Monday, April 28, 2008

Stories from the Northern Country

I wrote a little overview of the Finnish situation for the CTS student's Cornerstone-publication. Since many of you might not get your hands on that print-product, I might as well publish the same article here. It's not a long article for print, but for blog entry it is quite humongous. Here it goes:

Stories from the Northern Country
- How a “peripheral question” shattered one church

A vision in Zachariah 6: 8 describes chariots pulled by black horses, going to “the Northern Country”. Some enthusiastic Finns have considered this to be a prophecy about Finland – of course. I’m not sure what sort of satanic wagons have been trafficking to and fro, but the last few years in Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church have witnessed a transition from absurd to abyssal. In the centre of it all is the question selected as the topic of this Cornerstone: the ordination of women. This brief essay does not actually go into the question itself, but tries to shed some light in the importance of the matter by sharing experiences from the church with 20 years of women pastors.

Argumentation and disagreement happens on two levels or two questions. First is the most obvious: “What is right/true in this matter?” This is usually the one we, as theologians are most comfortable with. However, pragmatically the “meta-level” question which both precedes and follows this is often more important. That is the question of importance, i.e. “How crucial it is to reach the truth in this matter?”

When the debate starts, it usually operates purely on the first level, the level of validity/falsity. However, if and when the debate is prolonged and especially if it “popularized”, i.e. ceases to be merely a professional theologians’ problem and becomes a hot potato for larger crowd, the second question, the meta-level question arises. It may be because some people experience a certain “battle fatigue” – even for matters they themselves are not demanded to ponder. It may be because the question receives much attention in the media – religious or secular. And, let’s face it: some people are either deliberately or unintentionally players: they know they cannot win an open field battle in the matter, so they try to avoid straightforward argumentation and go on working behind the scenes.

But let’s not be too cynical. Some people just do not feel comfortable with people actually disagreeing. As a child, I always hated when my dad and my uncle started discussing politics – they would not yell, but still raised their voices, used strong expressions and were generally quite intense. I felt very uncomfortable because I thought they were fighting. Only later on I’ve come to realize that they were probably having the time of their life! As pastors and teachers, this should be remembered too. Some people just don’t like debating and become anxious and weary if they face the harsh reality of heterodox world too often. Sometimes a shepherd should smack the wolves where little lambs can not see how ugly it can get.

A question now debated, the ordination of women, could be and has been rhetorically described as an insignificant detail in an already peripheral question about ministry and ordination. Rhetoric used would follow a strongly functionalistic line of thought. The Sweet Gospel would, of course, be “in the middle”. The means of grace – of course separated from the gospel itself – would then be on the next ring, maybe preceded by “The Bible”. Then, as a functionalistic necessity, God would have to establish some kind of organisation to spread the news, some sort of a divine pr-agency. We could call this “the Church”. The church, in this rhetorical framework, would of course be invisible by its nature, but just for practical reasons, it would have some actual visible activities - divine service, for example. In this service, it would be convenient to have some people specifically appointed to lead things, unless everything would become confused. These people we call pastors. Now – through this rhetoric, the whole question about ministry is really, really low in the food-chain of theological topics. And even more insignificant it gets when one asks whether women could be pastors too or not.

Needless to say, this sort of a description doesn’t really grasp what the Office of the Holy Ministry really is. Luke 10:16 is one of the many passages which opens a wholly new perspective: whoever hears you, hears me, says our Lord! How then could it be insignificant and peripheral who gets to represent the Lord himself?

Martin Luther, in his oft-quoted comparison described the doctrine as a golden ring. If you take out a piece – no matter how small – the ring is broken and is not ring anymore. I myself have compared doctrine to jello (not as refined a comparison, I admit). If you prod one corner, the whole jello jiggles. And yet another comparison, this one chiefly for the deaconesses: a ladder in a stocking. Once it starts, you can’t stop it.

The point is both is the same: the doctrine is a whole. You cannot tamper with one part of it and expect other parts to remain untouched. The question about women’s ordination is not just a question about ordination, it is also a part of a much larger question about human anthropology and sexuality. What does it mean to be created as man and woman? But the question is actually even more complex, since God’s Word links the human sexuality to both trinity, ecclesiology and even soteriology. The kehphalee-structure (head) used used to both describe a relation between male and female, but also intratrinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son (1. Cor. 11:3). The same kephale-imagery is also used to portray the saving work of Christ and the bond between him and his bride the church. “But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.“(Eph. 5: 23, 24)

Now, if a Church rejects the Biblical view about the male-female –relation, it cannot retain the right understanding about trinity, ecclesiology or soteriology. The deliberate mistake made in one will lead into problems with the others.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland accepted women’s ordination in 1986, and the first priestesses were ordained two years later. When the fateful decision was made, opponents prophesied that the acceptance of homosexuality would be next. Majority of proponents jeered at such ludicrous speculations. “That will never happen, and these two things are by no means connected to each other!” was the common response. Now, as ELCF celebrates 20 years of female pastors, it can be clearly seen that the prophecy was indeed correct. Special gay-oriented “Rainbow masses” are held in many major cities. Even though the Church has not made official decision about the matter yet, many pastors bless same-sex relationships. The committee appointed to discuss the possibilities of same-sex marriages has used a truck-load of money and three years to ponder a question which should be quite clear in the first place!

Early 80’s saw a heated debate about the issue of women’s ordination in our church. One of the stupidest arguments for the novelty was that when accepted, women’s ordination would bring the people back to church and lead the ELCF into new prosperity and spiritual revival. Some actually believed that. However, the reality has shown dramatically decreasing church attendance and increasing outflow for the last two decades.

The introduction of heresy is usually progressive and starts with toleration. First, the novelty asks only to be allowed as a minority. As it gradually increases in popularity, it asks to be recognized as an equal alternative to the old belief. Mere asking changes into demands, and soon what started as a minority becomes a majority which, nevertheless still graciously allows some room for the old-fashioned orthodox. Finally, the heterodoxy takes over and the original, orthodox doctrine is declared heresy.

It is like a cuckoo laying its eggs in a host’s nest. When the little hatchling cuckoo grows, it steals the food meant for the legitimate nestlings. The nest will eventually become crowded and the smaller nestlings will be rolled over board. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy can not live side by side indefinitely. As long as orthodox arguments remain, they will pose a threat to the heterodox, no matter how strong a majority.

The ELCF’s decision of ordaining women was accompanied by a pious but problematic clausal stating that those not accepting the new resolution would still have room in the church and possibility to serve an pursue a career in holy office. The following twenty years, however, have proved that this can not be. The heterodox church simply can not bear to contain orthodox theologians. Therefore the last two years have been breathtakingly terrible in the ELCF. Pastors are publicly insulted, defrocked and sued into secular courts for simply holding the stance which was clearly allowed in the clausal of 1986 decision.

The passion play my friend went to see celebrated 20th year of women pastors by portraying Mary of Magdalene as the true apostle of Christ and the teacher of the early church. Secular authorities are asked to clarify whether it is legal or not for individual congregations to financially support overseas mission societies not adhering to the women’s ordination. Not to mention the whole mess with the baptisms described earlier in this blog.

The question which has been claimed to be a minor, peripheral question has become articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae – the doctrine on which the church either stands or falls. For the proponents, it seems, this novelty is more important than the unity and catholicity of the church. The church is splitting in its seams, losing both religious and secular credibility and jettisoning some of its best theologians, but all this is deemed bearable just so that the opposition could finally be silenced.

As a member of a church which has been ravaged by this “heresy of our time”, I want to make this thing absolutely clear: women’s ordination is not a peripheral question. It can not be handled as an isolated, minor detail. And if accepted, it is pure pious fantasy to think that the two mutually exclusive doctrines about creation and office could live in a peaceful co-existence. Indeed, it would be extremely naïve for anyone to think that LCMS or any of its partner-churches would be different from all the other church bodies in this sense.

A closing disclaimer note is in order. I made friends with some ladies during my years in University who have now either been ordained or are thinking about it. I see no reason for despising them, and actually we still have quite amiable relations. Opposing women’s ordination does not mean you must hate the ones proposing it. I like to think these friends of mine as victims of our Zeitgeist. When everyone around you is yelling that women’s ordination is “meet, right and salutary” it is no wonder that young people believe that. It takes a lot to end up going against the grain. It is purely God’s grace that I fell into right kind of company (or "bad company", depends on who you ask. I could have made a good career in ELCF, I'm sure - was it not for this issue.) and found faithful teachers who explained what the whole thing is about. I started my studies as a mild proponent of the women’s ordination and concluded them as staunch opponent. Maybe it could have been otherwise, God knows. Nevertheless, personal humility or loveable character mustn’t be excuses for closing our eyes from the theological reality. As theologians, we do not have that luxury.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Straight from the press...

Kuopio Diocese's resolution concerning the baptisms is also published. FELC Church-order states that "Rightly Baptized mustn't be baptized again." In its resolution, consistory states that the children baptised by rev. Väätäinen "are not rightly baptized".

This means that if the parents would want, they could ask FELC-pastors to rebaptize their children, and no ecclesiastical jurisdiction would be broken.

Therefore it must be concluded that the consistory considers babies already baptized to be in fact not-baptized, albeit they are allowed to retain their membership in parochial congregation. Therefore not only has the consistory lapsed in sacramental theology, but also ecclesiology, by allowing unbaptized people permanent membership in the congregation.

The consistory has by this verdict severed themselves from the catholic and apostolic doctrine and praxis, and has effectively chosen the path to sectarianism.

FELC more confessional than ever?

In my previous entry, I described the Kuopio Diocese's resolution concerning Mr. Suokonautio. The resolution is now published on a Finnish blog, and can be read here (for those of you who know Finnish:

The verdict itself was by no means surprising - I personally didn't have any false hope concerning theological preference in the consistory and its bishop. However, the arguments used in the verdict still succeed in leaving me dumbfounded. Such sophistry must be respected, even when it turns black into white and white into black. This at least should teach us that apostates are not dim-witted by any means. It takes a very capable mind to deliberately misunderstand in such a way as they have.

Mr. Suokonautio, in his newspaper interview (which started the whole process of complaint) stated his view of the authority of dogma and bible: "All our views and comprehensions of God are wholly formed by people, and therefore tied to specific times and cultures. This is true also with those formed by the Bilbe and the christian church."

Well, what does this mean? Even a freshman in theological faculty could tell you that. Suokonautio means to say, that religion is man-made. There is a monotheistic entity called "god" behind all religions, but basically all doctrine as well as Scripture is of human origin. This interpretation is well-enfoced in Suokonautio's later interviews where he denies Christ's atoning death, bodily resurrection etc.

Nothing new here. But what is new is that this view is now being called "Lutheran" by the consistory in Kuopio Diocese! Based on Epitome of the Formula of Concord I, the consistory states that the FC itself holds the view that all human formulations of God are tied to specific times and cultures. This is done by quoting passages where reformation theologians claim that The Word of God in the Bible must be given supremacy, and all documents following that are only secondary to it. This fine Lutheran principle of sola scripture is therefore twisted to mean that even the authors of FC themselves did not claim their confession to be true in the objective sense, but only true to them, in that time and in that cultural context.

Is this really true? The FC describes itself (rather ambitiously, I give you that) to be "general, clear, correct and definitive explanation." Now it would seem that the consistory holds a view that by holding fast to sola scriptura, Formula in fact states that it is not "general" and therefore doesn't apply to our time and context; it is not "clear" since it is merely man-made and open to ambiguous interpretations; neither is it "correct" - for same reasons - and finally, as a logical conclusion, it surely should not be considered "definitive"!

And while the FC itself holds that the Bible is to be considered the entirely trustworthy basis for all our teaching, consistory does not. Consistory goes on declaring, like an axiomatic truth, that the Bible itself contains a variety of views about God and is bound to its temporal and cultural context.

I don't know about you, but I consider it to be rather schizophrenic that the consistory first grants Mr. Suokonautio freedom from confession using sola scriptura-principle, and immediately after this has been done, forgets the whole sola scriptura and declares the Word of God to be ambiguous and inherently human-originated.

The resolution states that Suokonautio's teachings can not "in any way" be considered contrary to the Book of Concord. Therefore it would seem, that Suokonautio is more orthodox Lutheran than I can even hope to be. If this is declared "Lutheran" then we can surely see a literal wave of young "confessional" theologians and clergy in ELCF, albeit this "confessionalism" will be as confessional as democracy of old "People's Republics" was democratic.

One thing is widely common to all apostasy: it can not bring itself to publicly confess that doctrine and faith have really been changed. The facade of confessions are kept up, the traditions and church history are highly revered, yes. Because in the end, Church which has given up the Word of God has no other force keeping it together than tradition and power. And that is why Luther-foundation is such an insult to the official ELCF.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Consistorium locuta est – causa finita

The consistory of Kuopio Diocese has met and given out two resolutions which, when set side by side, reveal the theological and episcopal bankruptcy of Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Firstly, the consistory joined the ever-expanding choir by stating that children baptized by Mission Province -pastor, rev. Kalle Väätäinen are not "rightly baptized" because the baptism wasn't performed by a FELC pastor. The clerk in congregation's office had already registered these children as members, and consistory did not go reversing this. However, they explicitly stated that in the future children baptized in this manner will not be admitted into FELC - not even if their parents are members.

However, the question remains hanging in the air. Children who were already admitted membership were nonetheless "wrongly baptized" - according to the consistory. Does that mean that there in fact is now 4 un-baptized members in the local congregation? That would follow from the statement that these are not "rightly baptized".

Practically, in FELC the baptism is not anymore based on the Word of Christ in the Water, but on the juridical office of the baptising person and the official decision of the church authorities.

This claim finds support in the case of Markku Suokonautio, whom I will not call "pastor" nor "reverend", since he deserves neither of these wonderful names. However, he holds an office which in FELC goes by the term "pastor".

Suokonautio made a long career as a pastor in Canada, but later returned to Finland. He sprung into headlines a couple of years ago when it was found that he had been performing baptisms "in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier." Suokonautio had used inclusive language in his baptisms, deliberately avoiding traditional names of "Father, Son and the Holy Spirit". I think most of us remember that the Vatican stated just a short while ago that baptisms performed in this manner are not baptisms at all. (

Suokonautio was actually questioned and baptisms performed in this manner were found erroneous. However, what is telling, is that consistory decided that the baptisms were still valid "for pastoral reasons". Apparently the bishopcry has the power to make people baptized with mere jurisdictional decision, even when the institution of Christ is not followed.

After this, Suokonautio was forced to change congregtion, and was welcomed to Kuopio Diocese by its Bishop Wille Riekkinen - who openly stated: "You are just the kind of pastor our church needs." It must be noted that Riekkinen probably didn't mean the baptisms, but was referring to Suokonautio's reputation as a provocative preacher and un-orthodox litrugist. (For example, he made it to the headlines when he played Finnish Tango or when he dressed as a axe-wielding Finnish peasant in the pulpit.)

Not too long after, Suokonautio was again inspected in the consistory (this time in Kuopio Diocese) after a group of 20 lay people filed a complaint about his public teaching. Suokonautio had declared that all religions are basically the same, Christ did not rise from the dead (at least not bodily) and his death on the cross did not happen for any atonement of sins.

Today the consistory of Kuopio declared that the complaint and suspicion of heresy does not lead into any action. Basically Suokonautio was declared innocent - or at least his lapses were not considered serious enough to justify any disciplinary measure. By doing this, consistory in fact gives a strong signal that teaching similiar to Suokonautio's must be considered permissible. This is actually no surprise to anyone who knows what sort of a bishop runs the diocese: Wille Riekkinen is generally known for his higher critical and un-orthodox (in the sense of apostasy)

The news just came in today, so it's impossible yet to say how they will sink in. Certainly there will be a legion of "meek of the earth" who will advice us all to just humbly accept the resolution and pray for better times. Others will declare critics of this decision to be arrogant and schismatic. Rumour has it that the consistory was not single-minded in its verdict. Maybe there will be some "who have ears to hear and eyes to see what the Satan speaks to the congregations".

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Accusations of schismatism

Bishop Heikka of Diocese of Espoo has given his pastors the same recommendation Huovinen already did: that the children baptized by Mission Province -pastors should not be admitted membership in the congregation - even if parents are and remain members.

Heikka writes in his blog ( - for those of you who can read Finnish):

"Luther-foundation [the confessional Lutheran organization in Finalnd] is schismatic. It accurately follows Lutheran Confessions, but it does not follow church's order. Luther-foundation doesn't apply the episcopate's resolution on the ordination of women nor does it follow the church's order when babtizing children. [...] Baptism is true, when it has been done using water in the name of Triune God, and it has been performed in a church. Last prerequisite is not fulfilled in Luther-foundation's baptisms."

Following this, Heikka goes on to explain that he has informed his pastors not to accept into church's membership children baptized in this fashion.

Before going further into accusations about schismatism, it should be noted that

1. The Bishops themselves do not "follow Church's order", since Church-Law from 1986 explicitly states that even those opposing women's ordination should be allowed ordination into Pastoral Office and serving in the church. This has been neglected, and the ordinations conducted in Mission Province are a direct result of Bishoprics stance making it practically impossible for those to be ordained into ministry who do not accept women's ordination and act accordingly.

Through their actions, bishops have broken against their own legislation. And even worse, they neglect the §1 of the Church Order, which declares the Bible and Lutheran Confessions to be the confession and authority of the church. Among the episcopate there has been and is theologians who openly deny parts of this confession. By doing so, they are violating the very basis of the whole Church Order.

2. During "the days of old" Finland was still a part of the Swedish Empire, and the religious tolerance was minimal. Secular legislation demanded everyone to confess Lutheran Faith. However, due to commercial and diplomatic reasons, some Roman Catholics and Reformed resided in the realm and they were allowed to retain their religion. When, for example, a Scottish officer serving in Crown's military had a child, what were they to do? Nearest Reformed church would be in Netherlands. The clergy of the State Church were instructed that in these cases they could baptize, even though it was plain obvious that the not the baby nor his/her parents would actually join the Lutheran State Church.

Is this just an oddity from the history? Maybe. But is shows that the old church legislation de facto rejects "the third prerequisite" for valid baptism our bishops are now trying to impose - that the baptism must join a person into a visible, concrete and (parochial) congregation.

These notes made, it is appropriate to say a word about the schism-rhetoric used by Heikka and his bunch, "The Boys in Purple", as I like to call them.

Heikka probably doesn't realize it, but by invoking these demands of obedience he declares himself and the whole Lutheranism schismatic. Let's face the truth: Luther and the whole reformation was "illegal" in the sense of the canonic law. They defied the authority of the established ecclesiastical organisation and its head, the Pope. Translated to the language used by our bishops: Luther was a schismatic pastor because he did not utter the word 'revoco' when commanded to do so by his superiors in the church hierarchy.

Only justification to the whole excistence of Lutheran Church rests on the notion that "we must obey God rather than men" - that in the cases where authorities act against God's Word it is our duty to disobey. This, in Heikka's terms, is pure schismatism, plain and obvious.

By doing this, Heikka has indeed declared himself a bishop of inherently schismatic church. He is not a mere schismatic himself, but he is in fact leader of a still on-going schism, and therefore even worse than us block-heads in Luther-foundation.

Last summer in North European Luther Academy's gathering in Finland, Dr. Kaarlo Arffman (a professor of historical theology in Helsinki Uni.) expressed with bold clarity the state which is becoming obvious: the way problems are handled in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is precisely same as the way problems were handled in the Roman Catholic Church in the time of Reformation. Instead of theological discussion, only ecclesiastical authority - and even "secular sword"! - is used.

Arffman concluded his presentation with a question Heikka and his fellows can not answer nor understand. Arffman asked: if the church acts in this fashion, how does it justify its existence apart from Roman Catholicism anymore? If the church law of 21st century must be obeyed without questions, even when it is in contradiction to the Word of God - why won't we apply this same logic to the church law of the 16th century?

It would seem that among all the novelties of our time, a one old doctrine is now being smuggled into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. That is - of course - papacy. Instead of one religious dictator, we have a religious oligarchy - or junta! - of bishops.

I cannot but think of Christ's warning in Matthew 12: 43-45. But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and finds it not. Then he says, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he is come, he finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goes he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation.

We got rid of papacy in 16th century. House was swept and garnished. When it gradually became empty - theologically - it was open for papacy to return. Not in the form of one despot, but many.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

So what's the deal with baptisms?

Traditionally there are two minimum prerequisites for valid baptism: it must be done in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, using water. Of course, an element of correct intention could be added, too. Pastor's children, even when the above two are fulfilled, do not baptize their Barbie-dolls or even the neighboring Pentecostals' youngest child by re-enacting last Sunday's rituals with their friends.

However, it seems that a new condition is now added in Finland: a person must be baptized into a concrete local church. This would seem to be the outcome in the baptismal battle in the Finnish evangelical-Lutheran Church.

Since this is my first post, and some readers might not be familiar with the Finnish Lutheranism, it is only appropriate that I try to give the fast, basic facts concerning the matter.

  • The Bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland do not ordain pastors who are not willing to co-operate in sacris with female pastors.
  • The members of the church not willing to participate in divine service where women clergy are present find it increasingly hard to find any possibility to attend any service anywhere.
  • Confessional laity and pastors together formed The Finnish Luther-foundation in 1999 to organize communal worship life. This far the Foundation has been able to form 14 worshiping communities, koinonias with weekly attendance approx. 2000 members.
  • Due to its strong parochial structure, ELCF does not recognize these communities as congregations.
  • After Swedish Mission Province was founded, six Finnish theologians (me included) have been called, commissioned and ordained into the Pastoral Office to serve these emerging koinonias. Since these pastors are not ordained in the ELCF (due to our stance concerning women pastors) they are not recognized as pastors by the official church.
Well, all clear this far?

Last Fall, my colleague was asked by members of his flock to baptize their child. He did. The problem rose when the parents - who still are members in a parochial congregation - wished to register their child as a member of their congregation. The baptism, conducted by Mission-province -ordained pastor has stirred up a heated debate in Finnish ecclesiastical circles. Quite unanimously the official representatives of the church have judged our actions as schismatic, destructive and arrogant. The joy of baptismal regeneration and defeat of sin, death and devil are buried under an avalanche of resentment.

Infuriating to bishops, officials actually have no choice but to accept the baby. Since the parents are members of the congregation, it would be extremely difficult to deny their child the same membership. And no one has this far dared to suggest re-baptizing these children. However, since January, a new rhetoric has entered into debate. "Are these children 'rightly baptized' or not?"

It all started when Risto Saarinen, the professor of ecumenical studies in Helsinki University blurted in an interview that "The validity of these baptisms can be questioned." The terminology of validity is stong, usually meaning that if validity requirements are not met, then the person is not de facto baptized at all. The reason for casting this shadow is, that according to Saarinen, "It is universally held that a baptism joins a person into a concrete, local congregation."

Why was this not done, then? The answer is simple. First of all, a pastor ordained in Mission Province does not have jurisdictional authorityto join anyone to any ELCF-parochial congregations. He can only do the baptismal rite, and after that inform the right clerk in the church office about the baptism. If he would actually try anything like that, or even publicly claim that the purpose of this baptism is to join a child into this-or-that congregation, he would quite possibly be sued into secular court. One of our bishops has openly stated that in case my colleagues would try to baptize anyone, he would make it a police matter.

Saarinen's blurbs have become almost a mantra in Finnish public discussion, and are now circulated to and fro. Goebbels had it right: if a lie is repeated enough, it becomes a truth. Apparently in Finnish atmosphere of sola ignoratia (wonderful term introduced by Dr. Anssi Simojoki) the required time-span is two months.

The issue is at a stale-mate. Bishops do not dare to openly say that our baptisms are not true sacraments. They try to circle around the nucleus of the question by merely referating church order and using ambiguous expressions such as "these children were not rightly baptised". Even when confronted with the question about validity, they find ways to pass the question.

The latest step in the debate was Helsinki's bishop Eero Huovinen advising senior pastors in his diocese to not join children baptized in this way to their congregations, even if parents are members and ask that. Hopefully Huovinen's bull is meant to be just a temporary solution, since at the present he has created a limbo for these children: they can not be re-baptized, but they cannot be admitted into congregtion, either.

Through the whole debate it has become increasingly - and painstakingly! - clear that for most of our clergy (in the established church, that is) the sacrament of baptism is first and foremost a festive ritual for nothing more or less than registration of a child into church membership. This is the nucleus of Baptism - the juridical registration. Therefore, wherever you might find a pastor without the juridical power to join a child into church register, there you will find a pastor without the proper ability to baptize.

So, the quarrel and debate about ordination, church order and such is one matter. And I realize that the schismatic situation we live in is by no means ideal state ecclesiologically speaking. The way FELC deals with its own dissidents, however, has again revealed a little more about the horrible emptiness which reigns behind the facades. Bishops have not given a single serious theological attempt to resolve the matter or at least prove us wrong! Scripture is not used, the Book of Concord is not used - only sources for debate are the church order from year 1993 and these newly conjured "ecumenically confessed requirements" no one has documented.

What position people support in a debate is one thing. Another thing is the way they do it. The latter is in our ongoing quarrel more abhorring than the first.