Image Credit: Heidi Baumgartner

NPUC Meeting Highlights Leadership Transitions

North Pacific Union’s executive committee meeting on May 8, 2024 represented a significant time of leadership transitions with the welcoming of a new vice president, a farewell for a retiring vice president and a prayer of blessing for the upcoming presidential transitions at Walla Walla University.

Peter Simpson was welcomed as NPUC’s new vice president for multilingual ministries. He comes to the Northwest leadership team from Ohio and previously from multiple roles in Central America.

Meanwhile, Byron Dulan marked his last union-level executive committee meeting as he anticipates his retirement after investing 52 years in ministry.

“Dulan has never gone into a job that he hasn’t expanded,” remarked John Freedman, NPUC president. “He’s done great work throughout this union.”

Executive committee members were briefed on the recent WWU presidential election process, which involved collaboration with the executive search company, Faith Search Partners.

The comprehensive process included identifying the core present needs of the university, recruiting candidates and conducting in-person interviews which included the top five candidates sharing their vision for the university’s future growth.

After prayerful consideration, the process culminated in the unanimous selection of Alex Bryan as the university’s new president-elect. Bryan will be leaving the corporate office of Adventist Health in Roseville, California, where he serves as vice president for mission and director of philanthropy and plans to begin his presidency on July 1.

Bryan shared a story-filled devotional with executive committee members, highlighting the importance of training the next generation.

“As WWU works to grow the next generation of Christ-centered, faithful Adventist pastors and teachers, nurses and doctors, engineers and business leaders, they will need the strong support of our NPUC constituency,” Freedman said.

Freedman and John McVay, who is retiring after 18 years of leading WWU, had a meaningful prayer of dedication for Bryan as he prepares for his new calling.

Heidi Baumgartner

Evangelism Partnerships and Outreach Initiatives

During the president’s report, there was a significant focus on celebrating the ongoing work of God, particularly in the realm of evangelism, both in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

It Is Written recently completed its second partnership in the Pacific Northwest, this time with Alaska Conference, for a conference-wide evangelism initiative.

Kevin Miller, Alaska Conference president, shared how the It Is Written partnership invigorated the churches in his ministry territory.

“Most of our members are well-connected in their community and they took their friendships to the next level,” Miller said. “As a result, we have 35 baptisms reported so far and anticipate 15–20 more baptisms this summer.”

One of the bridge events that was particularly helpful in Alaska was a free medical clinic, especially focused on mental health, in association with the AMEN clinic network.

It Is Written previously partnered with Idaho Conference, which is still seeing an uptick in evangelism growth and involvement. Three Idaho representatives are currently in Papua New Guinea helping with the Adventist World Radio evangelism reaping with thousands of baptisms reported from the first 600 of 2,000 sites.

Idaho Conference also had a strong presence with 17 administrative, pastor and member representatives at the second annual Propel Conference, organized by SermonView, a company specializing in evangelism marketing, and partially sponsored by NPUC.

Heidi Baumgartner

Young Adult Ministry Investments

Rob Lang, NPUC youth and young adult director, shared a comprehensive report about recent and upcoming activities associated with his ministry area. He highlighted a recent tour stop for Young Adult LIFE Tour that is visiting each of the nine unions in North America.

“Our weekend was incredibly positive, focusing on how to better engage with young adults,” Lang remarked. “The key message we want to convey to young adults is, ‘I am with you. I am for you. I believe in you.’”

Young Adult LIFE Tour included 163 registered participants in addition to local members from the host site, Pleasant Valley Church, as well as 12 watch parties in various locations.

Lang also updated committee members on new efforts to connect with Adventist students attending public universities.

“We need to be with our Adventist students wherever they are attending higher education,” Lang explained.

Lang is collaborating with John Leis, Washington Conference public campus ministries director, to organize a Pacific Northwest training event for pastors, lay members and collegiates. The training will be held June 27–30 on the University of Washington campus in Seattle and aims to equip attendees with the skills needed to initiate public campus ministry efforts. Registration is now open.

Growing Together cohorts have had a solid start with many churches seeking ways to engage all generations in ministry. The next cohort will be available in 2025 for more churches to join in this intentional engagement journey.

WWU Student Achievements

John McVay, WWU president, in his final university report before retirement, highlighted remarkable student achievements, including recognition for two students — Liberty Anderson, WWU junior business administration major, and George Perez Jr., WWU senior psychology major — who received the student civic leadership award from Washington Campus Coalition for the Common Good.

Academic excellence is evident across campus. Jenn Fanselau and Reuben Herbel, both WWU senior civil engineering majors, expanded the design of Maranatha’s One-Day Church to provide a blueprint option for larger church facilities. Tawni Lloyd, WWU senior bioengineering major, is working on a design for a skeletal muscle bioreactor for tissue engineering to grow and preserve skeletal muscle tissue.

Josie Henderson, WWU 2018 communication graduate and a 2020 master’s graduate in cinema, religion and worldview, recently premiered a 20-minute film called Color of Threads, which chronicles the stories of five women in 1909 rebuilding their lives. This film could be shopped around for developing into a potential TV series. Henderson is now a WWU adjunct professor for communication and technology.

Rylie Rogers, WWU senior biology major, is wrapping up research in an internship on harmful algal bloom effects of eelgrass isopods. Additionally, Rogers created stunning illustrations of marine life to complement the research.

The university is working on strategic academic plans to introduce a new three-year bachelor’s program in computer science among other initiatives.

Financially, WWU is strong with no debt, except for borrowing from themselves for capital improvement.

“We are blessed to have had a leadership team who built up strong financial reserves during high enrollment years and budget surpluses,” said Freedman, in his role as WWU board chair. “This has helped the university deal with several years of budget deficits because of enrollment drops caused by the pandemic.”

The university is expecting another budget deficit at the end of the 2024–2025 school year and will again need to draw down some reserves. Yet, gratefully, enrollment is rebounding. God is blessing WWU administration efforts to adjust budgets and grow enrollment. Active applications for enrollment are increasing and retention levels are standing at the best in the system at 88%, according to McVay.

The NextGen and Bright Future scholarship programs — funded by generous Northwest donors — continue to have what McVay called a “dramatic and positive effect on our campus.”

Additional Ministry Updates

NPUC-wide membership levels are rebounding to pre-pandemic levels. The first quarter of 2024 included welcoming 438 new members through baptism or profession of faith. This represents 137 more new members compared to the first quarter of 2023.

After a record year of tithe returned in 2023, the 2024 tithe report, year to date is down 7.69%. For the month of March, each of the six conferences in the union had a tithe decrease. A bright spot was the reported tithe growth in Hispanic and regional churches. This has been a stressful year already for conference administrators as they are adjusting budgets to fit the present reality.

NPUC executive committee members approved a $3 million line of credit for Oregon Conference to help cover operating expenses as they seek to rebound from their financial strain.

Northwest leaders particularly appreciate members who have invested in NPUC’s revolving fund. While the fund is presently closed to new donations, current funds are supporting ministry and mission by providing loans to churches, schools and conferences. This is a significant blessing to moving our Adventist mission forward in the northwest.

In personnel-related updates, NPUC executive committee approved Idaho Conference’s request to ordain Jason Williams, Cloverdale Church associate pastor.

Additionally, the committee voted to invite Brian Harris to serve as NPUC secondary education director. Harris subsequently accepted this invitation and will be transitioning from his role as Upper Columbia Conference vice president for education. He will be replacing Keith Waters, who plans to retire soon.