Ordained and Commissioned for Such a Time
In any typical year, Washington Conference will recommend several names of pastors who completed a professional development process to the union for ordination. Once approved by the North Pacific Union Conference, the ordinations are scheduled for meaningful times when candidates can gather family, friends and church members.
Before 2020 became an untypical year, Washington Conference scheduled three ordinations. The scheduling all fell in the month of February: John Mutchler on the first weekend in Chehalis, Dustin Serns on the third weekend in Port Orchard and John Miller on the fourth weekend in Winlock.
The churches for all three ordinations were full. These were grand celebrations witnessing how God is at work through music, testimony and affirmation.
And then the fifth weekend of February arrived, and rumblings of a new coronavirus started becoming reality here in western Washington. The pastoral, educational and leadership teams jumped into crisis response mode with transitions to online church, remote learning and quarantine life.
In the midst of this, a new pastoral team arrived at North Cascade Church in Burlington. After one Sabbath in person with their new congregation, pastors Ron and Buffy Halvorsen with their fellow pastoral staff merged over to online preaching, getting acquainted virtually with members, encouraging young adult online ministry and providing prayer support. Buffy supported the multiweek, conferencewide prayer call, Ron agreed to be one of the virtual camp meeting speakers, and both provided prayer support for the virtual week of prayer programming.
When Washington Conference learned Buffy hadn’t been commissioned yet, conference leaders went through the approval process to arrange for her commissioning service — COVID-19 and all.
Halvorsen’s commissioning service had all the similar components of the ordinations, just with a much smaller audience. Thirty people representing family, friends, church members, spiritual mentors and conference leaders assembled on Aug. 22.
“To reach people today, we need to have a lot of different gifts to lead churches,” says Bill Roberts, Washington Conference ministerial director. “John Mutchler is a second-career pastor, Dustin Serns is interested in church planting and evangelism, John Miller has a literature evangelism background, and Buffy Halvorsen has a marriage and family therapy degree. They are all a fantastic asset to our pastoral team.”
This year held change too for two newly ordained pastors. Serns launched a young adult church plant in the Tacoma area in June. The plans for an in-person launch for LifeBridge Church morphed into an online approach. Miller moved from the Winlock/Onalaska District to begin ministry in the Centralia District.
With the three ordinations and one commission, one theme emerges: God is faithful and constant in the celebrations and challenges of life and ministry and has a calling in each and every person’s life.
He was known as Officer Friendly. He is now known as Pastor Friendly. When John Mutchler retired as a police sergeant from Texas, he and his family relocated to western Washington. He got involved in youth ministries at a local Adventist church while working on a master’s in Christian ministry.
Around the same time, Chehalis Adventist Church participated in a church growth practicum offered by Washington Conference in 2012. One of their needs: someone to help with Bible studies. Pastor David Glenn reached out to Mutchler at the neighboring church and offered him work for 10 hours a week. Mutchler began as a Bible worker just as the church began evangelistic meetings with Bill McClendon. Mutchler greeted people each meeting, started 15 Bible studies and launched a well-attended Revelation seminar class.
When he completed his master’s program, Mutchler was invited to serve as Chehalis Church’s associate pastor. At Glenn’s retirement, the church then invited Mutchler to become the lead pastor and continue in his passion for winning people to Jesus and for Christian education. He and his wife, Veronica, have two young adult daughters.
During an eighth-grade mission trip to India with his dad, Dustin Serns began to better understand the life-changing power of the gospel and his personal need for a Savior. When he returned home, he studied the Bible and was baptized.
As a high school senior, Serns started a monthly youth-led church with his friends. Once a month they had Sabbath School, a worship service, lunch, afternoon outreach and an evening social with 40–70 youth and families. God multiplied Serns’ joy as he saw many of his friends preach, teach Sabbath School and lead spiritually for the first time. “This is something I could enjoy doing for the rest of my life,” Serns thought.
God’s calling in his life solidified through summer camp ministry, studying abroad in Argentina, undergraduate and graduate theology studies, mission work in Cambodia, and pastoral ministry in Kirkland and Port Orchard. The Serns family has two young children and are now leading the LifeBridge young adult church plant in Tacoma.
Religious literature broke through to John Miller’s heart. A product of the Adventist school system, Miller received a book from his basketball coach that God used to get his attention. God nudged Miller again at a Nebraska camp meeting where Shawn Boonstra spoke.
Miller didn’t know exactly to what ministry God was calling him, but he knew God was calling and leading him to move forward in faith. These steps forward included enrolling in a theology program, preaching an evangelistic series in Rwanda, engaging in literature evangelism, attending SOULS West Bible School, growing literature evangelism in Central California and Washington conferences, attending seminary, and pastoring the Winlock/Onalaska district. The Millers have two young sons and now pastor the Centralia District.
Buffy Halvorsen learned early in her life about pastoral ministry from shadowing her pastor-father. As a college student, she was elected to serve as a religious vice president for Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and became one of the first female elders ordained in College View Church.
Not until 2000, when the Ron Jr. and Buffy Halvorsen family moved to Texas after pastoring in Florida and Washington, did Buffy officially join a pastoral staff. While in Texas, she earned a bachelor’s degree in religion. When the Halvorsens moved to Montana, Buffy earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
God opened the doors for Buffy to join a pastoral staff in Maryland and Nebraska, teach as an adjunct professor at Union College, and serve as a prayer coordinator and family ministries director for Ohio Conference. The Halvorsens have two adult children and adorable grandchildren.