The Finnish national broadcaster YLE had a tv-debate over Church and gays last Tuesday, aptly named Homoilta (Gay Night), there has been propositions of amending the law for gay marriage, or actually “gender-neutral-marriage” that would replace the current marriage laws and registered partnership laws. The debate went fine – so fine that after listening to the Christian Democrat’s Päivi Räsänen and Evangelic-Lutheran reverend Leena Huovinen and bishop of Tampere Matti Repo voice their opinions, a record of 5500 church members have so far resigned through the free-thinkers’ website www.eroakirkosta.fi in only four days. Update Monday 18.10, the amount has risen to 20 000, normally there is a peak in December as the “church tax” (*) liability depends on the membership at the end of the year. As the average payment of tax per member is 300 euros, its estimated the church has lost about 6 million euros.
(*) To those readers who are unfamiliar with Finland, the Ev-Lut. Church is one of the “State Churches” with taxation rights, to which traditionally 85% of the population belongs – and pays about 2% church tax – how many people actually go to church on a Sunday is maybe 2% of that, most people seldom visit unless its for a baptism, confirmation, wedding or funeral. The church also gets taxes from businesses, which none of them are tax-exempt, so tbe it a halal butcher or a kosher bakery – all pay taxes to the Ev-Lut Church. The church does have obligations, such as maintaining graveyards etc. but most of its historical chores, such as keeping population data has been taken over by the government.
The new archbishop Kari Mäkinen is “bewildered and sorry” of the reaction. He would rather see people would stay as members and voice their opinions within the church, but I guess the old “voting with your feet” and with your purse is a more effective way to convey your message. This might imply, that the conservative opinion within the church and among Finns has seen a rise, but people do then also vote with their feet as for some conservatives the church has had too liberal opinions. Tightrope walking trying to please everyone.
For those who understand Finnish (and can get the feed) http://areena.yle.fi/video/1354542
No doubt it’ll eventually end up in youtube with subtitles.