Finns’ exodus from the country’s dominant Evangelical Lutheran Church is shrinking the pool of possible godparents. The church has started counselling parents on what to do when their children’s godparents, traditionally meant to provide religious guidance, leave the church.
Vicar Mika Kyytinen from western Pori says he has received worried calls from parents seeking advice when both of their child’s godparents resign from the church.
Though not an ideal situation for the church, the clergy does not kick up a big fuss when godparents leave the institution. In the eyes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the promise godparents make during baptism cannot later be undone.
Kyytinen, however, says kids can be given additional godparents later in life if that is something the family wants.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church generally requires that prospective godparents belong to the church and have also been confirmed in it.
Today church officials say an element of scheming has creeped into the godparent business.
“Godparents join the church before the baptism, only to part ways after the ceremony,” says Maija-Leena Seppälä, a spokesperson for the parish union of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pori.
Record numbers of Finns resigned from the state church after a controversial gay rights panel discussion aired on YLE TV2 in the fall of 2010. Many left because of the perceived narrow-mindedness of the church on gay rights.
Most people looking to leave the church have resigned on the Eroakirkosta.fi website, which reports more than 310,000 people have used the service since it launched in 2003.