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The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland gained its eighth mission agency when the General Synod unanimously voted to add ELY, Evankelinen lähetysyhdistys (‘Evangelical Mission’), to serve as the Church’s official mission agency, as proposed by the Bishops’ Conference.
In the lively discussion, Bishop Jari Jolkkonen, chair of the Church’s Committee for Global Mission, pointed out that the Church will hold mission partnership negotiations in 2024, providing the Church with an excellent opportunity to hear its partner churches and assess the current system. The General Synod granted an appropriation for the negotiations when it decided on the budget proposal.
The General Synod determined that ELY meets the requirements set for the Church’s mission agencies. ELY does missionary work in Russia, Estonia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The General Synod’s assessment is that ELY will be a necessary element in achieving the Church’s mission.
ELY’s roots are in the evangelical revivalist movement. Founded in 2008, ELY now has two missionary workers at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia and one Finnish missionary worker and three local workers in Estonia.
ELY, like all the Church’s mission agencies, will sign a framework agreement in which it commits itself to the Church’s basic policy on mission.
The General Synod approved the Central Church Fund’s budget, appropriating a total of EUR 180,000 for the project on the truth and reconciliation process between the Church and the Sámi people, with EUR 90,000 budgeted for both 2023 and 2024. The project currently goes under the working title of ‘Sámi at the Church’, Sämmiliih kirhoost, Sä’mmla ceerkvest, Sápmelaččat girkus, Saamelaiset kirkossa in the four relevant languages.
The project is a natural continuation of the work the Church has been doing over the years to strengthen the role of the Sámi people, languages and culture. The emphasis in the process is on pastoral care. The project’s objective is to meet Sámi people as individuals and communities both in the Sámi homeland and in cities and to offer a safe platform for discussing topics, even painful ones, related to the Church, faith and religion.
The General Synod engaged in a lively discussion of the Church’s fourth foresight report, entitled Siunausten signaalit (‘Signals of blessings’). The preliminary debate elicited almost 60 responses at the meeting.
The report was considered different and interesting, but it also raised some questions: Is the Church’s job to declare or to listen? Whose voices are heard in the report?
The General Synod sent the report to the Futures Committee. It is different from the Church’s previous foresight reports: it does not present statistics or conclusions, instead seeking to foresee the future of the Church by listening to what people have to say. The signals of blessings are quiet signals, signs of the times. Listening to them could help the Church maintain a meaningful connection to people.
In November 2021, the Committee for Financial Affairs tasked the Church Council with preparing a proposal for lowering the pension contributions paid to the Church Pension Fund, and the proposal was to be processed in connection with the 2023 draft budget.
The General Synod decided to not to change the Church’s pension contributions because of the altered global situation. According to the Committee for Financial Affairs, the near future holds exceptionally great uncertainty about returns on investments, and the extent and duration of these changes are difficult to predict. Rising inflation is causing pension costs to increase more than usual as well.
The General Synod approved both the Central Church Fund’s budget for 2023 and its action and economic plan for 2023–2025.
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