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Hundreds Quit Church following News Programme on Homosexuality

Hundreds of people have renounced their membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland following a programme on homosexuality featured on YLE's current affairs show Ajankohtainen Kakkonen . A total of 222 people left the church over the internet during the two-hour programme on Tuesday. In a normal day, the total number leaving the church ranges from 140 to 150.

Sallan kirkko
Sallan kirkko. Image: YLE / Sauli Antikainen

The last time that a similar situation arose was in 2008 following a television broadcast on the subject of women ministers. This led to 180 people formally renouncing their church membership.

By the start of the programme, at 9pm on Tuesday, 150 people had left the church over the course of the day. Another 83 renounced their membership during the first hour of the broadcast, and by the end of the day the final figure had reached 372. The trend continued into Wednesday as another 117 followed suit by 11am. The most common reason cited was the church's intolerance and perceived lack of equality.

These figures are still not the highest seen this year. The disclosure of wide-scale sexual abuse within the church led to 440 people leaving the church on May 1.

The number of those renouncing church membership is always higher at the end of the year. Whilst on average 2,000 people leave the church in the month of May each year, the December figure is sometimes as high as 9,000. This is in order to avoid payment of church tax over the following year.

The number of people joining the church on Tuesday was 24, which is a reflection of the average daily figure.

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