Mission Friends for Inclusion

NPU removes Pastor Judy Peterson

27

Dec 2017

40

By now many of you have heard the news that Rev. Judy Howard Peterson, North Park University’s campus pastor, has been removed from her position for officiating at a same-sex wedding last spring.

Numerous people forwarded the following email to MF4i. Pastor Judy is not able to make a public statement at this time, nor has she given MF4i permission to publish this letter, but we believe it is important for everyone in The Evangelical Covenant Church to read her story.

We unequivocally stand with Pastor Judy, and we ask you to please join us in praying for her and all those impacted by this decision.


First of all let me say, I never imagined that I would be crafting this letter to you, my beloved co-laborers in the gospel, but pastorally I believe it is important that you hear this first from me. Four days before Christmas I received a letter from North Park University stating that I was being relieved of all pastoral duties as of January 2nd, 2018 and being placed on a sabbatical. I am sure this is coming as a complete shock to you and for that I am sorry. It was my heart’s desire to pastor you through this conversation, however, both the leadership of North Park University and the leadership of the Evangelical Covenant Church had asked me to hold confidence while they considered the best pathway forward. Now because of the limited nature of what North Park University plans to share with the larger community and knowing the tendency for all of us to fill in the blanks with imaginings, I feel it necessary to keep your thoughts from wandering into wonderings by offering you some of my reflections on the circumstances that have led to my abrupt departure from the North Park Community.

In the fall of 2016 a former student and colleague from North Park University (NPU) asked for me to officiate his wedding. I immediately said, ‘yes’ as I know his love for the Lord and his love for his partner. After saying, ‘yes’ I then wrestled for months with the reality of what officiating a same-sex wedding would cost me in regards to my reputation and standing in my own denomination as well as the broader evangelical community.

I am not unaware of the biblical arguments against same-sex marriage, the fever pitch of these arguments in the church and the potential for division around the conversation of LGBTQ inclusion.  Nor am I unaware of the damage that has been caused to so many people by the use of biblical texts against the LGBTQ community. Over my tenure at NPU I have sat with countless LBGTQ young people who wrestle with whether or not they are worthy of love, who feel crushed under the weight of the shame they feel because of their inability to “overcome” their attractions and who fear they will never be able to truly be themselves in the churches in which they were raised. And I have done my best to be their pastor and yours, to point everyone to the unconditional love of God for the whole world, to preach Jesus’ amazing grace over all of our guilt and shame and to love in a way that casts out all of our fear of rejection.

While I have always held tightly to the conviction that the gospel is good news of great joy for all people without exception and while I am utterly convinced that my pastoral calling is always to stand fully with those who are marginalized either by the world or by the church, now with the Spirit’s help I was able to say without reservation that I would be willing to lay down my life for my brothers. This was not a flippant decision done with disregard for religious rules, but rather a discerned decision to stand with my brothers in the same way Jesus has stood with me; in everything and at all times, no matter what. Or to say it in a different way, I made my decision with the conviction that, “If I’m going to die on a hill, I’m not going to die on the hill of exclusion, but on the hill inclusion, because this is the hill Jesus died on for us.”

Knowing the sensitivity of this pastoral decision and because of my desire to live in the light, prior to officiating the wedding I sought out the counsel of the Executive Minister of the Board of Ordered Ministry (BOM) for the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), which is a long title for the person responsible for the care and discipline of Covenant pastors. During that meeting I made clear my pastoral process and my intent to pastor these two brothers in Christ through their wedding. He told me that there could be consequences for my credentials after which we spent time in prayer for one another.

At the end of April 2017, knowing I was breaking one of the ethical guidelines for clergy, that states, “Clergy credentialed by the ECC are not permitted to officiate at same-sex unions,” I officiated the wedding of my beloved brother’s in Christ. Other than a quick text to say he was praying for me and another regarding his early resignation I did not hear from the Executive Minister of the BOM again and at no time did I receive follow up care, discipline or guidance. As I had received no counsel or specific restrictions I continued the work I love at North Park University this past fall semester.

On Sunday September 17th at 8pm I was called by the now Interim Executive Minister of the BOM and told I needed to come to the denominational offices the following day. At the meeting, I was told that someone had brought to their attention, through a photo found on the internet, that I had officiated a same-sex wedding. I explained to them what you already know, not only did I officiate the wedding, but prior to doing so I had also spoken to the Executive Minister of the BOM to seek counsel. I will tell you, that while getting “called into the principal’s office” is never an enjoyable experience I was grateful for the opportunity to share my convictions and I left that meeting feeling as though everyone in the room was seeking a path forward together.

My confidence came in part because the Evangelical Covenant Church has always held interpretive tensions around the biblical text and does not have a punitive tradition when it comes to dissent. Within our own affirmations we state, “United in Christ, we offer freedom to one another to differ on issues of belief or practice where the biblical and historical record seems to allow for a variety of interpretations of the will and purposes of God. We in the Covenant Church seek to focus on what unites us as followers of Christ, rather than on what divides us.” From the beginning Covenanters have been convinced that the unity of the church is a powerful witness to the truth of Jesus’ work in our lives, and we even took the name Mission Friends as a testimony of our commitment to stay together for the sake of our common mission (John 17:20-21).

The ECC has even gone as far as to allow dissent over the practice of the sacrament of baptism while recognizing, “this choice as a great challenge for the unity of the church in that these positions as classically stated become mutually exclusive at crucial points of theology and practice.” For this reason while I recognized that my decision would cause great tension with those who deeply disagree with LGBTQ marriage I had good reason to believe that my colleagues in the ECC would navigate a dissenting interpretation/practice within our historic conviction that we are “better together” and that we would remain partners in ministry for the sake of the mission of Christ’s Kingdom even while we continued to navigate this difficult conversation with dissenting convictions.

Over the following weeks I had multiple meetings with the Executive Minister of the BOM, the President of the ECC, the Director of Ministry Services and the Interim President of North Park University. While I have been aware for some time that the ECC has struggled to engage candidly and corporately in conversations surrounding human sexuality, with each meeting it became increasingly clear to me the incredible obstacles in our path to having open and honest conversation. The reasons are many; it’s long overdue, it’s a conversation that highlights the existing cultural and generational divides, we don’t know or trust one another enough to navigate our differences, we hate conflict even when it’s healthy to engage in it, and there are preexisting tensions between the church and the school and this conversation shines a spotlight on some of our differences. On top of all of that both the church and the school are in the process of electing new presidents and would like not to have this conversation this year.

While I made my decision to officiate the wedding long before either of those transitions were made public, I understand that the decisions about the path forward are now greatly influenced by the fear that any decision will influence those outcomes in one way or another. But for practical purposes, the ECC always has within its own policies for care and discipline three options when a credentialed pastor is “charged with indiscretion, immorality, doctrinal error, unethical behavior, or disloyalty to the ECC.” They can 1. Require counseling, training, or other action designed to address the specific areas that are causing difficulty, while allowing a pastor to continue to function as a minister, 2. They can temporarily suspend a minister’s credentials and remove them from ministerial functions, while charges are being investigated and while appropriate care is provided; or 3. They can recommend a pastor for dismissal from the ministry of the ECC.

The Covenant Church asked for me to immediately resign my credentials. As the ECC has been my denominational family since childhood and as I believe the most severe consequence is not a proportional response to theological dissent, I urged the interim Executive Minister of the BOM to consider that we are “better together” and made clear that because I hold that conviction I would not simply resign my credentials. Seeking to deescalate the situation and in the hopes of forging a way forward together I made a proposal that recognized that I broke policy and should have disciplinary consequences but submitted that I believed that perhaps the best way forward, not only for my congregation but in view of avoiding any increased tension between NPU and the ECC was option one. I proposed this because I had sought care prior to officiating the wedding and had not received it and because the ECC has not previously used punitive discipline as a means of navigating theological dissent. I argued that it was best for me to stay in my role as Campus Pastor because I simply could not understand how removing me from my position in the middle of the academic year, leaving students without a pastor, would be the best option for our campus.

The Evangelical Covenant Church chose option two and on November 7th my credentials in the ECC were suspended. In the case of the suspension of credentials it is the general practice of the Ordered Ministry to remove the pastor from all ministerial functions immediately, however as no person under my care was in any danger it was agreed by both the ECC and NPU that I would remain in my ministry at North Park University. The ECC’s conditions were that I would not be allowed to pursue ministry outside the boundaries of my job description, that I submit to care and that I would report for a hearing before the entire Board of Ordered Ministry on January 19th. Since that time I have continued to remain faithful to my ministry with you, have pastored within the parameters of my suspension and have met with the Director of Pastoral Care & Advocacy for the ECC.

Over the five weeks following my suspension I have had several follow up meetings with the Interim President of NPU.  During these meetings he has offered a variety of proposals concerning the conditions of my continued employment. All of the proposals that were presented to me required that I conclude my ministry at NPU at the close of the 2017/2018 academic year, as the Interim President of NPU indicated that the ECC would not consider any other option. And all of the proposals presented to me contained restrictions about what, how and when communication about my circumstances could unfold. If I would be willing to leave NPU at the close of the year and if I would agree to the conditions concerning the communication of my departure I could continue to receive my housing and salary package through June 30th 2018.

On December 14th I reached out to the Director of Pastoral Care & Advocacy to ask why the ECC was pressuring a “terminal” decision about my ministry at North Park University when the goal of discipline and care within the Ordered Ministry of the ECC is to always move toward restoration. Why was the ECC asking for me to be terminated before I had the opportunity to have my case heard before the Board of Ordered Ministry? She assured me that “The Board makes no decisions or recommendations regarding the pastor’s current or future employment situation…The pastor’s employer (church, educational institution, hospital, the military, etc.) discerns separately from the Board whether to retain the pastor and what that looks like.  Even if a pastor’s credential is suspended and eventually removed, the employer has the right to continue to employ the pastor in any capacity.  This is part of our church polity.  Denominational leaders may recommend a particular action, but the employing ministry setting has no obligation to follow that recommendation.”

With this clarification on December 15th I met with the Chair of the Board of Trustees of NPU and the Interim President of NPU in the hopes that the school would continue my employment without the condition that this would be my final year at North Park University. I shared with them the information I had received from the Director of Pastoral Care & Advocacy and they shared with me that this had not previously been made clear to them by the ECC and that they would like to follow up. I asked them to consider again if there wasn’t a better story to tell the world by staying together and I urged them to find a pathway that would allow for North Park University to teach and model a way to stay together through theological difference. That evening I sat on the stage for graduation and offered what would be my last official blessing and benediction for North Park students. I had no idea.

On December 20th the Interim President and I spoke by phone at which time he made clear that in consultation with Chair of the Board of Trustees that because my credentials are currently suspended and because a requirement of my employment is to be credentialed and in good standing, I am being placed on a terminal sabbatical and that I will be relieved of all of my pastoral duties as of January 2nd, 2018. I will not be allowed to return to my ministerial role on campus unless the Board of Ordered ministry of the ECC fully reinstates my credentials and I am not allowed to attend any institutional events during my sabbatical. On December 21st I received a letter confirming these details.

Throughout this process the Evangelical Covenant Church has asked for me to resign my credentials and North Park University has invited me to offer my resignation. While I understand that either of these decisions would have lessened the tension around the issues at hand, on both occasions, I have declined to do so. I have declined because I do not believe the ECC or any church is better without dissenting convictions and I do not believe that dissenting from the denominational position in order to offer full pastoral care to a member of the North Park Community is a satisfactory reason to seek the discontinuation of my faithful pastoral ministry at the University.

And throughout this process I have consistently declined to be partners in any proposal that would silence the truth about the reasons for my departure from NPU. I have refused for several reasons. First of all I do not believe it would be healthy for you, the congregation that I have served faithfully for 11 years, which I have exhorted to live in the light of Christ, to now be left in the dark. Nor do I believe that being silent in order to avoid difficult conversations that might threaten the dominant culture is a faithful witness to those whose voices are consistently marginalized. And finally I have continued to stand fast in the belief that living in darkness really does keep us in bondage and the truth really does set us free.

I am now awaiting a hearing before the Board of Ordered Ministry on January 19th.

As I am sure you can imagine I am deeply grieving at many levels. I am grieving that I will not be allowed to pastor my congregation through this transition. I am grieving that many of you may feel abandoned and other students marginalized by this decision. I am missing already the profound ministry we have done together towards a Kingdom vision. I am grieving that as we celebrate a Savior, who came into this world to reveal God’s unfailing love and who calls us to love one another in a similar fashion, that we still love so partially and that on every side of every conversation we still judge so harshly.

This is of course difficult and painful not just for me, but for many who are and will be impacted by this news. What I want you to know is that the Story of God remains good news, Jesus remains the Savior of the whole world and the “Now Body of Christ” remains the best means to deliver this good news of God’s grace to the whole world. And while it is difficult to receive this news at Christmas, the Christmas story also reminds us that there is also no better time. The Christmas story proclaims that a woman had to risk her reputation to join God in delivering good news of great joy into the world, that the good news came first to the outcast shepherds who overrode their fear because of the call to come and see this new work of God, that there were wise men who were willing to travel beyond their previous paths to honor a king born to the marginalized, and two old prophets that remained worshipful while they waited a long time for the Messiah to come and deliver them. And so I commission you to risk your reputations for Jesus, override your fears, stand with the marginalized and never stop worshipping the God who delivers his people.

My dear friends, I know there are many questions that still need to be answered. While I will not be allowed to return to you in the same capacity, please know that I will continue to make myself available to you, my phone number and email remain the same.  And know that the rest of the University Ministries’ Staff is grieving with you and is ready to walk with you as we all struggle through the implications of these decisions.  There remains Better News for all of us. May we seek after it together.

Pastor Judy Peterson

I know this is way too much for you to try to communicate to others. And so I have also crafted a Twitter version for those of you who find this kind of communication easier to digest.

“I officiated a same sex wedding of two beloved brothers in Christ. This broke a religious rule. The church believes the rule is so important that breaking it requires discipline. This discipline will most likely cost me my job, my housing, my credentials and my reputation. And I would put all of this on the line again in order to love like Jesus loves and I would do it without pause because I believe love fulfills the law. (Romans 13:10)


This is a developing story. To stay informed about this and other news regarding inclusion in the ECC, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Encouraging notes and inquiries for Pastor Judy can be sent to bettertogethercov at gmail dot com.

40 Responses to “NPU removes Pastor Judy Peterson”

  1. Dan Bombard

    As members of the Covenant Church, we fully support Pastor Judy and her decisions! The ECC & NPU needs to be inclusive, not exclusive!
    Sincerely,
    Dan & LuAnn Bombard

  2. Judy Anderson Bond

    I resigned my membership from EEC because of the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues. Sending my love to the Pastor for her courageous and loving stance.

  3. Donna Agurkis

    How very sad for our denomination and for the students at NPU that Judy has so faithfully pastored. Prayers that this decision will be reversed and we will become a denomination of inclusion rather than exclusion..

  4. Don Johnson

    Perhaps it’s time to “shake the dust off your feet” and move on to the UCC or the Presbyterians. More Light and Open and Affirming make more sense.

  5. Ann-Britt Keillor

    I am a member of the ECC and I want it to be inclusive. This decision about Judy is so sad and I hope and pray that it is reversed.

  6. Bryan Imke

    I’m signing as an alumnus of Gordon College. It sounds like our schools are traveling down the same road of paranoia and exclusion. I’m sorry for the double trauma of dealing with this loss while being told it’s the will of God. If anything, please know you are in good company amongst friends who are proud of you for your commitment to the true love of Christ.

  7. Charissa Pederson

    I’m so outraged and filled with grief about this news. Judy was a huge mentor to me and so many at North Park, and to see my own denomination act this way toward her and an entire group of already-marginalized people is horrific. This decision is not the way forward for the ECC – it should be reversed. Judy should retain her credentials and position. Does the ECC really want to send a message of exclusion to the whole world?

  8. John Doe

    As a former student of NPU, and an openly gay man, I can attest to Pastor Judy’s devotion to her flock and a deep understanding of God’s love. She helped me through so many trials. I lost a parent very suddenly and she gave me great comfort and solice. I am deeply grieved for the NPU community. Pastor Judy has touched so many lives. She in fact saved mine, although I have never told her this. Her kindness and never ending devotion to the campus will be sorely missed. Thank you so much Pastor Judy. Your impact can not be overstated.

  9. Lisa Ziems

    Please restore Pastor Judy to her position. This decision sends a horrible message to the community. God loves everyone.

  10. Meghan Milewski

    Thank you Judy for your bravery and conviction. We pray for you and the transition of the covenenat church.

  11. The Rev Dr James J Ilson

    Pastor Judy, I too once lost a campus ministry position I dearly loved. You are in my prayers. If there is anything I can do to help, please reach out. This all says more about the institution(s) desire to have this all go away, rather than face it, than it does about your capabilities as a Pastor to your students. I am so very sorry.

    The Rev Dr James J Olson
    Associate Conference Minister
    Illinois Conference, United Church of Christ

    The Rev Dr James J Olson

  12. Melanie Thiebout

    This breaks my heart. I just don’t understand how they believe that God doesn’t love this community. If we are all created in His image how then are we not allowed to benifit from His love. I spent 24 years in a straight marriage and 10+ of them in counseling and classes. Finally it was time to allow my exhusband to experience someone being in love with him. He worked as the Director of Operations at our local covenant church, former Mayor of our city and i was the children’s choir director for 10 yrs. When our life changed i chose to leave the church so that my family would have a safe loving community during this time but that never happened. Our political community took in our family, surrounded us all in love and care. My daughters say that they will never go back to that church and right now any church because of how we were treated. I have 3 daughters 1 is gay. Our reality is, i love my girls unconditionally, to the moon and back, so how is it that God does not love us the same. I can’t fathom loving, caring, and accepting better than the God who created me.
    Pastor Judy, please do not be silent about this, we need you!!! You are able to speak where we cannot.

  13. Norman Frees

    I grieve this decision. My daughter is a graduate of NPU, we are members of ECC. I can tell you that Pastor Judy was the most influential staff member on my daughter’s, and I and my wife’s experience with North Park. Out of all possible outcomes NPU and ECC have chosen the worst.

  14. Helene Pochopien

    This news saddens me. It is so distressing that there are still blind and prejudiced people in this world. Read the bible and see what it really says, please. God created us and he loves us all. God did not make the church rules, people made the rules. Thank you Pastor Judy for your courage and love for all, for not being a silent companion to the silly prejudicial rules made by people, for standing by and supporting us all no matter our sex, race or convictions. Shame on the decision that NPU put upon you. This is not the will of GOD, it is the will of small minded people who call themselves Christians but do not own it. You are a leader and loved by many, many people…but most of all loved by our Lord. Thank you for your courage.

  15. Mary J

    I am a straight, married woman, a daughter of a retired Covenant Pastor, a current member of the ECC, a sister of a gay man who follows Jesus. I am a graduate of North Park College, and was a classmate of Judy’s. Judy has been nothing but an inspiration to countless people, including myself. She is a priceless asset to the Covenant. Her Faith is genuine, raw, impacting. She has a gift for people, especially the youth. I am truly concerned by how the Covenant has handled Judy on this situation. I’m taken aback, questions are forming in my mind, and a general sense of great unease is rolling in my gut. I feel that Judy was instrumental in bringing our denomination current, implementing the teachings of Jesus to Love One Another, and the heads of our denomination has just cast us years backwards to a time of judgement, fear, oppression, segregation, hate. I am disheartened and all I know what to do is pray for Peace. God has already blessed you, Judy. You are never alone, and you have a huge community praying for you.

  16. Deane Olson

    I am so sorry to hear this story. Dear Judy, I believe we heard you speak at Pilgrim Pines last Summer and understood your love and commitment for the marginalized and those who are struggling and for those in in your community whom you serve as their campus pastor. I pray that all might come to understand the love brought anew by Jesus and that His love for all mankind might be better understood. We will pray for you and believe that your spirit and character will be a blessing where ever God may lead you.

  17. Kris Anderson

    I am saddened to hear this. When we read scripture, we see that Jesus reached out to the outcast. Rahab, the prostitute, was seen as faithful in Hebrews 11. I myself am divorced. I have not felt outcast by the Covenant. If we chose to exclude people with same-sex preferences, who next? Judy, I stand with you and pray that North Park and the Covenant will wake up.

  18. Nancy H

    “someone brought to their attention, through a photo on the internet”
    (Someone with a plank in their eye?)

    “On Sunday September 17th at 8
    p.m. I was called….”
    (On SUNDDAY, at NIGHT? Under cover of darkness?)

    Hopefully the belovedness of Pastor Judy and the multitudes of people to whom she has ministered will step forward and not let this stand.

  19. Gwen Schneider

    I have had the privilege of meeting Pastor Judy many years ago and immediately fell in love with her passion for Jesus.

    I am a member of the ECC and also am privileged to have many gay friends, who also attend ECC churches. I am so saddened by the cold hearted decisions that have been made here against Pastor Judy.

    I will be in deep prayer for this decision on the 19th. I pray that these so called leaders will be in prayer also. That Jesus walked this very earth and reached out to everyone. He did not ever exclude anyone!

    I ask, do not go into this meeting with your minds already made up…pray that Jesus would lead you in love for everyone!

    Pastor Judy was and is a servant for the Lord…do not let this be the end of her service to the ECC!

    In Prayer
    Gwen Schneider

  20. Pete Nelson

    I am one of 13 people in my extended family that has attended North Park, including my wife and our three kids. This is very disheartening news and in my opinion threatens the future of North Park. I can say with certainty that no one in my extended family will be supportive of this decision, including my parents who are in their 80s (and currently have NPU in their estate plan).

    NPU is fortunate to have an exceptional person (Carl Balsaam) serving as interim president who can hopefully find a positive way forward in early 2018.

  21. On the removal of Pastor Judy Peterson, the cost of LGBTQ affirmation, and some theological reflection | All Belong Here

    […] I encourage you to read Pastor Judy Peterson’s full letter discussing her dismissal from North Park University which you can find here. […]

  22. F khan

    Thank you Pastor Judy for standing up for what you believe in. While I am not evangelical, I remember the guidence and care you provided to me while I was attending NPU. I really wish NPU stop being hypocrite and stop picking and choosing what comnunity they will support and which one they punish.

  23. Joey Ekberg

    I could never have imagined a group of leaders so fearful of love. My prayers follow you, Judy. May Christ have mercy.

  24. cathi nelson

    I am now attending a progressive evangelical church after leaving the Covenant Church, which I loved, especially Judy and her life-changing teaching at CHIC and Pilgrim Pines. I now worship every Sunday and attend a small group, alongside LBGTQ Christians. They are adoptive parents of kids from foster care, biological parents, young adults, older adults, Hispanic, African American, married, divorced….they are US. We love God, We love Jesus, We study the Bible, We take communion, We sing songs of praise, We are evangelical! Many find their way to our church, broken, sad, angry, confused, hurt and wondering if there is a place for them at the table. They seek an evangelical church because they were often raised in churches that studied the bible and they came to faith at church camps and other ways. As their sexuality emerged they became confused, suicidal and many were cast out of their churches and often families. The future calls for bold people like Judy who will risk their livelihood for standing for the what is right. God didn’t stop speaking with a period at the end of the book of Revolution. It is our job to seek the truth and know the heart of Jesus teaching. Thank you, Judy, I would have expected nothing less. ” If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu

  25. Miracle Balsitis

    Judy married my husband Scott and I. I also worked alongside her on staff while she served a church in Madison, Wisconsin. Never will you find a woman who is more devoted to Christ and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. Having been married by Judy, I find myself particularly grieved at this decision that while she so boldly and honestly made the choice to offer marriage to another couple, that choice is bring punitive consequences to her life. I am so proud of her bravery. It is no surprise that this is happening. With great change often comes great pain. She is a warrior of the faith and my hat is off to her today. The church must be brave too and follow her lead and be willing to enter into healthy conflict around this topic of inclusion. We must not force out those who disagree with exclusion. We must go beyond the literal 6 passages that do cause major pause on this issue and dig deep. We must discover through study and discipline that not despite of the scriptures but in spite of them that inclusion is fully supported by God. We must have grace for each other to struggle and wrestle. Christians have stood on the wrong side of slavery, misogyny and oppression and now are standing on the wrong side of acceptance. Most importantly though we must be willing to dialogue with love and not be short sighted. What a ministry of LOVE that Judy has had and there is weeping today across the ECC because of this decision. Judy we love you and have never been prouder.

  26. Jeff Nelson

    I grew up in the Covenant Church, was on staff at Covenant Harbor, attended North Park and have taught there for twenty years. I cannot recall a greater injustice carried out by the church or the school. Judy is a gift to students, faculty and the wider church. This is an issue of love and inclusion. She is on the right side of the issue.

  27. RuthEllen Peterson Wilkinson

    Judy, you are the modern day Martin Luther of your denomination. HERE I STAND! Just know that you are loved and supported always. You have done the right thing in love for God and humanity. Thank you.

  28. Alan Bjorkman

    Judy Peterson is the finest pastor to our college students in my 50 year association with North Park University. Her ablity to exude the Love of Christ to student after student make her a Good News Person of Christ we can all only try to emulate. Her ability to care and focus on students wrestling with human sexuality (and other issues) placed her in the position of understanding the true impact of the church’s exclusionary lines. Somehow the church must find a way for her to continue on in whole ministry, I pray somehow that they do.

    Almost as troubling is the increasing tension this particular incident is forcing us to expose to the world. What does a North Park faculty member tell a LBGT student or couple, “Hey we are glad you are at North Park, but…………..” What message of Christ’s inclusvie love is being sent?
    The rapid Email response from Dick Lucco, Steve Wong, and Gary Wolter (Covenant leaders) , sent today as this news ” hit the streets” indicate this tension between supposed love, acceptance, and humilty toward the LGBT community and the church position that clearly exclude some human beings from life in the Christian faith.
    Sadly we read of other posts of those leaving the church to find other Evangelical, fully accepting places of worship, support, and love outside of the ECC.
    With both North Park and the ECC choosing new leadership, one cannot help but wonder if some new, more rigid standard is being adhered to. Will there be a litmus test for these positions?
    The wider culture is irrevocably shifting very quickly on these issues posing a huge challenge to the church. How we figure out how to engage the world and yet remain a dynamic loving Christian home will be the true test of who we are and are called to be.

  29. Craig and Dotty Anderson

    Dotty and I are saddened by the decision of our Covenant Church to suspend the credentials of the Rev. Judy Peterson. Though we do not know her personally, we are well aware of her gifts, devotion to NPU, especially it’s students, and her unswerving love for Christ and others. Neither the ECC or our alma mater, North Park, can afford to lose such a capable pastor. The denomination unfortunately has boxed itself in by its poorly written statement on sexuality, a statement lacking in both nuance and breadth. We have to extricate ourselves from this logjam before it brings irreparable harm to both our Church and our University. Our prayers are with our leaders, the Board of the Ordered Ministry and the Board of North Park, to find a way to resolve this problem and restore a gifted chaplain to her position. Our theology, rooted in Lutheran Pietism, has long lifted life in Christ and love for others over doctrinal rigidity. My goodness, our tent has has long been large enough to contain mission friends with different views on biblical issues. Surely This need be no exception.

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    […] link to her description of her dismissal is here, and it is worth a read. She argues with great care that the church needs to find a way to love its […]

  31. Becky Erickson

    Judy, I am enormously proud of you and support your decision 100%. It has taken great courage to stand in the gap as you have. I pray this will finally force an open and hopefully reasonable discussion of gender issues in our denomination. If not, I fear we will see the Covenant become a small, bitter group of people who have lost sight of what it means to be Jesus to the world. God bless you and grant you both peace and strength.

  32. Cheryl Hunstock

    I am deeply saddened to hear this news regarding Judy Peterson’s position at NPU. If ever their was a time to reflect on WWJD, it is now. I believe Jesus is love. For years ECC has been tauting inclusiveness so this decision does not hold true to this conviction. I certainly pray there ius discussion on this and that this doesn’t get swept under the rug. It simp!y cannot be. It is time! Judy Peterson has my wholehearted support and prayers!

  33. Cheryl Hunnstock

    I agree Alan. My husband and I frequently invite our gay and lesbian neighbors to our church. How can we continue to invite them knowing that the ECC does not really want them there? This is a topic that we have not addressed in depth and it is long overdue. ECC has tauted for a long time about being inclusive. That is obviously not the case.

  34. Robin

    We are as sick as our secrets— the secretive methods used to enact this “sabbatical” are familiar and part of an unhealthy pattern

    Love to Judy. So proud of your courage and Call. Love Always Wins.

    Love Always Wins

  35. Richard Lewis

    So proud of you Judy. My wife and I left a rigid Baptist tradition 40 years ago to join and love our ECC congregation in Connecticut where we were told that the Covenant believes that we can “agree to disagree” on some issues as long as the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed. Is this going to happen in your hearing later this month? As parents of 3 NPU grads and a grandparent of 2 NPU students now on campus, we grieve that Judy might not be there to council them and the rest of her student congregation.
    Richard and Shirley Lewis

  36. Rev. Deb

    My sister in ministry, I pray that your heart is encouraged by the love and prayers for you. I am with you in solidarity for seeing a fully welcoming and affirming Church. I know how important it is to have a theological home for mutual accountability and support. My prayers are with you! God’s Peace surround you.

  37. Thune Rakow

    I must tell you, that as I read Reverend Peterson’s very moving letter, I wept in great sorrow = in part because of the circumstances that have led the church, the university, and the Reverend herself to this point in time, but even more so for a woman I have never even heard of until a few hours ago. Her name is Judy Peterson: a Christian, an educator, a mentor, a scholar, a pastor, a colleague to many and a friend to manyfold, and an ally in the fight for dignity, acceptance, equality, truth, liberty and unity for all of us, God’s children, here on His earth. The world turns round, and we have nowhere else to go, and despite our frequent differences of opinion, God intends us to be together. “Better together” – that phrase rang forth from the Reverend’s letter, as well it should, because there is no denying it. We know it. God intended it, and provided for it. He gave us this planet, he endowed it and he endowed us; richly so. But most of all, He endowed us with one very special gift. He gave us one another! To lean on, talk with, to share work and break bread, to laugh – and sometimes, to cry. When we are frightened, or cold, or hungry, lost, confused, unsure, overwhelmed, and – yes – when we are sad. We cry. Even at weddings, often, we cry. And what’s a wedding anyway? Isn’t it just God’s way of bringing us all just a little closer together? Yes, it is! What difference does it make whether it’s a man and a woman, or two of one, or two of the other? When we reject that which God has intended, that we become one, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health – we defy His plan. BETTER TOGETHER, because He ordained it. The Bible is a tool to help us understand His plan just a little better; for that matter, the Quran is a tool as well, every bit as useful and necessary. Yet those great books are – really – just tools. Tools to help His children to understand His plan, and to understand ourselves and each other, to help us settle our differences with love and fairness and compassion and respect and wisdom. With laughter and with tears, too. To make us “better together” and to draw us closer together as we share this planet God gave us to share. Can you not hear Him call us together, even now, to be better together? Gather together and bring the tools! To understand His plan and to work together to fulfill His plan. That plan calls for us to be together – to be wedded together, to be married, to be one. To live as one, once again, as God’s plan intends it to be. So I would ask that all help bring Reverend Judy Peterson and North Park University and their Church together again, and to make them one, once again, to get better, and to be better, together. God bless them to make this journey and make things right, as God would have us do. Thank you.

  38. Daniel Kelly

    From the first teaching from Pastor Judy many years ago, I knew Pastor Judy was on a mission to serve our God, our Lord and Savior.
    I was born into the ECC with multi generations of family supporting the denomination in multiple functions.
    Many of our children throughout the years attended NPU.
    I, am a sinner. I, am not perfect, nor am I part of the “in crowd” at my church, an East Coast Covenant Church I have attended since birth. At times I was outcast for feeding a habit I couldn’t break. I left the Connecticut Church for several years while I found my spirituality through prayer and reconciliation with those I may have hurt. It was God walking me through the most difficult time in my young life, and being newly married I wasn’t sure what God’s plan for me would be.
    Today, I feel the LBGTQ community is being dismissed for not being Christian enough!
    Pastor Judy is God’s gift to the ECC, NPU and all who seek her wisdom.
    If the ECC goes ahead with it’s unquenchable plan it will further divide our Church that is already divided, leaving many long time members praying how to move forward.
    If the ECC cannot see the light, NPU will will not have that God gifted Pastor who relates to one and all. What a shame.
    Pastor Judy, we love you with all our beings. We will support you today and every day. May God envelope you in His righteousness and shine the light of His true love on you and your beautiful family.
    We love you!

    Daniel Kelly

  39. Vern and Jill Wettersten

    Jill and I were dismayed to learn of Judy’s removal. She has been an outstanding chaplain at North Park. I am a 4th generation Covenanter and Jill has been in the Covenant church for 40 years and the current position on human sexuality is simply unacceptable. The process used to decide these kinds of issues and the out dated Biblical scholarship that is used to support the current position is embarrassing. Jill and I spent a combined 60 years on North Park’s faculty and we worry about what this decision says about the integrity of the college.

    Vern and Jill Wettersten

  40. MiYoung Kwon

    This is very troubling news! The decisions made by ECC and NPU on Pastor Judy are absolutely unchristian. We know that God’s love is inclusive! The community should not discriminate a person based on his or her religious belief, sexual orientation or race. We hope that ECC and NPU will reverse their decisions as soon as possible. Pastor Judy, we are here to support you. We are grateful to you for demonstrating God’s unfailing and unconditional love for us! Blessings, MiYoung

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