Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church have voted to defrock a Minneapolis pastor and expel his church – for permitting gay marriage.
Pastor Dan Collison had his credentials removed by a 77% vote at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday night. Leaders also voted to expel Collison’s First Covenant Church, a founding member of the 134-year-old denomination.
Collison, who became a pastor at First Covenant in downtown Minneapolis in 2009, told the Star Tribune he was “not surprised” but “saddened”.
“I feel grounded in the path we have chosen,” he said. “I feel grateful for the pastors and churches who stood up for us. I feel compassion to those caught in the middle.”
The ECC said First Covenant was free to keep operating and can keep its church building. First Covenant said Collison will continue serving as lead pastor.
In 2014, a First Covenant staff member officiated at an offsite wedding of two women from the church worship band. The church has also put out a “love all” statement that said it welcomes members of the LGBTQ community to participate in the church, including serving in leadership roles, and says it offers pastoral care including weddings “to all in our congregation without regard for ability, race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation”.
ECC leaders also voted on Friday night to remove another pastor, the Rev Steve Armfield, a retired Michigan minister who officiated his son’s same-sex wedding in Minneapolis in 2017. Armfield also was accused of violating the denomination’s same-sex marriage ban.
Leaders recommended that Collison, Armfield and First Covenant be forced out because they violated policies on human sexuality, specifically “celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage”.
“The ECC is mindful of the complexity, the sensitivity and the pain that matters of human sexuality can bring,” said Michelle Sanchez, who works for the ECC. “We talk about the desire for both freedom and responsibility as a denomination. Those two things were coming into tension in this case.”
First Covenant Church was founded by Swedish migrants in 1874. Today, the denomination has about 875 churches with 280,000 members nationally. Fulcrum