I hope your summer is off to a wonderful start! I hope it has been a time for rest, fun, and rejuvenation! I wanted to get this message out to you all sooner, but I have struggled to figure out exactly what to write.
For the first time that I have been aware of, our parent denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has made headlines in national news. We’ve been featured on CNN and the New York Times, among many local papers across the Midwest. Sadly, it is because we voted for the first time in our history at our Annual Meeting in Omaha to remove First Covenant Church of Minneapolis from our denomination because our denominational leadership felt they were no longer in harmony as a Covenant Church and some of this was informed by their stance in seeking equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in their community. Along with their expulsion, two pastors had their ordinations removed for officiating LGBTQ+ weddings and publicly disagreeing with the Covenant position.
I chose this denomination because it has felt like a place where St Thomas could comfortably do excellent ministry to people across the theological and political spectrums. One of our denomination’s founding pastors, C.V. Bowman described the Covenant like this, “The local church shall consist of only believing members but at the same time to have room for all true believers no matter what their viewpoints on controversial doctrines.” It was this sentiment and others like it that that solidified my belief that the Covenant was the right place for us.
I think that that is still true today, but I also want to state definitively and plainly to our LGBTQ+ members and their allies in our community that St Thomas is and will always remain a place where you are welcome, safe, and seen as beloved. For those in our community who may hold a more ‘traditional’ view of human sexuality and feel uncomfortable with my previous statement, I want to continue to say that we are a community of diverse perspectives and a community where these diverse perspectives are welcomed. We do not have to agree with one another, but we must believe the best in one another, seeking to love each other just as Jesus first loved us. As I have said many times, you do not have to agree with me as your pastor, you simply have to trust that I am doing my absolute best to follow Jesus and be true to how I believe the Bible invites me to live and pastor.
I want to invite anyone who has questions about these events or where St Thomas lands on any issue to sit down with me over a cup of coffee or a drink and speak as honestly and openly as you need. I hope to create space for some larger group conversations around all these difficult topics in the Fall.
For any that feel hurt, rejected, scared, or upset, I totally get it. Those are all emotions I have felt over the past week and a half since these decisions were made. None of your feelings are wrong or unwelcomed. We are all in this together, and we can all rejoice in the fact that St Thomas is the healthiest we have ever been. Financially, we are comfortably in the black, we have the privilege of having Linda on staff, an incredible Associate Pastor, we have the most wonderful Leadership Team I could ever hope for, and we are closer to getting a building than we have been in the past (more on that soon!!). We are in a good place, and our church is not at risk, nor is anyone in it! So, join me in all of these emotions and in prayer for wisdom in how we navigate the complexities of this issue in our community and in our denomination. Also, join us on Sunday as we continue to do good and excellent work in the city of Salem for the kindom of God.