Bishop Väisänen’s response

For background, see here.

Here is the text of the legal response by bishop Matti Väisänen to the disciplinary charge against him by the Tampere Cathedral Chapter, dated 27 July 2010. As is now known, the Cathedral Chapter decided on 11 August 2010 to divest bishop Väisänen of clerical standing in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, despite the arguments he presented in this document. He continues to serve as bishop in the Mission Province of Sweden and Finland.

UPDATE: The Luther Foundation website now has an English-language statement, which can be read here.

For a PDF copy of the English text, click here. The document may be freely distributed.

TO TAMPERE CATHEDRAL CHAPTER

SUBJECT

Response in a case concerning a disciplinary procedure

RESPONDENT

Matti Väisänen ThD

DISCIPLINARY CHARGE

The disciplinary charge by the disciplinary commissioner of Tampere Cathedral Chapter, Kari Ikonen, concerning my deposing from the pastoral office 9 June 2010

RESPONSE TO THE CHARGE

I am opposed to the disciplinary charge. I do not consider myself to have acted contrary to the responsibilities of my pastoral office.

In my ordination oath I have primarily bound myself to remain faithfully and purely in God’s holy word and in our church’s confession founded on it. According to the confession, the church’s highest rule is that all doctrine must be examined and evaluated according to God’s holy word. This biblical principle — sola Scriptura – and commitment to the Lutheran confessions is even today the legally in force in our church and is recorded in the first article of the Church Law, the so called Confessional Article. For that reason, the church’s confession binds not only the pastor but also the church’s order to being primarily obedient to God’s holy word, which is the Bible.

Because shepherds who bind themselves to the apostolic view on the office of the ministry are no longer being ordained in our church, I have received the office of bishop. The justification for this ecclesial emergency right is based on the Holy Bible and the Lutheran confessions. It is not an offence against the ordination oath but in the most profound sense precisely acting in accordance with the duties of that oath.

On the precise basis of the ecclesial emergency right, I refer to the attached article by pastor Anssi Simojoki, ThD.

Arguments

Concerning the episcopal consecration

I have been ordained as bishop by an association called Missionsprovinsen i Sverige och Finland (hereafter Missionsprovinsen). The association is not outside the Church of Sweden but works within the Church of Sweden. However it — any more than any other association — cannot be an actual member of the Church of Sweden. Missionsprovinsen defines itself as a non-geographical diocese in the tradition of the churches of Sweden and Finland.

Also Luther Foundation Finland, in which I am a member and vice chairman of the Executive Council, works within the church. In Luther Foundation, we are concerned about our church’s current theological-spiritual orientation, which is detaching itself from God’s word. We are especially concerned that shepherds who bind themselves to the apostolic view on the office of the ministry are no longer being ordained.

It is my understanding that bishops have begun to impose this ordination block after bishop Olavi Rimpiläinen retired in 2000.

Concerned about the state of our church we have been forced—being guided and obliged by the Confessional Article of our Church Law and the Lutheran Confessions (Treatise, 60ff.), and with their justification—to take action in order to preserve apostolic worship and teaching in our church and our land.

Because Luther Foundation Finland is an associate member of Missionsprovinsen, this relationship has made it possible to begin the founding of an independent Mission Diocese / Mission Province in our church with its own worshipping communities / congregations, pastors and bishops.

Concerning the use of the external marks of a bishop

I have been elected bishop by the provinskonvent of Missionsprovinsen. The consecration was carried out by the Mission Bishop of Missionsprovinsen, Arne Olsson. He was assisted by the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, Walter Obare, and Missionsprovinsen bishops Lars Artman and Göran Beijer.

Arne Olsson was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Walter Obare in 2005. Walter Obare was consecrated bishop by the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, Samson Mushemba, in 2002. One of the assistants at the consecration of Walter Obare was bishop Olavi Rimpiläinen.

Because I have been called and properly consecrated into the office of bishop, I have not used the external marks of a bishop in any way without justification, for in terms of church law, I am a Lutheran bishop.

Concerning the conducting of an episcopal mass

I have conducted an episcopal mass, including the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as part of the carrying out of the duties of my office on 16 May 2010 in a place not authorised for that purpose.

Our church’s cathedral chapters, which are negatively disposed to those who have an apostolic view of the office of the ministry, do not permit us to celebrate the mass and the Lord’s Holy Supper in church and would not allow us to celebrate it outside the church either. Knowing this, why would we trouble ourselves any more than the cathedral chapters with our applications . In this matter, too, we have had to resort to the rights given to us by the Lutheran confessions and to seek for our congregations alternative premises, trusting that God’s word and prayer consecrate them as sacred spaces.

Concerning the alleged misleading of members of the church

When I accepted the call to become a bishop of Missionsprovinsen, and in serving the congregations that have been born in Finland as a result of the work of Luther Foundation, I am misleading no one, for we have made, and will continue to make, clear to everyone that I am a bishop of Missionsprovinsen, not a bishop according to the our church’s parochial diocesan order.

Nor have I taken a leading role in another denomination or another religious organisation, since Missionsprovinsen is registered as an ideological association. In terms of its organisation, it does not work within the administrative structures of the churches of Sweden or Finland. Rather, it continues the church’s spiritual heritage as a free diocesan structure, serving here in Finland those members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland who have been left homeless because of their traditional view on the office of the ministry.

Concerning the alleged breach of the ordination vows

Therefore, I absolutely deny having broken the ordination vow I swore in 1964. If Tampere Cathedral Chapter deposes me from the office of the ministry, it will take place precisely because I have remained faithful to my ordination vow.

It is characteristic of our church’s current theological-spiritual state of humiliation that the church has increasingly replaced its own ecclesiastical justice with civil service law and secular laws, seeking again to become a state church. The governing organs of our church have brought our church to a situation where the church’s constitution (Bible + the Lutheran confessions) and the church’s order have come to a conflict. At the same time, the bishops and cathedral chapters demand obedience to church order against the church’s constitution. That which is human takes precedence over that which is divine. Man’s word and man is elevated in our church above God’s word and God. Thus the church, having broken its judicial foundation, changes increasingly into a travesty of a church with its rites and blessings of civil religion.

I am saddened that this distortion leads to oppression against those who consider the Bible the unchanging word of God. Today it looks like holding to Gods word is a crime in our church. By contrast, those who deny Christ’s divinity and atoning work, and even the existence of a personal God, and those who live immorally, are allowed to work in our church as pastors and bishops, destroying our church without any disciplinary consequences, while those who want to be faithful to God’s word are dismissed from their posts.

Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God! (Martin Luther, 1521)

DATE AND SIGNATURE

In Ryttylä, on the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, AD 2010

Matti Väisänen
Bishop
Missionsprovinsen i Sverige och Finland

Jyrki Anttinen
Solicitor
The Bishop’s Attorney

That is, ecclesiastical jurisprudence (Kirchenrecht), not the Church Law of the Republic of Finland. Tr.

See previous note. Tr.

9 thoughts on “Bishop Väisänen’s response”

  1. “Nor have I taken a leading role in another denomination or another religious organisation, since Missionsprovinsen is registered as an ideological association.”

    This seems as a play on words to me. The Mission province is de facto a church within the church with its own church structure and its own congregations. The ain difference is, taht the Mission province encourages its members to keep on paying the salaries of heteredox pastors and to deceive the parishes and pastos, to which they belong by holding dual membership.

    In my opinion, the problems, that meet the members of the Mission Province are mainly due to their failure to de the right thing and leave their heterodox church body.

  2. Dear Pastor Sørensen,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I cannot speak for the Mission Province as a whole. As for the situation in Finland, I can say this: Luther Foundation is a parachurch organisation; Dean Pohjola holds a valid call from Oulu Diocese for his role in the Foundation. There are several parachurch organisations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland which have their own non-parochial congregations. It is true that Luther Foundation has the most ecclesiastical structure, in that each congregation has its own called pastor and administrative structure, rather than a centrally appointed top-down arrangement as with most of the other organisations.

    There is no deceit involved. Individuals within Luther Foundation congregations do not hold dual membership, since they are not rival organisations to the local parishes. Those who remain members of the ELCF do pay the church tax, that is true, but to refer to this as “paying the salaries of heterodox pastors” is simplistic. The church tax does pay the salaries, but much more besides.

    There is another aspect to the question of church membership that is often neglected in these discussions: whose church is it? On your blog, you quote Luther’s words about fleeing wolves. Yet Luther didn’t leave—he was thrown out. Finnish and Swedish Lutherans are fleeing the wolves by calling for themselves orthodox pastors and, now, appointing orthodox bishops. Many still choose to remain in the ELCE, because they consider it their church, which the heretical and tyrannical bishops have tried to usurp.

  3. The Mission Province has a bishop and also a consistory, a churchorder and everything and everything a church has. It is de facto a churchbody, no matter how it is registered. To claim something else, is to deceive.

    Are you saying that membership of the ELCF does not mean membership of a parish of the ELCF? If that is true, i must off course change that part of my argument.

    As far as I have heard, there has been a case with a baptism, where there was membership of an ELCF-congregation involved?

    The fact that economical support for the ELCF also means support of other things than salaries is irrelevant. Members are still paying salaries of heterodox pastors.

    Why should Luther leave the church of Wittenberg? It folowed him and through its pastor broke fellowship with the Church of Rome, when Luther burned the canonlaw. It is a much used argument from scandinavian pietists, but it is undefendable, when compare to what Luther actually said and did.

    Since the Luther foundation has already left the ELCF as church (the gathering around word and sacrament) it is a play on words, when you claim that it is still their church. The legal organization of the ELCF is not church, and since the Luther Foundation is not in charge of it, it does not belong to the Luther Foundation.

    The Mission province is not fleeing the wolves, when it keeps on paying their salary, so they can keep on eating the sheep. And it is not fleeing the wolves, when they still claim to be members of a heterodox churchbody.

    They could in stead claim to be the true heirs of the lutheran church in Finland, but to stay members of the legal organization with that name is unionism.

  4. Magnus,
    I don’t think there is much deception in the Missions Province. As I can see they have been fairly open about who they are, what they stand for, and what they are doing. In all this they push the envelope to make the Church of Sweden and that of Finland deal with them and then expose their hypocrisy to the rest of the nation.
    Perhaps I may have done things a bit differently. I really don’t know. But I do support these men in what they are doing.
    I think Tapani is correct to point out Luther’s example. I would also point out that Walther in later years repented of just leaving his Saxon church when he thought it was orthodox, and not staying and doing what the Missions Province boys are doing.
    The greatest weakness among “confessional” Lutheran movements seems to be a need break fellowship at the slightest disagreement. A need fostered by a pietism of another sort.

  5. To claim something openly, which is openly false is also deceiving. They claim to be members of a church, but in reality, they are members of another churchbody. That is deceiving, whether done openly or secretly. Why should the church of Sweden or Finland deal with them. They have no power in the church, but they still help paying the bills.

    If you think, that Simojoki was right in pointing to Luthers example, you should defend that position.

    The usual Scandinavian-pietistic reference to Luthers staying in the papal church is false and presupposes an organizational-bureaucratic view on the church rather than the lutheran view on the church. Luther was a member of the church of Wittenberg. To claim that he was a member of the church of Rome and had to leave this church is an expression of the papistic error in the doctrine of the church.

    I don’t subscribe to Walthers private opinions. The LCMS has bound itself to his Kirche Und Amt and not to everything he might have said. When that is said, the saxon church at the time of Walther and Stephan was whole other story than LWF-churches today.

    The historical background of the Mission province is the pietist-movements of Sweden. Bo Giertz belonged to these too. It is the pietist who base church-unity on something else than doctrinal agreement. The Mission province itself is not in doctrinal agreement, but united on subjective grounds.

    You wrote:
    “The greatest weakness among “confessional” Lutheran movements seems to be a need break fellowship at the slightest disagreement. A need fostered by a pietism of another sort.”

    It must be pietism of a whole new sort. A sort of pietism, that was called orthodox lutheranism in the age of real pietism.

    Do you thereby think, that one should not break fellowship because of doctrinal disagreement?

    To find visible unity outside doctrinal unity is exactly one of the main characteristics of classical pietism. And it is one of the main differences between pietism and confessional Lutheranism. The Book of Concord clearly makes doctrinal agreement necessary as basis for churchfellowship.

    The fact is, that the Mission province is formed by the pietistic revival-movements in Sweden and Norway. The new bishop in Sweden came directly from a position in one of these movements. These people are not confessional Lutherans, but pietists coming from the pietist groups in Scandinavia.

    A few comments on the actual teachings of the Mission province:

    The founding document of the Mission Province writes: “De av oss som kan tänka sig presbyteriala vigningar menar att man, för enhetens skull, i första hand bör använda sig av biskop och först i andra hand (då andra möjligheter saknas) av präst för att meddela ordets ämbete till nya generationer.”

    This sentence implies that the Mission Province is not in agreement, whether presbyterial ordinations are valid. And those, who think, that they are, still think that a bishop should be used for the sake of unity. This is against the Formula of Concord article X.

    The newly ordained and consecrated bishop of the Mission province was to my knowledge not called by a congregation but by Province-convention. The province is not the church, since it is not a gathering around word and sacrament (And if you claim that the province is church, you contradict, what they say to their churchbodies). They hereby show a false view on the church and a false view on the call in to the ministry.

    On the website of the Mission province, a sister Marianne Nordström defends a joint report on the doctrine of justification between the papacy and the churches of Finland and Sweden. She warns against wars on words of the 16th century. This is a denial of the papacy as the antichrist against the Smalcald Articles, Part II, IV.10, which clearly teaches this doctrine. ( http://www.missionsprovinsen.se/signerat/160-olika-sprak)

    It is also an attack on the doctrine of justification, which is being polluted by all joint declarations with the papacy.

    Frederik Sidenvall in the paper summarized here (http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=9979) seems to deny, that the papacy is the very antichrist. He seems to believe in a future worldly antichrist and put liberal theologians on the same level as the papacy as expressions of the Antichrist. Frederik Sidenvall is affiliated with the Mission Province and was a member of founding group.

    The Mission province also accepts the view that creation did not happen in six literal days. This view has been rejected by all orthodox Lutherans, as far as I know (see R. Preus: post-reformation lutheranis vol II). It is a de facto denial of Holy Scripture as the only source and norm of Christian doctrine.

    These are just examples of teachings in the Mission Province that are against the word of God and the Lutheran confessions.

    Maybe you yourself have become a pietist by reading too much Bo Giertz and therefore can’t see the pietism in the Mission province?

  6. Magnus,
    Perhaps I read to much Bo Giertz. Quite frankly I think we could all read a bit more of that man. He had a patient orthodoxy about him.
    I admire Bo Giertz for that. I have read some of his stuff that has made me scratch my head a bit. But I dare say he was a confessional and orthodox Lutheran Theologian, who was secure enough in the gospel to remain where he was and fight for his sheep.
    I haven’t read all of Sidenval’s paper. From what I understand he know where denied that the Pope was the Anti-Christ, but he pointed out as does Pieper that anti Christs can be found elsewhere too.
    As for Church, I think there is a long tradition of calling earthly institutions churches, and though Lutheran’s recognize that the “true Church” cannot be identified with any of these institutions, they still are Church in some manner. And in so far as the believers that came to the council are Christians who make up the body of Christ, I would say that they were church. Believe it or not most voter’s meetings in which pastors are called to congregations are not gathered around word and sacrament.
    I think there does come a time when you have to break with someone over a doctrinal disagreement. But I like what Sasse has to say about Being cautious who you go into fellowship with, and doubly cautious about who you break it with.
    It is a seditious pietism that cannot bear to be patient with an erring brother even for a season. It is a seditious pietism that believes that because he does not yet have sufficient doctrinal agreement with a brother he should break off all conversation with the brother and end the conversation, go and commune with himself in the closet. I don’t know where the Missions Province ends up. I’m sure there are a lot of confused voices in the mess that marks the Scandinavian church bodies. (but then I have an insiders view of the LCMS and sober assessments of that are not always pretty either.) The fact is I think these brothers are worth a conversation. And they are brothers, we are in the church with them, they make up the body of Christ with us.

  7. Bror
    Bo Giertz was a pietism in both his ecclesiology, his ordo-salutis-teaching and a higher critic in his view on the bible. He has written some good novels, but he is not orthodox.

    You seem to confuse conversation and communion. I am ready to talk with anyone, but according to holy scripture we should break fellowship with those, who keep on in their false doctrine.

    I hop I am wrong about Sidenvall and the antichrist. The Summary does seem to indicate that there will be a great end-time-antichrist, who is not necessarily the papacy. Pieper and the confessions (Apology) do talk about other antichrists, but only one great Antichrist, which is the papacy.

    Voters meetings consist of the people, who gather regularly around word and sacrament, but the essence of the call is that the whole congregation stand behind the call and not vote of the majority of the Voters Assembly. Off course the lgeal association of the local congregagation can be called church and the legal organization of different churches can be called churchbody, but according to lutheran doctrine, the right to call belongs to the hhole church, not only to the minstry, the prince (or other representative churches) but also the the hearers – those who actually gather around word and sacrament.

    I don’t know for sure, who my brother is. To recognize brotherhood outside doctrinal unity is also a classic mark of pietism. We don’t know who the true christians are, but we know what true christian doctrine is.

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