The Evangelical Covenant Church has voted to expel an entire congregation from its denomination due to a disagreement over LGBT policy.
First Covenant Church was officially removed from its parent denomination for being “out of harmony on human sexuality,” and pushing a policy of LGBT inclusion and approval.
The Minneapolis church came under the microscope on the issue back in 2014, when the music director performed an off-site gay wedding. The final decision, however, was made after the church announced that active LGBTQ members could now be fully-fledged members of the church, that they would be allowing married gay clergy to serve on the leadership, and would also be open to facilitating same-sex marriages.
In addition to the expelling of the congregation, the church’s lead pastor,
Rev. Dan Collison, was also taken off the register of ministers officially serving in the Evangelical Covenant.
For some years, Rev. Collison had been engaged in a perpetual battle with his denomination over issues of pastoral ministry with regards to the LGBTQ community.
When the final vote was called, over three-quarters of the more than 1,000 delegates decided to remove the church. Currently, the denomination has 875 U.S. churches with roughly 300,000 members.
“I’m deeply saddened this ecclesial body doesn’t make room for openly LGBT individuals, other than to say you’re welcome but we won’t treat you equally,” Collison said in response to the decision, according to Religious News Service. “Ultimately, it becomes a question of what is love about and what is inclusion about. It breaks my heart.”
The ECC, however, believe that each of its member churches must hold to a clearly-defined standard when it comes to issues of marriage and sexuality.
“There is now a movement seeking to subvert the historic trust we have placed in the discernment of the Annual Meeting,” the ECC’s
President John Wenrich wrote in a letter to denomination members. Wenrich believes that certain churches are attempting to overwhelm the decision-making bodies with LGBT issues, instead of focusing on other matters of equal importance.
“If these groups are successful in such efforts, we will continue to devote time, energy, and resources to conversations we have held now for more than 20 years, diverting our focus away from topics such as immigration, mass incarceration, justice and evangelism—matters that have never needed the presence of the faithful more than they do now,” Wenrich added.
In a statement released on the denomination’s website, Wenrich added that he “grieved the loss of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis from the roster of Covenant churches.”
He did, however, hope that the situation would eventually be turned around and that the church would ultimately be welcomed back into the fold.
“I respect the discernment of the Annual Meeting,” he added. “I hope this historic church someday changes its mind and then returns to our family.”