The International Lutheran Council (ILC) invited Bishop Juhana Pohjola for a speaking tour in the USA 9 Nov. – 17 Nov. 2021. The title of the tour was: On Account of Me, You will stand. The background of the tour was the protest and petition published by the ILC last July on behalf of Dr. Päivi Räsänen, Member of Parliament, Finland, and the Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, because of the criminal charges raised against them. During the tour, the Bishop spoke in Washington, D.C., Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Boston and Westminster. The program also included several meetings and interviews.
In Washington, D.C., Bishop Pohjola visited the headquarters of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization dedicated to defending the freedoms of religion and expression. Accompanying him were ILC representatives the Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Secretary General, the Rev. Roger James, and Mathew Block, Communications Manager.
In his speeches, Bishop Pohjola highlighted the beginnings of the Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Diocese of Finland—and then the legal proceedings triggered by an educational booklet written by Dr. Päivi Räsänen. The Bishop highlighted how this criminal prosecution in Finland is part of a wider cultural upheaval where issues of identity related to race, gender and sexual orientation form the main moral compass and the grand narrative of our time in the struggle between good and evil. The trend is to narrow down the freedoms of speech and religion via ideologically tinged interpretations of equality. The main focus of his speech was on how Christians, despite opposition, can boldly confess their faith, teach God’s good order of creation, pray for their opponents and live from the gift of the forgiveness of sins.
God, the Creation, the Fall, Atonement and the true Christian life are part of the Church’s teaching throughout history. As a Lutheran bishop, it is my call and duty to adhere to these teachings and to teach them publicly, whatever the cost. The reason is not to fight a culture war but to call people to repentance and through faith in Christ to possess the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In all this, it is not primarily an issue of legal matters but of the Gospel of Christ.
In Fort Wayne, Bishop Pohjola visited the Seminary of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the sister church of the Mission Diocese. He studied at Concordia Theological Seminary from 1997-1998. He met both faculty and students, and preached in the Seminary Chapel. He also visited two Lutheran congregations, St. Paul’s, Fort Wayne, and Advent Lutheran, Indianapolis. The trip then continued to Missouri Synod congregations in Boston and nearby Westminster. There he also met several congregants with Finnish roots.
The speaking tour deepened the Mission Diocese’s ties with its sister church in the United States, raised awareness of the work of the ILC, and highlighted common cultural challenges Christians face in the areas of the freedoms of expression and religion. The warm welcome, encouragement and support demonstrated that we in the Mission Diocese are not alone, but that Finland is remembered by thousands of intercessors.
ILC streamed lecture: https://ilc-online.org/2021/10/18/american-lecture-tour-by-bishop-juhana-pohjola/
CTS Seminary, Chapel, sermon 12 November 2021: https://www.ctsfw.edu/daily-chapel/
Pictures: Mathew Block