In a passive agressive manner, they take their toys and leave.
In effect, they are attempting to hold the organization/church hostage by with holding their money, time and talents.
They do not stop to think, that their pastor is a happier person living her authentic life. Thus, she will be an even better pastor.
By Juhani Saarinen
The Lutheran parish which has been rocked by the vicar’s decision to change genders has been hit by something of an exodus of members.
Last year 581 people left the parish where Marja-Sisko Aalto returned to work after undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Previously, about 150 people a year would quit the parish. Losing nearly 600 members in a single year is quite a blow to a parish which had 23,600 members at the beginning of the year.
The main reason for the exodus is believed to be the controversy surrounding the vicar’s gender identity. In 2008 Olli Aalto, who had guided his flock for some time, said that he would undergo surgery to become a woman.
Many parishioners are keeping their distance. Ever since coming back to work, she has officiated at only one funeral, and has not been asked to perform any baptisms or weddings.
The parish council has also been affected by the controversy. When the council recently convened to discuss the proposed budget for the coming year, 15 of the 33 members were absent.
The decline in membership is also an economic question. Those who have resigned deprive the parish of church taxes equivalent to the annual pay of two people.
Aalto’s superior, Seppo Häkkinen, the Bishop of Mikkeli, supports the vicar, noting that membership in the church is about more than the situation of just one person.
Häkkinen has heard two types of feedback from those who have left. Some say that the church has been too intolerant, while others say that it is too liberal.
“It speaks of the dilemma facing the church. No matter what you do, you’re always doing something wrong”, Häkkinen laments.
Antti Jarva, the chairman of the parish council, compares the situation to one in which large numbers of readers of a newspaper cancel their subscription because they do not like the editorials written by the editor.
“How many are needed before the editor is spoken to?” Jarva ponders.
Vicar Aalto is unhappy about the situation.
“I am terribly sad, because I do not understand that I have done anything wrong”, she says.
Aalto feels that the parish needs to continue its normal basic work. She says that proposals that she resign “have been whispered” to her, but she does not want to do that.
“It would set a very sad precedent.”
Not all Imatra residents have an emotional take on the situation.
“The bingo grannies are up in arms”, says Seppo Pentti outside the local shopping complex.
“First it was a bit strange, but now I’m getting used to it”, says Irma Litmanen, commenting on Aalto’s return.
Jouko Rautanen says that he has considered leaving the church - because of the church tax and not because of the gender of the vicar.
He feels that the parish should organise a new vote on the vicar.