CHICAGO, (January 13, 2011) – Curtis P. Ivanoff has been recommended to replace Rodney Sawyer as regional field director of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska (ECCAK) when Sawyer retires this year.
Ivanoff currently serves as director of admissions at Alaska Christian College in Soldotna.
He will stand for election during the ECCAK Annual Meeting in April, to be held in Anchorage. If approved, he will be installed during the June ECC Annual Meeting in Estes Park, Colorado, assuming his new duties this summer following the Annual Meeting.
Ivanoff received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Oklahoma, completed graduate studies at Regent College, and earned a Master of Christian Ministry degree from North Park Theological Seminary.
He served as assistant director of Covenant Youth of Alaska and as associate pastor of Unalakleet Evangelical Covenant Church prior to his work with Alaska Christian College. He has been active in various Covenant ministries, including serving as a committee member of Covenant Bible Camp.
He and his wife, Kristi, have three children: Charis, Nathan and Joshua.
Ivanoff’s selection is historic in that he would be the first Native Alaskan to serve in this position, notes Dave Olson, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism who also served as chair of the 12-member search committee.
“This has been a goal of Covenant mission work for 100 years – to have the Alaska ministries led by a Native Alaskan,” Olson said. “Born in an Alaska village, Curtis knows the region very well. That will be an advantage in many ways.”
Sawyer agrees. “Curtis knows Alaska – and that is huge. As the first Native Alaskan to hold this position, he will bring cultural perspectives and insights that will be vital to the future development of the ministry. And yet, he also is familiar with the larger issues facing all Alaskans and the church and will bring balance into the vision for future ministry.”
The position is not one that Ivanoff aspired to, he admits. “It was not my dream job and at first I was not convinced I was the right one for the position,” he said in explaining how he came to his decision.
“At the moment of my selection, I was not at peace,” he said. “I needed an internal sense that this was right – I was seeking that burning bush experience so to speak.”
He recalled the morning following his selection, when he was reading scripture and praying. “I had been reading the story of Moses and his call, so it was on my mind,” Ivanoff explained. “I had a clear sense of God’s spirit speaking to me, and the words came as clear as a bell: ‘It is for the people.’ I began to weep and weep. The words of Moses’ call leaped off the page, when God told Moses that he had heard the cry of his people and would come to rescue them. It was clear that this is not about me, just as it wasn’t about Moses when he was called. But, it is about God’s assurance that he would be with Moses – and would be with me. God was speaking to me.”
The search committee began meeting last August, and following a process that narrowed a list of recommended names to a handful of finalists, interviews were conducted early this month.
A number of factors influenced the final selection, Olson said. “Curtis has strong leadership gifts. He also is younger, which should help him relate well to younger leaders (clergy and lay) he wants to help develop to serve in village churches.” Ivanoff also is bicultural in the sense he understands Native Alaskan culture, but also has lived and worked in Anchorage and Soldotna, enabling him to minister to the whole of the Covenant in Alaska, Olson adds.
“To know that Curtis’ roots trace to the beginning of our mission and now how he will help shape the future of our mission is very compelling,” says ECC President Gary Walter of Ivanoff’s selection. “His love for God, his leadership abilities, and his generational perspective are just what we need.”
Editor’s note: the accompanying photos were taken when Ivanoff spoke during the 125th Annual Meeting last June in St. Paul, Minnesota.