By Stan Friedman
SCOTTS VALLEY, CA (April 26, 2010) – The Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) Celebration was an exuberant recognition of God’s ministry over the past 10 years, as well as a time to honor outgoing Superintendent Evelyn Johnson and welcome Superintendent-elect Efrem Smith.
The event was held Thursday through Saturday at Mission Springs Christian Camp and Conference Center.
In his sermon during the Friday night worship service, former PSWC Director of Church Planting Adam Edgerly recalled Johnson inspiring the staff to increase its outreach to immigrants and second-generations from around the world. “We’re going to have to understand and respect the journey of all those people,” Johnson told them. The accompanying photo shows Johnson in the foreground standing next to former Superintendent John Notehelfer.
During Johnson’s tenure, the conference has become much more multi-ethnic and has focused on ministries of compassion, mercy, and justice. That was evident as the makeup of delegates clearly represented “a mosaic” of ethnic, racial, gender and age diversity.
Edgerly drew on scripture that highlighted how God had brought Jews and Gentiles together, despite significant differences, and how he used those differences to advance the gospel.
Throughout the weekend, delegates praised Johnson’s ability to develop collaborative leadership as the conference worked through momentous change. Edgerly candidly observed that a few congregations initially resisted Johnson becoming superintendent because of her gender, but that she earned their support.
Edgerly, who is now pastor of Newsong Los Angeles, also praised Johnson for surrounding herself with a multi-ethnic and multi-generational staff that was “a ragtag group of people who by the grace of God were brought together by a visionary leader who thought outside the lines.”
Delegates elected Smith during their Saturday business session and gave him a sustained standing ovation after the result was announced. He will officially be installed during the 125th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) in St. Paul in June. The attendees gathered around him as well as his wife and two daughters to pray for them.
Delegates feted Johnson and welcomed Smith during a reception following the Friday worship service. The evening was a mixture of poignant and humorous moments.
David Chae, pastor of Great Exchange Covenant Church, shared some of Johnson’s expressions that had become important to him. He offered that Johnson lived the simple words “I’m here” while helping ministers navigate difficult times.
Speakers also repeatedly thanked Johnson’s husband, Phil, for his constant prayer support. The Executive Board raised funds among themselves to send the couple on a weeklong trip to Hawaii.
Johnson’s tenure ends in July. In August, she will assume duties as a special assistant to ECC President Gary Walter. She and her husband will relocate to Chicago.
During the reception, members of different church clusters presented Smith with gifts that represented their regions. Many of the presentations were greeted with laughter:
• Pat Stark, pastor of Genesis Covenant Church in Cave Creek, Arizona, had Smith bend forward and then placed a cowboy hat on his head.
• Dan Boyce, pastor of San Andreas Covenant Church, quipped, “There’s a stream of funding that the conference has never tapped into” before presenting Smith with a gold miner’s pan.
• Sherwood Carthen, pastor of Bayside Covenant Church of South Sacramento and chaplain for the Sacramento Kings, gave Smith a team cap. He explained, “Since you preach for the King of Kings, you should now root for the Sacramento Kings.”
The future of the conference also was celebrated as seven church planters were consecrated:
• Brad Boydston, MasterPiece Church in Laveen, Arizona
• Jeff Carl, Bayside in Galt, California
• Eddie Ledesma, Real Life Covenant Church, La Habra, California
• Scott Nelson, Covenant Grove Covenant Church in Modesto, California
• Abel Orozco, Jesus the Recreator Covenant Church in San Jose, California
• Mario Romani, Renacer Covenant Church in San Jose
• Arturo Salas, Amistad Covenant Church in Las Vegas, Nevada
Three churches were approved for membership: Bayside of Plumas Lake, California; Catalyst Covenant Church in West Los Angeles; and Shepherd of the Hills Church, Shingle Springs, California.
In other business, John Gehring praised the Department of World Mission for its assistance when Tom Cousineau, executive director of Covenant Heights Conference Center, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in Thailand last month. “They just blew us away,” said Gehring, executive director of Alpine Covenant Conference Center, who was traveling with Cousineau. “They were phenomenal.”
Delegates also approved a budget of $2.67 million.
President Walter preached during the Thursday evening service. Willie Jordan, president of the Fred Jordan Mission in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, preached on Saturday morning. The mission is a stop on the conference’s Journey to Mosaic trips.
The conference is partnering with the mission to develop The Mosaic Center at the site. The center will help engage leaders and organizations in ministries of compassion, mercy and justice.
The 76-year-old Jordan said she now has “the energy of a chimpanzee, the curiosity of a toddler, the lungs of an amplifier, and the timidity of a bull elephant. If you come to this new center, we will teach you to have all of them.”
Jordan narrated stories of people ministered to through the mission as well as her own spiritual journey, beginning from the time she accepted Christ as a 13-year-old to being a “traditional” wife to leading the mission and its numerous ministries. She became president in 1998 after her husband, Fred, died.
She recounted a pivotal conversation she had with her husband while he lay dying in the hospital. She despondently told him, “I can’t live without you.”
He rejected such sentiment, however, replying, “That’s great. Let people starve. Close the schools and orphanages.” His words steeled her.
Jordan exhorted the delegates, “Our gifts from God are precious. Never take for granted God’s calling on your life.”