Organization and Duties of the Lutheran Church
The Lutheran Church was divided into eight dioceses,
headed by a bishop. An exception was the diocese of Turku,
was headed by an archbishop. Although he had no legal
the other bishops, the archbishop was regarded as the
equals and was the country's most prominent clergyman. He
presided over important church meetings and was frequently
church's spokesman. One of the dioceses, that of BorgA,
have a primarily territorial basis, but ministered to the
Swedish-speaking members of the church throughout the
For administrative purposes, each diocese had a chapter,
consisting of the bishop, three other clergymen, and a
The chapter also functioned as a court to resolve disputes
answer appeals against church decisions. Appeals against
decisions were handled by higher state courts. The highest
subdivision of the diocese was the deanery, an
entity no longer of much importance. The seventy-odd
were divided into parishes. In the late 1980s, there were
under 600 of these core units of the church. The 600
varied widely in both the number of their parishioners and
geographic extent. In the sparsely populated north, for
a parish could have more square kilometers within its
jurisdiction than it did parishioners, while there were
three dozen parishes in Helsinki alone.
The Lutheran Church of Finland employed about 18,000
in 1987, some 10,000 of whom worked full-time. There were
1,400 ministers, enough to meet the church's needs. They
their training at two institutions, one in Helsinki and
in Turku. The first women priests were ordained in 1988.
that time, women had been limited to the secondary role of
lector, with duties that encompassed teaching, pastoral
administering Holy Communion.
The highest body of the church was the Synod, which met
a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The
body consisted of the 8 bishops, 1 military bishop, 2 high
judges, 1 representative of the government, and 96 elected
delegates--64 of whom were laymen and 32 of whom were
The number of delegates that the individual diocese sent
Synod depended on its population, but each diocese sent at
six delegates, two of whom were clergymen. Chaired by the
archbishop, the Synod had a number of responsibilities,
deliberating on legislative questions, directing
the resources of the central church fund, supervising
translations, discussing the nature of relations with
religious organizations, and resolving fundamental and
Two other central bodies were the Ecclesiastical Board
the Bishops' Conference. The former was a permanent body,
by the archbishop, that oversaw the church's
finances and prepared matters for discussion at the Synod.
latter, consisting of the bishops and eight other church
officials, met twice a year to discuss, in an unbinding
issues of concern to the dioceses.
The church placed great emphasis on congregational
Despite the apparent episcopal nature of the church
parishes were quite independent. They made most of their
decisions on their own and had only to observe the
ecclesiastical law. By means of democratically elected
and boards, they chose their own pastors, church
administrative personnel and, to some degree, set their
salaries. Every adult member of a parish had the right to
and he or she had the possibility of winning a place on
council or board, which meant that the laity had much say
how its parish was run.
Parishes were financially independent, for it was to
that the national government paid the church tax, equal to
1 percent of the taxable income of parishioners.
within a parish were also obliged to pay the church tax
altogether, this tax represented about 75 percent of the
Church's income. Some of the religious and social services
parish managed yielded income, too, as did the 1 percent
nation's forests that were in church possession. An
administrative board and an executive council managed
finances, although in urban areas parishes sometimes
together to handle such practical details. Parishes were
however, to pay about 6 percent of their income to a fund,
by the church as a whole, to help poorer parishes and to
other activities like missionary work.
The historical role of the Lutheran Church as a state
was reflected in the services managed by the parish that
countries were the concern of secular government. For
it maintained the official population records for all of
members. Those of nonmembers were kept by local
Parishes managed graveyards. In an area where there was no
alternative cemetery, nonmembers or nonbelievers could be
in one belonging to the church. Weddings performed by the
had the same value as civil services, provided both the
groom were Christians.
Parishes did not limit themselves to regular religious
services and to other activities such as Sunday schools or
groups. They often organized a specifically Finnish
meeting, the seurat, which had its origins in the
revivalist tradition and was a mixture of hymns and
both clergy and laymen.
Parish personnel also offered services of a secular
that supplemented social services provided by the state.
law required that each parish have a deacon or deaconess
many of the responsibilities of a state social worker.
trained as nurses, deaconesses ministered to the sick,
handicapped and coordinated their work with state
World War II, the church has been active in providing
and facilities to youth programs, such as summer camps.
Data as of December 1988