The Diocesan Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF, Mission Diocese) has on 23 January 2021 elected Diocesan Dean Juhana Pohjola as the next Bishop of the Mission Diocese. The ordained and two lay delegates from each congregation gave Pohjola 111 votes (90.2 %) through advance voting, whilst the other candidate Esko Murto received 12 votes. 95 % of the delegates voted in the election.
– I wish to express my gratitude for the great confidence you have shown in me by giving me such strong support and by electing me for this important and demanding task. I feel great weakness faced with such a great task and calling but I know that the matter has been discussed in the congregations and that many prayers and intercessions have been said for the matter, which encourages me to look forward from this, newly elected Pohjola commented in his thank you speech.
Dean Pohjola thanked his predecessors for the example they had set. He especially remembered Bishop Matti Väisänen’s legendary phrase at his consecration service concerning the episcopal pectoral cross.
– It is carried not on one’s stomach but on one’s heart. God willing, I also wish to be such a Bishop who will carry Christ’s sign of the cross on my heart and who will preach the Word of Life that alone makes us alive and that alone builds up the Church. For ultimately, we all are and our Church is upon the heart of our heavenly Father. In this regard, we have a massive, great common task in our dear fatherland and also on the mission field.
Bishop Risto Soramies’ characterisation of himself as ‘the world’s most wretched prayer’ spurred Pohjola to ponder on the meaning of intercession.
– The Apostle Paul, in nearly every one of his letters, asks the Church over and over again to pray for him and his coworkers. I think that if I am to be consecrated as Bishop of the Mission Diocese in August, I will be a Bishop who will need the most intercessions in the world.
Rev Dr Pohjola will succeed Risto Soramies (as Bishop from 2013 to 2021) as the second Bishop of the Mission Diocese. Matti Väisänen served as the first Finnish Bishop of the Mission Province of Sweden and Finland from 2010 until the foundation of the independent Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland in 2013.
– The pastoral college and the delegates of congregations elected Rev Dr Juhana Pohjola as Bishop of the our Church body. The ELMDF had the good fortune and the blessing of being able to choose from two learned and proven pastors. The pastoral gifts and tested courage of Dean Pohjola will certainly serve our congregations well. It is a blessing and a reason to be thankful to God for the retiring bishop to see a good man succeeding him in the office. May God grant Dean Pohjola all the grace and stamina that he will need as the shepherd of the shepherds and of the congregations, Bishop Soramies commented.
Juhana Pohjola (born 1972) currently serves as Diocesan Dean of the Mission Diocese (2013 to present) and as Dean of its supporting trust, The Luther Foundation Finland (2000 to 2011, 2012 to present). Previously, he has served as Head Pastor of St Mark’s Lutheran Church, Helsinki (2000 to 2010) and been a Visiting Scholar at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St Catharines, Canada (2011 to 2012). He holds the degrees of MTh (University of Helsinki, 1997), STM (Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, USA, 1998) and ThD (University of Helsinki, 2014). In his doctoral dissertation, he studied the view the Office of the Ministry and ordination in Finnish ordination rites. He is married, father of four children, and enjoys playing tennis and reading.
Dean Pohjola was ordained in the Diocese of Oulu (The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, ELCF) in 1999 to serve the newly founded Luther Foundation Finland (LFF) in building independent confessional Lutheran communities within the ELCF. After breaking fellowship with the ELCF Bishop of Helsinki for doctrinal differences in 2004, the LFF was shunned by the ELCF. This led to a great deal of unexpected publicity and a rapid growth in the work of the LFF under Pohjola’s leadership. Pohjola was defrocked by the ELCF in 2014 for serving the Mission Diocese that was seen as a separate church body. In 2020, Dean Pohjola was interrogated by the police for a booklet written by MP Päivi Räsänen and published by the LFF in 2004 on the biblical view on creation and sexuality, citing the ethnic agitation law of 2011. The ongoing case concerns the freedom of religion and expression and has attracted worldwide attention.
Dean Pohjola’s Consecration into the Episcopal Office is currently planned to take place at the Mission Diocese Summer Festival in Loimaa, Finland, on 1 August 2021.
Churches are exhorted to join us in the following prayer:
Almighty and merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have given Your Church the Holy and Apostolic Office through which You shepherd us by Your Word and Sacraments, protect us from error and and keep us steadfast on the way of eternal life. We thank You that You have through Your Holy Spirit led Your Church to elect Juhana Pohjola as our future Bishop. We pray You: equip him for this noble Office of Overseer with faithfulness and wisdom for the benefit of Your Church. Keep us united in in the truth and love of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ, our Lord and heavenly High Priest, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland is a confessional Lutheran church with ca. 40 congregations and 2,200 members in Finland. The ELMDF is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and is in full fellowship with the Mission Province in Sweden, The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Norway, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Germany), Lutheran Church—Canada and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (USA). The vision of the Mission Diocese is to continue to live out that biblical, Lutheran faith and ecclesiastical life which, in many places and in many ways, have been broken.