Controversy over same-sex marriage is not limited to mainline denominations. Quest Church, an influential Seattle megachurch, is leaving the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination over its LGBTQ policy just weeks after it participated in the city’s gay pride march.
“We have discerned that to be the body of Christ, we must embrace the fullness of God’s life in all of our members, including our LGBTQIA+ siblings,” said the Rev. Gail Song Bantum, lead pastor of Quest. “This belief emerges from our identity and values as an ECC church, not despite this identity and these values. We leave the denomination grieved that the ECC refuses to recognize God’s work in our midst and yet hopeful for the ways the Spirit is moving in our community.”
Quest’s social media pages include rainbow-colored logos with wishes for a happy Pride Month, which the LGBTQ community celebrates each June, and its website describes it as “fully affirming.” Membership and leadership, including the role of pastor, are open to anybody who “calls Quest home,” the website says, “including, but not limited to, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual and Queer folks.”
That created tension with the ECC, which has asked its ministers to refrain from participating in same-sex weddings since 2015, although LGBTQ inclusion is not among its essential doctrines. In October 2022, the denomination’s executive board voted to remove Quest from its roster of churches after one of its pastors participated in a same-sex wedding, the report said. Delegates to the denomination’s annual meeting were set to vote whether to formally expel the church from the denomination during this summer’s meeting, it added.
In 2019, the ECC removed Minneapolis’ historic First Covenant Church and its pastor, the Rev. Dan Collison, from its roster after the church said it would allow married gay clergy and officiate same-sex marriages. It was the first time the denomination had voted to remove a congregation from its roster over its position on LGBTQ inclusion.
The ECC isn’t the only denomination wrestling with the inclusion of LGBTQ Christians as Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights is higher than ever. That includes three-fourths of white mainline Protestants who say they support same-sex marriage.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice