From the NWC Executive Board Regarding the 2019 ECC Annual Meeting
June 11, 2019
Dear NWC Friends and Delegates,
Many of us are experiencing a time of disappointment and sadness as the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) is in deliberation and discernment about the status of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota (FCCM).
While the need to engage in this matter may feel sudden to some within our midst, the Executive Board of the Northwest Conference (NWC) wants to assure you that this has neither been a hasty process nor undertaken lightly.
You will be able to see by the Engagement Timeline, as posted with the ECC Annual Meeting documents relative to FCCM (Agenda Item 10.b.), there were numerous attempts over a number of years by both ECC and NWC leaders to seek clarification and a possible path forward toward alignment with the communally discerned and reaffirmed position of the ECC on human sexuality and marriage. Unfortunately, all of this has not yielded the outcome that would have prevented this current course of action from being considered at the 2019 Annual Meeting.
While conversations had begun between ECC, NWC and FCCM leaders back in 2013, it was in 2014 that NWC Executive Board members first became involved. The NWC Executive Board has been regularly engaged in conversations at each of its meetings since then about the trajectory of the church.
Ultimately, growing concerns regarding that trajectory led to an invitation by the NWC Executive Board to the Leadership Team and pastoral staff from FCCM to meet for face-to-face dialogue in 2015. Following this, conversations with both ECC and NWC leaders continued.
In 2017, the NWC Executive Board met with ECC leadership to process next steps as there had been little progress in any movement of FCCM back toward the ECC. There was then a second meeting with the FCCM Leadership Team attended by both ECC leaders and representatives of the NWC Executive Board. Subsequently, there was yet a third meeting with FCCM, ECC, and NWC Board representation. At this meeting, we were advised that FCCM was undergoing a “period of discernment” as to its future.
In 2018, following the publication of a “Love All” statement on the FCCM web site in which FCCM declared a different ethic concerning human sexuality and marriage, the NWC Executive Board received a letter from a number of NWC pastors requesting that it address concerns about what FCCM had published. Consequently, the NWC Executive Board met with the Leadership Team of FCCM in August 2018, asking the church to come back into harmony. We believe this request was seriously considered by FCCM leaders, but ultimately was beyond what the church was either willing or able to do.
Thus, following this August 2018 meeting and much prayer, and in keeping with ECC process, the NWC Executive Board unanimously approved a recommendation to the ECC Executive Board that it conduct its own independent investigation because FCCM appeared to be “out of harmony” within the meaning of the ECC Bylaws. At that juncture, the NWC Executive Board concluded its efforts relative to the matter, although it has remained an item for discussion at NWC Executive Board meetings due to the public and important nature of the concerns.
While more can be reviewed on the Engagement Timeline contained in the Annual Meeting Delegate materials as found on the ECC website, this letter is written to convey to NWC Gather 2019 delegates that this has been a prolonged and difficult process; one in which the NWC Executive Board sought to be gracious, deliberate, and clear, while also being cognizant of the seriousness of its deliberations and their potential implications.
However, while fully accepting our obligations and responsibilities in the process, we are also grateful that this weighty decision is not ours to make. We are appreciative of the ECC Executive Board for its own due diligence, knowing that it is not in the position to make a decision either. Rather, we know that any decision is by the authority of the ECC Annual Meeting through delegates representing constituent ECC churches.
May God grant each delegate and church wisdom.
Sincerely in Christ,
James L. Volling
NWC Executive Board Chair on Behalf of the
Executive Board of the Northwest Conference