After eleven years service as your senior pastor, I will be concluding my ministry at First Baptist Church this spring. This is my second longest tenure in forty-six years of ordained ministry, serving in both local church leadership and theological education.
Carol and I have grown to love this congregation for its warm fellowship, its openness to the hurly burly of our surrounding community and its mission mindedness, from Drop-in Center and Compassion Clinic locally to our mission partners in Cambodia, Congo and around the world. We have made many dear friends here, and we trust that these friendships will endure, but the nature of the pastoral connection means that we must step aside and make room for the new leadership that God will surely send your way.
I came to guide a strong institutional church as a teaching pastor; I also brought a passion for community ministry that, I believe, fit well with the congregation’s tradition and gifts. However, we are in the midst of a momentous generational transition. In my own thinking, I envision new leadership that will be more iconoclastic, willing to question and challenge and see our ministry setting with new eyes.
We must give thanks for the wonderful achievements of our shared past, but we must not be weighed down by our memories. It’s a new day where, frankly, people are not as likely to be involved in any church, and where folk are more transient and less rooted. But we are not called to gather crowds, nor are we called to be the “religious face” of the culture. We are called, instead, to be salt, light and leaven, and to be heralds of the Reign of God which both judges and fulfills every culture.
I will begin serving this year as adjunct professor of theology for Palmer Seminary, the graduate theological school of American Baptist related Eastern University. As I will be using an online platform, we will be able to maintain our residence in Portland. Also I have a queue of writing projects awaiting my attention. Pray for us as we will pray for you.
In Christ’s Service,
Dr. David L. Wheeler