John Freedman has been elected president of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) by delegates to the union’s regular constituency session held September 25 in Portland, Oregon. Freedman replaces Max Torkelsen II, whose retirement became effective at the end of the session. Delegates also re-elected John Loor Jr. and Mark Remboldt to their respective posts as executive vice president for administration and chief financial officer (CFO). Loor has been NPUC executive secretary since 2010. Remboldt has been with the NPUC since 2005, serving as treasurer/CFO since 2008.
Freedman has served as president of the Washington Conference, headquartered in Federal Way, Washington, since 2002. Prior to that, he spent three years as the conference ministerial and evangelism director and another year as vice president for administration. His extensive experience as a pastor includes churches in New Jersey, Colorado and California. While Freedman will begin duties at the NPUC immediately, he and his wife, Malinda, will be wrapping up existing responsibilities for the Washington Conference, with a full transition expected by early 2017.
Dan Jackson, North American Division president, chaired the nominating committee’s report, which was the catalyst for some discussion. When Gene Heinrich, committee secretary, brought Freedman's name forward as the nominee for president, several motions were made from the floor to refer the nomination back to the committee for further input from delegates. That discussion related in part to concerns expressed by some members prior to the session over Freedman's position as Washington Conference president in a 2015 executive committee decision to expand the role of commissioned ministers within the conference. The nominating committee had been fully aware of the concerns involved, and Jackson stressed that church policy did not allow discussions of individual nominations from the floor. Each motion attempting to refer the name back to the nominating committee was defeated by nearly two-thirds of those voting. When delegates did move ahead on the nominations, Freedman was elected by 72 percent, Loor with 96 percent and Remboldt by 94 percent of the delegate votes.
Jackson set the tone for the day early on with a devotional message that reflected upon the experience of Jonah, who had his own selfish agenda changed dramatically through God’s direction and providence. “The call of God to an individual is never about the individual,” said Jackson. “God has not called us here today because we bring a collective wisdom in ourselves. If you’ve come here today thinking you will fix whatever you think is broken, you should instead get on your knees and ask God to ‘fix me.’ We’ve been called here together to understand not what we want, but what God wants.”
Delegate interaction during the day largely reflected that spirit. Agenda items throughout the day included several important reports.
As executive secretary, John Loor Jr. reported that total NPUC membership has surpassed 100,000, but that a growth rate of less than 1 percent is a matter of concern echoed by other regions throughout the NAD.
Mark Remboldt’s treasurer’s report highlighted a modest growth in tithe, an improving cash basis for operational ministry and an increase of 30 percent in funds provided to local conferences for evangelism.
Scott Reiner, Adventist Health CEO, noted the hospital system's opportunity to touch 1.5 million new people every year. “Adventist Health,” he said, “ministers at the intersection of physical, spiritual and community health.”
Joyce Newmyer, Adventist Health Northwest Region president added the local touch. “We never lose sight of the fact that what we do in our hospitals is truly ministry,” she said. “Everything we do is filtered through the lens of our mission. We don’t just do ministry; we are ministry. Jesus is alive and well in our hospitals. Pray that we will have more opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Torkelsen confirmed an NPUC focus in favor of women in active ministry for the church. He echoed the consensus of the NPUC executive committee: “We affirm Christ as the center of our theology and mission. We affirm the appropriateness of women serving as elders in our local churches and as pastors and in other professional ministry roles on behalf of our church’s mission. We will seek to grow the opportunities for women in ministry.” He noted there are currently 12 full-time women pastors serving within the NPUC. “In these last days,” Torkelsen remarked, “we need everybody on board in the mission of the church.”
Heinrich, who is chairing a member re-engagement committee for the NPUC, challenged each delegate with a personal call. “We must find a way to engage each of our children in a relationship with Jesus Christ and with our church,” he said. “Your prayers for your children may get your kids to the doors of the church, but it is the people within those doors that determine whether those kids will stay. It will take somebody in the church, perhaps you, sacrificially investing in their lives.” This committee will continue to study tangible ways to make a positive difference.
Two segments of the day required a separate convening of delegates: the NPUC Association and Walla Walla University (WWU).
The WWU constituency adds members of the university board of trustees to the existing NPUC delegates on hand. This separate agenda included several changes to articles and bylaws and nominations for the ongoing WWU board of trustees. The newly elected trustees will be listed as soon as possible on the WWU website. WWU bylaws changes were also intended to create greater accountability of the administration to the board of trustees, and in turn, accountability of the board to the larger church constituency throughout the NPUC. President John McVay shared special appreciation for those who had ably served the board of trustees for the past term. “They have enabled the mission of Adventist higher education to flourish at WWU,” he said, noting what is dear to WWU’s identity: Excellence in Thought … Generosity in Service … Beauty in Expression … Faith in God.
John Loor and Dave Cannard, NPUC constitution and bylaws committee chair and secretary, reviewed several recommended changes for delegates to consider. After careful discussion, and in addition to other editing and formatting changes, delegates approved the following:
- A change to the form of NPUC governance from an unincorporated association to a nonprofit religious corporation. This allows the treasury department to work more seamlessly with financial institutions on the mission of the church, since many of them now require signers on large financial accounts to have valid corporate titles. This does not appreciably change the structure or function of the NPUC, but provides nomenclature in the bylaws to define the switch to a corporate definition.
- Including the election of nonexecutive vice presidents (currently vice president for Hispanic ministries, vice president for regional affairs and vice president for education) by the constituency. The NPUC nominating committee will bring recommendations regarding these positions for a vote at the next executive committe on November 6. They will also be included as nominations along with the officers at the next regular constituency session in five years.
- Specifying the General Conference Rules of Order as the parliamentary procedure for all NPUC meetings.
Delegates approved a new NPUC executive committee, which will initiate the next five-year term. The full list of that committee, including ex officio and elected members is available at GleanerNow.com.
Torkelsen capped off the day by turning the last few words over to Freedman, the newly elected president. “These people have become my family,” said Torkelsen with feeling. “Take good care of them.”
Freedman responded with a heartfelt call toward unity in the mission and ministry of Jesus. “We have many who have left that we need to reach,” he observed, “but we also have millions in this territory who need to hear, perhaps for the first time, the last day message of Jesus Christ. God’s promise is that He will draw all men, women and children to Him. Our job is to lift Him up. We must pray that He will pour His love into our hearts so that we can love others as He does.”
NPUC department directors and associates will be approved by the executive committee at its next meeting on November 6, 2016.
The day’s proceedings were streamed live at npuc.org and linked to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The video archive of the session is available there, as well as Torkelsen’s video report. Further comments or questions about the session can be directed to John Loor Jr., the executive vice president for administration.