They’re talking about revival in Finland.

An upsurge of spiritual interest and activity has been evident among Finns over the past year and a half, and secular and church media alike have devoted major attention to it. Thousands of people have been flocking to meetings where the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the need for deeper commitment to Christ are emphasized. Evangelistic outreach and missionary interest are also part of the new spiritual wave. Dozens of the 600 parishes of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), which claims about 92 per cent of the country’s 4.8 million population, are involved, along with non-Lutheran congregations.

At the center of some of the more sensational press coverage is Niilo Yli-Vainio, a Pentecostal lay preacher who came out of a disability-enforced retirement. He began preaching again in 1977 after he and his wife were “miraculously” healed of cancer, as he has testified in crowded meetings throughout Finland. Some observers say that his meetings have attracted more than 200,000 so far, an estimate others insist is exaggerated. Many people have claimed to be physically healed as well as spiritually renewed at these meetings. In a number of the services persons who are prayed for appear to faint, a phenomenon Yli-Vainio describes as “slain in the Spirit.”

Last summer Archbishop Martti Simojoki—the ELCF primate who has since retired—publicly rebuked Yli-Vainio for “commanding” God to heal. (The successor to Simojaki, consecrated last month, is professor Mikka Juva, 60, chancellor of the University of Helsinki, and more neutral in his stance toward the charismatic movement.) In return, some of Yli-Vainio’s followers have charged that the ELCF is tradition-bound and spiritually ...

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