Mission Friends for Inclusion

First Covenant Church Minneapolis responds to involuntary dismissal recommendation

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:

  1. The ECC’s standard of marriage by eliminating its heterosexual nature;
  2. The ECC’s prohibition of clergy officiating and participating at same-sex weddings;
  3. The ECC’s requirement that clergy adhere to a personal behavioral standard of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage;
  4. The Covenant’s guideline and expectation that a congregation refrain from hosting same-sex weddings and related events; and
  5. The determination of the ECC’s Board of Ordered Ministry by locally credentialing a pastor.

Responses:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

6 Responses to “First Covenant Church Minneapolis responds to involuntary dismissal recommendation”

  1. Kathleen Anderson

    God’s love is for ALL. Joy and love are granted to ALL.

  2. Marcia Stalter

    This is beyond upsetting. I cannot believe that the ECC has gone so far as to even prohibit “participating” in gay weddings in any way, including prayer. Banning prayer for our brothers and sisters. Unbelievable. I am grateful for the courage of First Covenant Minneapolis, and the work of Mission Friends.

  3. Phillip Ladd

    I think that the ECC Executive Board is the one that is out of harmony with our history of diversity and freedom. As I mentioned publicly before, I have been open and affirming since 1986. During that time, I had serious conversations with officials both from the Conference and denomination. At no time was it suggested that freedom did not exist to believe the way I did. In fact, our highly esteemed freedom was also celebrated. I also remember churches p, some very large, defying the ordination of women after the Covenant made their decision to Ordained women. Some churches decades later still will not entertain the possibility of hiring a woman as pastor. As far as I know, none of these churches were threatened to be thrown out of the Covenant.
    People write that Scriptures are clear on this issue. This is not true. The ECC has always allowed for differences in interpretations. Believing that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct never meant we had to subscribe to inerrancy. In fact for many, using Biblical critical methods for interpretation made the Bible more powerful in our lives.
    I believe that one issue here is that the ECC welcomed churches and pastors into our denomination that were running away from this issue. It seems apparent to me that many of them never really came to an appreciation of our historical significance. Many of them seem unclear of what Pietism is really all about. For the first time in all of my ministry in the ECC (Licensed in 1976; Ordained in 1982) was it suggested this year by some that I leave the ECC because of my beliefs. In the past, even my Conservative brothers and sisters in the Ministerium affirmed my right to disagree.
    I hope that the delegates at the Annual Meeting read the open letter along with the “Love All” document. I hope that the Executive Board fails to get two thirds of the vote. I am sad that I will not be able to attend this meeting. However, my thoughts and prayers will be with all in attendance. It would be a travesty if First Covenant of Minneapolis was voted out.
    In Love, Phil Ladd, Ordained Pastor.

  4. Dawn Hallsten

    I hope and pray that the delegates to the Annual Meeting uphold our Pietistic tradition and turn down this attempt by the current persons in charge to disenfranchise 1st Covenant Church of Minneapolis. To do so would be, I believe, to find us on the wrong side of God’s Will and history. The slave traders used similar reasoning. I hope and pray the Covenant rises above this motion and votes no. Praying for the delegates.

  5. Janet Christianson Johnson

    I was baptized, confirmed, and married in the Evangelical Covenant Church. I graduated from North Park College and married a graduate of North Park Seminary who was ordained by the ECC. For a number of reasons, he transferred his ordination to the United Methodist Church. It is heartbreaking to realize that both denominations have stayed from the basic commandment to LOVE one another. I do not for one moment believe that Jesus would condemn same sex marriage or any clergy person who performed such a marriage. Jesus was very much a “rule breaker’ when it came to justice and mercy. How dare His followers do otherwise!. May God grant compassion to all in positions of leadership.!!

  6. Tracy Danz

    If there is no room in this denomination for Pastor Judy Peterson or First Covenant Church Minneapolis then there cannot be room for me. How could there be if I see the inclusion issue through the same Jesus lens?

Leave a comment