Jānis Vanags

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The Most Reverend
Jānis Vanags
Archbishop of Riga
Vanags in 2015
Vanags in 2015
Church Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Archdiocese Riga
See Riga
Elected 26 January 1993
In office Enthroned 29 August 1993
Predecessor Kārlis Gailītis
Successor Current holder
Ordination 1 December 1985
Consecration 29 August 1993
Personal details
Born (1958-05-25) 25 May 1958 (age 59)
Liepāja,  Latvian SSR
Nationality Latvian
Spouse Baiba Vanaga
Children Krists, Gatis, & Elizabete
Occupation Lutheran Archbishop

Jānis Vanags (born May 25, 1958, Liepāja) is a Latvian Lutheran Archbishop. Since 1993 he has been the Archbishop of Riga in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.

Vanags is seen as a conservative on theological or moral issues and opposes women's ordination. He also opposes abortion, euthanasia and encourages homosexual people to be chaste.[1][2] He presided over the agreement of fellowship with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod of the United States.[3]

Background and education[edit]

Vanags studied at Liepaja 5th High School (1965–1976), the Latvian State University Chemistry Department (1976–1982), and the Lutheran Theological Seminar (1984–1989). He worked as a chemistry teacher in Riga Vilis Lacis 31st High School (1982–1985).[4]

Religious career[edit]

Vanags was ordained as a pastor in 1985. He was appointed by the Synod to lead the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 1993, following the death of Kārlis Gailītis, the previous archbishop, in a car crash.[4]

Lutheranism is the leading faith in Latvia, with a quarter of the country's 2.4 million population counted by the church as active members. Vanags has shunned the practice of the mainstream Lutheran church by refusing to ordain women since his appointment in 1993.

Homosexuality controversy[edit]

Archibishop Vanags has been criticised for his perceived homophobia, particularly when he deposed (defrocked) 36-year-old pastor Maris Sants from Holy Orders. Sants was known for ministering to AIDS patients, but Archbishop Vanags deposed the priest “due to his promotion of a tolerant attitude to homosexuality'. Through a statement by Mara Grigola, secretary to Vanags, he accused Sants of expressing in public "information that is against Lutheran doctrine". He also stated, "Persons who accept homosexual orientation as normal cannot work in the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church". Sants told AFP that his dismissal came without warning, following an interview he gave with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in which he discussed his own homosexuality. "It's the practice in our church to dismiss people and not consult them. The church is not only conservative, but going backwards" said Sants, who added that he had been criticised by church officials for ministering to AIDS sufferers.

Vanags recently[when?] contributed an essay to an anti-homosexuality book which is being investigated by state security police following complaints that it breaches defamation laws. "Now homosexuals are recognized as a minority so in principle after them pedophiles may also be recognized as a minority", Vanags was recently quoted as saying in the daily Rigas Balss. He is also quoted as saying, "What we could actually say to our brothers and sisters who are in this homosexual orientation, is that they're welcome to receive all that the Gospel means for the church, but we cannot accept their homosexual relationships as a normal alternative to marriage".


  1. ^ Religious Freedom in the World edited by Paul Marshall, pg 198
  2. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (3 August 1994). "A Latvian Bars Ordaining Women" – via NYTimes.com. 
  3. ^ "St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newspaper Archives". nl.newsbank.com. 
  4. ^ a b "LELB - Arhibīskaps". www.lelb.lv. 

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