Finnish “Lutheran” “church” elects first female “bishop”

Irja AskolaLWF General Secretary Congratulates Helsinki Bishop-Elect

GENEVA, 3 June 2010 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko today congratulated Rev. Irja Askola and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) on the election of pastor Askola as the bishop of Helsinki. She becomes the first female bishop in the Finnish Lutheran church.

“I congratulate bishop-elect Askola and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland for taking this milestone step forward,” said Noko in a statement issued here on 3 June. “It is an important sign that a woman has been elected to the office of bishop in yet another LWF member church,” he added.

The LWF general secretary pointed out that bishop-elect Askola “is well known in the ecumenical world and brings enormous ecumenical experience to her new post.”

Askola, 57, is an assistant to the bishop in the diocese of Espoo. She worked at the Geneva-based Conference of European Churches from 1991 to 1999. Noko said, “We know her to be committed to the inclusive ministry of men and women throughout the church.”

Askola was elected in the second round of balloting today, winning 591 votes, with Rev. Matti Poutiainen getting 567.

Current Helsinki bishop Dr Eero Huovinen, who is also LWF vice president for the Nordic region, is expected to retire this autumn. Askola will take up her new position in September.

Women have been ordained in Finland since 1986, but while some, including Askola, have been nominated for the episcopate, none made it to the final balloting.

The ELCF has some 4.5 million members, representing over 80 percent of Finland’s population. It joined the LWF in 1947. (284 words)

Source: Lutheran World Federation