Finnish and Russian attitudes to gay rights are poles apart, and that’s helping to derail doctrinal dialogues between the two countries’ largest religions. Archbishop Kari Mäkinen says that he was forced to cancel planned ecumenical dialogues when he met the Russia Patriarch Kiril in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church wanted to agree a statement in advance, as the meeting was scheduled to discuss anthropology—an area where sexuality was bound to come up.
”Our church’s line, which doesn’t directly condemn homosexuality, is such that from their point of view they don’t want to continue official ecumenical discussions,” said Mäkinen.
Mäkinen said that the Russian side wanted to agree a negative statement on homosexuality, but that the Lutheran church takes a different tack. In his opinion the end result of the talks should not be dictated in advance.
”Discussions are discussions,” said Mäkinen.
When it became clear that an agreement in advance wasn’t possible, the patriarch indicated that the discussions could not go ahead. Mäkinen says that ecumenical work will continue despite the setback.
”Doctrinal discussions are cancelled, but co-operation will certainly continue in other forms,” said Mäkinen.
The Lutheran Church is the national religion of Finland, with more than 70 percent of the population registered as members and paying ’church tax’ to fund its activities.