Delegates Vote Down Discussion on Sexuality

Retired Covenant pastor Herb Hedstrom

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 22, 2018) – After intense debate, delegates to the 133rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church, defeated a motion that would have added an agenda item that would call for forming a task force for the purpose of studying the denomination’s stance on sexuality.

The vote was 538 (64.56 percent) to 294 (35.35 percent).

The denomination’s official guiding position is, “Faithfulness in heterosexual marriage, celibacy in singleness.”

Those opposing the motion stated that the issue has long been settled. Delegates in support of the motion contended that the Covenant has always been willing to discuss issues and that a “no” vote would be a break from that tradition.

Herb Hedstrom, a retired Covenant pastor and member of North Park Covenant Church in Chicago, introduced the motion that would form a task force that would include three lay members and a pastor from each conference and would include “gender, racial, theological, and sexual diversity.” Two North Park Theological Seminary faculty members who hold differing views would be appointed by the school’s dean to lead the task force. The goal would be to present a recommendation for consideration at the Annual Meeting in 2019.

“We disagree within the Covenant, within our congregations about all sorts of things, and we’ve all prided ourselves on that unity in Christ first of all and foremost,” said Hedstrom, who noted that this year’s gathering was the forty-fourth he has attended. “That hallmark has allowed us to model Christ both in how we agree and how we disagree with each other. I believe it would be wise to pause and to reflect on the historic roots as a denomination and to re-enter a period of discernment on the topic.”

Hedstrom emphasized, “The motion asks not that we change our position but that we establish a path for discussion.”

Several delegates spoke against adding the motion to the agenda. Paul Knight, pastor of Hope Covenant Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said, “We’ve been having discussion on this since 1996.”

Wayne Park, lead pastor of Woven Covenant Church in Houston, Texas, and president of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association, also spoke against the motion. Park said he saw how discussing the issue “tore apart” the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.

Rich Theilen, interim pastor of Salem Covenant Church in Pennock, Minnesota, stated, “We have twice as a denomination affirmed a clear position that is theologically sound and pastorally sensitive.”

In support of the amendment, Doug Bixby, pastor of Attleboro (Massachusetts) Covenant Church, said, “We can say we have discussed this but there hasn’t been a motion since 2004.” He added that the large number of delegates at the meeting—the third largest in Covenant history—was due to the desire of many people to discuss the issue. “If we ignore this issue, if we stop talking about it, we will fail people in our churches and in our families.”

Delegates stood in line to contribute to the discussion on the motion

Pete Hawkinson, pastor of Winnetka (Illinois) Covenant Church, spoke in favor of adding the motion to the agenda. “The truth is as it has been throughout our history a discerned position. But we are in a relationship around it. In order to do that, we need to continue to discern. Discernment is not a historical issue. It’s an ongoing reality.”

Mark Nilsen, pastor of Salem Covenant Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, told the gathering that he has one son who is straight and another is gay. He then noted that as a pastor he won’t be able to officiate either of their weddings because he is barred from officiating at same-sex unions. “I will not do for one what I am not able to do for both,” he said.

Susan Johnson, who has served as chair of Community Covenant Church in West Peabody, Massachusetts, for the past six years, said, “There is not one detail that my congregation agrees on,” but added, “it is in the discussion that the light shines. To be Covenant means we can disagree and in agreeing and disagreeing, we discuss.”

Frank Kunkel, a delegate from Eastside Covenant Church in Tucson, Arizona, stated, “We are the leaders of our church. We are sent here as representatives of our churches, and regardless of my personal opinion, mister moderator, I feel I would be remiss in my duties as a leader and a representative if we do not at least discuss things that I know we all discuss in our church. It would be a dereliction of duty ignoring what we are being sent to do, sir.”

In the end, two-thirds of the meeting voted against the motion.

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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56 Comments

  1. I wasn’t at the gathering. I’ve just read the article and the ensuing comments. Seems to me that people are not afraid to discuss the matter ( as evidenced by the large number of comments), rather many were reticent to endorse a task force. Task forces tend to do away with the status quo. If you believe that heterosexual marriage is settled scripture, if you also believe that the Bible insists on abstinence in singledom, why would a wise person vote for a structured sit-down, surely designed to bring about change, and probably even deeper division?

  2. Stan, Kudos on your reporting of this. I found a home in the Covenant twenty-six years ago and I love this Church. I have embraced and celebrated who we are in Christ and grateful to be part of this body. Thanks in large part to my life in the ECC – continued learning, a multitude of experiences, spiritual friendships, etc. – I have grown and the work of God in me has been largely encouraged rather than suppressed. I am not the same person I was when I came to the ECC so long ago. My theological and personal convictions on issues like women in ministry, on compassion, mercy, and justice have changed radically. And more recently my convictions about human sexuality have also shifted. This is new enough for me that I understand the fears and concerns of those who hold the traditional position. (I would have been a perfect candidate for this task force! Just say’n). I get it! I never imagined my own theological position changing, but it has. I long for the life-giving Covenant that I came into twenty-six years ago, that accepted me as I was and allowed me space and grace to flourish in ministry and continue working out my theology and practice. The ECC is feeling less healthy and less safe. I admit I have changed… but it seems to me the ECC has also changed. I am feeling less at home… less welcomed… less heard… less valued.

  3. I was not at Annual Meeting. But to the 65%, and perhaps especially to Mr. Frank, who I do not know, I’d like to say that for many years, I was much like you. I was saying “no” for biblical reasons. Well-reasoned reasons. Neatly-tied reasons. Reasons that guarded my fear of teaching the wrong thing. But reasons that lacked the warmth of a shared meal or a hug. Reasons that were arms-length, reasons that secretly wished-the “problem” would go away. But it didn’t. The gay people of faith I knew – family members, friends, people I admired – began to speak of their experience of the church, and therefore of me: “Tolerance isn’t love.” I let that sink in. Knowing that God is love and that Jesus identified the two most important things as being love-driven, I began a slow process of re-approaching the issue with love as the rubric. And here is where I have landed: when someday I stand in front of the throne of grace, I do not want to hear Jesus say, “you tied up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laid them on the shoulders of others, but you yourself was unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (ref. Mt. 23:4) I am willing instead to risk hearing my Lord say, “You loved too much,” though I don’t think that’s in his character.

  4. You could label me as a “non-affirming” Covenanter who agrees with the Church’s official stance on human sexuality regarding marriage & celibacy. My church has been engaging in dialogue regarding LGBTQ issues for the past five years and does not have an official stance, although we are fully inclusive and invite all LGBTQ to participate in the church however the Spirit calls them to–with the exception of our adherence to a couple of ECC rules that are followed with the desire to remain in good standing with the denomination, including our pastors’ refraining from officiating same-sex marriages.

    When we began our journey of entering into dialogue around human sexuality, I distinctly remember the fear I felt. Was I being led astray by my pastors who were turning out to be false prophets? Was I going to end up condoning sin and leading myself and those in the LGBTQ community on a path to hell? Was I choosing my misplaced and misinformed desire to love all people in the “worldly” way that I wanted to above my love for my Savior (i.e. idolatry)? These fears borne out of my fundamentalist upbringing immediately surfaced.

    At the same time, God was also beginning to teach me something about my fear. I am an Asian-American woman struggling with infertility and my husband and I had to face our racially-motivated fears when we contemplated adopting an African-American infant. For those of you that are familiar with our culture, this is not a choice easily accepted by our families and there was some ugliness that the Lord had to uncover in our own hearts. I would be the first to SAY how much I loved my African-American brother or sister, but I was someone completely unwilling to LIVE it out the moment the opportunity presented itself to me. But God was gracious and gently guided us through conversation and introspection. He showed us our blind-spots and ultimately our capacity and desire to love grew much stronger out of that. I learned that if I look into and question my fear, there is likely a lesson God is trying to teach me about how to love others better. On the other hand if I choose to react to it or be driven by it, I am going to miss out on something beautiful God wants to show me about himself and his people.

    I think that the 65% of our brothers and sisters who voted down adding the agenda item were driven by their fears just as I was a few years ago. So I empathize with them completely. I would humbly ask that those who are not even willing to discuss the issue look hard at themselves to see if there is any fear in their hearts. For the scriptures say,

    “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.”

    I don’t know if I will ever change my position on human sexuality, but I do know that if I claim to love Jesus I will obey his command, and his command is to love one another as he has loved us. This is my highest calling and in my opinion includes listening to those that have been marginalized, oppressed, and excluded.

  5. I have read all of the various posts. I wish we had the chance to discuss this face to face. I feel we missed a great opportunity to learn from each other. We ignored the possibility of God’s guidance while we were all together. I have always believed God is a God of possibilities. I hope the Covenant Church will also be a place of possibilities.

    With all the turmoil in the world, all church denominations, have the opportunity to do wonderful things. Let the Covenant Church be a leader in addressing these possibilities and to do this we must never miss an opportunity to talk. It is my hope in the future that we will never have to vote on having to discuss an item again. My hope is that the leaders of our denomination will make the hard decisions and place items on the agenda, controversial or not. It is my hope that our new elected leaders will be brave enough to do such.

    Bless all who attended the conference and the entire denomination. I enjoyed meeting folks from various conferences. It gave me some insight that I did not have in the past.

  6. Thanks so much, Mr. Frank, for your personal honesty and your wise and reasoned defense of the Biblical teaching on homosexuality.

  7. Shortly after the motion for discussion was defeated, Gary Walter spoke. His clear inclusion for people often considered on the fringes of our society, like immigrants and people of color, was beautiful. From the other Companion article about his final addresss to the Annual Meeting – “The denomination can move forward by finding and discerning common ground that can be a frame of reference for God’s love.” He added that the conferences and denominations are committed to developing and curating resources and creating opportunities for broader conversation.” I wondered if we had had the vote on the motion to have discussion AFTER Walters spoke, if it would have made more people more thoughtful about the process of discernment and broader conversation.
    Walters quoted Rev. Jemison as saying, “You’re doing good, but you can do better.” Opening ourselves up for discussion —even if it is just to really try to understand an opposing position and not change minds—is one of the things we Covenanters can do better in this century.

  8. I was deeply disappointed and saddened with the motion not passing. The leaders I have found to be most effective have always invited multiple voices and points of view to the table. It is through listening where much learning can begin.

    There was much to celebrate at this years gathering. New churches have been added and more are being planted. A feeling of the acceptance, importance, and need for more women in positions as pastors and leaders. Hearing stories of congregations and the denomination as a whole reaching out to those in need. There was talk of a beautiful mosaic or tapestry being woven and taking shape as the denomination becomes more diverse and includes churches with different cultures and countries around the world.

    Being diverse however, is more than joining with those who have a different skin color. It is more than welcoming those that don’t have the heritage and culture of our ancestors, and more than encouraging and supporting women to take more leadership positions. It is more than traditional and contemporary working together. The beautiful tapestry or mosaic of the Covenant will not and can not be completed if we don’t reach out to everyone – especially those like the LGBTQ who have been marginalized, mistreated, and in many cases abandoned by the church. Shame on us for not being able to even talk about having a discussion.

  9. As an ordained ECC pastor for 20+ years, I can no longer in good faith be a part of a denomination that is so far from what it was when I was prayed over and I so passionately spoke my ordination vows.

    I was so grateful for it’s focus on the essentials. No longer. It’s focus is on bigotry and exclusion. The ECC should join with Franklin Graham and his Trump loving, people hating Evangelicals.

    Jesus is nowhere to be found in the leadership of our once great denomination. I can not be a part of perpetuating this kind of spiritual abuse any longer and will be resigning from my position and removing my name from the rolls of this denomination.

    I will continue to find Jesus and share him with whoever desires to hear, not just those who fit our particular definition of acceptable.

    1. Really? Bigotry, trump loving, people hating? This post is so ridiculous and over the top. Your lack of charity betrays the Jesus you claim is absent in the the ECC leadership.

  10. Sometimes I think “the culture” does not need the church…but that the church needs “the culture.”
    I like “the culture.” I have found that God is at work pretty much everywhere and in many many people. We church-goers do not have the “corner on the market” of perfection, smarts, right behavior, knowledge of the “mind” of God–or really anything. Who is “right” in this discussion?(which, by the way, is a great discussion! Huh.) Honestly, we don’t know. BUT do we want to be people who are open to others or to be people in judgement of others? May we listen for the Spirit’s voice.

  11. Mr. Frank, you have made it very clear where you stand. For a series of discerned reasons, I land in a very different place. I found my way there through academic study, bible study, community discernment, transformative relationships, and ongoing dialogue. I am offended by your glib, out-of-hand dismissal of those with whom you disagree, throwing around words like “heresy” so casually; however, I invite dialogue and thoughtful engagement with you. Not the online, grandstanding, heroic defense of orthodoxy you display here; but real dialogue – the loving, face-to-face, open, gracious kind that Christians engage in. How could you possibly know what the mass of so-called “liberals” wants without ever engaging in real, human conversation? The proposal from the floor was for a carefully-constructed, purposeful program of thoughtful dialogue among those who genuinely disagree. I think such a process can be a good one, and we just might learn things from one another. If the denomination doesn’t want this, perhaps you and I might model what it could look like? I live in Chiago and invite you to dinner in my home to continue this conversation face-to-face like Christian brothers. Please reach out. If you let me know where you live, I will come to your home, if invited, and continue this conversation like friends.

    1. Mr. Peterson, as someone who likely has a different position than you regarding human sexuality, I would be honored and humbled to have a loving, face-to-face, open, gracious and kind dialogue with you if you would be so kind as to extend the invitation to me?

  12. What are we so afraid of that we can’t decide to even talk about an issue? As a life long Covenanter who has loved who we are in Christ, I worry we are about to give up the freedom in Christ we have to disagree and still be family.
    Has anyone noticed how similar the current use of the Bible in opposition to same-sex marriage is to how it was used in times past to oppose the abolition of slavery, the acceptance of racial equality and inter-racial marriage and divorced persons, as well as the role of women in the church as pastors, not to mention the acceptance of infant baptism. It took the church of Jesus Christ almost 20 centuries, in many places, to accept the notion that in God’ eyes, slavery was wrong and women were equal to men. I pray that the Covenant which has nourished me in the gospel will grow in its understanding of God’s will for us in the years to come and help me never to try to use the holy word of God to justify my prejudices. I know how easy it is for me to cover up my sin by putting it on a group of people I fear, do not understand and in many cases have never knowingly recognized, which statistics tell us is about 5% of the members of each of our church families. Let’s love unconditionally all those already in our midst as we reach out in evangelism to ALL whom God loves, without exception.

  13. As with other denominations that have gone down the road of instituting task forces and commissions to study the issue of LGBT inclusion, there is no win-win here. I was hoping the ECC might be different somehow, that we could find a way to embrace our freedom in Christ without dividing. There is a biblically fundamentalist and anti-science faction of the denomination that will have its way. Where does that leave the rest of us?

    1. Anti-Science? There is no gay or straight. These are mere social constructs. We all live on a sliding spectrum of same and opposite sex attraction, and we always have. I am single and attracted to both sexes – am I to discard Scripture and thousands of years of consistent teaching and marry another man?

      How could I, when the love of God calls me to obey even what I don’t understand. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Biblical sexuality is a hard teaching, but a Gospel that costs nothing is not the Gospel at all. So we walk God’s path until He calls us home.

      This is not a new issue that the church and Scripture has not confronted before. Humans didn’t change, Scripture didn’t change, God didn’t change. There is no scientific discovery that changes anything. You merely don’t like God’s commands – and this is idolatry.

      As for “biblically fundamentalist and anti-science faction,” the vote against this “discussion” was 65% of the church. That’s not a faction, that is the majority of the church.

  14. How ironic that the Covenant Church has, for years now, urged our individual congregations to be engaged in moving from “chaos” to”stable”to “missional” with the urge toward greater vitality. With the decision of the Gathering to say “no” to engaging in dialogue which challenges us to be both vulnerable and redemptive in embracing the most promising missional opportunity of our history and our legacy of founded freedom , we have voted again to be safely” stable.” Our forbears would be astonished at our fears. We have settled again for a tighter window, a posture that seems to send us all back to what seems like a return to established correctness rather than what the Holy Spirit might want us to honor as the relational freshness of the gospel that sounds more like the Jesus rising out of the Word. Wouldn’t we all like to talk to each other, without fear of losing either the rudder or the sail of our cherished vessel? Or are we heading back toward a ecclesial stance that sounds more doctrinal than life-giving? Our LGBTQ who find life in Christ to be life-giving and life-saving , and those who love and pray for their inclusion , will, sadly, give themselves in places that just seem more missional. My thirty-five years of advocacy for the free engagement on this amazing opportunity, and my love for our brothers and sisters who have found our churches often unsafe and unjust places to thrive spiritually , keep me prayerfully hopeful that one day when The Covenant Church ” Gathers” it will talk and vote without constraint or fear.

  15. I’ve grown up in the Covenant and loved it all my life, but, sadly, I wasn’t surprised to see the motion for conversation defeated. Our One God made us all, yet the majority of our church seem to think God made straight people right and made all others wrong. Not that long ago — within my memory — we were in the same spot regarding people of color. We’ve made progress on that, with persons of color pastoring our churches and filling denominational leadership roles. We don’t ban our pastors from performing racially mixed marriages. How long will it take us to open our hearts and minds and churches to our LGBT sisters and brothers as equals? How many of them will stay around and wait? How many current Covenanters will become discouraged at seeing leaders of our church drawing boundaries that are found nowhere in our affirmations, and leave?

    1. “Our One God made us all, yet the majority of our church seem to think God made straight people right and made all others wrong.”

      You are mischaracterizing the people you disagree with – no one is saying gays were “made wrong.” The teaching is “celibacy in singleness, faithfulness in heterosexual marriage.” Scripture defines and discusses and explains marriage over and over, always with a man and a woman as the design.

      Marriage and sexuality are not gifts given to all Christians – there are more celibate single Christians than there are Christians with same-sex attraction. Our lives are not our own – they are to be laid at the cross.

      Sexuality has become an idol raised above God in our progressive age.

      1. Admittedly, I have come into this discussion late, but Robert, I couldn’t agree with your assessments more!

        Many of the “35 percent” are actually part of an organized group that is going to continue to push for full inclusion of culturally accepted behavior within the Evangelical Covenant Church. If you carefully scruitinize their social media, you will observe that they have used material from the Southern Poverty Law Center to bolster their position. SPLC has infamously declared many well established Christian organizations as “Hate Groups” because of their opposition to gay marriage. The opposition quoted as such when voicing their opposition to the nomination of a ECC Pastor that has been a board member with the Illinois Family Institute.

        The true church has always been called to be counter-cultural. However, what we are seeing here in the ECC is many that are taking their cues from, and employing some of the manipulative methods of, the larger culture, which is, at its heart, is evil and hates the one true God.

        Although it is not the official position of the opposition group, some within the movement have called for direct and disruptive action. If that were to happen, it  would not only prove how worldly some have become, but likely spell the end of the Evangelical Covenant Church as we know it.

  16. Difficult discussions are at the heart of what it means to be committed to community and covenanted in ministry. Challenging issues can’t be ignored for ever. Delaying or prohibiting such discussions only increases the amount of pain they will inflict when the discussions finally happen. Sadly, it sounds like this year’s annual meeting was a step backwards in more ways than one…

      1. We weren’t asking for an answer. We were asking for a conversation. Two-thirds decided against it. Hardly a consensus, hardly an answer (unless the answer is “we don’t want to talk about it anymore”

      2. This is a topic we should be continually discerning. There is really good Biblical scholarship and scientific research on this subject since the last time we had this discussion. We did the best we could with what we knew the last time we talked about this issue, but we know a lot more now. It is never good for the church to refuse to discuss issues, if we had stopped discussing where would we be with slavery, race, or women? There are plenty of “Biblical positions” that were held for 2,000 years that we no longer see as ethical or Godly.

  17. If they didn’t realize it, they already are losing members over this issue. Members that are 100% straight.

    1. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

      Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirite and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

      From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

      “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

      Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

    2. To those who say that ECC will lose members if it continues to stand on its position regarding human sexuality, I challenge you to study what has happened to membership of many denominations who have approved of same sex relationships during the last 20 years. One example: year 1 following approval of same sex relationships…loss of membership 6%; year 2…another 5%, and donations dropped 45%; year 3…their largest seminary had a budget shortfall of 27%, forcing cancellations of programs and layoff of staff.

      From what I have read, the ECC is one of the fastest growing denominations. Without a doubt the ECC is, and will continue to lose members who want same sex relationships. If the ECC would change its position on human sexuality, approving of same sex relationships, I believe the loss of membership would be dramatic, as other denominations have experienced.

      Potential loss of members should not be, however, a consideration for whether or not to change the denomination’s position on human sexuality. What we believe God has said in His Word about human sexuality should govern our decision, as it did in 1996 and 2004.

      1. well said, John. We do not measure God’s work by the size of our church. We are called to be faithful, not successful.

  18. Liberals look down the well of 20 centuries of theology and at the bottom of the well see only their own reflection.

    We’ve seen this play out before many times in other denominations, disastrously. Pro-gay Covenenters do not want discussion, they want full acceptance and affirmation of sexual sin within the church and clergy. The answer from the Covenant church, as it has been for the past 133 years, is no. It’s settled. Let’s focus our efforts and energy on the mission and will of God, not spend our time fighting over a matter that has been settled for millennia.

    There is no precedent in all of Judeo-Christian history for this radical redefinition of Biblical sexuality and marriage – but they have been swept up in the fad morality of the time.

    It is arrogant to “improve” on God’s law, it’s sinful to encourage others to sin, and it’s idolatry to try to drive the church into committing and condoning sin. The ECC clearly is under assault by heresy.

    1. It certainly is dangerous to assault the church through heresy. All the more reason to engage in the conversation, because if the arguments of yesterday are “true” today, then someone doesn’t have all the information. Please stay in the conversation and don’t be afraid that current cultural norms will take the church down a slippery slope. In my experience, the hardest conversations–those where iron sharpens iron– are the richest times of growth in faith, Bible study and relationships.

      What if God is offering us this season to see what we will do with it? How will we treat each other? ( Since we all are the “other” in some way.)

      God already has figured out this and every other issue. I wonder if he is waiting for us to seek him like never before, so he can bless us like never before.

      I can’t wait!!

      1. Such wise words. Thank you for adding to this discussion. We will never lose if we seek the Lord’s guidance together.

    2. Mr Frank
      Did you feel the same way when the Covenant addressed the issue of women in pastoral leadership? Or divorce? Both issues that for centuries the church viewed differently than we do today.

      I am grateful that the church was able to enter into discussion about both of these issues, as well as the long held issue that slavery was a just and scripturally supported institution. I know there were many who fought that discussion as well. Fortunately, through discussion, the church realized it’s erroneous understanding.

      How will we know if that is the case with human sexuality if we don’t discuss it and listen to those who have a different perspective?

      1. Twyla – Semper Reformanda means that we faithfully and cautiously correct where the church has gone astray from Scripture. There is strong Biblical support of women in ministry in Scripture – there is no such support for homosexual marriage. Likewise with slavery, Scripture abounds with the love of God for captives and sets freedom as God’s gift. Nearly all early church leaders regarded slavery as a mark of sin and as early as 379 Gregory of Nyssa preached against the very existence of slavery.

        There is no such theological tradition on the topic of homosexuality, which was prevalent in the years that Paul and the other apostles were witnessing in the roman empire.

        As I’ve mentioned before, the “discuss and listen” trope you’ve brought up is transparently deceptive. What you want is for the church to change its centuries-long stance, so just be out with it.

  19. While I can appreciate how slow institutions are to change, to not allow a discussion on the matter is really making a statement. Gen X and millennials are probably going to move on.

    1. Millennial here. The mainline churches who are swept up by our culture’s fad morality lose sight of the gospel and ultimately shrink, because they have lost their salt.

      A church that learns its morality from the world rather than Scripture has no relevance to young people, because it has nothing to teach. “In the world but not of the world.”

      1. I’m also a millennial and pretty concerned that my denomination just voted against talking about talking about LGBT people and the church. My non-christian friends my age often see the church as a hate group that works to exclude and dehumanize already marginalized people, sometimes it’s hard to say they are wrong. What will we tell married same-sex married couples who walk through our doors – that they are welcome to tithe but that they need to get a divorce if they want to join the worship team?

        In my reading, the Bible doesn’t talk much about same-sex relationships, and when it does, it’s fairly contextual. I do know that I know married gay Christians whose lives are full of the Fruits of the Spirit, and I know that the Bible has many stories where people miss God because they are too busy applying their own reading of scripture to people.

  20. Are the statements that exist written on tablets of stone, never to be reviewed or possibly adapted because of new knowledge or new interpretations of Scripture? Additionally, it seems as if we are adding one more Covenant Affirmation to our foundation principles. It is ‘thou shalt not approve of same sex relationships’ or something similar. By the same token, if we interpret Scripture that governs same sex relationships literally, what do we do about divorce and women’s ministry that also have Scriptural prohibitions? They are not part of the pastoral credentialing process.

    1. In this context, “new interpretations of Scripture” is a nice way of saying “sit on the throne of God and redefine sin according to our limitless wisdom.”

  21. My roots in the Covenant Church go back to my great grandparents. I knew I was different as a child but then realized I was gay in my teens. It wasn’t a choice. It is a sad feeling to know that the denomination of my ancestors shuts me out due to something I had no control over. This is a denomination of exclusion not inclusion. As strong as my faith is in Christ is, my knowledge is as strong that my parents and grandparents would not have accepted a church telling me I didn’t belong there.

    1. I’m not straight – but I feel welcome at the Covenant Church because I submit my sexuality to the sovereignty of God. Sexuality is a small and fleeting aspect of our eternal lives. Set your eyes on the Son and bringing His kingdom to earth. Sex is not your identity.

      Your greatest identity is as an adopted son of the living God. Embrace the love.

      “And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim
      In the light of His glory and grace”

  22. Stan, I think you’ve done good reporting on this motion, fairly representing support for the motion, despite the opposition obviously having the larger numbers. Given my thorough support, from far away, I was glad to see pro statements generously reported. On the other hand, it is disorienting for me, given long experience of Covenant discussion of difficult issues, to know that a vast majority voted against discussion I see to be crucial for the future.

  23. What a shame that we can’t find a way to allow for difficult conversations in the church. The one thing you can be sure is that young people and so many others will simply walk away from the ECC in order to stand in solidarity with their gay friends.

    1. Well said. I find that discernment is needed by the leadership in our denomination. I’m saddened that a vote had to be taken on whether or not discussion would even be permitted. What message are we sending to our future generations? If we don’t move forward, there will not be a future within this denomination.

      1. The lesson to future generations is we hold the word and wisdom of God above the recent innovations of a culture that believes it has, after millennia of consistent sexual teaching in our Judeo-Christian faith, discovered a new and better truth.

        The rhetorical approach here taken by gay affirmation advocates is also transparently deceptive.

        “allow for difficult conversations in the church”
        “whether or not discussion would even be permitted”
        “delaying or prohibiting such discussions”
        “to not allow a discussion on the matter is really making a statement.”

        Be firm and honest in what you believe. You don’t want a discussion – you want affirmation of gay marriage. The “discussion” is merely a parliamentary step.

        The matter has been discussed, at length, according to the ECC process and bylaws, and the issue is decided – as it has been for thousands of years. This is not a new or novel issue.

        We have not become so wise or advanced that we have evolved past God’s teaching and design.

        1. Every gay person I have known has in one way or another affirmed this statement: “There was a significant time in my life I wished I were not gay.” There is so much energy that people have, when having to “fight” for acceptance. Issues of family and workplace, being shunned and mocked, take a toll. Now, we say “come to the Covenant, and we affirm you.” To a degree. Gay people will not be married, which carries with it implicit lack of acceptance. In many of our churches, their ability to hold various positions will be/has been limited. Affirmation, to a degree. To a degree. People only have so much energy to fight, when it comes to their personhood. The shunning, the belittling, and the personal soul searching is energy depleting. Church is to be the place to relax, find true sanctuary, refreshment and acceptance for the person, though all of us sin and fall short. It ought not to be another in a series of draining battlefields for acceptance. If a gay friend asked me about my church and my denomination, my abridged, honest answer would be “You are welcome, to a degree.” To a degree. If they chose to worship where “to a degree” was absent from my answer, I would not blame them. That possibility is incredibly sad and depressing. It is even more sad and depressing when the Bible is read by many to include and affirm what the Covenant is not. I hope all LGBTQ people will find true acceptance and affirmation in God and God’s Church, and if not in the Covenant, then that is sadly and gut wrenchingly understood. I would not want “to be accepted, to a degree,” either. Or, at least, I would want to know that discussion is welcomed and sought. Sadly, the truncating of discussion in the context of the highlighting of “discerned position,” along with being “welcome, to a degree,” might just be too much. I wonder if one of the reasons we don’t want to listen to LGBTQ people is that we are afraid our understanding of the Bible and of them, might change. Sad that our LGBTQ friends might want to give their gifts, talents, and energy to the Church, but not our church. “Welcome, to a degree” is no welcome at all. I understand as LGBTQ people may decide to move in, through, and beyond the Covenant. I understand it, but it makes me feel ill. We have so much to offer. “Welcome to a degree” is no welcome at all. Let’s be real. And “let’s not discuss it,” is no welcome at all. Let’s be real. So very sad, sad, sad, sad, sad.

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