A proposed amendment to the Covenant bylaws will ensure members of Covenant ethnic associations serve on major denominational boards. The current bylaws state this requirement for the Covenant Executive Board but do not require that members of the associations be elected to the other governing bodies.
The four associations are:
- African American Ministers Association (AAMA)
- Covenant Asian Pastors Association (CAPA)
- Indigenous Ministers Association (IMA)
- Asociación Latina de la Iglesia del Pacto Evangélico (ALIPE)
Presidents of the associations make up the Mosaic Commission.
The current bylaws set forth a matrix to be used for nominations, stating that the Board of Nominations “shall consider the existing composition of that board in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, race, spiritual gifts, and fields of experience.”
“The current grids and bylaws simply say ‘ethnicity,’” says Evan Westburg, former chair of the Board of Nominations. “That did not give enough consideration to the specific reason to bring in the ethnic association voices to any given board.”
Mary March, president of CAPA and chair of the Mosaic Commission, says the commission is recommending that each of the respective associations recommends names from their members to be considered for slating on the ballot of the respective boards . “The ethnic associations can accurately give voice and speak at these board tables as to what is going on in our churches, communities, and with our pastors. That is true representation. Being invited to the table is an act of solidarity and recognition that we are actually ‘in it together.’”
She adds, “Just because someone looks like me doesn’t automatically mean I am represented. We are missing important voices if we do not have these voices at the table.”
TJ Smith, president of IMA, concurs. “There are over 1,000 nations in Canada and the United States that can be as different from each other as Japan and Norway.” Members of IMA will likely have interaction with people across those nations, he adds.
“It is cultural for us to do things in community, so this fits well within who and how we are created,” Smith says.
“Making these changes is critical if the Covenant is going to advance our mission through the multiethnic mosaic,” says John Wenrich, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church. “We have to make them if we are to live into our Six-Fold Test for Multiethnic Ministry.” The test outlines six areas in which the church seeks to press forward in the multiethnic mosaic: population, participation, power, pace-setting, purposeful narrative, and practicing solidarity.
The Executive Board approved the proposed changes in 2020 and scheduled them to be voted on at the 2020 Annual Meeting. When that meeting was canceled due to Covid, the vote was postponed until this year’s gathering.
That meeting will be held virtually June 24-26.
The process for the current change began in 2018 when Juana Nesta, current ALIPE president, was ending her term on the Executive Board. She was invited to serve on the Board of Nominations, and Nesta expressed concern that although there was ethnic representation on that board, it often did not include members of the associations, she says.
The Board of Nominations formed a subcommittee that comprised Nesta, Westburg, and Sara Robinson, to study the effectiveness of the current bylaws and their implementation across the boards.
“People don’t realize how influential the Board of Nominations is,” Nesta says. “It helps set the direction of the Covenant.” With ethnic association representation on the Board of Nominations, the opportunities to serve on the boards will broaden for its members.
Current Board of Nominations chair Julia Sandstrom said the subcommittee’s research determined that requirements were not consistent across all boards. Some do not have requirements for a specific number of slots to be filled by persons of color.
“My experience on the Board of Nominations has been greatly impacted by the voices of those who represent our various ethnic associations,” Sandstrom says. “The ECC has expanded who gets a voice at the table on the board level, but there is more work to do.”