Rethinking the Role of Religion in a Nordic Welfare State: Church Poverty Relief during the Time of Crisis in Finland
In the early 1990s Finland was hit by a severe economic recession, which motivated the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland to combat poverty and social exclusion through new programs and initiatives. The global recession that started in 2008 gave new impetus. In the context of two recessions, this study provides a quantitative review of the volume and structure of Church poverty relief. The data on Church engagement in poverty relief is derived from annual Church statistics. The trends on Church poverty relief are contrasted with aggregate data on municipal social assistance, a source of statutory last resort financial aid.
The results show that the scope and volume of the Church’s poverty relief programs during economic downturns gives reason to challenge the conventional clear cut conception of the universal Nordic welfare state model based solely on poverty relief. The Finnish case does not confirm the welfare state regime secularization theory. Instead it shows that churches can still be active agents in shaping welfare states.