One of these days I’m going to have to write a series trying to explain what the Evangelical Covenant Church is. My denomination is a small one (fewer than 200,000 members in the US), hard to understand if you didn’t grow up in it, and yet growing fast. (More than half the current denominational membership wasn’t in the Covenant ten years ago.) So I think it’s worth some further exploration. For for today, I just want to share two of my favorite things about the ECC, as a segue into introducing another organization with which our church has enjoyed a healthy partnership.
The first thing I love about Covenanters is that they often encounter either/or debates that have torn evangelicalism or Protestantism apart and shrug, “Why not both?”
Infant baptism or believer’s baptism? Commemoration or consubstantiation? Republican or Democrat? “Why not both?”, we ask, as we offer you some hot dish or Jello salad.
Or to take another dichotomy that Covenanters view as false: Matthew 25 (“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”) or Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples of all nations”)? Covenanters see no contradiction between these two emphases. Due in large part, I’m sure, to the continuing influence of Pietism, Covenanters are evangelicals whose biblicism, conversionism, and crucicentrism lead to activism oriented around both evangelism and discipleship and what we call ministries of compassion, mercy, and justice.
A second thing I cherish about the Covenant is that it was founded not as a denomination (though it’s developed that apparatus, mostly to the good), but as a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing churches together to do missions work that they couldn’t do by themselves. The early “Mission Friends” — rather poor Swedish immigrants, for the most part — managed both to sustain the intimate fellowship of the Pietist conventicles that gave rise to their movement, and to transcend the limitations of the lone congregation, pooling their resources to send missionaries to Alaska and China and to found hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, and schools. (Hence the first name of the movement: the “Mission Covenant.”)
And going even beyond that, Covenanters have long partnered with those not of their movement. At the founding of the Covenant in 1885, one of the most important sermons preached worked from this text: “I am a companion of all those fear you” (Ps 119:63).
For both of these reasons — a commitment to what Covenanters call “the whole mission of the church” (Great Commission plus Great Commandment), and a historic eagerness to partner for mission with other “companions” in Christ — I’m thrilled that our church has such a strong relationship with Feed My Starving Children. When they read that Jesus told Peter to “feed his sheep” in John 21, both Covenanters and the people of FMSC tend to assume that the “feeding” is both spiritual and physical. And Feed My Starving Children enables members of our church to share the love of Christ with people far beyond the suburb where our building happens to sit.
For a quick introduction to Feed My Starving Children, check out this video, in which our executive pastor, Kay Sorvik, is among those interviewed about the relationship between churches and FMSC:
In the history of our partnership, groups from Salem Covenant have packed nearly 900,000 meals at Feed My Starving Children, working side by side with Christians (and non-Christians, I’m sure) of all races, classes, and denominations.
If your church is looking to send its members on what the video calls a “virtual” missions trip, I strongly encourage you to look into FMSC. It has packing facilities in the Twin Cities, suburban Chicago, and Tempe, AZ, plus its “MobilePack” program is at work around the country. MobilePack events are already scheduled to be held in coming months in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.