a week of evangelical covenant church theology

Today begins an interesting stage in my vocational journey.  Pastors who serve churches in the Evangelical Covenant Church but who haven’t graduated from the denomination’s seminary, North Park Seminary, are required to take a few classes.  These classes cover the ECC’s history, theology and the like.  My theology class takes place within the denomination’s Midwinter Conference here in Chicago.  As one whose most recent denominational experience can best be labeled “non”, the idea of spending time and energy on the specifics of any one denomination is taking some getting used to.


Those of you unfamiliar with the ECC’s place on the “family tree” can find it on the end of the second branch from the bottom on the right.  (Click the photo for a larger view.)

On the bright side, the required reading for this class has been helpful.  Particularly interesting has been the historic value of unity within the ECC.  So important is unity that the denominations allows for both infant and believer’s baptism and takes a wide view of the atonement theories, believing each is necessary to even begin describing God’s victory through Christ’s death and resurrection.  This, to me, is a hopeful sign.

Another thing I look forward to about this class is that my dad will also be taking it.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve taken any class together… who knows what hi jinks will ensue?

I don’t expect too many Twitter-worthy moments over the next few days, but if there are they can be found on this blog’s sidebar.

10 thoughts on “a week of evangelical covenant church theology

  1. Interesting tree. I had no idea a Baptist General Conference would be Lutheran further back on the branch! I’ve spent a little time on several of these branches.

    I do have to ask when did the Eastern Orthodox Church go into schism or break away from the unified doctrinal perspective held by the entire Church from the Apostolic period through the faith articulated in the Nicene Creed, and expressed in its Ecumenical Councils, etc.? I would suggest there are strong historical and theological arguments for Eastern Orthodoxy being the trunk, not one of the branches of this tree. In any case, the Greek and Russian Orthodox are not two branches, but two ethnic regional expressions of the ONE Holy Orthodox and Apostolic Church (which is what the “Eastern Orthodox” Church has always called itself and understood itself to be). All its regional expressions are in communion with one another just as all Roman Catholic Churches regardless of ethnic region, etc., are in communion with one another and subscribe to the same faith and doctrine. This includes as well those Orthodox in Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, etc.. To become a member of the Orthodox Church, I had to accept the tenets of the Nicene Creed (in the original version where the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father” only) as understood in their original historical context (as opposed to Liberal Christian redefinitions of it a la Episcopal Bp. Spong, for example) and agree to participate as a faithful member a local parish under a local Bishop of the Church–and that is all! The Orthodox Church has always baptized infants of believers as well as adult converts. They also do not withhold Communion from any baptized member until a certain age, so even baptized infants and young children are communed at the Eucharist since they are no less members of the Body of Christ and no less in need of His Life than all the rest of us. In following with this ancient covenantal understanding, this was also the practice of the Roman Catholic Church up until the Enlightenment period. I discovered when I began to research all this that the varied current sacramental practices in the western churches is the result of viewing the biblical teaching through an Enlightenment rationalist lens and represents a mindset and world view foreign to the Apostles and those universally recognized as the Fathers of the Church. I think there are elements of the more modern covenantal perspective that hark back to this earlier perspective (but they also–because of the more recent philosophical influences–don’t fully embody it). Forgive this intrusion of an Eastern Orthodox perspective onto your blog, but I thought it might be of interest to some!

  2. Karen- I imagine there are many folks who would take issue with this version of the Christian family tree. I think you would have appreciated one the professors of the class: he regularly referenced Easter Orthodox theology. Thanks for your comments; they are never an “intrusion”!

  3. Thanks, Dave! I have no doubt some would take issue with the EO version of this tree. 🙂 It still seems to me it would be good if someone could explain where exactly the EO Church went into schism with the Apostolic faith as received from the earlier period. The Nicene-Constantinopalian Creed was at that point in history the official summary of the Apostolic faith for every orthodox Christian (and remained so for several hundred years until in the west the adoption of the “filioque” clause was added to it and after some time became universal in the Roman Catholic Church). Was this not, then, a faithful summary of the Apostolic faith? It would be interesting to hear what your professor had to say about the teachings of the EO Church. Warm regards!

  4. Nice visual. I don’t see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on there. But basically it’s as though the tree was pruned back to the original trunk. We don’t feel we are a schism of the original. We share that the gospel was restored in that same fullness as when Christ was on the earth, and by His same power that Peter held with all Priesthood keys.

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