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Pastor on trial for refusal to work with female minister

A pastor who refused to work with a female minister because of his biblical convictions has been charged with criminal discrimination by a Finnish court.

Ari Norro will be on trial Nov. 16 for allegedly violating Finland’s laws barring discrimination in the workplace or in public based on gender and other grounds, including sexual orientation, Christianity Today magazine reported.

Norro is a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland, a group within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland that believes the Bible does not allow women to serve as pastors.

In March, Christianity Today reported, he was scheduled to preach at a communion service in the southern town of Hyvink?? as a visiting pastor. When Petra Pohjanraito showed up for her shift to help distribute communion, Norro said he must leave, because he could not take part in a service with a female pastor.

“We were totally embarrassed by her arrival, for we understood very well that she was coming (to serve) at the altar,” Norro told Christianity Today.

Norro said he offered to leave the church, but Pohjanraito decided to leave instead.

The incident was turned over to police when the chair of the Hyvink?? Church Council filed a request for an investigation, according to the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Christianity Today said two other church leaders also have been charged for not interfering to prevent the alleged violation of law.

The case could impact the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland’s controversy over whether homosexuals can be ordained and whether pastors can bless same-sex couples.

Veli-Matti K?rkk?inen, former president of IsoKirja College in Finland, insisted the government has nothing to do with religion and wants to stay out of the discussion.

“This case has nothing to do with religion; it has everything to do with a perceived lack of equality,” he told Christianity Today.

Norro contends he did not commit a crime, because his country’s constitution – which says no one should be treated differently because of his religious convictions – overrules the state penal code.

“Naturally, to be accused is far from being pleasant,” Norro told CT. “It’s sad that the church can’t resolve problems like this one (by itself). In this case, the church itself winds a rope round its neck, and then gives the end of the rope to the … state (court).”

Norro, who probably would be fined if found guilty, argues other denominations, such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic church, do not ordain women, but they are not accused of committing a crime.

He fears pastors in Finland soon will be put on trial for refusing to work with a homosexual pastor or even for teaching God does not approve of homosexual relationships.

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