Mission Friends for Inclusion

Out of Harmony with the Covenant?

The Leadership Team of First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, MN has authorized us to release the following statement on their behalf. We are redacting the names of several people in the attached document while we reach out to them to convey our concerns directly, with respect and an openness to dialogue.

The preface to the 1973 Covenant Hymnal acknowledges that the committee “reaffirmed the principle of freedom by refusing to move in the direction of liturgical uniformity.” Instead, it offers various materials to help local congregations cultivate patterns of worship that edify the whole body. They outline their balance of historic and contemporary influences, how music was reharmonized for singbility, and the intention to offer repeated tunes in multiple keys. Descants were added as ways to embellish familiar songs.

There are many types of harmony, and within the largeness of the Covenant, First Covenant’s “Love All” statement is, perhaps, a descant—something that embellishes. While it is very important for our ministry at First Covenant Minneapolis, it was never envisioned as a document for other churches or congregations to endorse or adopt. It is the result of many congregational conversations that took place over nearly a year—or longer, if prior conversations are also included.

Not all of us at First Covenant have long personal or familial ties to the Covenant, though some do. All of us do believe in the best of what the Covenant has historically offered: unity in essential matters of faith, freedom in non-salvific matters (things that are in the Bible, but not related to one’s salvation), and charity in all things. We did not go looking for this fight; in the course of seeking to do our best ministry in our local church, we felt that being clear in our intentions was critical. We have repeatedly requested—in alignment with Covenant historic ways of navigating sensitve, non-salvific matters—to be allowed to abide.

It is with humility and sadness that the Leadership Team of First Covenant Church (Minneapolis) shares the following “out of harmony” letter and attachments. One of the attached documents is a letter from 27 Northwest Conference pastors to the NWC board. None of these pastors approached Pastor Dan Collison or the First Covenant leaders directly to express their concern. Still, we do not consider them to be our enemies, nor do we wish them harm. We are hopeful that—somehow—by bringing these actions into the light, there may ultimately be restoration of health in relationships within the ECC.