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".


Anonymous said...

Wonderfull, Esko! Just wonderfull! I like your way to say things just how they are! Keep on going!

- Hannu

Anonymous said...

Suppose that during a very cold winter night, a baby was born suddenly and prematurely on some frozen Finnish farm, and the baby's father baptizes him while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Assume the baby spends six weeks in the hospital, and then is allowed to go home. The child's MOTHER would like to have a traditional church baptism with all the relatives present. Under these circumstances, could the child be baptized a second time in the church?

And if a baptism performed by the child's father, with no other witness besides the child's exhausted mother counts as a "true baptism," and the father's word would be taken as to the facts of the baptism, then how can the word of an ordained minister be doubted?

It seems very wrong to me that some of the children in the church are ending up with "second-class baptisms." They aren't allowed to "upgrade" to a "first-class baptism" fully recognized by the church, but the church won't admit that the baptisms that they had are true baptisms.

When Catholics adopt children from Ukraine, they sometimes end up having a ceremony of "conditional baptism" performed by the priest when they return to America with the child because the child has come from an orphanage where ALL children are routinely baptized, but the record-keeping has been less than ideal, leading to some doubt as to whether the particular child adopted was definitely baptized.

You wouldn't think that a church allowing a pastor to publicly preach that all religions are basically the same would be so fussy about where and how a child is baptized. If we all end up in the same place anyway, why bother to baptize?