Sunday morning, April 10, 2022 dawned bright and cold in Bozeman, Montana. Despite an approaching early spring snowstorm, 247 delegates and many more session guests began gathering at Mount Ellis Academy for the 63rd Montana Conference Constituency Session.
The constituency session had been delayed a year due to COVID-19 restrictions. This was the first time Montana members gathered post-pandemic to conduct official conference business.
Following the morning devotional, John Freedman, North Pacific Union president, invited attendees to spend a few minutes in prayer. “This is one of the most important tasks we will do today,” said Freedman. “Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to be here today to give divine insight and wisdom to our work today.”
After the delegates were officially seated, Ken Norton, Montana Conference president opened the session with the president’s report. “The best part of my job is getting to meet with you. I love hearing about what God is doing through you,” said Norton.
Norton went on to lay out a two-fold vision for Montana Adventists to renew faith and restore hope. "Let’s make Montana a template for the rest of the North American Division," he said. "We have to do things differently to accomplish that.”
The delegates received several reports from Montana Conference leadership. Erin Tungesvik, Montana Conference vice president for finance, shared how the conference is diligently working to bring energy and resources to several ministry areas that have struggled during the pandemic. A highlight from Tungesvik’s report included the good news of improved net operating assets levels — they are at their highest point in a decade. This is a direct result of God’s blessings and members’ faithful giving.
As delegates stopped for lunch, snowflakes drifted down gently, making the April afternoon feel more like March. Following lunch, delegates overwhelmingly voted to re-elect Montana Conference officers and the education superintendent to serve for the next four years.
- Ken Norton, president
- Jim Jenkins, vice president for administration
- Erin Tungesvik, vice president for finance
- Renae Young, education superintendent
Dane Bailey, Mount Ellis Academy principal, reported to session delegates about the conference’s only high school. At past sessions, delegates wrestled with difficult financial issues. Bailey gave the encouraging news outlining how the school has been operating in the black every month during the 2021–2022 school year. New fiscal accountability protocols are helping streamline budgeting and expenditures.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Bailey. “It is not sustainable to rely on donations for 33% of our operating budget. We need to bring that number down to about 10%.”
Bailey shared MEA plans to increase enrollment. The plans include offering distance learning as well as trade school training that will bring income to the school while providing valuable career skills for students.
Delegates spent significant time working through changes proposed by the constitution and bylaws committee. Careful discussion took place over the policies that guide all conference operations.
At the end of the day, Norton encouraged delegates and all members to press together. "Let this ring in our hearts," he said. "Let's be willing to do what it takes to mend relationships and move forward and see what God will do through us."