Finnish state church creates a ‘prayer moment’ for marriages of same-sex couples

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"'After years of debate, Finland's state church took a step towards accepting gay relationships with an announcement Friday it would create a 'prayer moment' for registered partnerships.

"'The proposal offers a positive opportunity to minister to church members who are sexual minorities,' the General Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church's highest administrative body, said in a statement.

"The General Synod must now draw up a formula for a prayer that walks a fine doctrinal line, observers said.

"Lutheran ministers will have the choice of performing the prayer with gay couples in a church, but it will not actually constitute a church's blessing of the union itself, synod spokesman Marko Kailasmaa told AFP.

"The decision was approved, not without conflict, by the synod's representatives of ministers and bishops in a vote of 78 for and 30 against.

"The vote can be seen as a concession of sorts to a groundswell of popular support within the church community for Christian gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

"'A prayer moment is part of pastoral care ... It's not an official sacrament, but you can't say that a prayer is less important,' Kailasmaa said.

"The Church has been under pressure since a televised debate on the freedom to marry hosted by Finland's public broadcaster YLE featured church officials arguing that gay relationships were contrary to Biblical teachings and the values of the Church.

"Although these opinions were in line with long-held Church doctrine, the publicity of the debate sparked a mass exodus, with more than 40,000 registered Lutherans quitting the church in the month following the debate."

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