Saturday, June 28, 2008

Annual Meeting Reflections

This past week I had the privilege to attend the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The annual meeting is the yearly gathering of churches, leaders, and pastors from the denomination. In a supremely democratic church culture as the ECC, the annual meeting of the Covenant church is the highest authoritative body. No pastor, bishop, council, president, administrator, or superintendent has any authority granted them greater than the annual meeting where every church is invited to send delegates to voice and vote on the life of our denomination. In essence, the three-hundred plus people gathered for those three days are "the Pope" of the Covenant.

I did not attend as a delegate. I went because I had the time off, it was only a 3-hour drive, and the historic nature of this particular annual meeting was appealing. I knew it would be a chance to see some old friends as well as get some face time with some important people to further help discern where I might end up serving the church.

For the next six years the annual denominational events are focusing on the Covenant Affirmations, this year is "The Centrality of the Word of God". The first night of the meeting my friend and professor Dr. John Weborg knocked it out of the park with a powerful sermon on the "capital" of scripture--that in the Bible is great, great resource for life and truth that we are far too unfamiliar with. The evening concluded with a celebration of the concluding work of outgoing president Glenn Palmberg. Presenters highlighted a number of Glenn's achievements and contributions to the ECC (presidential seminary scholarships, a new department of Compassion/Mercy/Justice, church growth, Congo missions, etc.). Glenn was rightly praised for his great work on big important projects. But I admire Glenn for another reason. Glenn spoke to us graduating seminarians this spring about earning the trust of the people we serve by faithful service. Glenn had earned my trust in this way. The president of a denomination spends a lot of time with people who have great influence and deep pockets. By comparison, I'm a nobody. Yet though Glenn keeps a busy schedule with important religious leaders, on a cold December night he came down to the small Benson funeral chapel to share his condolences with us after Evie's death. Glenn didn't know me from Adam, but he came anyway with genuine care. He earned my trust. Congratulations Glenn, thanks for your work-- for your faithfulness to things both big and small.

The next day our incoming president was voted in and in a moving ceremony that night Gary Walter was commissioned and anointed by the living former presidents of our church. I think Gary will be a great leader for our denomination. His perspective is a good and needed one, as he was not born into the Covenant tradition but came into it as an outsider--one not raised Christian but converted to the faith. By his story I think he'll have insight as how the Church should engage an increasingly post-Christian world. His inaugural sermon that night was on a text from the Epistle of James, "be doers of the Word" and he highlighted the doings asked of us in scripture as an integrated mission of evangelism, compassion/mercy/justice, and church unity. There are great challenges in our denomination already here and still coming for all three of these arenas. Here's hope and prayer for Gary and all of us who will lead this family of the Christian church.

The annual meeting was sometimes quite boring, but I had the fortune of not being a delegate, so I could skip out on some of the meetings for a round of disk golf or a walk by the lake. I was glad to be there to see many friends, worship alongside sisters and brothers from across the country, and to be a part of looking forward in our collective mission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm envious of your time at Green Lake and the annual meeting. It was at Green Lake nine years ago that I got to play a part in bringing Ruth Hill's leadership to the Covenant...a lot of good memories.

I'm so glad you wrote about Glenn's gifted leadership and the personal time he took to show compassion to our family. The incredible support of the the North Park community and the entire Covenant during those painful days is something I'll never forget.

Glad you got to go and "hang" out.

Love, Mom "K"