President Walter’s Statement on Orlando Tragedy

CHICAGO, IL (June 13, 2016) — Gary Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, responded today to the Orlando nightclub shooting with an open letter to the Covenant community and others.

Dear Covenant Friends,

0720-Gary-headshot-1-874x1024We share a heaviness about the tragedy in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Hatred and violence inextricably intertwined and horrific loss of life was the result.

As Orlando pastor Joel Hunter noted, regardless of whether we are speaking as Christians or as citizens of United States, the “founding documents” for both are clear: “You shall not murder” is the sixth Commandment we hold to as Christians. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are words from The Declaration of Independence.

As Christians, and as fellow citizens sharing humanity with all, we stand in sympathy with the families and friends of the victims and the LGBT community that was targeted. Remember to pray for our churches in the Orlando area as they minister in the concussive aftermath.

We reject the stronghold of animus that roils hatred that begets violence that shatters and perverts God’s shalom. Instead, may we be mindful, respectful, and humble in our engagement with all others, being light in the midst of darkness that only seems to grow darker.

A nightclub. A school. A movie theater. A church. A litany of too many places where people just living life had that life ended. Lord, have mercy.

In Christ,

Gary Walter

President, The Evangelical Covenant Church




  • Thank you Gary,
    We can always count on you to to respond with clarity and love.
    So proud to be in a denomination led by such a godly man like you.

  • The church is not responsible for the murderous action in Orlando, and a gun wasn’t responsible either. An Islamic terrorist was responsible! And he’s responsible for his own hate-filled heart and the resulting actions, not America – not the church – and definitely not God’s Word.

  • As lifelong Covenanters, we left the congregation two years ago because of its stance on homosexuality. As parents of a gay child, it was the most important step in affirming our child. Until the Covenant dares to not only have the conversation and truly examine their position, it will not only lose members but continue to be a part of the problem. Precious children were lost in Orlando – someone’s daughter, son, father, mother, brother, sister, friend. The church is responsible for perpetuating hate against a community that simply wants to live.

  • I appreciate Gary’s response and all who have commented. Our denomination is one that can have the conversation where others won’t or can’t. I would hope that we wouldn’t ignore the “elephant” in the room….Guns, guns, guns and how Christians and non-Christians continue to be non-verbal partners in this national pandemic. Lord help us, help us all.

  • The vast majority of Christendom has condemned homosexuality as a perversion throughout its history, providing theology to secular laws that have criminalized gay “behavior” if not gay personhood. When it comes to LGBT+ issues,” being light in the midst of darkness” has for many Christians meant standing firm against the growing acceptance of marriage equality by supporting legislation hateful and harmful to that community.

    The Covenant may have mostly moved past the triteness of the “love the sinner but hate the sin” era, but it still provides the building material that the “stronghold of animus that roils hatred” is made of. We can and should stand with and pray for the victims and their friends and families, but let’s not use that to deny our culpability in providing a more fertile environment for fear, hatred, and violence toward the LGBT+ community.

    I also want to be clear that I personally know Gary as a person who truly loves and cares for people, even thought we strongly disagree on certain points, so I hope my words won’t be taken as a personal attack on his character, but as my disagreement with the direction of the ECC as a whole.

    • The church should be one of the safest places for just such reflections and conversations.

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