Two women were pictured in a church in Helsinki on 22 October, 2010.
Two women were pictured in a church in Helsinki on 22 October, 2010.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland will not change its position on same-sex marriage despite the upcoming introduction of gender-neutral marriage laws, according to a set of guidelines provided to pastors by the Bishops' Conference.

Pastors will consequently not be allowed to bless or officiate at the weddings of same-sex couples.

The Bishops' Conference was asked by the General Synod – the highest decision-making body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – to draw up a report to support the work of parishes and pastors in light of the revisions that will be introduced to the Marriage Act on 1 March, 2017. The bishops reached the said conclusion partly because the parties contracting the marriage are identified as a man and woman in the Church Handbook.

“It can be concluded that the changes to be introduced to the Marriage Act on 1 March, 2017, will have no effect on the rights of pastors to officiate church weddings,” the report reads.

The Bishops' Conference also points out that although pastors are unable to bless or officiate at same-sex weddings under the current Church Act and Church Handbook, pastors and other parish workers remain able to pray with and for all couples who have entered into a civil marriage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has provided its pastors with guidelines for conducting such prayers.

The report does not comment on the scenario that a pastor ignores the guidelines and officiates the wedding of a same-sex couple but states that the actions of individual pastors will be evaluated by the diocese in question.

The Bishops' Conference also stresses that irrespective of its position, same-sex couples are welcome to participate in all church activities.

“Church members will include married same-sex couples after 1 March, 2017. As has been noted previously, the church is for everyone. Same-sex couples are welcome to all church activities and shall be treated as families, even though they have not entered into marriage in accordance with the Church Act,” the bishops write.

The guidelines on same-sex marriages, they point out, have already been revised elsewhere in the Nordics to allow pastors to officiate same-sex weddings.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Kimmo Mäntylä – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi