CHICAGO, IL (March 19, 2010) – What was the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) all about in its formative days when it had nothing but a future to contemplate?
“In other words,” asks ECC President Gary Walter, “what were the hopes and aspirations that gave rise to the vision, sacrifice, and commitment necessary to set this movement in motion?”
Walter poses those and other questions in his inaugural column, “Compass Bearings,” that appears in the March issue of The Covenant Companion. In the months ahead, Walter will explore more deeply the key factors of identity, character and mission that have shaped the denomination during its 125-year history.
This focus is especially significant during this 125th anniversary year as the denomination prepares to celebrate June 22-27 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Referencing the book The Missional Church and Denominations: Helping Congregations Develop a Missional Identity, Walter identifies a key characteristic of congregations that are experiencing vitality: they have a clear sense of identity and purpose on the one hand in an environment that fosters flexibility and innovation on the other.
The column expands on an increasingly familiar theme as Walter moves through his second year as president, describing new and emerging directions as “our decisive turn to the future.” For Walter, it is about just that – the future.
In remarks to the Covenant Executive Board a week ago, Walter reflected on his first year as president. “As we transition out of a transition year,” he said, “I am determined to wrestle the dynamics toward the future.”
Walter believes the Covenant can adapt ministry approaches that emanate from the Covenant’s essential identity and in the process foster an environment of flexibility and innovation. He cautions, however, that the work is not about identifying targets to achieve, but rather about naming and doing the right things in the right way and advancing the mission.
“There is an important distinction, and that distinction is important to me,” Walter told board members. “Do we measure what we do? Yes. Do we hold ourselves accountable for demonstrable progress? Yes. But our focus is not on targets – it is being resolutely committed to the right priorities.”