Pastor Charged with Criminal Discrimination against Female Pastor

Christianity Today has a story about a Finnish pastor who is being charged with criminal discrimination against a female pastor:

‘A Finnish district court prosecutor recently charged a member of the Finland state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), with criminal discrimination for refusing to work with a female pastor. Two other church leaders have also been charged for not interfering to prevent the alleged violation.

‘”The government has nothing to do with religion and wants to stay out of the discussion,” said Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who was president at IsoKirja College in Finland. “This case has nothing to do with religion; it has everything to do with a perceived lack of equality.”

‘The case could set a precedent for similar cases concerning discrimination against homosexuals. The ELCF is still discussing whether homosexual pastors can serve in the church and whether pastors may bless homosexual couples.’

Just a few thoughts:

It sort of takes your breath away to read that a western nation is prosecuting a Christian minister for trying to obey the Bible. To some extent, a part of the problem here is that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) is a state sponsored church. It’s no surprise that they would apply secular laws concerning “discrimination” to the ELCF. The government should have no say at all over the appointment of the church’s ministers, nor should they be regulating at all the way they practice their ministries.

One thing that everyone should note from the excerpt above is the last paragraph. There is a link between the debate over ordaining women and the debate over ordaining homosexuals to the ministry. If one is willing to relativize what the Bible teaches about the former, then relativizing what the Bible teaches about the latter is the next logical step.

This observation is not mere speculation. It has already happened in several of the American mainline denominations. Both the Presbyterian U.S.A. and the Episcopal Church U.S.A. are having controversies right now about whether or not to ordain practicing homosexuals as pastors, priests, or bishops. The debates in the mainlines frequently cite the churchs’ ordination of women as the precedent for ordaining homosexuals. Just as the Bible’s “repressive” teaching on the former was no obstacle, so it should not be for the latter either.

For the mainlines, the real issue was always about the authority of scripture. The scripture’s teaching was not the sole authority in the question of ordaining women, and now it is proving not to be the norm in the question of ordaining homosexuals.

9 Responses to Pastor Charged with Criminal Discrimination against Female Pastor

  1. David Hamilton November 2, 2007 at 2:58 am #

    good word man…
    ah, the world we live in!

    I really liked the sermon that you preached at Redeemer, and I regret that I wasn’t there to hear it in person- although I’d probably go ahead and choose Paris if I had it to do over again…

    Your sermon definitely fit in with some of my recent contemplations- that the apostle Paul answered any and all problems with the Gospel, and that I should do the same.

  2. jeremy z November 2, 2007 at 9:51 am #

    Denny I see your logical from women in leadership to homosexuals in leadership.

    A honest Christian needs to honestly deal with the hot button topics around them. One cannot just dismiss each issue.

    So, with that said, the hot topic is women in leadership. I think it would be fair to say that there is a good amount of Biblical evidence for both sides of the women in leadership issue.

    Homosexuality in the Bible seems to me a clear answer. Simply homosexuality is wrong. The passage with Jonathan and David does not have enough Biblical evidence to convince me homosexuality is okay.

    My point: We need to take one issue at a time, without letting the other surrounding issues get in the way of deciding about the current issue.

    It is like when you are in a fight with your “submissive” wife. And in the midst of the fight, she brings up another issue that is completely unrelated to the current fight. She brings this other issue up to gain more leverage in proving her point. I am arguing that we stick to one topic at a time and worry about the soo called iimplications when they come.

    This highlights another problem within the fundamentalists Evangelical movement. The problem is all of you have such a closed, tight, and non-negotiable way of theology, that if anything even appears to threaten your boxed in theology you all get worried. You immediately get in your holy fundamentalist huddle and protect your precious interpretation dismissing anything that may help one understand the Scriptures a bit better, but help one understand the world a bit better outside of their Southern Baptist holy huddle.

    Many ultra conversations theologies really put one in a corner and then you are trapped.

    These are my thoughts for Friday morning. Enjoy…..

  3. Paul November 2, 2007 at 10:19 am #

    “It sort of takes your breath away to read that a western nation is prosecuting a Christian minister for trying to obey the Bible. To some extent, a part of the problem here is that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF) is a state sponsored church. It’s no surprise that they would apply secular laws concerning “discrimination” to the ELCF. The government should have no say at all over the appointment of the church’s ministers, nor should they be regulating at all the way they practice their ministries.”

    The problem is Denny, as much as you’re upset about this here, this seems EXACTLY what you (and many other social conservatives) seem to be looking for. While abortion is a cut and dry life or death issue (at least on the pro-life side), things like abstinence only sex-ed, mandatory prayer in schools and amendments banning gay marriage have no logical secular arguments. They only make sense if one’s intent is to creep towards a theocracy. And if there is a theocracy, then for all practical purposes, there is a state sponsored church. And if there’s a state sponsored church, then someone’s theology is going to get mangled.

    While I see this as troubling as well as you do, I think it also proves a point. As someone said in the NY Times article you posted from a few days back: when you mix politics and Christianity, you get politics. That’s definitely the case here, and that’s definitely the case if the Dobsons and Colsons of the world get their way.

    It’s a scary thought indeed.

  4. jeremy z November 2, 2007 at 10:27 am #

    Great point about mixing Christianity and politics.

    Both must be independent from each other, not dependent.

    Christians are working for a different King in a different Kingdom, namely the Kingdom of God.

    Politics are under the authority of the King of this world.

    The goal is for churches and Christians to teach the King of this world how to run the world. We simply do not let the reverse happen.

  5. Brian L. November 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm #

    Paul,

    How do you define a “secular” argument? If secular means “a basis of argument that does not directly invoke religious authority” then there are plenty of “secular” arguments for supporting abstinence education or not supporting homosexual “marriage.” As for “mandatory” prayer in schools, surely you must be aware that to label the contentious cases in this way is begging the question.

    You assume to much as to Denny’s (and many other social conservatives’) motivations. Further, you stretch the word “theocracy” beyond what it can naturally stand.

    I could just as easily say that your argument only make sense if you intend to establish a nation with no religious liberty. And if there is no religious liberty, then there is no legal restriction to the state-sponsored persecution of Christians. Very scary indeed. But that would be taking all my wild-eyed boogyman fantasies and reading them into your statements – which is hardly the same as making a rational argument.

  6. Suzanne November 3, 2007 at 12:57 am #

    And exactly how was this man restricted from obeying the Bible? The Bible may say that women are to subject themselves. I have yet to read a Bible that commands men to keep women in subjection.

    Now if the Bible says for a wife to subject herself, is the husband living in sin if he has not subjected his wife?

    And yet that is number one on the agenda of some men, to actively subordinate women. In fact, this idea is so pervasive that even a theologian like Denny, who could be supposed to know the Bible, believes that the Bible forbids a man to have women coworkers on an equal level. Even when there are several verses in the Bible which says that the men do have women coworkers. So effectively this is about a man obeying what his imagination tells him must be in the Bible.

    Even if in the wildest of possible interpretations, women were not supposed to be pastors, does the Bible say that it is a sin to work with women pastors. Not at all. What about women who became pastors in the war?

    Was it a sin to work with her?

  7. Suzanne November 3, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    And exactly how was this man restricted from obeying the Bible? The Bible may say that women are to subject themselves. I have yet to read a Bible that commands men to keep women in subjection.

    Even if in the wildest of possible interpretations, women were not supposed to be pastors, does the Bible say that it is a sin to work with women pastors. Not at all. What about women who became pastors in the war?

  8. Paul November 4, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    Brian, (and my it’s confusing to have a Brian L. and a Bryan L. around here…)

    Are there TRULY plenty of rational secular arguments against abstinence only sex ed or banning gay marriage? I think not. Let’s look at the facts here…

    1) sex-ed: our schools must face facts that teens are having sex earlier and earlier. Abstinence only denies those very kids the knowledge of birth control, how to use it effectively or the education necessary to truly scare kids out of having sex until marriage (or, in the secular case, until they’re truly ready). I went to a school where abstinence only was the rule of law for the sex-ed classes, and it was the most pointless class I ever took. And I can think of at least 6 different girls in my class that didn’t graduate because they dropped out when they had their kids. It is the hammering of abstinence only sex ed, almost more than any other subject, that makes me think that pro-lifers are only concerned with being fruitful, regardless of the consequences. Considering the tax burden, the social stigma and the lack of options available to teen mothers, there are no viable secular arguments for abstinence only sex-ed.

    2) gay marriage: the only secular argument against this that I can think of is that people are supposed to get married so they can have kids. So, unless we start levying fines against married couples who don’t procreate (whether they can or not). And until that happens, once again, there’s no logical secular argument that I can see against it.

    And Brian, the only way to ensure that there is absolute religious liberty is to keep the government’s nose absolutely out of it. Even in a totalitarian society, there is a religion (atheism is totally a religion, let’s face it). However, if the government officially takes no stance (as our government was originally intended to do), then religious liberty can flourish.

    The problem with the church in the original article is that it’s a state sponsored church. The government has put its nose where its nose absolutely doesn’t belong. And you’re seeing the consequences. That said, the Dobsons and Perkinses of the world just aren’t seeing that, and the consequences will be disastrous if they ever get their way.

  9. Brian L. November 5, 2007 at 2:46 pm #

    Paul,

    “Rational” and “convincing” are not synonyms. You may discount the arguments, but that does not mean they are not rational or not secular.

    Further, your inability to “see” valid arguments does not mean they do not exist or are inherently illogical.

    This is not the forum to debate the merits of the individual issues raised above. However, it is the place to point out that there is a huge difference between a state-sponsored church and James Dobson’s public policy opinions. Your argument seems to come down to “I don’t understand the counter arguments to my own positions, therefore theocracy.” This is an enormous unwarranted leap of logic and raises doubts as to the rationality of your own positions.

    When I read “the only way to ensure that there is absolute religious liberty is to keep the government’s nose absolutely out of it” along with the argument that a de facto theocracy results “if the Dobsons and Colsons of the world get their way,” it sounds like you are making the argument that only non-religious people can be involved in government decisions.

    Is that what you are saying? Is there more convincing evidence for your position than “abstinence ed didn’t work in my high school?” How does this position square with your assertion that even “atheism is totally a religion?” Are only the conscientiously irreligious to govern?

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