Like some of you, I did not grow up in a Covenant church. I have no Swedish blood in me, and as far as I can remember, I had only visited one Covenant church before beginning my seminary education. My family attended Presbyterian churches during my childhood, but I had some theological reservations about serving in that denomination. So, when I realized God was leading me into pastoral ministry, I had to find a new church home, a search that led me to the ECC.
One of the factors that drew me to the Covenant, and that I still feel strongly about, is congregational polity. That is, our churches are governed by the members of the church, rather than by denominational officials who hold authority over local churches. In Covenant churches, members elect leaders, approve budgets and make all the critical decisions related to running the church and its ministries.
We take seriously the “priesthood of all believers,” a New Testament doctrine that invites all followers of Jesus to join together in the church’s mission and ministry. While we acknowledge the importance of called, gifted and ordained clergy, we don’t hold pastors up above other believers as though they deserve special reverence or authority. All followers of Jesus are gifted and called to serve the church in a variety of ways, ac-cording to the wisdom of God’s Spirit. All believers share authority and responsibility within the church.
I raise this because we are in the season of important church meetings. Broadway will hold our Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 19; the Central Conference Celebration (annual meeting) took place the last week of April; and Gather, the Covenant Annual Meeting, is coming up at the end of June in Omaha. These meetings matter for Covenant churches because we value the voices and contributions of all our members.
During our meeting on May 19, we will elect (and re-elect) Leadership Team members, hear ministry and financial reports, and consider how to move forward together on important ministry initiatives.
One issue we will consider is how our church can help support the Central Conference’s vision to plant a Latina Covenant church in Rockford. The conference hopes to expand our reach into the growing diversity of our community, and they are seeking the help of the established churches in our district. Together, our congregations can help fund and encourage a new church body that will reach the fast-growing Latino population around Rockford.
In similar ways, but on a larger scale, decisions made at the Covenant Annual Meeting help shape the future of our shared ministry. The Covenant supports international mission and relief work and provides resources to local churches that enable our ministry. The Covenant also ordains pastors and sets guidelines for how pastors should teach and care for the people of our churches. Decisions made at the Annual Meeting impact ministry within every Covenant church, as is the case with recent discussions around human sexuality.
Congregational polity is a blessing and a heavy responsibility. We each have a voice and a vote. Please be in prayer for the upcoming meetings, and as you feel led, add your voice to the decision-making process. All members are encourage to attend Broadway’s Annual Meeting in May, and if you would like to serve as a delegate to the Covenant Annual Meeting, please talk with me or a member of the Leadership Team.