A downtown Minneapolis church is vowing to soldier on after its expulsion from the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), a Christian denomination with congregations across the continent.
At a national convention of the ECC on Friday, attendees voted to part ways with First Covenant Church of Minneapolis (FCCM) over its support of LGBTQ inclusion.
“I grieve the loss" of FCCM, national church President John Wenrich said in a Friday news release. “I hope this historic church someday changes its mind and then returns to our family."
The release also identifies the key areas in which FCCM was "out of harmony" with church doctrine.
"Permitting same-sex marriage" at the top of the list. Another says the Minneapolis church violated the ECC requirement that "clergy adhere to a personal behavioral standard of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage."
Church leadership also makes clear that FCCM is "free to continue operating as a church" and that it will keep its building, located downtown at the corner of 7th St. and Chicago Ave.
FCCM responded with its own statement on Facebook.
"We are deeply grieved as we find ourselves cast out by a denomination that has historically been able to hold differences and find a middle way," it said.
The church also pledges to carry on its many neighborhood service programs:
"We will continue to serve and fully embrace anyone who walks through our doors. The community of First Covenant Church Minneapolis owns the name and building, and our journey continues in love."
The feud between FCCM and its parent organization goes back years.
In 2018, ECC suspended the ministerial credentials of FCCM's pastor, Rev. Dan Collison, after his church adopted a "Love All" statement that said it welcomes "all persons and families, including LGBTQ+, to participate at all levels of community: serving in ministry, joining as members, holding staff and leadership roles."
In 2014, a band leader at FCCM officiated a same-sex marriage that led to the national body banning clergy involvement in LGBTQ weddings, the Star Tribune reports. This was despite the fact that the wedding was performed off church property.
The paper also notes that Friday's vote marks the "first time a pastor and a church have been involuntarily removed in the denomination's long history."