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Minneapolis pastor and First Covenant Church evicted over LGBT stance

Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Religious News

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Evangelical Covenant Church voted Friday to evict the Rev. Dan Collison from the Minneapolis denomination, ending a five-year conflict over LGBT inclusion and cementing the denomination's position on same-sex marriage.

Covenant leaders also voted to expel Collison's First Covenant Church, a historic church in downtown Minneapolis that was a founding member of the 134-year-old denomination.

It was the first time a pastor and a church have been involuntarily removed in the denomination's long history.

Collison was one of two pastors on the docket to be defrocked Friday at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Omaha. The Rev. Steve Armfield, a retired Michigan minister who officiated his son's same-sex wedding in Minneapolis, also was charged with violating the denomination's same-sex marriage ban. Covenant leaders voted Friday night to remove Armfield.

"I'm not surprised. I'm saddened," said Collison shortly after he was voted out. "I feel grounded in the path we have chosen. I feel grateful for the pastors and churches who stood up for us. I feel compassion to those caught in the middle."

First Covenant will continue moving forward, he said, "but the denomination will never remain the same." The vote "cements its position" on LGBT inclusion -- for now anyway, Collison said.

 

Covenant Church leaders had recommended that Collison, Armfield and First Covenant be forced out because they violated its policies on human sexuality, namely "celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage."

"The ECC (Evangelical Covenant Church) is mindful of the complexity, the sensitivity and the pain that matters of human sexuality can bring," said Michelle Sanchez, an ECC executive minister. "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 is free to keep operating as a church, said the ECC, and can keep its church building across from U.S. Bank Stadium.

First Covenant's conflicts with the denomination erupted after a staff member officiated a 2014 wedding of two women from the church worship band. The wedding was off site, but the denomination said it violated its rules.

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