The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) was established in Chicago on February 20, 1885, by Swedish immigrants. These immigrants had begun arriving in America since the mid-1860s, near the end of the Civil War. Known as “Mission Friends,” they were nurtured by the religious and folk renewal movements in Sweden.
The movement began in Sweden. It grew first among the evangelical followers of Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-1868) within the Evangelical National Foundation (part of the Church of Sweden), and later among the followers of Paul Peter Waldenström (1838-1917), who gathered in intimate religious meetings or “conventicles” (a form of small groups that gathered for worship and Bible study).
These meetings grew into local, regional, and provincial mission societies. Both ordained pastors and licensed lay preachers (called “colporteurs”) led these societies. The piety and convictions of these leaders were warmly expressed by the spiritual songs they wrote and sang, their passion for mission at home and abroad, and their deep commitment to personal, relational experiences.
Unlike many other denominations, the Covenant has no formal doctrinal statements of belief that members are required to adhere to, choosing instead to gather around a shared experience of God and the witness of the scriptures.
The text that a young pastor, F. M. Johnson, chose for his sermon at the 1885 organizational meeting in Chicago simply expresses the central commitment of the Covenant Church: “I am a companion of all who fear thee and of those who keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119). Since its founding, the Covenant has been committed to maintaining the fellowship of believers, regardless of different opinions individuals may hold on non-essential beliefs.
(content adapted from covchurch.org)