The first female president of the Evangelical Covenant church loves… | News and reports

When Tammy Swanson-Draheim began serving in the Evangelical Alliance Church (ECC), it was difficult for women in ministry to find senior pastor roles in the denomination. Twenty-three years later, she becomes the first woman president in its history.

During her career in ministry, Swanson-Draheim said she was drawn to difficult circumstances that forced her to rely on God.

“It’s going to sound strange, but I’ve always loved challenges because I think they are truly opportunities from God,” said Swanson-Draheim, who was elected at the ECC’s 136th annual meeting last month. last.

“In challenges, you can’t rely on yourself, but it’s time to get down on your knees. God has always provided, so one of the things that is poignant about my calling is just being drawn to places where there are challenges and being used by God to be part of what he does for them. solve.

Now, the North Park Theological Seminary alumnus will return to ECC headquarters in Chicago to lead the denomination that has renewed her faith and inspired her call to ministry.

“Tammy’s appreciation for the diversity of the church and her exceptional leadership skills, her heart for relationships and relational health, and her faith in our mission are essential qualities that are needed now,” said Steve Dawson. , Chairman of the Presidential Nominating Committee.

Founded in 1885 by Scandinavian immigrants, the ECC covers 850 congregations in the United States and Canada and has long been dedicated to the mission of making disciples and building a multiethnic, intergenerational church body.

Swanson-Draheim served as senior pastor of the ECC for eight years and has served as superintendent of the denomination’s Midwest Conference since 2011. She is the second woman to hold a superintendent title and has chaired the Board of Superintendents for the four last years.

Swanson-Draheim, who lives in Omaha, will enter the presidency in September, taking the reins from John Wenrich, who has held the post for the past four years. CT interviewed Swanson-Draheim about her new role and her vision for the future of the denomination.

How did you feel called to enter the ministry? Was it a specific moment or rather a progressive realization?

It was a bit progressive. I really relate it to discipleship. When I had some kind of spiritual renewal experience in my life and the importance that God had in my life increased, I heard about God in a kind of unique incident. I had started going to church and had experienced some rejection, and in the midst of that, I really felt that God was speaking to me and telling me that I could live with these hurt feelings, or that I could decide to do something about it so that no one else has to experience it.

I was just coming back to faith after a season away, and I heard God say, “That’s something I got for you.” I followed that and enjoyed serving people, so I see that as kind of an initial calling as a lay person.

I think about that, because to me, when you dedicate your life to Christ, you have a role in his kingdom ministry. This kind of thing has translated over time into more opportunities to serve and responsibilities; then it became clear that I was called to the seminary.

What stands out for you as a formative experience or relationship that has prepared you for this new position as president?

Many of the women who have come before me, who have really paved the way for women in ministry, in a general sense, are very formative. One person in particular who has been a tremendous mentor to me is Evelyn Johnson.

In my current role as superintendent, I was the second female superintendent. Evelyn was the first. She’s held many leadership positions in the denomination, and she’s graciously dedicated her life to me, and we talk about every week. She is one of those women who really touched me and allowed me to occupy this position today.

What has it been like to serve as a woman in ministry? Do you think being the first woman to serve as Covenant President is significant?

I have long been accustomed to leading the way in some of these areas. My predecessor Evelyn Johnson was no longer on the board when I became superintendent. The reality is that when God gives me a role that he calls me to, I never walk into the room and I leave, Okay, now I have to remember that I’m a woman. I walk into the room and I think, Well that’s what God called me to do.

I think it’s the same for the presidency. I am the first president who happens to be a woman. I say this because I will be a president for everyone. It is very exciting to think that there are boys and girls who will grow up and understand that this is normative in the church of Christ. Women can serve at all levels, and what a beautiful thing that will be. It’s so connected to my theology of the kingdom and how God created us.

It means a lot because women who are in the clergy are encouraged by this, but I think it will shift some of the thinking even of those who are now young on the pew, growing up and going through this. It’s exciting for me to be able to be in any way, shape or be a part of demonstrating this for the whole church.

What excites you most about this new role?

Historically, as a Covenant Church, we are really strong in mission. But like most people in this season, it’s been exhausting with the pandemic and even some of the polarization of things going on in our culture and in politics. Frankly, it’s been exhausting, so I think there’s a need for healing. I also think it’s a great time to give strong mission leadership – hit the refresh button on our commitment to God’s mission and make sure it remains a strong priority for us.

I don’t come up with a game plan; I come with the ability to listen. Listen to people, listen to the move of the Holy Spirit, and then together figure out together the best way forward that will truly be for the glory of God and the good of neighbors. I am very excited to see how we can continue to move forward with strength and mission.

I would also say—and it’s not necessarily separate but part of it—that we’re part of a multi-ethnic mosaic-committed church. As we go on a mission, we do it with the multi-ethnic mosaic [and] gender equality in mind. They are not add-ons. They are part of the theology of our kingdom.

Barry F. Howard