CHICAGO, IL (January 21, 2018) — The Evangelical Covenant Church is unreservedly committed to ministry to the LGBTQ community. Each and every person is created and loved by God. God, and we as God’s people, stand ready to embrace anyone because of the redeeming work of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s love meets us without pre-conditions and God’s grace leads us into newness of life. Because of this the Covenant offers pastoral care to anyone regardless of race, gender, creed, ethnic origin, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation.
Like many faith traditions, the Covenant restricts its clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages. A pastor’s credential is not one’s own. It is extended in trust by the Covenant to serve under the auspices of the Covenant.
Recently, the Board of the Ordered Ministry (board) engaged with two circumstances where pastors did proceed to officiate. In both cases, their ministerial credential has been suspended for their action. Named with their permission, one is Judy Peterson, campus pastor at North Park University, and the other is Steve Armfield, a retired Covenant pastor. Judy officiated at a wedding of a former student. Steve officiated at the wedding of his son. We readily identify the very real pain of mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; brothers, sisters, neighbors. We recognize the great challenge in providing pastoral care at the intersection of ministerial considerations.
Suspension of credentials means that any ministry a person may engage in is not undertaken under the auspices of the ECC.
A suspension is always extended with the hope of restoration where possible. One mark of a pathway towards credential reinstatement is ongoing observance of current guidelines and practices. Both Judy and Steve have been invited to the next meeting of the board in June for further conversation and discernment.
Judy is an employee of North Park University, currently on sabbatical. Continuing employment considerations are a matter between her and the university. Steve is not currently in a ministry position.
The board acknowledges the efforts throughout the Covenant to develop practical resources to strengthen ministry to the LGBTQ community. The Covenant, regional conferences, and local churches continue to provide an array of workshops and other resources. Additionally, the Make and Deepen Disciples mission priority recently completed a special consultation to identify further resource-development opportunities.
With this, the board also understands the importance of better and fuller conversation and engagement concerning ministry practice. We are committed to developing opportunities for such with all Covenant constituencies.
While we continue to wrestle with these complicated realities, we believe it is possible to hold our biblically discerned position while upholding the dignity of everyone as created in the image of God. We see good ministry happening throughout the Covenant. Our desire is not to fight a culture war but to love people.
The Board of the Ordered Ministry is comprised of 24 members, reflecting ethnic, gender, and regional representation. The board invests in the professional and personal development of Covenant clergy. One aspect of its work relates to the care and discipline of those holding Covenant credentials.
Steve Wong, Chair of the Board of the Ordered Ministry
Richard Lucco, Interim Executive Minister of Develop Leaders