Evangelical group expels church and pastor for allowing gay marriage

‘I feel grateful for the pastors...who stood up for us,’ defrocked minister says

Zamira Rahim
Saturday 29 June 2019 23:36 BST
First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis
First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis (AP)

An evangelical denomination has voted to expel a pastor and his church for allowing gay marriage.

Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), a group formed of 875 congregations in North America, voted to remove Dan Collison’s credentials at their annual meeting on Friday.

The motion passed with a 77 per cent vote.

Mr Collison became the pastor of First Covenant Church in Minneapolis in 2009.

The church released a “love all” statement, saying it welcomed LGBT+ members to participate in the community, including serving in leadership roles.

The First Covenant Church also said it offered pastoral care, including weddings, “to all in our congregation without regard for ability, race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Evangelical leaders chose to expel Mr Collison and First Covenant for violating the denomination’s policies on human sexuality.

“The ECC 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.”

The ECC’s human sexuality policy includes “celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage”, which Mr Collison and First Covenant are accused of violating.

Mr Collison said he was “not surprised” but “saddened” by the denomination’s decision.

“I feel grounded in the path we have chosen. I feel grateful for the pastors and churches who stood up for us,” he said, according to The Star Tribune.

“I feel compassion to those caught in the middle.”

The ECC also voted to expel Steve Armfield, a retired minister who officiated his son’s same-sex wedding.

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Mr Armfield served as a pastor for 47 years but was suspended in 2017, after the wedding.

His son, Matthew, attends First Covenant.

“It is so unbelievably upsetting to see my father, Dan, and my fellow members of First Covenant experience the hate, deceit and actions that go against the teachings of love and inclusion that Jesus Christ preached,” Matthew Armfield said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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