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The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) is a Radical Pietistic denomination in the evangelical Christian tradition.[1][2] The denomination has more than 875 congregations and an average worship attendance of 280,000 people[3][page needed] in the United States and Canada with ministries on five continents. Founded in 1885 by Swedish immigrants, the church is now one of the most rapidly growing and multi-ethnic denominations in North America.[4] Historically Lutheran in theology and background, it is now a broadly evangelical movement.

Evangelical Covenant Church
Evangelical Covenant Church logo.svg
OrientationRadical Pietistic[1]
RegionUnited States, Canada
Chicago, Illinois
Covenant Yearbook, 2011–2012


Picture of the founder of Evangelical Covenant Church of America, Carl August Björk [sv]

Swedish immigrants breaking off from the Lutheran (State Church of Sweden) began the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant of America (now ECC) on February 20, 1885, in Chicago, Illinois.

A pietistic religious awakening had swept through Sweden around the middle of the 19th century. Before leaving their homeland some Swedes met in people’s homes, as they felt the state church was becoming overly powerful. There they conducted private services including hymn singing accompanied by guitars and read scripture from their Bibles, but they’d often hear an ominous authoritative knock at the door from a church official. This only reinforced their yearning to be in a church where they could worship freely. With this awakening and reformation came the Swedish Mission Church in 1878. The state church discouraged the gathering of these believers. It was people from this movement who emigrated to America and formed the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant of America. Early leaders and influences included PP Waldenström, 1838–1917 and David Nyvall, 1863–1946, among others. They desired to create a voluntary “covenant of churches” that were committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus, as well as provide means for ministerial training. The name was changed to the Evangelical Covenant Church of America in 1954 and the "of America" was eventually abandoned because the denomination includes a Canadian conference.


The denominational offices are located in Chicago, Illinois, where they are also affiliated with North Park University, North Park Theological Seminary and Swedish Covenant Hospital. There are related Bible colleges in Alaska and California.[5][6] They are also affiliated with Minnehaha Academy, a pre-K - 12 school in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The church is divided into eleven (11) regional conferences[7] – Canada Conference,[8] Central Conference,[9] East Coast Conference (org. 1890),[10] Great Lakes Conference,[11] Midsouth Conference,[12] Midwest Conference,[13] Pacific Northwest Conference,[14] Northwest Conference,[15] Pacific Southwest Conference,[16] Southeast Conference[17] - and its newest conference, the Alaska Conference.[18] The Covenant presence in Alaska dating from 1887 as a foreign mission outpost, but gradually transitioned its status to a home mission, and then finally full conference standing in 2015

Annual Meetings are held to which delegates are sent by the congregations reporting back to local churches.

Covenant Publications are the communication arm of the denomination. The denominational hymnal is The Covenant Hymnal: A Worship Book.

A major ministry of the denomination includes senior living facilities and is supplemented through its Covenant Benevolent Institutions department. Among the ECC retirment systems, The Sanmarkand and Covenant Shores, are considered to be two of the top facilities in the United States.

As of 2011, denomination membership was 124,669 in 820 congregations in the United States (43 states) of US and an estimated 1500 members in 23 congregations in Canada (5 provinces).[3] Average attendance in 2009 was 178,997. The denomination also has ongoing missions work in 25 countries worldwide, with 125 long term missionaries, project missionaries and short-term missionaries. The ECC has a worldwide membership of almost 278,000.

Membership is concentrated primarily in three regions of the United States: the Midwest, along the West Coast, and in the Great Plains region.[19] California has the largest number of members, but the highest rates of membership are in Minnesota, Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, and Washington.[19]


Forerunners of the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant were the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Ansgar Synod and the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Synod. When members of the two synods dissolved and the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant was formed, some of those who did not enter the Mission Covenant formed the Swedish Evangelical Free Mission (now the Evangelical Free Church of America). The Evangelical Covenant Church maintains ties with the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (formerly known as the Svenska Missionsförbundet; see Svenska Missionskyrkan[20] and CIPE),[21] and the other churches in the International Federation of Free Evangelical Churches.

In the 1920s, Warner Sallman created illustrations for the denominational magazine, Covenant Companion, including his charcoal sketch The Son of Man for a 1924 magazine cover that was later redone as the famous oil painting The Head of Christ.

Since 1976, the denomination has ordained and licensed women as ministers.[22]

Many figures in the Jesus Movement[23] have formally linked themselves to the ECC.

Stance on Gay MarriageEdit

The denomination officially takes a traditional stand on marriage. The ECC's 1996 resolution adopted by the Covenant Annual Meeting entitled "Resolution on Human Sexuality" represents the ongoing consensus position of the ECC. The resolution upholds "celibacy, the state of abstaining (outside of marriage) in singleness, and heterosexual relations as the Christian standard".[24] Additionally, the ECC does not permit ministers to perform same-gender marriages. Whereas, only a few Covenant-ordained clergy have performed same-gender wedding ceremonies, these ministers were summarily dismissed from their position by the ECC administration. It does, however, allow ministers to exercise pastoral discretion by attending a same-gender marriage ceremony.[25] One congregation in Portland, OR developed differing all-inclusive policy statements, prompting the ECC to remove that congregation in 2015.[26][27] Moreover, some individuals affiliated with Covenant congregations have organized to advocate for more inclusive national policies.[28]

In June 2019 ECC voted to remove one of the founding churches of the movement, First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, and also remove the credentials of the lead pastor due to a differing stance on gay marriage and LGBT inclusion.[29] Another pastor was removed in June 2019 for officiating his gay son’s wedding and for violating the church's same-sex wedding ban.[29]

Notable membersEdit


  1. ^ a b Shantz, Douglas H. (2013). An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421408804. Groups with Radical Pietist roots include the North American Baptist Conference (German Baptists), the Moravian Church, the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonite Brethren, the Evangelical United Brethren, Brethren in Christ, the Evangelical Free Church, the Baptist General Conference (Swedish Baptists), and the Evangelical Covenant Church.
  2. ^ "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Appendix B: Classification of Protestant Denominations". Pew Research Center. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b Covenant Yearbook, 2011–2012.
  4. ^ "History", Who we are, Cov church.
  5. ^ Alaska Christian College.
  6. ^ Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos.
  7. ^ "Conferences", Structure, Cov church.
  8. ^ "".
  9. ^ "Central Conference —".
  10. ^ "East Coast Conference".
  11. ^ "Great Lakes Conference".
  12. ^ "Midsouth Conference".
  13. ^ "Midwest Conference — Official Website of the ECC Midwest Conference".
  14. ^ "Pacific Northwest Conference".
  15. ^ "Binäre Optionen für Profis - Binäre Optionen für Profis".
  16. ^ "Home « Pacific Southwest Conference".
  17. ^ "Home".
  18. ^ "Alaska Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church - growing in God's word, relationships, outreach, word and service".
  19. ^ a b "2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study". Glenmary Research Center. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  20. ^ "Gemensam Framtid".
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Women in Ministry". Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  23. ^ "Jesus People USA Covenant Church & Community". Archived from the original on 2018-08-09. Retrieved 2019-08-13. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  24. ^ "Guidelines for Covenant Pastors and Congregations Regarding Human Sexuality" (PDF). The Evangelical Covenant Church. October 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  25. ^ "Guidelines for Covenant Ministers Regarding Human Sexuality" (PDF). Evangelical Covenant Church. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 9, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  26. ^ Eckstrom, Kevin. "Evangelicals pull support for Portland church over LGBT stance". Religion News. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  27. ^ "Evangelicals pull support for Portland church over LGBT stance". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  28. ^ "About". Coming Out Covenant. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  29. ^ a b Associated Press (29 June 2019). "Minneapolis church expelled over support of gay marriage". ABC News. Retrieved 1 July 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Blanck, Dag, "Two Churches, One Community: The Augustana Synod and the Covenant Church, 1860–1920," Swedish-American Historical Quarterly 63 (April–July 2012), 158–73.
  • Granquist, Mark, "Parallel Paths: The Augustana Synod and the Covenant Church, 1920–1945," Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, 63 (April–July 2012), 174–86.
  • Covenant Affirmations (2005, 24 page denominational summary, .pdf)
  • Covenant Roots, Glenn P. Anderson, editor
  • David Nyvall and the Shape of an Immigrant Church, by Scott E. Erickson
  • Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States (2000), Glenmary Research Center
  • 2004 Annual Meeting Update: Delegate Summary Report
  • 2005 Annual Meeting Update: Delegate Summary Report
  • 2006 Annual Meeting Update: Delegate Summary Report
  • Covenant Yearbook: Statistical Data & Resources for Churches 2005-2006
  • Covenant Distinctives, Everett L. Wilson and Donald Lindman, authors
  • Morgan, David (Summer 2006). "The face that's everywhere". Christian History & Biography. Christianity Today International (91): 11.
  • By One Spirit by Karl Olson

External linksEdit