Showing posts with label elders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elders. Show all posts

Monday, July 22, 2013

Elders' Syndrome and Doubters

I've been hearing from several affected people about a virus in OALC communities called "Elders' Syndrome" coinciding with the visit to the USA of church celebrities elders from Gällivare, Sweden. Symptoms reportedly include:
  • Increase in text messages and calls urging relatives to attend meetings
  • General decrease in TV and music consumption
  • Subtle competition among members for knowledge about, and access to, celebrities elders
  • Decline in OALC children at lakes and swimming pools despite sweltering heat
  • Uptick in pious expressions and use of the word "precious"
  • Rampant repetition of anything sage or amusing said by celebrities elders
  • Numbers of devoted groupies members following the celebrities elders across the country
  • Subtle shifts in what sins are considered important
  • Irrational fear of a "website spreading lies about the precious Christianity"
If you've been affected by any of these symptoms, wait a few months, as they will abate. 

In all seriousness, I am curious about the deference given these gentlemen, and suspect that the elders' meetings are, in addition to social and educational opportunities, a purification rite that helps keep the OALC functioning. This was validated today by a member's comment that she feels "so light and cleansed after the elder's visit, like a really good sauna."

I suspect that they also create an opportunity for doubts, in thinking members, at least, who are likely to turn to the internet for information about the church. In today's New York Times, there's a wonderful story about Hans Mattson, the former leader of the Mormon Church in Europe, who left after his superiors told him not to question the church and not to discuss his doubts, even with his wife. (I'll admit to a moment of schadenfreude that Sweden, which gave us Laestadius in 1800, has to was fertile territory for his American contemporary Joseph Smith, born five years later.)

Mattson: "My hope is that the church will grow larger in acceptance so you are allowed to have doubts . . .  you can go to Joseph Smith and ask, why did he pray? Because he was asking what to do. So he was a doubter, wasn't he? I think that's great. You find answers."

Of course, the same thing can be said of Laestadius. 

He was a doubter. A rebel, in fact.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Longtime readers of this blog may remember previous discussions of Sámi heritage, including this old post from 2006, in which I quote Ruthann Cecil as saying that a family history of Laestadianism is the surest indicator of Sámi roots. After all, Laestadius was half-Sámi, and the movement began in Swedish Lapland, where the OALC still gets direction from "the elders."

I am told some Laestadian Sámi use only reindeer bone clasps.
I was dimly aware that I was related to some of those elders, who would visit the United States every few years and even come over for dinner (when I was a girl, I asked them for autographs as if they were rock stars! Which I suppose they are in that sphere). 

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Write to Evald Larsen

Anonymous below wrote:
"I certainly understand why a face to face meeting with Elder Larsen isn't in your plans for the weekend . . . but if you don't make contact with the Elder, it may seem to the preacher you spoke to that you backed down from the challenge because you weren't confident enough about what you were saying to go "as high" as the Elders with your comments. Give Larsen the truth!!!"

Let's do this together, readers. Post your personal letters to Larsen as comments below and I will print them out and FedEx the package so he gets it Saturday.

Perhaps together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Phone Call to the OALC

This site is averaging 53 visits a day, with the average visit lasting five minutes, 40 seconds. When I started this, I didn't know where it would go or why I felt called to do it, but it seems to be finding an audience, and I hope it helps where help is needed.

The recent posts about abuse were upsetting to me. Thinking of the kids who are suffering, I felt a call to action. Last night, I sat outside the house in my car and summoned up some courage and called an OALC preacher on my cell phone.

If it took him by surprise, he didn't show it. We traded small talk and then I told him about my blog and expressed my concerns over how the OALC is handling child abuse (in addition to the posts here, I've received emails and phone calls from ex-members about their experiences).

He asked for names. (Of course, I gave none.) He suggested some people make "false accusations." He decried the use of the internet to spread lies, and said people should go directly to the preachers with their concerns and added "there are bitter people out there."

When I told him that it was his moral and legal responsibility to tell victims to report abuse to the authorities, he reassured me that "the preachers know the law." He continued: "we can only pray that God's will be done" (is this a defense of passivity?), and that abuse is a "terrible, terrible sin" and that some people even go to jail for it (Catholics, maybe).

I suggested he help protect the children in his church by preaching about the issue, by telling them that they can say no to adults and that they can report abuse without being ashamed. I said abusers should be prosecuted and given psychiatric help, not simply allowed to repent and forget, and reoffend.

Did he hear me? Did he stop listening three seconds into the conversation? I don't know. There was some commotion in the background, perhaps he was double-tasking. He suggested I come visit with Elder Evald Larsen and another preacher this weekend and I demurred and we rang off.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, as they say. Readers, did I do the right thing?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

OALC Elders

The elders are the leaders of the OALC from Finland and Sweden. They make occasional visits to the United States for "Elders' Meetings." How do elders become elders? Unlike many Christian sects, the preachers in the OALC do not learn Greek or Hebrew, or formally study Scripture or pastoral counseling (although Laestadius did as an ordained Lutheran pastor). They are all men, it goes without saying. Apparently young men are given test-runs during gatherings, where they are asked to speak about points of OALC doctrine. I don't know of any preachers with college educations. I've been told it is different in Sweden and Finland, where the OALC is still under the Lutheran Church. Can anyone lend some light to this subject?
OALC Elders
Gunnar Jonsson, Johan Stockel, Isak Niku, Frans Parakka, Isak Kuoksu, K.R. Erlandsson, Viktor Bjorkman, William Erickson