In about twelve hours I’ll be boarding a plane to Edmonton, the city that unleashed me on the world. While there I am taking a class on the history of the Evangelical Covenant Church. This is the denomination that my wife Sarah and I have joined up with since seminary and I have been going through their ‘orientation process’ hoping to find a pastoral position with the denomination. So I’ve been taking classes to learn about their history and theology. While at Regent, we attended a Baptist church but didn’t really have strong denominational ties anywhere. It might seem strange that we chose to join up with a denomination we have no history with and I haven’t gotten a job with (yet). But it seems like a good fit for us, so for better or worse, we’re committed.
Having spent the last few weeks reading long lists of Scandinavian names and tapping into the denominational history, I feel rather inundated by “Swedes in Tweeds,” so here is a short post on why I feel like God has us where he wants us. Please, don’t think I’m trying to convert you to my peculiar Christian brand. This post is mostly my way of cataloging some of the things that have really resonated with me as I have explored where we should be:
- The Evangelical Covenant is one of the churches that fully and enthusiastically ordains women. This is important to us as a dual M.Div family where my spouse and I both feel called to full time Christian work. This means in the ECC, Sarah is less likely to find herself kicking anyone in the goads.
- The Bible remains central to the Covenant. Their historic formulation is “the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith and conduct” and I appreciate the rootedness this provides. However they do not force you to sign off on any sort of sign off any particular statement of verbal inspiration and inerrancy. This allows for a certain plurality in interpretation and understanding of scripture that is not too dogmatic, but not too loose either.
- I have been really impressed with the sensibility the denomination brings to social issues and areas of justice. They have published several resolutions over the years, on topics ranging from the criminal justice system, human sexuality, creation and environmental care, abortion, etc. These are not paternalistic and moralistic papers but are well thought out and cognizant of the issues. Additionally the church as a whole is committed to racial reconciliation. I’ve really been impressed with some of their initiatives as someone who has been deeply impacted by the CCDA world.
- The ECC’s theology of the sacraments appeals to me. From their Lutheran for-bearers they retain a theology of the real presence in communion (though they do not define how Christ is present). They also practice both infant baptism and believers baptism, respecting the freedom of each family to form their own convictions about how to practice this ordinance.
- The denomination also seems to have a really good system of support for clergy. While there is a congregational polity in Covenant churches, this doesn’t mean clergy are left on their own. There is a strong value on collegiality in the denomination and I’ve had the opportunity to see this and experience it in my interaction with Coventers from various churches at conferences and annual meetings
And so I am jobless but trust that God has me where he wants me and will use me for his glory someday, sometime. Until then, me and Michael W. Smith are ‘roaming through the night to find our place in this world, our place in this world.’ But in my sojourn, my journey seems to be with the Covenant.