How ECO Began
In the summer of 2010, seven pastors from the Presbyterian Church (USA) spoke of finding new ways to encourage each other in faith, ministry, and mission. They were concerned by the declining membership within their denomination (from four million to two million in 40 years). And they worried that growing denominational disputes over theology and bureaucracy stole focus from their pastoral calling of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping a new generation to lead. These pastors dreamed of reclaiming a sense of covenanted community among leaders from a Presbyterian and Reformed heritage, and to find new ways for churches to connect, grow, and multiply.
In January 2011, these pastors sent out a letter to PC(USA) pastors around the country, asking if others wanted to join in a crafting new way forward. The response was overwhelming: just seven months later, in August 2011, nearly 2,000 men and women gathered in Minneapolis to dream and pray. This became the birth of The Fellowship of Presbyterians, a ministry association that seeks to equip and connect those in various Presbyterian denominations including the PC(USA). But some pastors and congregations felt God calling them to leave the PC(USA), and many young seminarians were looking for a different context for ordination. As a result, in January 2012, at a conference in Orlando with more than 2,200 in attendance, a new denomination was formed: ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
The name ECO is not an acronym. It reinforces our passion for strengthening the ecosystems of local churches. We believe the church is a living organism that needs life-giving resources to help it grow, thrive, and multiply. ECO is committed to cultivating a healthy, diverse, resource-rich ecosystem where pastors and congregations can flourish.
Our full name (ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) speaks to our core commitments:
Covenant: To connect leaders in accountable relationships and encourage collaboration.
Order: To commit to a shared way of life as we unite around a shared theological core.
Evangelical: To advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and plant new missional communities.
Presbyterian: To stand within our Reformed heritage and celebrate the life of the mind.
Today ECO is a rapidly-growing Presbyterian denomination that exists to serve the local church and reclaim a sense of covenanted biblical community.
By 2018, ECO churches seek to baptize more than they bury. We will pursue this goal by focusing on four priorities:
- Lift up the centrality of the gospel.
- Grow with an emerging generation of leaders.
- Prioritize a wave of church innovation.
- Create an atmosphere of relational accountability.