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Oregon Conference Considers President Dan Linrud’s Future Amid Budget Shortfall

Dan Linrud Oregon Conference

On March 14, amid turmoil following recent budget cuts, the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee held a special session to consider the future of President Dan Linrud. In a break from precedent, the closed meeting was held at the North Pacific Union Conference headquarters rather than an Oregon Conference property.

Spectrum obtained documents showing that five members of the conference executive committee called the special session to “establish confidence, or no confidence” in Lindrud’s leadership.

A recent budget shortfall and subsequent staff cuts rocked the Oregon Conference. On February 13, the conference announced cutbacks including a 20 percent pastoral staff reduction and a 20 percent reduction in conference headquarters personnel. Linrud addressed members of the conference, which covers western Oregon and southwestern Washington, in a video on February 17. In recent years, “historically high tithe contributions” gave the conference a comfortable financial cushion, he said. But more recently, increased costs led to a “rapid drawdown” of budget reserves.

Linrud issued an open letter to the conference’s 36,000 members on March 1, saying there was no “mishandling or embezzlement” but the conference had hoped inflation and rising costs in 2022 would be transient. Instead, costs again rose in 2023, including health coverage expenditures growing from $3.5 to $7 million.

Church attendance is also at a historic low in the conference, Linrud wrote, hovering at 28 percent of members while most other conferences average between 40 and 60 percent. The conference averages a full-time pastor for every 85 attending members, while other conferences average one per 120 to 160.

The conference said staff who resign voluntarily will receive buyouts, and pastors and office staff hiring will be frozen, along with remuneration rates, typically adjusted for the cost of living every year. The conference will reduce its contribution to local schools by 3 percent.

According to documents from the March 14 special session, some executive committee members questioned whether Linrud should have responded earlier to the current budget shortfall. The 2023 budget presented to the conference executive committee last February included $3.1 million in extraordinary tithe and reserve funds, temporarily inflating the conference’s finances. Even with extra funding, the conference’s December estimates showed $2.6 million of unexpected losses through the first nine months of the year. 

Despite its worsening financial outlook, the conference added 17 ministerial field employees in 2023, the documents say, contributing to a deficit that would leave no working capital before the end of 2024 if no changes were made. 

At the March 14 meeting, Linrud made his case for remaining conference president. “I have listened and I hear the deep concerns expressed,” he told the executive committee, according to a copy of his remarks. “I am genuinely sorry for causing these concerns.” 

Linrud apologized for not foreseeing the financial shortfall and committed to better communication with the executive committee. “If you sense that God isn’t done with me yet as president, I will humbly give you my best,” he said. 

A source familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said the conference executive committee decided to retain Linrud. According to another source with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, the March 14 “no confidence” votes failed to reach the required majority to produce a leadership change. The Oregon Conference did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. 

The conference has begun cutting its workforce but is still evaluating the number of employees who voluntarily resigned and how many others might need to be terminated, according to a written timeline of the process. In total, the conference anticipates cutting 25 to 30 pastors. 

Linrud joined the Oregon Conference in 2013 and became president in 2016. Previously, he was a pastor and administrator at the Ontario Conference in Canada. In early 2022, Linrud made the polarizing decision to terminate the conference’s vice president of education, Gale Crosby, which became a point of contention during his reelection. At the conference constituency session in late 2022, Linrud was reelected as president with 73 percent of delegates voting in favor.

Samuel Girven and Alexander Carpenter contributed to this report.

Image: Jared Wright for Spectrum

Alex Aamodt on top of a mountain.

About the author

Alex Aamodt is an editor-at-large and the Roy Branson Investigative Reporter for Spectrum. He graduated with degrees in English and Spanish from Walla Walla University and lives in Portland, Oregon. He has also worked as a rock climbing and mountaineering guide in California. His work is supported by donors who have given to the Bonnie Dwyer Investigative Journalism Fund. More from Alex Aamodt.
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