a single day. Now the resignations come in at ca. 300 /per hour/.

    The general debate on the status of the church and religion has been going on for a while (few years at least), but being a member of the church has remained a dominant social norm, especially among middleaged people and women. Now it seems that the situation is changing, and not being a church member is becoming to be entirely acceptable and nothing special (instead of branding the non-member as a cranky freethinker, a communist, fundamentalist christian or something along those lines). Among the younger demographic the general situation is more liberal.

    And in the long term, things are looking even more dire for the church. In 2000, 80 % of all weddings were performed by the church, and 88 % of newlyborn were baptized. 2009, the figures were 57 % and 80 %. What is missing from these figures is that some couples who arent eligible for a church wedding still hold a blessing ceremony for their union in the church, presided by a pastor, and for all outward appearances it’s the same as a proper church wedding (the script differs by a few words). Up to now, church wedding and baptism for the fruits of the union have been the “way everyone does it”, “grandma wouldn’t have it any other way” etc, so most kids have been signed up for the church membership (without their consent, of course). Guess what happens when especially the young people are no longer members? They aren’t very keen on the church ceremonies. Guess what happens when the older demographic starts to lose their very positive outlook on the church and religion? No outward pressure either. Very large proportion of the church members are members only because they’ve been such since they’ve been toddlers. Guess what this level of devotion (i.e., very little) means to the church membership numbers when the children of this “godless” generation grow up?

    The church predicts (well, before this week at least) that in 2030, at least 65 % of the population will be church members. I think they’re being optimistic.

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