Church declines to discipline priest for performing gay marriage

The Church of Finland’s Bishop of Helsinki has declined to discipline a priest for performing a same-sex wedding. The Helsingin Sanomat reports the Rev. Toni Fagerholm blessed a same-sex partnership during last week’s Helsinki Pride event, prompting the Rt. Rev. Irja Askola, the Bishop of Helsinki, on 2 July 2014 to tell reporters that the “information I’ve received suggests that the pastor considered the service a blessing. The details about the service he initially provided to various people were contradictory.” The bishop said that the service had been similar to a traditional church wedding ceremony, save for when the time came to time to exchange rings, Mr. Fagerholm asked not if the women wanted to take each other as spouse, but if they had anything to say to each other. The bishop said this change was sufficient to shield the priest from a disciplinary hearing. Bishop Askola has been a vocal advocate for changing Finland’s marriage laws, but moves to permit same-sex marriage have been soundly rebuffed by the church’s synod. Last week the Finnish Parliament’s legal affairs committee rejected a same-sex civil marriage bill by 10 votes to 6 . In 2013 a similar bill was defeated by a vote of 9-8. The country’s parliament is expected to debate gay marriage legislation during its Fall sitting.

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