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What’s In a Name?

2023-1-17 | Pastor Stacey Littlefield

At our October 2022 congregational meeting I mentioned that council and I would like to begin the process of prayerfully considering a name change for ECC. We plan to launch that process at our congregational Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 22, 2023.


Several times over the years, the idea of changing our name has been brought up for consideration. A name change was considered many years ago (well before my time) and voted down. Most recently, the idea has surfaced in our work on the Vitality Pathway and in the Ministry Planning Team that came out of that process.


I brought it back up to council last spring, but we did not feel it was time to move on it. As I said in October, however, I now think it is time for us to “begin a process to consider the possibility of changing our name.” Forming this process does not mean we will change our name. It means we will intentionally consider it.


Why change our name? On the negative side, two of the words in our name are either confusing or have lost any real meaning: Evangelical and Covenant.


To put it bluntly, the word “evangelical” has been politicized on both the left and the right. The word itself means “gospel” or “good news”, but it has been coopted by the divisive political climate in our country and is quite often used as a political label. In fact, in 2020, among self-identified evangelicals, 26.7% reported never or seldom attending worship. That’s up more than 10 points over 2008 (16.1%).[1]


What’s worse, 13.5% of self-identified evangelicals say they go to church “yearly”. When coupled with the above number who say they attend worship “never” or “seldom”, that means that 40.2% of self-identified evangelicals attend church once a year or less! The upshot is that the word, evangelical, has lost all meaning among nearly half of those who use the term to define themselves.


The word “evangelical” has been so coopted by the political divide that many of us wonder if it can be reclaimed, at all. It was partly for this reason that the organization formerly known as TEAMM (Tippecanoe Evangelical Association of Ministries and Ministers) changed its name to the Greater Lafayette Gospel Association.


Regarding the word, “covenant”, some don’t like the word because it has no real meaning to most people outside the church. For many, the word “covenant” refers to homeowners’ association covenants, and the like.


Likewise, it can be misunderstood as a theological word stemming from the Reformed tradition—referring to “covenant theology”. That’s not what it means in our tradition. For the larger Covenant Church (our denomination), “Covenant” in our name refers to the agreement we enter into with other Covenant churches for the sake of mission.


There are a few other negative reasons to consider a name change, but I want to leave you with a very positive reason for a name change.


Over the past two years, God has been at work in and through ECC in a fresh way. We have a stronger sense of mission, we are experiencing greater levels of health and wholeness, and we are increasing in our missional alignment with the ECC Touchstones of WELCOME, TRANSFORMATION, and PRESENCE. God is doing a new thing in our midst. Finding a new name—the right name—will help us to better communicate who we are to our community and to ourselves.


At our annual meeting on January 22, 2023, council’s intent is to intentionally invite a few people to be a part of this process and to allow others to request to be involved, as well. If you are interested in taking part in the process to consider a name change at ECC, please join us for the congregational meeting this weekend and let us know of your interest by emailing ECC’s council at council@ecclife.net.

[1] “New Data Suggests Over 40 Percent of Self-Identified Evangelicals Attend Church Once a Year or Less”, https://relevantmagazine.com/faith/church/new-data-suggests-over-40-percent-of-self-identified-evangelicals-attend-church-once-a-year-or-less/