INCLUSION AND WELCOME
Welcome to first Covenant Church of Saint Paul
Here at First Covenant, there’s a place for everyone to belong, believe, and become. We celebrate our rich diversity and unity that stems from our shared faith in Christ and life following Jesus. All people are born with the dignity and value that comes from being made in God’s image. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are invited to begin or deepen your relationships with Jesus Christ and each other, sharing God’s love and the peace (shalom) of Christ.
RELATIONSHIP WITH SCRIPTURE
First Covenant Church of Saint Paul believes that the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, telling the story of God and God’s people in the past and guiding them in the present and the future. We believe that engaging with God’s story and the Bible is both an individual and a collective experience.
We read the Bible to form us spiritually and to grow in holiness; it is not only for teaching and doctrine. We use our experience, traditions, and reason to interpret Scripture. We value the mystery of Scripture over certainty. We humbly read the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ, consciously depending on the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the unfolding reality of our world.
Supporting Scripture (NIV)
2 Tim 3:16 | Psalm 119:105 | Hebrews 4:12 | James 1:22 | Philippians 1:27-28 | Matthew 7:24 | Matthew 22:37-40 | Matthew 7:7-11
RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
Faith in Jesus Christ is uniquely individual. Both our personal relationship with Jesus and our communal relationship with Christ are our calling, our responsibility, and our blessing. We are united by faith and life in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit as one body with many parts. Jesus lives on in us and through us, and he has given us the freedom of discernment in our relationships with one another. Each of us is encouraged to humbly submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order that we may fully live out the calling of Jesus in our lives.
Matthew 7:1-5 | Matthew 25.31-46 | John 5:24 | Ephesians 6:18 | Galatians 5:1 | Galatians 5:22 & 23 | Romans 3:22-24 | Romans 8:14-17 | I Corinthians 12:12-14 | 1 Peter 2:23
RELATIONSHIP WITH EACH OTHER
We believe that our relationships with one another should reflect the beauty and wholeness of God's perfect nature, which is love. Therefore, we strive to make our church community a safe and nurturing place for all individuals to grow and flourish. We seek to be a place known for radical grace where healing is possible for those who’ve been wounded, even by the church. In our relationships, we choose to value empathy and compassion over certainty and absolute agreement. We trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of every community member, and we share a commitment to grow as we extend the love, acceptance, and compassion of God to everyone, with no exceptions.
John 17:20-23 | Romans 13:8 | 1 John 4:18 | 1 Corinthians 13:13 | 1 Corinthians 16:14 | Colossians 3:14 | 1 Peter 4:8 | Philippians 2:5-10 | Hebrews 13:1-3
Therefore, because of the high value we place on our relationship with the Bible, our relationship with Jesus Christ, and our relationship with one another:
We welcome the gifts and full participation in all areas of ministry and community life at First Covenant Church of Saint Paul of diverse Jesus-followers among us — whether those be differences of race, ethnicity, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or socioeconomic status.
We believe that by exhibiting the radical love of Jesus as a reflection of God’s love poured out for us, our diversity will enrich our life together, not divide us.
We believe our unity comes from our shared faith in Jesus Christ, not from absolute agreement about the interpretation of Scripture.
We encourage every Christ follower to submit humbly to the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit in all areas of their life.
We support our pastors as they follow their faith-filled convictions and conscience as they discern their involvement in all areas connected to the celebration of heterosexual and same-sex weddings (premarital counseling, officiating and praying at ceremonies and/or receptions).
Sources: Covenant Book of Worship, Scripture (see references indicated above).
Learn more about next steps for this statement, the journey that First Covenant has been on, and some resources as we continue the work together.
Click on the + to expand each section below.
Our Inclusion statement is a part of the journey that First Covenant has been on in growing our understanding of inclusion and welcome. Some key points and resources from this timeline are below.
Our Fall 2015 worship series was "Making Sense of the Bible" based on the Rev. Adam Hamilton book by the same title. During this series we encountered the three buckets as a way of understanding and interpreting Scripture. Discerning which bucket a passage from the Bible belongs in will guide in appropriately applying it to our lives. Find our diagram of the three buckets here.
Dr. Jay Phelan joined us in the Spiritual Growth Hour and in a forum following to discuss the authority of scripture.
Dr. Gary Strauss led a four-week Spiritual Growth Hour series on "Pursuing Christ Likeness in the Context of a Sexually Diverse Society." Find our folder of Powerpoint presentations, overviews, and resources here.
Rev. Doug Bixby preached in worship and presented "The Four Corners" following the Evangelical Covenant Church's annual meeting in Minneapolis.
Justin Lee's book Torn was the subject of a Summer Book Club.
Prior to our denomination's annual meeting in June of 2019, we recognized the need for greater clarity as we knew our delegates would be voting on whether or not to support the removal of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis from membership because of their position on the inclusion of the LGBTQA+ community. Our Love Mercy, Do Justice team crafted two letters (to the Northwest Conference (NWC) and the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) leadership) expressing our concern over the NWC and ECC leaderships' process and recommendation to remove First Covenant Minneapolis from the ECC. Members of the congregation were invited to sign one or both of the letters.
First Covenant's congregation participated in in a wide-ranging survey about life together. Of the 188 people who participated in the survey, 86.6% thought it was important that First Covenant engage the topic of human sexuality. Of the 133 people who answered questions about the our denomination's policies for pastors:
Winter 2020The "Following The Roadmap" series began. First Covenant's community gathered outside of worship for key opportunities to learn and grow together:
- 74.4% disagreed with the policy preventing pastors from praying at a same-gender wedding.
- 70.6% disagreed with the policy preventing pastors from officiating at a same-gender wedding.
Summer 2020 - Winter 2021COVID-19 stalled some of the momentum of our "Following the Roadmap" series. As meetings moved online, work was done with our Ministry and Leadership teams to finalize and affirm our new Identity, Mission, and Vision statements by in Summer 2020, with our Values statements finalized by the end of Winter 2021.Spring 2021The Inclusion Writing team was formed by a request from the Leadership Team to prepare a discerned statement on Inclusion for the First Covenant community. This team met regularly to study, pray, discern, and write the statement above.June 13, 2021At our Worship Service and Family Meeting the Inclusion Writing Team presented their discerned statement.
- "Healthy Human Sexuality" with Becky Patton, LMFT where we discussed how sexuality is just one component of our intimate relationships and considered how sexuality factors into healthy relationships.
- "Theological and Biblical Perspectives on Same-Gendered Relationships" with Dr. Kyle Roberts and Dr. Peter Kaspner. Two local professors and theologians who draw different conclusions about human sexuality look at the seven passages most frequently referenced in conversation about same sex relationships to better understand their context and meaning for today. Listen to the audio recording of this conversation here.
- "Respectful Conversations" facilitated by Kim Olstad. We joined together around tables for structured, facilitated conversation to grow in empathy for those with differing viewpoints within our community.
A message to the church community from Pastor Anne and Pastor Mike:
- read our denomination's Covenant Affirmations here
- download your own copy of our Identity, Mission, Vision, and Values statements here
- Watch the Inclusion Writing Team's June 13 presentation here:
August 1, 2021
The Inclusion Statement was approved at our August 1, 2021 Congregational Meeting. Over half of our membership was present to vote on the statement. The vote passed with 87% voting in favor. The final vote breakdown was 109 in favor, 16 against. Stay tuned for how we continue to live in to our commitments together.
Looking for direct audio links for some of our resources above? Check them out here.