The archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Andres Põder, said that the church could be losing flock as a result of attempts to modernize, whereas the Orthodox Church has stuck to traditions.
“Assuming that the number of Orthodox Christians has not risen due to demographic or political reasons, but as the result of characteristics of the church, we can ask, what defines that church? The answer is simple: conservatism, loyalty to traditional teachings and liturgy,” Põder wrote in an opinion piece published in Postimees on Thursday.
Põder said that in a broader sense, Estonians are just as religious as other people, but the question is what people believe in and how that belief is expressed, saying that most prefer a more conservative, pure religion.
Põder’s comments come after a census published earlier in the week showed that only 19 percent of ethnic Estonians indicated that they felt any religious affiliation whatsoever, down from 24 percent in 2000.
Among the total population aged 15 and over, Orthodox Christianity - primarily the faith of the Russian minority - surpassed Lutheranism for the first time to claim 16 percent of the share, the largest of any religious group. Lutheranism came in at 10 percent, dropping from 152,237 followers in 2000 to just 108,513 at the end of 2011.