As many of you are aware, First Covenant Church Minneapolis (FCCM) has been in a years-long conversation with Evangelical Covenant Church leaders regarding human sexuality and the freedom to hold an alternative position on a disputable matter. On May 23, the ECC published its intention to refer FCCM to the Annual Meeting for involuntary dismissal. The Leadership Team at FCCM has published this open letter for the purpose of sharing information about the process and context for the discussion and vote at the Annual Meeting. The hope is that all delegates and Covenant clergy will have read this letter (and all of the links embedded in it) prior to arriving at the Annual Meeting.
Additionally, the Leadership Team of FCCM would like to respond specifically to the charges made by the ECC as follows.
The Executive Board’s areas of inquiry were specifically whether FCCM was out of harmony with the ECC by contravening the ECC in five (5) areas:
- The ECC’s standard of marriage by eliminating its heterosexual nature;
- The ECC’s prohibition of clergy officiating and participating at same-sex weddings;
- The ECC’s requirement that clergy adhere to a personal behavioral standard of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage;
- The Covenant’s guideline and expectation that a congregation refrain from hosting same-sex weddings and related events; and
- The determination of the ECC’s Board of Ordered Ministry by locally credentialing a pastor.
- In addition to recognizing marriages that take place elsewhere, the congregation at First Covenant imagines a time when a same-sex wedding will take place at First Covenant and/or be performed by one of its ECC credentialed clergy. First Covenant holds a similar sexual ethic as the ECC: celibacy in singleness, and faithfulness in marriage.
- First Covenant leaves up to each clergy and staff member to decide which weddings to officiate. No ECC credentialed clergy employed by First Covenant has performed a same-sex wedding. When a staff member who is not credentialed by the ECC performed a same-sex wedding at a private venue (not at First Covenant) in 2014, the ECC did not yet have a written policy stating that such staff were expected to abide by the same rules as ECC credentialed clergy. It was shortly after the wedding in 2014 that the ECC changed its written rules to include clergy who are not otherwise subject to any oversight by the Board of Ordered Ministry.
- As stated in #1 above, and in its “Love All” statement, First Covenant does not believe in holding LGBTQ+ persons to a stricter sexual ethic than that for heterosexual persons. The ethic of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage applies to all persons, regardless of their sexuality.
- Until now, no same-sex wedding or event has been hosted at First Covenant. The church imagines a time when such an event may take place, but it has not happened yet.
- Pastor Dan Collison was suspended for preaching a sermon (i.e. doing his job). This suspension did not only preclude him from preaching, but also from carrying out any of his duties, which at the time included hiring a new Executive Director for MetroKids (the early childhood education center housed within and founded by First Covenant), and advocating with public and private officials to close on the affordable housing development that is now being built on First Covenant’s parking lot. Church leadership reiterated Pastor Collison’s call to the church, and issued a document for his tax purposes—similar to what a church may provide to a recently called and/or yet to be licensed pastor when that person is hired.
Please keep First Covenant Church Minneapolis, all Covenant clergy, and delegates to the Annual Meeting in your prayers over the next month, and share this letter with other Covenanters you know. If you are attending the Annual Meeting in Omaha, please let us know using the form below.