The Evangelical Church has been ministering in Oregon and Washington for 150 years.
110 years ago the people of Portland First Evangelical Church and the leadership of the
Willamette Camp Meeting Society made the decision to purchase a tract of unimproved,
natural forest land along the Willamette River in the unincorporated community of Jennings Lodge for the purpose of developing a site for camp meeting ministry. Over the following years it provided both a location and an identity for what eventually became known as The Pacific Conference. The Pacific Conference used it for camp meetings, Annual Conference Business Sessions, operations of Western
Evangelical Seminary, the Conference Administrative Office, The Pacific Evangelical School of Ministry (PESM), youth camps and retreats, and Hope Teams International. I'm indebted to Rev. Brian Hotrum
and his book The Pacific Conference Story for these few facts and recommend your reading of his book
for a much fuller insight into our Conference's history.
Needless to say, many people in the Pacific Conference have both sacred and deeply personal memories of this special, iconic place. But our use of it has been in steady decline for most of the past 30 years and the costs for maintenance and operation of it have been steadily increasing.
A number of proposals for redevelopment and/or sale of the property have been developed, debated and delayed. But in our 2013 Annual Conference Business Session we voted 116 to 7 to sell Jennings Lodge Retreat Center.
Now that a difficult decision has been made and the reality of that decision being implemented begins to sink in to our heads and our hearts, many of us find ourselves wrestling with a melancholy akin to saying "goodbye" for the final time to a dear friend. For some of us, emotions have been very close to the surface. Sorrow, anger, resignation, confusion and fear have ebbed and flowed. But most of us are coming to embrace a new ministry vision and future without our much loved piece of God's creation.
Some have expressed the opinion that Jennings Lodge has been the only thing holding us together as a Conference and that without it, the Conference itself will dissolve. Pretty much all of us agree that what comes next must be driven by a compelling vision, a focused leadership strategy and a revival born of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Pacific Conference fully buys in and is promoting the vision of The Evangelical Church -
"Transformed People Mobilized On The Mission Of Christ". We fully realize this to be a vision which can only be actualized by a fresh and powerful outpouring of God's Spirit. We are "moving on" to new
Conference administrative offices at our Valley View Evangelical Church with moving day coming in early April. And our Conference Leadership Strategy is coalescing around six ministry priorities as outlined in the attachment to this article. We can use and will appreciate whatever prayer support you can send our way as we continue to navigate these transitional days, moving from one model to another of doing Conference business in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I look forward to keeping you updated with periodic reports of progress.
Chris W. Neilson, Superintendent
Pacific Conference, Evangelical Church
Leadership Strategy for The Pacific Conference
1. Promoting Church Fitness through:
a. Church Revitalization Boot Camps
b. Church Health Assessments
c. Annual Conference emphases:
2. Biblical Conflict Resolution
3. Christian Compassion Ministries
b. Local Church ministries
c. Youth Camping ministries
5. Stewardship ministries
d. TEAM (teaching and equipping adults for ministry) workshops
e. Strategic discontinuance of non-vital churches
f. Church restarts
2. Planting New Churches
a. Mother / Daughter plants
b. Colony plants
c. Parachute drop plants (as a last resort)
d. 30 New Churches in 30 years - adopted 2014 Annual Conference
e. Community Assessments for new plants
f. Church Planting Boot Camps
3. Pastoral Development
b. Ministry education, training and mentoring
c. Moral accountability
d. Continuing education
e. Sabbatical opportunities
f. Holy Land study tours
4. Financial Development
a. Financial management information system
b. Planned estate giving
c. Grant writing
d. "Same Measure Giving" policy for funding Conference budget
5. Missions Ministries
a. Short term mission trips
b. Career missionary recruitment
c. Affiliate Missions promotion
d. Missions projects
e. Orphan relief and rescue projects
6. Discipleship Ministries
a. Children's Ministries
b. Student Ministries
b. New Believers
c. Mature, Reproducing Believers