Minneapolis church facing eviction over pastor's support of gay marriage

The national Evangelical Covenant Church is to decide on whether to remove the church from its roster.
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First Covenant Church of Minneapolis

A vote will be taken this week on whether a Minneapolis pastor will be defrocked and his church evicted from a national organization because of his support of the LGBTQ community.

The board of the Evangelical Covenant Church is to hold a vote regarding the future of First Covenant Church Minneapolis (FCCM), in downtown Minneapolis, at a gathering in Nebraska that runs from Thursday to Saturday.

First Covenant is facing being removed from the national roster because of the support shown for gay marriage by its pastor, the Rev. Dan Collison, and the wider LGBTQ-friendly position adopted by the church since he took over in 2009.

If the vote is approved, it would be the first time in the Evangelical Church's 130-year-plus history that an individual church has been evicted.

In an open letter posted on the church's website, FCCM notes that Rev. Collison had his ministerial credentials suspended in May 2018, a month after the church adopted a "Love All" statement that, among other things, 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."

But the Evangelical Covenant Church's disagreement with FCCM stems back to early 2013, when national leaders met with Collison and church administration "over concerns about the apparent direction of FCCM relative to its position on human sexuality."

The Star Tribune reports that in 2014, a church worship band leader at FCCM officiated a same-sex marriage of two church-goers, although it was carried out at a location outside of the church, which led to the national body banning staff involvement in LGBTQ weddings.

The national board says it's holding the vote after finding FCCM "to be out of harmony with the Evangelical Covenant Church regarding human sexuality and pastoral credentialing."

The ECC's adopted position on human sexuality is as follows: "Heterosexual marriage, faithfulness within marriage, abstinence outside of marriage—these constitute the Christian standard. When we fall short, we are invited to repent, receive the forgiveness of God, and amend our lives."

The FCCM contravened this standard by issuing messages to its congregation relating to marriage that "eliminated its heterosexual nature," as well as contravening its prohibition on clergy officiating same-sex weddings.

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In spite of this, the ECC says on its website: "We love First Covenant Church of Minneapolis. We love FCCM’s concern and care for LGBTQ+ individuals and communities, as well as other ministries in their community. We share this concern and agree that LTBTQ+ people have been hurt and marginalized for too long by the Church.

"In the midst of this challenging season, we believe it is important to reiterate our concern for LGBTQ+ people. The Evangelical Covenant Church, being grounded in the historical doctrine of human sexuality, is firmly committed to growing in our ability to love and affirm all people as being created in God’s image and loved by God."

As well as a place of worship, the First Covenant Church Minneapolis also houses a homeless shelter, child care center, meeting rooms, and its Committee for Racial and Social Justice at its 810 S. 7th St. location.

Speaking to the Star Tribune, Rev. Collison said that his church just wants the "freedom to disagree," which is something he says his denomination has always offered.

In its letter, the FCCM notes that its "Love All" statement is specifically for its Minneapolis congregation.

"It is not intended to be for all congregations, nor is First Covenant asking the ECC to change its discerned position," it adds.

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