Finnish Court Rules Against Conscientious Discrimination: In Finland on November 30, the Hyvinkää District Court imposed fines on two male pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Tauno Tuominen, acting vicar at the Lutheran parish at Hyvinkää, and Ari Norro, a visiting pastor. The two were found guilty of gender discrimination against a woman pastor, Petra Pohjanraito, in an incident that occurred in March of this year. A member of the parish's church council was also fined.
Pr. Norro, a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF), was guest preacher at a communion service in Hyvinkää. Shortly before the service, he declared that he could not, for reasons of conscience, share the altar with a woman, even though she had been scheduled to officiate on that Sunday.
In the exchange that followed, Norro was supported by a member of the church council, who is also the head of the local branch of LEAF. Tuominen, Pohjanraito's immediate superior, was on hand, but did not take part in the discussion. The court noted in its decision that no one came to Pohjanraito's defense, and that she was left with no choice but to leave.
The guest preacher was convicted of discrimination and sentenced to pay 20 income-linked day fines. The chair of the local LEAF chapter was sentenced to 15 day fines.
In defending himself, Pr. Norro cited the principle of freedom of religion. However, the court found that he had exercised his religious freedom by agreeing to preach in the church without preconditions. The court also noted that the LEAF members were aware that Hyvinkää parish was bound by a report by the Lutheran Bishops' Conference last year calling for the equal treatment of pastors.
Pr. Tuominen was also sentenced to 20 day fines for job discrimination and neglecting his official duties (for his failure to intervene on Pohjanraito's behalf). The court found that it would have been his duty as acting vicar to prevent the pastor from being put at a disadvantage because of her gender, but acknowledged that Tuominen had a very short time to make a decision in the situation.
Pr. Norro said after the decision that he would appeal the case to the Court of Appeals.

Telegenic: ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is one of a dozen religious leaders featured on In God's Name a two-hour television special that will be broadcast December 23 on CBS.
In addition to Bishop Hanson, the program will also feature: Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and leader of the Russian Orthodox Church
Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), a Hindu spiritual leader,
Pope Benedict XVI,leader of the Roman Catholic Church,
The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists,
Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shi'ite Muslim leader,
Michihisa Kitashirakawa, Jingu Daiguji, High Priest of the Shinto Grand Shrine of Ise,
Yona Metzger,Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel,
Dr. Frank Page, president, Southern Baptist Convention
Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Sheikh of Al-Azhar and aprominent Sunni Muslim leader,
Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of theAkal Takht, the Sikh's highest authority,
Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion

Word Alone Not Alone?: In a recent mailing summarizing Word Alone activities in the Pacific Northwest, WordAlone board member Carl T. Fynboe writes:
"I am convinced that our WordAlone chapter and the many other chapters and churches throughout the United States are not alone in planning and preparing for potential adverse moves by the churchwide assembly in 2009 that would dramatically weaken the biblical foundations of the ELCA. The continuing loss of members and churches in recent years must be curtailed or stopped. The question raised by some of us: Is this,or has it been from the very beginning of the establishment of the ELCA, the continuing and deliberate plan of our ELCA churchwide leadership to bring about changes that violate the instruction and authority of the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions? It would appear to many of us that the passage of the ill-advised resolution in the waning hours of the churchwide assembly in Chicago may be a sampleof what is to come."

Sloth Never Looked So Good: If you're going to do nothing, you might as well do it in style. Tell the world you aren't afraid to sin boldy by slipping into the Official T-SHIRT!

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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.

    On the Web: Word Alone's Institute for Renewing Lutheran Theology (IRLT) has launched a new web site and proclaims its vision as:
    "an autonomous, multi-location and web-based, Lutheran theological educational organization committed to equipping current and future generations of pastors, lay leaders and professors to know and faithfully proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ, our Crucified and Risen Lord and identify the false gospels of the world."
    The Institute's recently completed initial course offering was Scripture and Interpretation: A Confessional Hermeneutic for Preaching and Teaching taught by Professor Jim Nestingen. Classes were offered Monday evenings between September 10 and November 19. Originating from Redeemer Lutheran in Fridley, MN, classes were broadcast live over the internet through the IRLT web site.

    Episcopal Epistles: On December 8, 2007, delegates to the Diocese of San Joaquin annual convention will vote on the second reading of constitutional changes that were first approved on December 2, 2006.
    The revisions to the consitution declare the diocese to be a member of the Anglican Communion in full communion with the See of Canterbury and assert the local Bishop's control over all the trust funds of the diocese.
    If approved, these changes clear the way for the diocese to sever ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Communion's Province of the Southern Cone (South America).
    In a December 3 letter to Bishop John-David M. Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urged Bishop Schofield to reconsider:
    "You have been clear that you feel your views are dismissed or ignored within the Episcopal Church, yet you have ceased to participate in the councils of the Church. It is difficult to have dialogue with one who is absent. While there are a number who disagree with you, I believe many more would welcome your participation, particularly as a sign of your faithfulness to your vow to share in the councils of the Church. The Church will never change if dissenters withdraw from the table. "
    Bishop Schofield responded on December 5:
    "The decision to be made by our Annual Convention this Saturday is the culmination of The Episcopal Church�s failure to heed the repeated calls for repentance issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and for the cessation of false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Scripture."
    Similar constitutional revisions have been approved on first reading in the by the Diocese of Pittsburgh (November 2-3) and by the Diocese of Fort Worth on November 16.

    Gospel of Judas Mistranslated?: If you've been following the fortunes of the Gospel of Judas, you may be relieved to learn that scholars have begun to question the preliminary translation undertaken by the National Geographic in 2006.
    That translation recast Judas' betrayal of Jesus as something done at Jesus' request. In a December 1 op-ed piece in the New York Times, April D. Deconick of Rice University took issue with the initial translation:
    "While National Geographic's translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.
    Several of the translation choices made by the society's scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field.
    ...I have wondered why so many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version of the Gospel of Judas. I think it may stem from an understandable desire to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians. Judas is a frightening character. For Christians, he is the one who had it all and yet betrayed God to his death for a few coins. For Jews, he is the man whose story was used by Christians to persecute them for centuries. Although we should continue to work toward a reconciliation of this ancient schism, manufacturing a hero Judas is not the answer.

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