General Synod: One godparent is enough

The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland held its spring conference on 7–10 May 2019.

The General Synod voted to support a representative’s proposal to allow a baptised person to have only one godparent if circumstances so require. The topic inspired lively debate, with more than 30 people taking part in the discussion.

According to current rules, the baptised person – child or adult – must have at least two godparents who are baptised and confirmed members of either the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland or the Porvoo Communion. Under certain circumstances, baptism can be administered to a person with only one godparent, but this requires special permission from the vicar of the parish in question. As noted in the proposal, the two-godparent requirement sometimes stands in the way of baptism, and the Church being more flexible about this requirement would allow more people to be baptised.

The General Synod referred the matter to the Church Council for further processing: the Church Order must be amended to change the number of godparents required for baptism.

Influencer groups for the young

Another topic discussed by the General Synod was the Church Council’s proposal about the role played by young people at different levels of church administration. The proposal suggests that parishes should be required to establish influencer groups for the young. These groups would offer young people more involvement and allow them to have their voice heard within the Church.

The proposal was referred to the General Synod’s Committee for Legal Affairs. If it is adopted, the requirement for parishes to establish influencer groups will be added to the Church Order.

Diocesan boundaries to be redrawn

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s diocesan boundaries will be redrawn at the start of 2020. According to the General Synod’s resolution, the new diocesan boundaries will be drawn to correspond with Finland’s regional boundaries, with the exception of the Uusimaa region, which will continue to be divided into the dioceses of Helsinki and Espoo. Due to the boundary changes, some parishes in the dioceses of Turku, Tampere, Oulu, Mikkeli, Kuopio and Lapua will become part of a different diocese than previously.

After lengthy discussion and a vote, the General Synod approved the Church Council’s proposal to redraw the boundaries. The proposal had the support of the General Synod’s Committee for Administrative Affairs. 

Harmonising diocesan and regional boundaries is intended to ease collaboration between authorities and lay the best possible foundation for successful cooperation between parishes and municipal authorities. Also, the intent is to foster closer ties with the non-profit sector and regional media.

After the boundaries are redrawn, dioceses will be more equally balanced in terms of their membership, geographical size and finances. Priests and lecturers in parishes that will fall under a different diocese after the change will be administratively reassigned to their new diocese.