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Defrocked pastor gets ovation in return to expelled Minneapolis church

First Covenant Church and pastor expelled over gay marriage

MINNEAPOLIS — The defrocked pastor of an expelled Minneapolis church returned to the pulpit Sunday to a standing ovation from his congregation.

Dan Collison apologized, not for his conduct, but for the conduct of the denomination that cast him out.

“I’m just sorry another Christian group is fighting about whether some belong, or all belong,” Collison said.

Dan Collison and his church ran afoul of Evangelical Covenant Church for an open attitude toward gay marriage.

Though conducted off site by a First Covenant staffer, the marriage of members Lisa and Heather Albinson raised the ire of the parent church.

Its delegates voted by a wide margin on Friday in Omaha for the ouster of Collison and the historic Minneapolis church.

“To feel that this is both personal and then broader at the same time is a lot to hold,” Heather Albinson said. 

Lisa Albinson added, “I think we've been true to who we are throughout.”

Both women said they’ve been moved by the support they’ve received from within their church community.

“We did it for the sake of love and for full equality of all in the name of the Christ we love and serve,” Collison told his congregation Sunday.

The church will still own its building in the shadows of U.S. Bank Stadium and plans to keep its First Covenant name.

But now untethered from the parent church, Collison says changes are coming.

“To this point I've tried to be careful, and even respectful,” Collison said, “I have not performed a gay wedding, we haven't done it in the building, now we will.  It will be my honor to do so.”

Collison says the church's community work will also continue. First Covenant operates a 60-bed homeless shelter and is a partner in an affordable housing complex under construction on its property.

At the end of the Sunday service, First Covenant members and guests offered hugs and support to Collison.

Karen Benson expressed sadness.  “Because of what I believe I’m no longer part of the Covenant Church, the church that I grew up in,” Benson said.

Others, like Teresa Kidd, are already looking to the future.  

“I feel free because there’s not going to be anyone watching over us, my pastor,” Kidd said. “I feel free to just welcome anybody.”

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