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Evangelical Covenant Church elects first female president

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Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church, which has about 900 congregations in the U.S. and Canada, elected the Rev. Tammy Swanson-Draheim to be the denomination’s first female president, according to an announcement by the Chicago-based group.

Swanson-Draheim was voted in by a 20-1 margin at the ECC’s 136th Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday, the denomination said in a statement.

“I love the Covenant Church, and I love the people of the Covenant Church,” Swanson-Draheim, who has been with ECC for 23 years, said after her election. “In God’s economy, challenges are opportunities, and I declare that we have some opportunities.”

The president-elect said she upholds five values: to be rooted in Christ, fully grounded in the Scriptures, guided by the Holy Spirit, unapologetically focused on the church’s mission and loving people well.

“For the glory of God and the love of neighbor, may we do it together,” the mother of two who has served as superintendent of the denomination’s Midwest Conference told the delegates.

The Rev. Catherine Gilliard, who is the superintendent of the ECC’s Southeast Conference, addressed Swanson-Draheim, saying: “If you are a leader, you influence those who follow you, and if you’re a trailblazer, you open a door to those who come after you. You are a leader, a trailblazer, and a pastor to pastors who is called and gifted by God to serve as president. The stained-glass ceiling is broken! You will inspire young girls who will see your leadership and assume it is normative.”

A 27-member nominating committee selected Swanson-Draheim after a five-month deliberation process that started with 40 candidates before narrowing to six and culminating in one, the denomination said.

Steve Dawson, who headed the nominating committee, was quoted as saying that Swanson-Draheim’s “outstanding leadership skills,” and her appreciation for the diversity of the Covenant, combined with her “heart for relationships and relational health, and belief in our mission are essential qualities that are needed now.”

The denomination says on its website it was founded in 1885 by Scandinavian immigrants and has become “one of the most ethnically diverse denominations in North America.”

ECC says it pursues its mission “to see more disciples among more populations in a more caring and just world” through five strategic priorities: “start and strengthen churches, make and deepen disciples, develop leaders, love mercy do justice, and serve globally.”

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