Column from Finland – The church should stick to the Biblical view on marriage, but it does not


Christian Life

Sari Savela, CNE.news

The General Synod during an earlier meeting. Photo Church image bank

Will the church of Finland extend the definition of marriage? Maybe not now but probably in the future. And that is unfortunate, Sari Savela from Finland writes.

Marriage is one of the most difficult issues the new General Synod that was elected in February will deal with. The General Synod is the “parliament” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

In March, bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland decided to propose the General Synod that all couples including same-sex couples could marry in church. According to the bishops, this could be possible if there were two parallel models of marriage. Only one bishop opposed the proposal.

Many Christians in Finland have been extremely disappointed in the bishops’ proposal, because it is seen as contrary to what the Bible teaches about marriage.


The General Synod still must approve the proposal. For sure, there will be many speeches for and against the proposal in the meeting and finally, the members of the General Synod are likely to vote.

The bishops will need three-quarters of the votes to get the proposal accepted. It’s very unlikely that will happen in the meeting this week. But in the future, it will probably happen, because there are strong forces in the church who are driving this.

What is the General Synod of the Church of Finland?

The General Synod is the highest decision-making body of the Church of Finland. The Synod is chaired by the Archbishop. It makes key decisions relating to the Church’s doctrine and ministry.

The General Synod meets in Turku for a week in May and November. It comprises all ten bishops as well as 96 members elected by the dioceses for four-year terms. The new members of the General Synod were elected this February and next week they will have their first meeting week.

The future General Synod may therefore have the necessary majority needed to extend the Church's understanding of marriage to same-sex couples. After all, this debate has been going on for many years, and the pace only accelerated with the entry into force of the Same-Sex Marriage Act in the spring 2017.


The Church's official doctrine of marriage is still that it is a union between a man and a woman. However, this does not seem to matter, as parish councils and boards already decided to open their premises to same-sex couples. Priests who are willing to marry same-sex couples can be found in every diocese and in many parishes. There is no penalty for priests who act against the official doctrine of the Church. There is also strong support for same-sex marriage in the diocese and among bishops as the proposal of bishops proves.

All this is very regrettable and undermines the credibility of the General Synod. In the churches, the decision to open its premises for same-sex marriages is justified by the right of the church to decide to whom it gives its premises. This is not a theological question, it is said. In many churches, the decisions have also been appealed to the administrative courts, but the appeals do not usually lead to the desired outcome.


Many Christians believe that the evangelical Lutheran church in Finland will split because of the marriage issue. The future will show whether it will happen or not. In any case, the church will likely lose its members even faster than before. According to statistics In March-April, more people left the church than on average.

I must admit that at this point I respect the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for sticking to their doctrine. They do not discuss, for example, the extension of the concept of marriage. In the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, marriage is a sacrament and unambiguously a union of one woman and one man, according to the teaching of the Bible.



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