Presentation of the issues brought about by the possibility for Finnish women to become a priest in the Lutheran Church.
This essay aimed to present a concrete case of inter-religious conflict, and I would like to speak about a conflict which has been going on in Finland and also in Sweden. This inter-religious conflict is about women working in the profession of a priest. The Lutheran church in Scandinavia has had a conflict which got quite large in the past few years. Finland and the whole Scandinavia are extremely equal countries towards women, and the problem related to that because the church couldn’t agree on the same level than the culture of the countries. This became a conflict because the culture is so equal, but the church is not able to stay in the same level of equality. The reason I chose this topic, is because it’s quite resent conflict and also it is related to culture. Of course, there are much worse inter-religious conflicts around the world, but as Scandinavia is really peaceful, this is an inter-religious problem which we have had in the near future.
The fact that it became possible for women to become a priest was one of the biggest changes in Lutheran church for the last few decades. Nowadays there is all the time more and more parishes are accepting women as priests, but in fact, there are many problems still. In Finland, women were accepted in the year 1996, and at the moment an average of 27% of the priests are women. Even this issue has formally been accepted; it is still a topic of argumentation.
Twenty-one years after the Lutheran Church of Finland allowed women to become pastors or priests, a small but vocal group of male clergy remained opposed to their ordination, embarrassing the Church as it tries to halt declining membership.
The problem is not anymore should a woman be a priest, the problem is what we can do about the people who are against women as a priest? And what to do with the priest who does not want to work with the woman priests? Also in the media, this has been an issue, and for example, some men working as a priest have been fired for not working with a woman priest. The issue has gone so far that one priest who was a man, decided to change his gender in Eastern-Finland and got fired after returning to work as a woman. Additionally, several female pastors also filed police complaints about discrimination.
The problem seems small, but in fact, because the Scandinavian, and especially the Finnish culture is so equal the gap between church´s opinion and the way culture sees the situation is huge. There have even been people who have decided to leave the church because a woman was a priest, but still, for them, it is normal to have a woman as a president. This issue is sensitive, and inside of the religion, it has raised up a lot of problems.
When thinking about the near future, Lutheran Church will have problems, because, for the last year’s students who have graduated from being a priest, half of them have been women. So the inter-religious conflict continues should the Lutheran church loose people from the parish because some women want to be priests or should they start campaigns to support women a priest. According to the association “The Free Thinkers,” who have created a website in which people withdraw from the Church, every time the debate on women pastors comes up in the media the number of withdrawals increase. Some 100 people a day have withdrawn their church membership in recent weeks.
There is a long in equality for the Lutheran church in Scandinavia because the level of the normal equality is so high. The value positions at stake are that the church might lose members, the culture and the church will disagree and create a big conflict between opinions, and maybe for the universities to stop educating so many women to be a priest because the church might not be able to give them work. Because it has already happened that people leave their parish and change to another where there is a man priest.
MEDIA AND CHURCH
Because there is a huge gap between the ideologies of the church and the normal culture, there are nowadays groups of women priests, and they are very intensive and even aggressive sometimes. They want to keep alive the ideology that woman is not meant to be a leader, and this is again the topic what the normal society does not understand. It was expected that when time goes by, the new generation will accept the women priests and the problem will disappear, but it ever happened. The groups which do not accept women priests are active and alive still after 20 years.
Media has raised up so much the issue of women priests that it seems now that Media has increased the number of the people who are against and Media has made it easier for these people to meet and create groups. Even nowadays the churches and parishes need publicity, the publicity which they have gotten has made the situation worse. To be able to talk about this issue in media, the church has to play with the rules of media. And the Lutheran church hasn’t been able to express themselves, and meanwhile, in the media, the people against women priest have raised up discussions to get more people to their side.
SOLVING THE INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT
The problem is hard to solve because most of the people living in Finland, for example, are used to equality and support even the president to be a woman. The problem is more related to the case that people who do not accept women priest do not take it because of the Bible, and this is an issue which is hard to change, their beliefs. In the case, Media would start promoting women priests and show that they do their job as well as the men it might get better. Moreover, the Media should stop interviewing the people against women priests and start supporting the women priests in order the Finnish culture and church to co-exist. Solving these problems and issues might take even a decade, but it is possible with the help of Media and for the young generations to be as equal in their religion as they are in their daily culture.
A century ago, Finland became the world’s first state to grant women full voting rights. It is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Finland has a woman as a president and also the world’s most female-dominated cabinet. Still, the inter-religious conflict is related to women working as a priest and pastor. The problem seems ridiculous but is in fact complicated.
All in all my opinion to solve this issue is for everyone in the Lutheran church to remember that we all have the option to choose our opinions and religions, but we have to respect the fact that Scandinavia and Finland are equal countries and our culture accepts women as priests. It is natural that everyone does not agree. If the problem will not solve shortly, maybe it would be a good idea to start establishing parishes with women priests only and other parishes with men as priests. But again this would fight with our culture of equality.