The weeks leading up to Christmas should be a joyous time for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. In Finland though, the past month has turned out to be quite the opposite.

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The weeks leading up to Christmas should be a joyous time for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. In Finland though, the past month has turned out to be quite the opposite: in a mass exodus following a gay rights debate on national television, over 40,000 people have given up their membership of the church.

Church membership in Finland is optional and 78.5 per cent of the population are members. Since 2003, resignation has been made easy by an organisation called Vakaumusten Tasa-arvo (rough translation: “the equality of convictions”). VATA runs a website which allows people to resign online, simply by filling out a form and sending an email. Last year, more than 40,000 people left the church. For 2010, the figure is already almost 70,000. This is sure to be a sad record year for the church.

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