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

3 thoughts on “Finnish “Lutheran” “church” elects first female “bishop””

  1. Sign of the times, Bror. You Swedes are always a step ahead of us Finns. In Sweden, they have not only female bishops but an openly lesbian one at that.

    A bishop is a pastor with a special role and nice clothes. So her ordination was the greater theological problem than her episcopal election. However, the symbolic value of this election should not be lost on confessional Lutherans, just as it won’t be lost on Ms. Askola and her supporters.

    It’s also interesting, that this bishop-elects only parish experience is three years as an assistant pastor 20 years ago. She has no leadership experience at all. Getting a confessional pastor with that kind of background even onto the ballot would be a job and a half.

    O mores o tempores

  2. Yes the ordination is the bigger issue. Don’t forget though my heritage is mixed, I’m a Swede, but ecclesiastically linked to Finland I believe, as my family comes from Åland.
    Over here my grandfather went to the LCMS when he fell in love with the pastor’s daughter. Never looked back. When his friends harrassed him for being a Swede in a German church (no small thing in N. Minnesota) he would retort that at least he didn’t have to listen to a woman on Sunday morning, against the clear word of scripture.

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