Finland

Christianity was first introduced to Finland mainly through trade relations-from Novgorod in the East and from Birka in the West. In addition, the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen did missionary work in Scandinavia. The position of the Western Church and Swedish rule were secured in 1249 through the crusade to Tavastland (Häme) led by Birger Jarl of Sweden. Åbo (Turku) was soon made an episcopal seat, and a cathedral was built there during the thirteenth century. From the beginning of the fourteenth century until the end of the Middle Ages all the bishops were graduates of foreign universities. The Reformation came peacefully to Finland when Peter Särkilax,* Mikael Agricola,* and others came from Wittenberg and became church leaders at home.

The Pietistic revivals were most important for the inner development of the church and continued to enrich it from the end of the seventeenth century until the present day (see, e.g., P. Ruotsalainen, H. Renqvist, F.G. Hedberg). During the present century new groups have arisen, such as the “Fifth Movement,” and these carry on the old revival inheritance as well as receiving new impulses from revivals of the English-speaking world. These groups emphasize faithfulness to the Bible and the Lutheran Confession, in reaction to liberal theology and higher criticism. These movements enjoy much freedom within the church and have influenced it to a great extent.

The Church of Finland is a state church, but has considerable liberty. The church assembly meets every five years; its enactments must be ratified by Parliament. In 1889 a church law was passed, giving everyone the right of choosing his religion; in 1923 this was enlarged to include the right to freedom from religion. The Orthodox Church is also regarded as a state church; active mostly in the eastern parts of the country before World War II, its members were spread out over almost the entire country after the evacuation of Karelia.

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, which still claims more than ninety per cent of the population, has rather more than four-and-a-half million members; the Orthodox Church numbers about 68,000; none of the other registered bodies has a membership in excess of 10,000, according to available statistics. Roman Catholics number only about 3,000. The so- called Civil Register (which curiously includes Pentecostals and other groups unregistered as religious bodies) numbers some 250,000.

E. Jutikkala, A History of Finland (1962); M. Juva, The Finnish Evangelical Church (1962); K. Pirinen, L'église de Finlande (1962); L. Pinomaa, Finnish Theology Past and Present (1963); G. Sentzke, Finland, Its People and Its Church (1963) and Reformation und Pietismus in Finnland (1963).