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Free Methodists explore planting new churches in Oregon

Gresham church hosting statewide conference

Sanctuary Church is hosting the Oregon Free Methodist Annual Conference, which began on Friday, June 24, and runs through Saturday, June 25.

All 28 Free Methodist churches in Oregon are represented at the conference, which will feature speeches by author Stephen Grey, Bishop Matthew Thomas and Chuck Conniry, dean of George Fox Evangelical Seminary.

Between 250 and 300 people are expected to attend either all or part of the conference, said Pastor Russell Baley of Sanctuary, 3101 S.E. Orient Drive.

Bishop Thomas will also speak at the church's regularly scheduled service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 26.

Ordinations

Six individuals were set to be ordained on Friday night: Daniel Sweeney and Carlene Nisley of Beaverton; Toni Gatlin of Portland; Kate Dawes of Springfield; Rebecca Nagle of Bend; and Steve Dodson of Newberg.

On Saturday, participants will explore the conference theme: 'Grow and plant multiplying churches' based on the verse from Luke's gospel that states: 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'

The goal of the conference is to energize pastors and their congregations to 'plant,' or establish, 25 churches over the next five years, Baley says.

Author and pastor Stephen Gray, an expert in church planting and growth, will speak to the conference about church planting.

'I am excited about the possibility of seeing our church presence literally double in Oregon within the next five years,' Baley says, adding that he's not talking about traditional brick and mortar churches.

'As our culture has changed … our focus needs to change to serve a more diverse and changing culture,' he says.

The Free Methodists plan to support 'small groups of people who will move intentionally into an area and focus on the issues in that area.'

Baley says such people will form informal congregations of 20 to 40 members who will serve the homeless or other underserved groups and 'just do anything they can to serve.'

Historic church

Baley notes The Free Methodist Church has a rich history and Sanctuary - formerly known as the Gresham Free Methodist Church - is part of it.

Sanctuary has had some notable members, including Alexander Beers who moved with his family as a youngster to Gresham and was ordained as a pastor in 1885.

The Rev. Beers went on to found Seattle Seminary and College (now know as Seattle Pacific University) in 1891, and served as its president from 1893-1916.

Later, Jacob DeShazer, who participated in the famous 1942 air raid over Tokyo led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, married his wife, Florence, at Gresham Free Methodist Church in 1946.

The Japanese took DeShazer prisoner after he crash-landed in China, and the pilot converted to Christianity in prison. After the war, DeShazer returned to Oregon, attended Seattle Pacific, and then went back to Japan as a missionary.

Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, read DeShazer's story and became a Christian as a result. DeShazer and Fuchida became good friends and served as ministers together in Japan.

For more information, call the church office at 503-663-9146 or visit ajesuscommunity.org.