Anyone that has been around evangelicalism for any period of time knows there are few issues that raise more ire than same sex marriage (the obvious exception being reproductive choice). I remember the election cycles here in California and the hard fought battle that saw marriage equality becoming law. During that time the loudest voice against this new law was the evangelical church.
Recently we saw the UMC try to work through this issue during their general meeting. Arguments ensued and no decision was made. The possibility of a church split over same sex marriage looms over the denomination. Churches everywhere are coming to terms with what inclusivity and acceptance are and what that looks like in day to day practice.
Just this weekend I learned of another denomination strong arming member churches to discriminate against same sex couples: the ECC.
I was once a member of a Evangelical Covenant Church. I was drawn to the denomination because of the structure—each individual church was able to work independently while holding to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. These were not called doctrines but affirmations. Their dedication to acceptance, peace and reconciliation was admirable. But what appeared on paper was not practiced in the church.
The local body I was a part of prided itself on being “welcoming to all” and even boasted that members of the LGBTQ community attended their services. Often this was more had attended rather than still attending. There has been a recent focus at this church on being open to LGBTQ persons with the pastor saying he had a heart toward this community. This pastor has also said during a sermon he would “never be affirming like those progressives.” Seems like a mixed message.
Perhaps I was naive, but I’ve come to realize the ECC is not who they say they are— both locally and as a denomination.
Over the weekend a story broke that the ECC will be removing the First Covenant Church of Minneapolis because the pastors are looking into conducting same sex weddings. This is not the first time the ECC has banned a church community.
A few years back an ECC church planter opened Christ Church in Portland. This young man was trained by the ECC and was very open about his vision for an open an LGBTQ affirming church. There was never a point at which the denomination said no, that is until he acted upon his vision. His license was revoked and the new church had to find other ways to continue meeting.
More recently a campus pastor at North Park University found herself is similar position because she believed marriage was for all. Her license was revoked and she lost her job. This little church lost a tenured pastor that had loved and cared for them simply because she married two longtime church members.
Now another pastor is on the chopping block. The congregation, who stand behind him, is also at risk of the church being “decommissioned” for their views on what acceptance really means.
You might say the ECC has every right to do this stuff, and yes they do have the right to act like jerks if they wish. But my problem is they don’t have the right to play with people’s lives this way. Don’t lie and say we love you and accept you but we can’t let you be like the rest of us—we can’t allow you to marry the person you love. Don’t say your pastors have the freedom to make decisions for themselves and their congregations if you are going to swoop in and revoke licenses when a pastor takes a truly inclusive, accepting stance.
Looking back I regret not understanding the ECC’s stance.