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May 6, 2021

Dear Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Stephen,

I am writing to you about the case of the Finnish Christian member of Parliament Dr Päivi Räsänen who is being prosecuted by the authorities in Finland for publicly upholding traditional Christian teaching on sexual ethics.[1]

The alleged crime for which Dr Räsänen is being prosecuted, and for which she faces up to six years in prison if convicted, is declaring in a pamphlet published in 2004, and in a 2018 television show, that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and that same-sex sexual relationships are contrary to God's will, and for posting a tweet critical of the Church of Finland's support for the Helsinki LGBT Pride event in 2019.

The prosecution of Dr Räsänen is a matter of concern for members of the Church of England because she is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, a church with which we are in communion under the 1992 Porvoo Agreement, and because there are congregations of the Diocese in Europe in Finland whose members could potentially face prosecution in exactly the same manner as Dr Räsänen.

There are four key questions about the prosecution of Dr Räsänen on which it would be good to be clear about your views.

First, do you agree with the Barmen declaration of 1934 that 'Jesus Christ, as he is testified to us in the Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God, whom we are to hear, whom we are to trust and obey in life and in death'?

Secondly, do you agree that such obedience to Jesus Christ involves a willingness to declare publicly what Holy Scripture teaches about the nature of marriage and human sexual activity, and that therefore as a committed Christian Dr Räsänen was under an obligation to write and speak as she did?

Thirdly do you agree that the prosecution of Dr Räsänen contravenes the freedom guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights for an individual to 'manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance' and that it sets a deeply worrying precedent for Christians, not only in Finland, but in other parts of Europe as well?

Fourthly, if the answer to these three questions is 'yes,' will you be willing to raise the issue of Dr Räsänen's prosecution with both the Church of Finland, which has been noticeably quiet about the matter, and the civil authorities in Finland?

The basic issue is whether you agree that it would be unjust for a Christian to be imprisoned simply for publicly upholding traditional, biblically grounded, Christian teaching about marriage and human sexuality, and, if you do, whether you are willing to use the influence you have to try to prevent this injustice taking place.

Yours sincerely

Dr Martin Davie

[1] For details see Rod Dreher, 'Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker,' The American Conservative, 29 April 2021 at https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/finland-persecutes-christian-lawmaker-paivi-rasanen/ and 'When a tweet can land you in jail: Criminal charges brought against Finnish MP', ADF International, 30 April 2021 at https://adfinternational.org/news/when-a-tweet-can-land-you-in-jail-criminal-charges-brought-against-finnish-mp/


Finnish Bishop Elect charged over historic Christian teachings on human sexuality

by Mathew Block
April 30, 2021

FINLAND -- Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Diocesan Dean and Bishop Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) has been charged by Finland's Prosecutor General with incitement against a group of people. The charges stem from a 2004 booklet published by Luther Foundation Finland (the legal entity behind the ELMDF) which articulates historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

"As a Christian, I do not want to and cannot discriminate against or despise anyone created by God," Dean Pohjola said in reaction to being charged. "Every human being, created by God and redeemed by Christ, is equally precious."

At the same time, he continued, "this does not remove the fact that, according to the Bible and the Christian conception of man, homosexual relations are against the will of God, and marriage is intended only between a man and a woman. This is what the Christian church has always taught and will always teach."

Finland's Prosecutor General began an investigation of the ELMDF in 2019 for its booklet "Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity," despite an earlier investigation by Helsinki Police which concluded no laws had been broken. The booklet was published in 2004; Finland legalized same-sex marriage in 2017.

The booklet argues that homosexual activity must be identified as sin by the church on the basis of the teachings of Scripture. The author, Dr. Päivi Räsänen--a Finnish Member of Parliament--further argues that a failure to recognize sin as sin undermines the very need for a Saviour.

Dr. Räsänen has now been charged with incitement by the Prosecutor General, both for the booklet and for other comments on human sexuality. As Dean Pohjola is editor-in-chief of Luther Foundation Finland's publications--including the booklet "Male and Female He Created Them"--he also was charged.

"This decision of the Prosecutor General says a lot about our time," Dean Pohjola commented. "While I am concerned about the state of religious freedom in our country, I trust that the judiciary will make the right decision."

The International Lutheran Council has earlier expressed concern about the investigation of Lutherans in Finland for upholding historic Christian teaching. That concern is deepening. "Recent actions in Finland have created an international scandal which continues to grow," said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. "The implications of the decision to charge Juhana Pohjola and Päivi Räsänen are clear: if the authorities are willing to do this to a respected pastor, reverend doctor, and Bishop Elect, as well as a Member of Parliament and former Minister of the Interior, then that sends a message of fear and intimidation to everyone in Finland who follows the Scripture's teaching on human sexuality."

"Faithful Christians need to demonstrate solidarity with their suffering Finnish Lutheran brothers and sisters," General Secretary Quill continued. "We must not be silent but express righteous indignation at the actions of the Finnish authorities and demand an end to the persecution of those who adhere to historic Christian teaching on sexuality. I encourage Christians around the world to pray for Juhana and Päivi, and to follow the example and command of Jesus: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (Matthew 5:44)."

The ELMDF is a member church of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies representing millions of Lutherans worldwide.

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