Seventh-day Adventist pastor Dwight Nelson announced that he will be retiring, effective June 1, 2023, exactly 50 years after he finished college and started as a ministerial intern in 1973. Nelson is the senior pastor of Andrews University’s Pioneer Memorial Church (PMC) in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, a position that by June 1, he will have filled for 40 years.
“In the field of economics, there’s something called Stein’s law … and it goes like this: ‘If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,’ ” Nelson said in his opening remarks during his worship message at PMC on August 13, 2022. “It has finally dawned on Karen and me that the privilege of pastoring this parish cannot go on forever. So today, we announced that it will soon stop,” he said.
Nelson told PMC members and those following the livestream of the service that he and his wife thank God every day for the privilege it has been to pastor that congregation that they have come to love so deeply.
“This has not been a job for me; it has been a joy for both of us,” he said. “And it’s hard to believe that 39 nine years have flown by. What a ride it has been!”
Carefully Laid Plans
But the time has come, Nelson explained, for making carefully laid plans that are necessary to turn the congregation over to a new, younger leader.
The process of searching for a new senior pastor will not be easy, church leaders anticipate, as PMC is a church known to serve not only the local community and region but, in a sense, the whole world of Adventism.
“This congregation has been raised by God to serve the whole community of faith,” Nelson reminded his members. “The process to look for a new spiritual leader will not only be prayerful, but it has to be methodical and comprehensive as well.” Nelson said he will not have input in the search process.
Nine more Months
Nelson said that he and Karen are glad that with the start of the new school year on September 1, they will still have nine months “just to live life with you, … loving you a little more, [and] to go deeper with God a little more.”
He told the PMC congregation that he has already shared their decision with Michigan Conference president Jim Micheff, his pastoral team, Andrews University president Andrea Luxton, and his office staff. “Everyone is committed so we can — all of us working together — finish strong,” Nelson said. “Some things cannot go on forever, but praise God for the gift He has given us in you,” he told his members.
Nelson emphasized that this was not yet a goodbye. “We have work to do, we have projects to finish. And we have deeper to go with God. So, there will be time during the next few months to love on each other,” he said.