Beyond Yes or No: Covenant History and the Third Way (Hauna Ondrey)

Today I’m honored to share a timely essay by Hauna Ondrey, assistant professor of church history at North Park Theological Seminary. Entitled “Beyond Yes or No: Covenant History & the Third Way,” Hauna’s piece offers necessary context for what’s at stake in next week in Omaha, when delegates to the annual meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church vote on the executive board’s recommendation that First Covenant Church of Minneapolis (FCCM) be involuntarily dismissed for being “out of harmony” with the denomination’s stance on human sexuality.

What follows is the introduction to Hauna’s essay, an outline of its body, and a link to the full PDF.

Hauna Ondrey – North Park Theological Seminary

A significant decision is before the Covenant: will the boundary for congregational membership in our denomination remain faith in Christ, or will it be redefined? This decision both underlies and transcends the upcoming Annual Meeting vote regarding whether to involuntarily dismiss First Covenant Church in Minneapolis from the roster of member congregations. We in the Covenant should be well-informed as we make it. The day after a majority of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union, the second most Googled phrase in Britain was “what is the EU?” While there is nothing that requires the Covenant to maintain continuity with its past, if we are going to embark on a path of fundamental change, we should do so intentionally.

One of Hauna’s case studies comes from the 1928 annual meeting: accused of “modernism” by the fundamentalist pastor of First Covenant of Minneapolis, North Park Seminary professor Nils Lund warned that “Confessions are legislation, polemics. They bristle with
challenges made to magnify and punish errors. They are war methods. They are the front lines of battle” – Covenant Archives

In this essay I describe the founding vision of the Covenant Church and trace how that founding vision was preserved through episodes of intense cultural conflict. In light of this history, I suggest that as a denomination we must decide whether this founding vision is still possible and desirable or whether it has finally met its match in same-sex marriage. If we decide to discard our unique identity as a non-confessional believers’ church, we should do so with accurate knowledge of why that identity was chosen at our founding in 1885 and why it was intentionally re-chosen at critical junctures throughout Covenant history. I seek here to offer a piece of that background; the decision is, of course, up to the Covenant as a whole.

Essay Outline

The Founding Vision: A Non-Confessional Believers’ Church

The Vision Reaffirmed: Fundamentalism & Neoevangelicalism

2019 Annual Meeting Vote: Involuntary Dismissal of FCCM


Click here to read the full essay.

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