Church and state
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s position on the Finnish state has evolved over the years. Until 1870, the ELCF was a state church: the state was bound to uphold the Lutheran confession, and it exerted a decisive influence on church-related matters. Finland’s first freedom of religion legislation was enacted in 1922, and the ELCF may now be considered a “folk church”.
As a folk church, the ELCF is an integral part of Finnish history and culture: it is the church of the majority of Finns, and its baptismal and funerary rites form part of the national tradition. The scope of its mission thus encompasses the entire nation. The folk church concept is neither nationalistic nor exclusive: rather, the folk church strives for a generous acceptance of all who live in Finland, whatever their ethnicity or faith may be.
Under the Finnish constitution, the Church’s organisation and administration are provided for in church law, the content of which is decided by the General Synod, the Church’s highest decision-making body. The Church plays an official role in the undertaking of social tasks such as keeping public records. In turn, the state is responsible for providing comprehensive religious education.
Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Finnish Orthodox Church have the right to levy tax, and they also receive public funding for handling important social tasks.
The funds received from the Finnish state are used as follows:
- Cemetery maintenance
- Church record-keeping
- Church repairs
- Other costs associated with social services
The public legal status of the ELCF requires the principle of transparency and disclosure at all levels. This principle covers the conduct of business, open documentation and transparency in employee relations and communications.