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Archbishop: Opposing church marriage guidelines unadvised

A new law legalising gender-neutral marriages will be valid in Finland as of March of next year, and several Lutheran priests have said they intend to begin marrying same-sex couples in church once the change comes into effect. Archbishop Kari Mäkinen says he understands the pastors' impulse to help, but warns church representatives to not go against official church policy.

Arkkipiispa Kari Mäkinen Ylen Ykkösaamussa.
Arkkipiispa Kari Mäkinen Ylen Ykkösaamussa. Image: Yle

The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle has learned of Lutheran pastors in the capital city region who say they plan to marry same-sex couples in church ceremonies after the gender-neutral marriage act comes into effect in March 2017. Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, took a stand on the issue on Yle's morning show on Saturday.

Mäkinen says that the gender-neutral marriage amendment is a case of society challenging the authority of the church.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's official stance only allows representatives of the church to engage in "free prayer with and for those who have registered their civil partnerships", but does not condone blessing or marrying them.

Mäkinen says he understands that the pro same-sex marriage priests have a desire to assist those who seek their support. But the Archbishop emphasises restraint when it comes to individual church officials going off script.

"My own view is that priests should exhibit patience in working within the church's own guidelines," he says.

The new same-sex marriage act will come into force in March, 2017 – but the law is not expected to alter the church's official policy with regards to gay couples.

The majority of the Finnish Lutheran Church's General Synod ruled earlier that marriage should be expressly between a man and a woman.

Mäkinen himself drew the ire of church officials when he publicly showed his enthusiasm after the law was passed to permit gender-neutral marriage in December 2014.

"I know how much this day means to the rainbow community, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them," he wrote on Twitter at the time.

Edit: Article altered to reflect that neither blessing nor marrying same-sex couples is part of church guidelines.

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