On Saturday, some 4,500 members resigned from the church. On Sunday, a further 5,600 had quit, according to figures released by the Finnish-language online service “eroakirkosta.fi”.
Under normal circumstances, resignations total about 400 members over the course of three days.
In last week’s TV debate on homosexuality and the church, Räsänen presented an uncompromising, fundamentalist view on the issue.
Wallin, the Minister who has government responsibility for church affairs, said if Räsänen’s purpose was to turn the clock back and reduce congregation numbers, she should state her intention directly. He added Räsänen should not duck the consequences when her selective view of humanity influenced both the reputation and economy of the church.
The Minister of Culture said active membership was the best way to influence church policy.
“Upcoming church elections are a good method to do this,” Wallin encouraged.
Church Worried over Financial Consequences
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is worried over the financial consequences following the growing number of resignations from its ranks.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Mikkeli, Seppo Häkkinen, said on Saturday that reduced funding from church taxes would be seen, for example, in work among children and the young. On Saturday, the Bishop said tax losses to the church due to resignations could even top two million euros annually.
Archbishop Calls for Members to Stay
On Friday, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen said it was unfortunate and incredible that people were leaving the church on the issue of homosexuality. He hoped members would influence within the ranks of the church by expressing their opinions. So far, his advice has gone unheeded.
The Archbishop emphasised the church was far more diversified in accordance with Christian principles than the views expressed in some extreme statements by individuals.
Proposals for a law allowing gender neutral marriage have divided church ranks in Finland. Some clergy say the church might give up its right to solemnise marriages if such a law is enacted, while others take a more liberal approach on the issue.
"Unjustified of Wallin"
Räsänen objected to the views presented by Culture Minister Stefan Wallin, and said that she spoke during the television programme in question on the basis of her faith and as a member of the church, even though she also was appearing as an MP taking part in a debate about social issues.
Räsanen stated that she believes all individuals to be of equal value regardless of sexual orientation, and that she made that point during last week's TV discussion.
"But, marriage and the right to adopt children are things between a man and a women, and that is the way it is in the law at the moment," she added.
The Christian Democratic Party leader placed the blame for the sudden wave resignations of church membership on the media. She sees it in particular as one more example of the domino effect of the Internet age.
"It's certain that a few hundred people reacted to that programme. But, when it was made into news, this kind of landslide started," said Räsanen.
She also added that she does not understand how Wallin has placed all the blame on one single participant in the TV discussion, and that she considers her message to be moderate.
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