CHICAGO, Oct. 29, 2020—In this season of COVID-19 with great unrest and anxiety all around the world, organizations and individuals are pivoting to adjust to new realities. The Evangelical Covenant Church is no different. Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, the denominational team has made many unexpected adjustments to respond to the crisis and continue to serve our constituents effectively, even while navigating transition and constantly changing circumstances. Yet even in the midst of these changes, one unifying factor remains unchanged for our denomination: our mission.
The mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church is, “We join God in God’s mission to see more disciples among more populations in a more caring and just world.” Our methods may change, but our mission does not. We move forward into the unknown together as mission friends, knowing that while the world changes, our rootedness in Christ and the centrality of Scripture does not.
In order to proactively assess needs and opportunities in these new realities, the Strategic Alignment Team (SAT) was convened to listen to the voices of the denomination. These past few months the SAT has conducted many listening mechanisms and received significant input from around the Covenant. The team heard inspiring examples of God at work, sat with the pain of those who are hurting, and was honored to hear the hopes and dreams of those who call the Covenant home. The team received thousands of comments. To better align and serve the growing and changing needs of Covenant conferences and churches, the SAT identified areas of growth, development, and improvement, including the need to: improve communication (coordination, cohesion, transparency, and frequency), strengthen customer service (responsiveness and speed), resource the denomination (additional tools and support across many areas), and better connect the Covenant with each other (cross-denominational opportunities).
John Wenrich, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, is grateful for the listening efforts and feedback, and said:
“Our denominational team is learning to lean into our team values of compassionate candor and dynamic learning, and this process has continued to help us grow in these areas. Hundreds of people have given us feedback, both positive and negative, and we have approached this process with a sense of curiosity and an openness to improving. The positive comments have encouraged us, and the challenging comments are ones that we receive, are reflecting upon, and discern the best ways forward to help us get better. All the input is reflective of the voice of the Covenant so that together we can live even more effectively into the whole mission of the church. I believe the people of the Covenant greatly love the Covenant and all it stands for. Though our circumstances are deeply challenging, our history of sharing life and mission keeps us moving together through the future that only God knows. We have great assurance that we follow the God who holds the future even while we adjust our methods and processes to fulfill the mission. We hope that together we can emerge better and stronger as a Covenant.”
The next phase of the SAT is to assess the feedback collected from the denomination as well as the feedback from the staff. Through the early part of 2021, the team will discern key alignments that may be made to ensure missional effectiveness and financial sustainability for the future and will propose structural alignments to the Executive Board in March. The corresponding recommendations will be brought to the Annual Meeting in accordance with the Evangelical Covenant Church constitution and bylaw requirements in June 2021.
Angela Yee, team facilitator of the SAT and chief ministry officer of the Evangelical Covenant Church, said:
“I am grateful that the Executive Board had the foresight to begin this process. In a crisis, those who act early are the ones who have the advantage of options to consider. If we had waited, we would have put our denomination at financial risk with fewer options available. This situation has given us the opportunity to discern the good work God is doing in our denomination and how our denominational team can adjust our structure and processes to serve the Covenant more effectively. I also am thankful for the SAT. The team members are deeply committed to the Covenant and want only the best for its future. They have been extremely thoughtful and discerning through this process, and we rely upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. Every comment has been read and processed and through these, we have a better picture of the scope of the denomination. The hard work is before us to enter into discernment, practical aspects, financial considerations, and governance impacts. We covet your prayers for the denomination and for our team.”
The SAT is a group of people identified specifically for their extensive years of strategic ministry experience with a range of roles and contexts from the Covenant. The Covenant Executive Board approved the members of the team, which include equal clergy and lay, male and female, and ethnic representation from the Covenant.
To learn more about the SAT, see a summary of key learnings, and view a video message from Angela Yee, visit covchurch.org/ceb-updates. For questions, please contact SAT@covchurch.org.