[Update: an earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to David Jackson as a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. He is in fact a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.]
I wasn’t able to be there, but from all accounts the ordination of four men into the office of the holy ministry by bishop Matti Väisänen (Mission Province in Sweden and Finland) in Helsinki on 2 October was a great occasion.
There was plenty of media interest: the event was an item on the main news programmes of three national TV networks. Here is the official press release from Luther Foundation Finland:
On 2 October 2010, bishop Matti Väisänen of the Mission Province in Sweden and Finland ordained four pastors to serve koinonias of Luther Foundation Finland. In the past, eight pastors have been ordained in Sweden. Last Saturday’s ordination was the first Mission Province ordination in Finland.
The four ordained men will be working as pastors of Luther Foundation koinonias. Sami Liukkonen will serve St. Titus koinonia in Mikkeli, Jani-Matti Ylilehto has been called by St. Andrew’s in Kokkola, Markus Nieminen will shepherd St. Matthew’s in Hämeenlinna and Eero Pihlava will be stationed at St. Mark’s in Helsinki. Although the newly-ordained pastors have no official status in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (such as the right to register marriages), they will carry out normal pastoral duties: preaching, leading services, pastoral care and other pastoral acts.
The ordination service at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Helsinki drew nearly 400 congregants from around Finland. In his sermon, Bishop Väisänen described the life of the apostle Peter, reminding the ordinands that the pastoral office is not based on the excellence of the office-holders but the grace of Christ.
“The work into which you are being ordained is Christ’s. Your role in all this is to be at Christ’s disposal – and that, too, has been effected in you by Christ,” bishop Väisänen reminded them.
During the celebration after the service, greetings were brought among others by pastor Johan Helkkula on behalf of St. Paul’s Synod [the oldest confessional campaigning organisation in Finland] and pastor David Jackson on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England. Jani-Matti Ylilehto spoke on behalf of the newly-ordained pastors.
“Today’s celebration is not primarily a pastors’ celebration but that of congregations and their members,” Ylilehto stated.
The bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland have decided that only theologians who will work with ordained women at the altar will receive ordination in the church. When bishop Olavi Rimpiläinen of Oulu retired in 2000, in practice this meant that the road to ordination was blocked then. The October ordination is, therefore, the first ordination in Finland for ten years, where theologians who act in accordaince with the Church’s traditional theology are being ordained as pastors.
Tampere Cathedral Chapter removed Matti Väisänen from the pastoral office in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland because he was consecrated as bishop of the Mission Province on 20 March 2010. Väisänen’s task is not only to ordain new pastors but also to provide pastoral care for the existing pastors (among others), to be a “pastor to the pastors”. The pastors ordained by Väisänen do not have the legal rights that come with the pastoral office in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but in the koinonias of Luther Foundation they will carry out all the duties of the pastoral office.
Luther Foundation Finland, founded in 1999, is an organisation working for the renewal of the Church, which aims to build Lutheran worshipping communities, congregations, to serve particularly those members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland who have been left “spiritually homeless” in the parishes of an increasingly liberal and secular church. The fast-growing Luther Foundation now works in 24 towns.