Wenrich: Acknowledge the Pain, Celebrate Work of the Spirit


CHICAGO (Jan. 30, 2020) – President John Wenrich told clergy gathered at the Midwinter Conference Tuesday that he recognized 2019 marked a difficult and painful year for the Covenant following the actions surrounding human sexuality at last June’s Annual Meeting. He invited the ministers gathered to join him to take a moment to lament the pain.

“In this room today there is anger, hurt, pain, sadness, fear, grief, loss, woundedness and broken trust,” Wenrich said. Quoting Richard Rohr, he continued, “If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our coworkers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.”

At the same time, Wenrich said the Spirit has been working throughout Covenant churches.

“More churches are in dialogue about human sexuality than ever before so that we can love and care for everyone,” he said.

Peter Hedstrom, president of National Covenant Properties, surprised president John Wenrich with a $2.5 million check to be used for church vitality and planting. Looking on is Robert Larson, founder of NCP, and Jill Hall, vice president of operations.

In his report, Wenrich celebrated with National Covenant Properties, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year. The ministry offers investment vehicles to Covenanters that are then used to fund kingdom-expanding projects. President Peter Hedstrom surprised the roughly 1,200 Midwinter attendees by announcing that National Covenant Properties was donating $2.5 million to the Covenant’s vitality and church planting efforts.

Wenrich was stunned and fought back tears as he told the applauding crowd, “This is a huge surprise and a gift from God.”

Wenrich also announced the launch of the Blazing Center Resource suite, a series of sermon videos, curricula for kids, teens adults, and more that can be found at BlazingCenter.org. He also invited Paul Robinson, executive minister of the ECC’s Love Mercy Do Justice mission priority, and Mary March, the president of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association and president of the newly renamed Mosaic Commission, to walk the Midwinter audience through the six-fold test, a ministry tool to ensure the Covenant is living into advancing mission through a multiethnic mosaic of churches.

Wenrich also noted that much of the expanding growth in the Covenant is among Latinos and that more than 100 Latino-majority churches are in the ECC.

The Covenant was formed in 1885 by Swedish immigrants, he said, adding, “Immigration is our past, and immigration is our future. May we practice solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the sacrament of this present moment.”

He called on Covenanters to support immigration reform, saying, “I have signed on to what I believe can be a bipartisan solution to immigration reform supported by the Evangelical Immigration Table. It is not based on amnesty or mass deportation but on restitution.”

He encouraged ministers to visit the Evangelical Immigration Table website to read the proposal.

Wenrich concluded, saying, “Let’s trust God that 2020 will be a year in which the Spirit moves in mysterious ways. May a sense of holy anticipation and prevailing hope encourage us in the trenches of life and ministry.”

The conference runs through Friday at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

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