Jesus set the standard by ministering equally to all persons during His ministry on Earth. Just prior to leaving Earth to return to heaven, He gave the instruction to make disciples of all people, and the closing everlasting gospel to be proclaimed by God’s people is to go “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, NKJV).
In this inclusive spirit of Jesus’ ministry, the Oregon Conference executive committee marked its commitment to racial diversity through three significant, historic actions during their committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.
In May 2020, the Oregon Conference released a statement on racial justice and equity that said, in part, “We all must take substantive steps toward racial equality. For us, that starts with listening carefully to our minority brothers and sisters, learning from their experiences and taking steps together toward a more just society.”
The executive committee’s first strategic actions addressing diversity and inclusion focused on representation for both the Hispanic and black communities. The goal was to establish a recognized pathway by which people of color could share their needs and perspectives with the executive committee.
The committee first approved a motion recognizing the Hispanic ministries advisory as an official advisory committee to the executive committee. For two and a half years, a Hispanic ministries advisory, led by Hispanic ministries director David Paczka, has been guiding the work of the 32 Hispanic churches in the Oregon Conference. This action, for the first time, establishes a formal link between the Hispanic advisory and the executive committee, with the director formally serving as an invitee on the executive committee. “We celebrate this action,” remarked Paczka, “and we are looking forward to continuing to contribute to the mission of the Oregon Conference.”
The second action established a formal link between the Oregon regional affairs committee and the executive committee. For years, the pastors and lay leaders of black churches have met as the regional affairs committee, envisioning and guiding the Adventist work among black churches and communities in the Oregon Conference. This action formally establishes the regional affairs committee as an advisory to the Oregon Conference executive committee, to represent the dreams and needs of the black churches, members and community to the executive committee. The Oregon Conference regional ministries director will represent this committee as an official invitee on the executive committee.
The third action on diversity established that the senior pastor of the Sharon Adventist Church in Portland will serve concurrently as the regional ministries director for the Oregon Conference. This is informally how it has functioned over the past many years, under the capable leadership of each successive pastor acting as a catalyst for ministry throughout the black community in the Oregon Conference. Now, formally as regional ministries director, this position will be further empowered to advance the Adventist work in our black communities, while providing a critical voice of diversity within the Oregon Conference office team. This action is effective immediately, and the search for the next senior pastor/ Oregon regional ministries director is already underway with the Sharon Church.
Oregon Conference president Dan Linrud shares, “God has abundantly blessed the Oregon Conference with such beautiful diversity of race, ethnicity and culture. These actions by our executive committee are a significant step in formally celebrating this diversity and becoming more intentional in more effectively knowing, loving, serving and sharing Jesus with all people.”