Monday, September 29, 2008

Bless without blessing - the Finnish innovation!

The consistory of the diocese of Espoo, with its bishop Heikka, has issued a resolution concerning blessing of the same-sex "registered relationship", conducted by Provost Liisa Tuovinen (see previous posts). The resolution is, again, surprisingly imaginative in its formulation.

As is known, the Evangelical-Lutheran (or ex-Lutheran!) Church of Finland does not have in its agenda an accepted form for blessing of the same-sex relationships. Therefore a pastor conducting such a blessing could be accused of misconduct in his (usually her) office. On this basis, numerous complaints were filed of Tuovinen, after the media reported her blessing same-sex relationship(s) this summer.

The main ecclesiastical (not Christian) newspaper Kotimaa in Finland reported the resolution by writing:

The consistory decreed that Tuovinen had acted according to the common resolutions of the church. According to consistory, Tuovinen conducted a devotion, and thus did not actually bless the same-sex relationship.

Tuovinen applied the rubric for devotional moment. Consistory stated, that by so doing, she acted in accordance to the church order, which states that everyone is entitled to soul care and prayer.

However, the consistory itself stated in their press release:

Tuovinen has performed her pastoral duties by praying for those who registered their relationship and by blessing them.

So the bottom line is: Tuovinen blessed these two women, yet she did not bless them. All charges discharged.

The question, which begs to be asked is: if she had in fact somehow BLESSED these couples, what would have been the crime? a) Blessing that which God himself does not bless or b) Blessing that, for which there is no official rubric in the ELCF agenda? It seems the b would have been correct, and that is the reason Tuovinen got away with this. There apparently is no theological problem in blessing same-sex relationships. The question is purely on the level of "do we have a suitable ritus for that?"

Blessing has thus been degraded and degenerated into a purely immanent action performed by the church. Personal, living, thinking and speaking God and his will is a total non-issue. No one in the consistory is actually interested about what God thinks about these blessings - or at least that can not be known. Thus it is not important whether one blesses or not - the important thing is whether one does it in the name of the church or not. I'm becoming more and more assured that the pre-reformation Papal hubris is making a good comeback in ELCF. With increasing speed, the church is taking the place which used to be reserved for God.

In a way, I find myself respecting even Provost Tuovinen more than these machiavellian, livid bureaucrats in the consistory. Tuovinen at least believes in what she does. She thinks it vitally important to bless homosexuals. Despite the fact that she is dead wrong, it would still seem that for her, "blessing" still has some meaning in it.

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