On Tuesday, January 23, during the Midwinter event, President Gary Walter commented on current events related to human sexuality and The Evangelical Covenant Church.
We question the relevance of the statistics President Walter quoted in his remarks. Regardless of whether the statistics apply to our denomination (our petition responses indicate they may not), we are not asking the Covenant to change its position on marriage. We are asking for the Covenant to honor its affirmation of freedom in Christ and allow churches and clergy who dissent from the majority-held position to be able to remain in fellowship and do the best ministry according to their theology and conscience. In past cases, the church has recognized that two believers may arrive at equally valid interpretations of scripture, and that in our humility and love of each other we can agree to disagree.
In his remarks, President Walter said, “Is [our] trajectory too slow and too low? Yes. But is there forward movement? The answer to that also is yes.” We couldn’t agree more. The movement is slow–painfully slow for many of us–but there is movement. Just a few years ago, our calls for conversations about gender and sexual minorities in the ECC were ignored as well as a request for a task force to be formed. This week, President Walter publicly affirmed the need to “actively engage in conversation and relationships with sexual minority individuals.” In fact, these talks have started. But while the ECC has made sure that recent consultations included a diversity of gender, race, age, region, and sexual orientation, participants all shared the same biblical interpretation as the Covenant position; this composition does not include anyone to speak to the concerns of thousands of Covenanters who hold a varying interpretation.
While this diversity is commendable and we can always learn from each other, setting up a theological echo chamber is disingenuous to the effort of active engagement. We propose adding the following missing voices to these consultations: someone who is gay, Christian, and in a same-sex relationship; a Covenant scholar who has published in this area; a clergy member who has given extended pastoral care to LGBTQ individuals; people who identify as trans* or non-binary; and someone that MF4i chooses.
The truth is that the Covenant position is not the only “biblically discerned” position on human sexuality. We have compiled numerous resources on the varied theological views on gender and sexuality on our website. Mission Friends 4 Inclusion is just as serious about the affirmation of the centrality of the Word of God as the affirmation of the reality of freedom in Christ, and we do not believe there is reason for conflict on this issue.