Holy organizations

For the past twenty years or more, Finnish Pentecostals have argued over what is better, a registered religious community or a registered religious association. Few Pentecostal congregations have registered within Helluntaikirkko, Pentecostal Church, but others still refuse to go with the development. To understand this debate one has to know the history of the Pentecostal movement in Finland. At some level it shares the story of other old Pentecostal movements – of rejection from larger and already established religious communities and of rejection of all that sounds like institutionalized church. The supporters from both sides differ in many aspects – with their style preferences, religious background of family, social class, and so on. For many Pentecostals, still, this debate is not of interest for them, some could not care less what the name of the organization is.

For some, though, the issue is of high importance. Even so that the form of organization has become sacred value, given from above. This sacred form of organization is worth fighting for in secular court, like in Pori. One active member of the congregation, who calls himself pastor, has sued the leaders of his congregation, not once but twice, over the same matter of changing the organizational form of their congregation. The procedure by which the change has been made, or tried to make, has flaws and therefore the case has its base in court. However, more interesting than the case is the very thought that somebody would go to the lengths of suing his congregation over the matter of changing organizational form.

The foundation of sacralization of the old association-organization lies in the personal experiences, especially conversion experience. Moreover, the conversion experience has in many cases been related to the formation of a Pentecostal identity as an oppositional identity to institutionalized churches. New beginning and freedom of religion and own choice have been validated by the Pentecostal identity of separation from state and church. Fear of losing this part of identity reinforces the value that has been given to it. The conversion, and salvation, is understood by Pentecostals as given from God. If the organizational form is closely knit to this experience, the sacred salvation can contaminate the social structure. Therefore the organization is not a mere matter of changing forms, but a matter of changing identity that is given from above, and is held as sacred. This short introduction of an idea or thought might help to understand the strong urge to sue one’s own congregation over a matter that sounds so frivolous.

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