New President Challenges Staff to Embrace Key Imperatives

Post a Comment » Written on September 2nd, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (September 2, 2008) – In a message this morning that reflects his passion and vision for the Evangelical Covenant Church, newly elected President Gary Walter encouraged Covenant offices staff and others to continue the Covenant’s historic commitment to three imperatives that inspired the founding of the denomination in 1885.

GaryStaff members gathered at Immanuel Covenant Church for worship, to review trends affecting shared ministries, and to hear updates on significant challenges and opportunities facing the Covenant.

Using a passage from James, Walter noted that scripture calls for Christians to be more than hearers of the word – Christians are to do the work scripture calls all believers to do.

The first imperative is a commitment to evangelism, Walter observed. God wants lost people found … that is important to God and therefore must be important to us as well.

The second imperative is a commitment to compassion and justice. When one is rescuing people from a river, that is compassion, he suggested. What is needed is for someone to go upstream and find out why people are falling into the river – or are being pushed – and to stop it. That is justice.

The third imperative is a commitment to the whole church – the unity of believers – to tackle the issues that often fragment the church and dilute its effectiveness. Using passages from Colossians and Ephesians, Walter defines those issues as race, class and gender. Scripture declares all are equal in the sight of God – there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (race), free or slave (class), or male and female (gender), he reminded listeners.

“These three themes reflect the character of God,” Walter said. God’s love seeks the lost – “that’s evangelism,” Walter noted. God’s love is about healing – “that’s compassion and justice.” And God’s love is reconciling – “that’s unity.”

The Covenant has often been defined by the statement “seeking the lost, helping the hurting.” To that Walter has added, “healing the fragmented.”

Gary - DonnA review of current trends was provided by Donn Engebretson, executive vice president, pictured below talking with Walter just prior to the worship service:
•    There are 788 churches in 41 states and five Canadian provinces
•    The Covenant has enjoyed 16 consecutive years of growth
•    Attendance, currently at 169,000 on a given Sunday, increased 50 percent during the last decade, 73 percent during the past 15 years
•    By the year 2020, attendance is projected to reach 250,054 representing 1,005 churches with 36 percent of all congregations ethnic or multicultural
•    There currently are 125 missionaries serving in 33 countries, with 285,262 individuals attending 2,721 churches
•    Covenanters have contributed nearly $6 million to support Covenant World Relief responses

In his closing remarks, Walter shared photographs of his wife, Nancy, and three daughters and shared personal insights into his background and family. He also shared a bit of his wry humor, stating that upon his arrival for his first day in his new office, he searched – without success – for a presidential operations manual.

Noting the obvious – that there is much to learn when one assumes a new position and responsibilities – he asked staff members to remember him in their prayers. “I covet your prayers as we move forward together,” he said. “I want to live with God and for God. I’m not more complicated than that.”

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