- At the time the Reformation was launched in Germany, the Roman Catholic Church held religious hegemony in Finland, though pockets of paganism could be found. The first Lutheran writings reached Finland in the 1520s, helping to win the allegiance of Mikael Agricola (c. 1510-57), bishop of Turku and representative of the Finns at the Royal Council of Sweden. Turku is considered to be the father of Finnish literature, and in 1538 wrote the first book in the Finnish language. In 1548, he translated and published the New Testament (1548) into Finnish. Thus Protestantism became ultimately connected with literary Finnish.The move to Lutheranism involved relatively little rancor, following the lead of its western neighbor and ruler Sweden. The church abandoned Latin, priestly celibacy, and all of the sacraments except baptism and the Eucharist. It remained in episcopal hands, though the king took ownership of much former Roman Catholic property.The 1809 transfer to Russian rule did little to disturb the Lutheran establishment. In 1869, the church gained some independence at the cost of losing some of its ties to the state. As a result of the change, a national synod was created to decide on queries and administer policies.Lutheranism dominated life in the 19th century to the exclusion of rival denominations, though a variety of revival movements swept the country and created pockets of dissent. In 1844, Lars Levi Laestadius (1800-60), a Lutheran pastor, converted to a pietistic form of Lutheranism emphasizing personal faith and moral uprightness. He emerged as a charismatic evangelist whose earthy language and attacks against worldly, elitist church leaders appealed to the people of northern Sweden and Finland. Transferred to America, his movement would emerge as an independent denomination, the Apostolic Lutheran Church.Taking the opportunity offered by the revolution in Russia, Finland declared independence in 1917. subsequently, in 1923, religious freedom was adopted, and a variety of groups separated from the Lutheran Church of Finland. Among the first were the Orthodox, who had existed as a revi-talization group within the Church of Finland that had been strongly influenced by Russian Orthodoxy. Most of the new groups, however, originated in the 19-century revivalist movements.North American missionaries invaded Finland in the second half of the 19th century and helped establish a spectrum of Protestant denominations. Swedish branches of the Baptist Church, the United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church all date from this period.Pentecostalism was introduced by Norwegian pastor Thomas B. Barrett (1862-1940). It found an immediate response among the existing revivalist groups within the Lutheran Church that had already experienced manifestations such as speaking in tongues, visions, and prophecies. Barrett explained the role of the Holy Spirit in fostering these signs. Today, Pentecostalism constitutes the largest Christian community independent of the Lutheran Church. Still, non-Lutheran Protestants constitute fewer than 1 percent of the total population.The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland still plays some state roles. It maintains local population registers, and most non-Lutherans are buried in the cemeteries maintained by Lutheran parishes. As of the beginning of the 21st century, 85 percent of the population were registered as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.The Lutheran Church is a member of both the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Curches.Further reading:■ The Churches of Finland (Helsinki: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, 1992)■ L. S. Hunter, Scandinavian Churches: a Picture of the Development of the Churches of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden (London: Faber & Faber, 1965)■ G. Sentzke, Finland: Its Church and Its People (Helsinki: Lutheran-Agricola Society, 1963)■ Fred Singleton, A Short History of Finland (Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 1998).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.