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Archbishop: Same sex marriage ceremonies just a matter of time

Lutheran Archbishop Tapio Luoma says the church will likely follow Nordic peers and change its stance on gay weddings.

Tapio Luoma
Archbishop Tapio Luoma believes that the church can come to terms with changing times and adapt accordingly. Image: Roni Lehti / Lehtikuva

Archbishop Tapio Luoma has said he believes that the Lutheran Church's opposition to performing same-sex marriage ceremonies will change.

"It’s difficult to say when, but my own estimate is that sooner rather than later we will be able to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies," Luoma added in an Yle interview.

His comments follow last week's dust-up after the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church's decision to support Helsinki Pride, which did not please all of its members.

One of the church’s most outspoken critics included Christian Democratic Party MP Päivi Räsänen, who threatened to resign from the church over the matter.

Several hundred church members quit last week via Eroakirkosta.fi, a Finnish website that offers an electronic service for resigning from Finland's state churches.

The negative response was not unexpected according to archbishop Tapio Luoma.

"But the scope and depth of the negative feedback was a surprise," he noted.

Although Finnish law now allows same-sex marriage, the church’s highest authority, the national council, still holds that marriage is between a man and a woman. This was also archbishop Luoma’s personal opinion.

Behind the times compared to Nordic neighbours

If and when it does change its official stance, the Finnish Lutheran Evangelical Church will follow institutions in other Nordic countries that have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies for many years.

In the past, the trend has been to follow the lead of neighbouring countries. For example, the Finnish Evangelical Church council approved the ordination of women in 1986 -- a decade after other Nordic countries did so.

Whatever the end result is, someone will likely be disappointed, according to Luoma.

"It’s part and parcel of this conversation about equal rights," he said.

The national church council in Finland only alters its official position on a issue with the blessing of a majority of the council, the equivalent of three-quarters of the council or 109 members.

Yet, the archbishop said he is optimistic.

"For 2,000 years the church has always found a way to come to terms with changing times. I believe that as people who believe in God we will always find a way to talk about even the most difficult issues," said Luoma.

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