On Sunday morning, Sept. 18, 2022, delegates from around Oregon Conference arrived on the campus of Portland Adventist Academy in Portland, Oregon, to conduct church business. The 59th regular constituency session marked the first session since 2017, when delegates last met and overwhelmingly voted to increase the span between regular constituency sessions from four years to five years.
A Cheerful Spirit
As delegates and members arrived, the gymnasium quickly filled with the lively chatter of those engaged in greetings and conversations. For many, this was the first time in two years seeing friends from around the conference. It was clear that the more than 450 delegates were present with a profound desire to see God continue to move in the conference and participate in this important church forum.
The meeting commenced with songs of praise. Dan Linrud, Oregon Conference president, followed with a devotional. Echoing the counsel of the apostle Paul and words of encouragement from Ellen White, he appealed to the delegates to continue to focus the mission forward on Jesus.
"Lord, make this thing called church, that we're doing together in Your name, be all about You," Linrud urged. "Keep us in Your perspective and understanding, in Your Holy Spirit."
Linrud petitioned the Lord to fill and empower delegates to be the manifestation of Jesus’ earthly body, reflecting Him by living in the presence and the power of His Holy Spirit.
He closed his devotional with an invitation to break into groups of two and pray that they will breathe His Spirit, reflect His Fruits and please Him in all things.
Engaging in Business
Though no strangers to electronic voting — with this being the third session of such use since 2009 — delegates were guided through the small device’s process. After a few introductory votes to establish the system was working, the session was officially called to order.
The delegates quickly moved through the session procedures and guidelines. Eager to tackle the proposed bylaw changes, the day’s agenda received active discussion and, ultimately, a motion to proceed with bylaw changes first. This vote failed by 1%.
God greatly moved and grew His flock in the last five years, and the body warmly welcomed the following into the sisterhood of churches in Oregon Conference:
- Rivers Edge Adventist Church (McMinnville, Oregon)
- Oromo Adventist Church (Portland, Oregon)
- Beaverton Spanish Adventist Church (Oregon)
- Portland Spanish Adventist Church
Recommendation of Officers
The nominating committee then presented its recommended report to the body for filling the officer roles. The first presentation was Dan Linrud to continue serving as president. After a failed motional request to refer the entire committee's report back, Linrud was reaffirmed as president with 73%.
The nominating committee then recommended Kara Johnsson, Oasis Christian Center pastor, to fill the role of vice president for administration/secretary. She was voted in with an 85% approval. She becomes the first female in Oregon Conference history to serve in this role. There are now three Northwest conferences with female officers. Of note, this also adds to a recent trend of younger conference executive leaders in the Northwest.
Moving along, the committee then put forth the name of Brent Plubell to continue serving as vice president for finance/treasurer. The delegates overwhelmingly approved him with 91%.
For the final position of vice president for education ministries, the committee recommended Brandon O’Neal to continue in the role. The body agreed by voting 89% in the affirmative.
The officers then presented their reports on the preceding quinquennium, with Linrud affirming the conference goal of knowing, loving, serving and sharing Jesus and others. The previous five years have been all about fulfilling the mission through all conference ministries via five strategic initiatives:
- Growing healthy people and healthy churches.
- Implementing a comprehensive plan for church growth, evangelism and church planting.
- Loving and engaging all generations and people groups.
- Expanding the impact of Adventist Christian education.
- Strategic leadership development.
Highlights of the report included aggressive evangelistic planning and development, with the culmination of a conferencewide evangelistic series in 2021; Oregon Adventists jumped into action providing food, shelter and support to families displaced by unprecedented wildfires in 2020; and the surpassing of a goal to add five new church groups/ministries with 14. The conference is setting a goal of 20 new church groups/ministries for the next quinquennium.
With an intentional focus on engaging all generations, especially the young people, the Growing Young/Growing Together initiative has led more than 30 local churches to discover how to maximize intergenerational engagement and relationships.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, members responded to the challenges and changes with resilience and adaptive strength in Christ.
"While no one can perfectly forecast the exact needs of being effective in the years ahead while we await Jesus’ return," Linrud shared, "one thing the past quinquennium has taught us for certain is we will need to depend on His strength in being resilient and adaptive."
Dave Schwinghammer, Oregon Conference vice president for administration for the ending term, then presented the membership report. Acknowledging the difficulties of the last five years — especially the pandemic — Oregon churches were able to turn those challenges into opportunities. With 135 churches, 16 companies and 19 groups, the conference ended the term by adding 3,081 new members. Schwinghammer took a moment of silence to mourn the 1,730 members that were laid to rest.
Moving on to treasury, Plubell presented the financial outlook of the conference. Despite the intricacies of the pandemic, the conference saw a steady incline in tithing in 2020 and 2021. With the unprecedented shift from cash and check giving to online giving, 23% of all giving in 2019 utilized the Adventist Giving online platform. Today, adapting to the COVID-19 context, 42% of all giving happens via Adventist Giving.
The conference started the term in 2017 with 108% of recommended working capital and ended it with 111%. Plubell said that the strategy is to continue to strengthen conference reserves and fund depreciation.
COVID-19 continued to be a focus in the education report by O’Neal. He acknowledged and reasserted the dedication educators, parents and students took during the previous three years.
He applauded teachers for thinking outside of the box to find ways for students to continue to learn and grow — it became a 24-hour job for educators.
Notwithstanding, the conference has been blessed with an increase of 279 students over the last five years. This year, the projections are over 2,700 students — a 15-year high.
O’Neal also noted that Oregon Conference is the third-largest conference in student population in the U.S.
Other Departmental Reports
Proposed Bylaws Changes
After lunch, the session resumed to tackle proposed changes to the conference articles and bylaws.
Presented in three versions/blocks, there was initial confusion and discussion on the process to proceed with the proposed changes.
The core of the proposed changes were clearing up and bringing the bylaws to be more in line with standard practices across the union, division and worldwide church. Some of these alignments were nomenclature changes to titles, committees and defining officers, as well as adopting the abbreviated General Conference Rules of Order over Robert’s Rules of Order.
On the recommendation of the executive committee, the bylaws committee also included the formation of a vice president for church ministries.
Cognizant of our changing environment, amendments included adding the ability to postpone sessions due to unprecedented events, along with the ability to hold virtual business sessions, should the need arise.
One of the proposed versions/sections recommended inclusive language to the bylaws, bringing harmony with the existing diversity guidelines.
As the body moved through the revisions, there was fruitful and vibrant discussion on the various proposals. In recognition of the sincere discourse in the auditorium, Larry Witzel, Oasis Christian Center member, expressed his appreciation of the conversation and comments that were received.
"I'd just like to express how much joy I feel in this room, hearing this discussion and hearing people talking amongst themselves and the comments from the microphones," Witzel shared. "I love the Oregon Conference and I love these people. This is amazing."
As with all bylaw changes, votes need to pass with a two-thirds majority. Many amendments sailed through with little concern. Others, the body felt, needed more refinement from the bylaws committee before future consideration. The following proposed changes ultimately did not pass:
- Diversity recommendations.
- Revision of town hall language and processes.
- Addition of a vice president for church ministries.
- Alignment with union, division and world church on officer definitions.
There were no referrals back to committee.
Concluding the final delegate business were the last recommendations from the nominating and organizing committees to fill the conference committees for the next quinquennium. All were approved.
- Ann Beckett
- Belinda Rodriguez*
- Brian Simmons
- Dave Heusser
- David Rodriguez*
- Edwin Gibbons*
- German Escalante
- Girlie Aguilar
- Jerson Caluya
- Kip Bradford
- Kyle King*
- Linda Foxworth*
- Lynette Schenkel
- Marie Brucker
- Pattie Gilliland
- Roger Beltran
- Ronald Franzke
- Rory Wold*
- Sandy Pendergraft
- Sharon Fleshman
Finance Review Committee
- Andrew Lee*
- Carlos Mieses
- David Cutz*
- Devi Peterson
- James Beucler*
- Jana Patton*
- Linda Field
- Marcus Fullard-Leo
- Ron Smith
- Walt Larson*
Articles and Bylaws Committee
- Adam Rose
- Carol Sumerlin*
- Doug Palmer*
- Dwayne Stevenson*
- Jeanie Reed
- Jeremy Liu*
- Larry Witzel
- Misti Bischoff
- Norman Henry
- William Marshall
*Served last term
Closing out the meeting, Linrud invited the delegates to continue to praise the Lord for the work He is doing through His church. Though these meetings are an integral part of our church, the real mission is back in the delegates' communities, churches, schools, Sabbath School classes and community service centers.
"This is where the mission of the church continues to go forward," said Linrud.