Like so many, we, the board of Mission Friends for Inclusion (MF4i), were deeply troubled to learn of “Out of Harmony” charges being brought against First Covenant Church, Minneapolis over that congregation’s discernment to fully include LGBTQ persons in the life of their church. We received documents related to these charges, including a letter signed by 27 clergy in the Northwest Conference in support of such charges. When we reached out to the pastoral and lay leadership of First Covenant, we were told that none of the 27 signatories on this letter brought their concerns directly to church leadership prior to signing.
Because these developments are unprecedented in our denomination’s history, we felt strongly that transparency and awareness within the larger church were critical and therefore elected to share the pertinent documents, which you can read here.
As we, as a board, wrestled with our feelings in reaction to the clergy letter in particular, we decided to redact the names of the 27 signatories when we shared the documents. Our reasoning was simple: we could not, in good conscience, publicly expose individuals with whom we had grievances without first bringing those concerns directly to them.
And so, as we shared the documents publicly, with names redacted, we began crafting a letter to the 27 clergy, which you can read in full here. Our intentions in writing that letter were:
We also felt that in due time these names would need to be made public. These clergy had, in effect, brought charges against a public group. This is a matter whose consequences affect all of us in the Covenant Church. In trying to hold together these two tensions – opening dialogue with those with whom we disagree while maintaining a commitment to transparency – we ended our letter with what we intended as an invitation. Before we would consider making any names public, we wanted to give each person an opportunity to respond: does this letter accurately represent your convictions and do you stand behind these claims? Or are you open to ongoing dialogue and perhaps this letter no longer accurately speaks for you?
Today we learned that this message was received as a threat, that if the authors did not retract their statements, we would expose them. We communicated poorly, and we deeply regret that. Sometimes intended meaning differs from received meaning. And that blame lies with us. We are sorry.
Our hope in this instance, as it has always been for the ECC, is that we might together seek a more redemptive path forward. Mission Friends for Inclusion’s definition of inclusion is intentionally broad: we are for the inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and regardless of theological difference. Our core commitments are to finding common ground, building trust, and working together. We’ve made mistakes in the past, and we made mistakes with this letter. But our commitments remain the same.
MF4i is entering into a period of intensive prayer from now until the Annual Meeting. We ask you to join us as we pray for the ECC leadership, for the Ministerium, for the delegates, for those who agree with the ECC’s stance on human sexuality, for those who disagree, for those who aren’t sure, for those who have been marginalized, intentionally or not, and for the fractured groups of our denomination to be able to gather and fellowship in the common ground of our faith.