The Covenant recognizes two sacraments: the Lord’s Supper (communion) and baptism. A sacrament is special because it is understood that “God’s grace is present in these acts of the church in a real and powerful way.” (Living Faith).
While other denominations suffered divisions over the debate of infant versus believer baptism, the Covenant Church “sought to remain united around ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5), even while recognizing that Covenanters hold diverse views about baptism. “Therefore, the Covenant Church ‘recognizes infant and believer baptism as biblical forms of that sacrament and includes the practice of both in its ministry…The history of baptism in the Covenant Church…has been an important litmus test in its understanding of theological freedom with a communal commitment to the Bible’s authority standing above any individual interpretation.” (Living Faith).
Marriage, on the other hand, is not a sacrament.
Mission Friends is not asking the Covenant to change its position that the only recognized marriage is heterosexual, but rather that the Covenant acknowledge that a growing number of Covenanters, churches, and pastors have a different view of marriage that should not exclude them from the Covenant. Even as the Covenant decided at its inception that baptism should not be a doctrine that divided those who had experienced the reality of freedom in Christ, then neither should the definition of marriage, that is not a sacrament, nor how that definition is celebrated, exclude any from membership or practice in the Covenant. The Covenant has established a model of holding in tension and fellowship those who disagree on minor matters, while still holding the core values represented in our six affirmations. We believe the Covenant is great enough to hold all of us in her arms even while we disagree on a non-sacramental topic.
“The Mission Friend spirit has always been one of desiring harmony in the day-today and sometimes difficult work of walking together as congregations and in a denomination.” (Living Faith). May God give us wisdom and discernment as we walk together.
Photo Credit: Kelsey Stevens Photography
This essay is part of a series elaborating on the goals of Mission Friends 4 Inclusion. Please share with anyone who may be interested. If you’d like to contribute to our ongoing efforts to help the Evangelical Covenant Church be a more hospitable place for LGBTQ people, please consider donating.