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While recent elections solidify liberal leadership in Finland's state church, young conservative Lutherans are fighting to survive.

Last September, Helsinki's Irja Askola became the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (FELC)'s first female bishop. In March of 2010, Kari Mäkinen defeated his anti-gay-marriage opponent for archbishop by 11 votes out of 1,175.

In October, a televised debate over homosexuality on the national broadcast station spurred 40,000 people to leave the FELC. This past March, Lutheran youth magazine Nuotta created a firestorm by posting a YouTube video of a girl describing her decision to leave a lesbian lifestyle after converting to Christianity.

The video prompted the FELC to recommend that funding be cut from two conservative youth ministries that publish Nuotta, said Timo Keskitalo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Finland. Most Christian organizations are legally separate from the FELC, which comprises 78 percent of Finland's 5.3 million people, but operate under it. Local church councils can cut financial support to such groups and stop hosting their events.

The controversies shocked Finns, said Hannu Nyman, a pastor with Logos Ministries of Finland, which partners with Campus Crusade for Christ. "The division between conservatives and liberals in the church became more evident," he said. "Committed Christians have been taken by surprise at the strong liberal front among [FELC] leadership."

The FELC has taken steps to marginalize conservative youth, Keskitalo said. In late April, the Ministry of Education announced it would remove youth training accreditation from the Finnish Bible Institute, which supported the Nuotta video. Bishops refuse to ordain young ministers who do not support women's ...

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July 2011

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