The Work Continues

April 10, 2014 | Steve Vistaunet

More than 300 delegates, representing the entire membership of the Washington Conference, gathered Sunday, April 6, at the Auburn Academy Church for the 59th constituency session. All three conference officers were re-elected: John Freedman, president; Doug Bing, secretary; and Jerry Russell, treasurer. All department directors nominated were returned to their posts.

Delegates were eager to add their perspectives to the day’s process. The nominating committee, which met in a separate room for most of the day, allowed individual delegates time to privately share additional ideas or concerns before any names were placed before the full delegation for a vote. Delegates responded favorably, with clear support for every person elected.

In this, the most ethnically diverse conference within the Northwest, there are differing ideas on how to most effectively coordinate the work of African-American churches. No prospective name for regional affairs director was brought to the floor by the nominating committee. Instead, delegates affirmed a plan for North Pacific Union Conference and Washington Conference leadership to meet with regional black church leaders to seek reconciliation and a unified strategy. Once an accord is reached, the position will be filled by the conference executive committee.

The executive committee was also tasked with taking further action on two positions still unfilled from the nominating committee: the associate superintendent of education and a part-time health director.

Reports are always a major part of any constituency session. The financial presentation revealed how the recent economic downturn has affected conference reserves. This is a common challenge for other church entities too as retirement funding and medical costs for pastors, teachers and other staff continue to rise. Yet indications show that prudent management and God’s blessings are beginning to turn things in a positive direction for the Washington Conference.

One other topic occupied an hour or two of vigorous but respectful discussion. Delegates debated the pros and cons of term limits for officers. The constitution and bylaws committee suggested discussion on whether or not officers should be limited to serving no more than three consecutive five-year terms. Both the debate and the vote were strikingly close — 52 percent in favor of those limits and 48 percent opposed. But since bylaw changes require the approval of at least a two-thirds majority, the motion failed.

Washington members can be proud of their designated delegates — the vast majority of whom stayed faithfully through to the end of a long nine-hour session. And they did so with a remarkable and obvious passion for the mission of their church.

"We had nine hours of people and pastors from every single church in the conference discussing, wrestling, disagreeing, speaking, listening to each other, voting, praying, sustaining very opposite views, and yet coming together united in the end towards our common goal: saving souls in the Puget Sound,” says Melissa Howell, Mount Vernon Church delegate. “I felt proud of our church and how it runs. I felt inspired by all the life-changing ministry going on and challenged to seek after more of the Holy Spirit's power.”

In his closing remarks, John Freedman, newly re-elected president, encouraged members to apply the principles of Ephesians 3, to allow God’s Spirit to work within them for unity, toward a common purpose of saving souls for His Kingdom. “Only then will we experience the promises of Scripture,” he said, “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

Washington Conference has an army of leaders and lay members apparently ready to embrace that vision. Until Jesus comes, the work continues.

Here are a few more observations from delegates who gave their time to participate with their votes in furthering the mission of the church.

“Democracy is sometimes an awkward process. It’s not always a neat, tidy package. If you want efficiency and decisiveness, a dictator or a king has the only say. Our King is Jesus and, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, we have a democratic church system. Within that system, by listening to the Holy Spirit, God uses imperfect humans to move us forward in our mission.” — Bruce Koch, Washington Conference stewardship director

“Sitting with one of our church's young adults as a delegate, I was pleased that a good spirit prevailed in the meeting. Having some times of laughter and times of prayer was a blessing!” — Rick Casebier, Olympia Transformation Life Center pastor

“There was a good spirit. Although it was a long day, due diligence was done by the nominating committee. The reports from churches and changed lives were thrilling.” — David Glenn, Chehalis pastor

Throughout the day, the following video reports were shared with delegates: