The first pastor in the post-Soviet Union West to be hauled into court for affirming the Bible’s teachings on sex was elected chairman of the International Lutheran Council, an association of orthodox churches. Bishop Juhana Pohjola of Finland was unanimously elected by his fellow pastors at the ILC’s triennial world conference, held in Kisumu, Kenya, last month.
Pohjola has been interrogated multiple times by Finnish police and kept in court for three years so far by the Finnish prosecutor general for an alleged “hate crime”: publishing a theological pamphlet called “Male and Female He Created Them.” The pamphlet quotes and comments on the Bible’s clear teaching that God made men and women with different bodies that are designed to be united in marriage, a lifelong union between only one man and one woman. This ancient teaching common to the majority of world religions contradicts LGBT ideology.
Pohjola told a Finnish court earlier this year that being convicted of a “hate crime” for exercising his free speech rights would effectively outlaw Christianity in Finland. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously in Pojhola’s favor this spring, but the prosecutor appealed.
The case is now slated to be heard in a higher court next year. It could eventually reach the European Court of Human Rights, a legal venue often unfavorable to speech rights, where this case’s outcome would affect the world.
Pohjola was previously kicked out of Finland’s state church for adhering to the Bible’s clear teachings about sex. He was elected bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, a non-state-sponsored church body, last year. The Federalist interviewed him in person last fall, and, in person this summer, the Finnish member of Parliament who is being prosecuted with him. Both have repeatedly and publicly affirmed the Christian church’s warm welcome to sinners of every kind.
As ILC chairman, Pohjola will help lead efforts to promote faithful theological education across the world, including establishing and staffing seminaries that train pastors and other church leaders. The ILC works to establish theological unity among Christians across national borders by preaching the Bible. This year’s ILC world conference included representatives from 55 church bodies that worship in unity on every continent.
At this year’s ILC meeting, the organization’s members rejected the practice of “virtual communion” “as contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.”