Robert Folkenberg, Jr., to Helm
Upper Columbia Conference
Pastor, missionary, evangelist to lead
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
eventh-day Adventists in the church’s Upper Columbia Conference have a new president: Robert Folkenberg, Jr., who accepted the call on February 3, 2009. Folkenberg plans to assume his new responsibilities in mid-March.
“My wife and I appreciate the trust and the warm invitation extended by Upper Columbia Conference. I look forward to working with such a great team,” Folkenberg said in a statement released by the conference, which boasts the highest ratio of Adventists to non-members in the United States: one Seventh-day Adventist for every 72 people in the general population.
Speaking with Adventist Review, he noted: “We’ve got our work cut out for us. … There are people looking for hope, for answers, and who don’t know that Jesus is coming soon.”
Folkenberg noted that the Upper Columbia Conference is committed to reaching its communities: “Up there we have such great resources and established churches. They have a Strategic four-year plan to meaningfully connect with every person in their population.” He added that he was looking forward to being “part of a team to fulfill that strategy and live out a lifestyle of evangelism.
SHARING CHRIST – Robert Folkenberg, Jr., a veteran Seventh-day Adventist pastor and evangelist, is the new president of the church’s Upper Columbia Conference, headquartered in Spokane, Washington. [Photo: ShareHim.org]
“We’re not here just to hold up the denominational structure,” Folkenberg said. “We have a mission to let people know that Jesus is coming soon
Since returning from Taiwan, Republic of China, as conference president there four years ago, Folkenberg has been associate director of ShareHim, a project of the Carolina Conference that equips lay Adventists to hold evangelistic meetings domestically and overseas.
“The homeland is where ShareHim is truly expanding,” he said, noting that 1,000 such outreaches are planned for the United States this year. Folkenberg said Carolina Conference leadership would find a replacement for his current position.
Although Folkenberg has yet to begin his job at the conference’s Spokane, Washington, offices, his vision centers on evangelism, he said.
“My focus, no matter where I’ve been ... it’s just been about training and mobilizing our church to accomplish its mission,” Folkenberg said. “ When you get people involved in mission, they grow spiritually [and] they’re nurtured. People are united, with a single purpose. When we all unite, a lot of the secondary and trivial issues that divide, [simply] disappear.”
Folkenberg began his ministry as an associate pastor in Port Charlotte, Florida. He also served as pastor of the Tallahassee and Crawfordsville, Florida district. Later Folkenberg served as senior pastor of the Orlando Central Church in Orlando, Florida.
In addition to serving as a pastor, Folkenberg brings administrative experience to his new position. He served for several years as a field secretary for the Chinese Union Mission and also as president of the Taiwan Conference. He is the son of Robert Folkenberg, who was president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1990 to 1999.
Folkenberg and his wife Audrey currently reside in Apison, Tennessee. Audrey has a master’s degree in nursing and works at ShareHim helping coordinate homeland evangelistic efforts. The Folkenbergs have three children; Robby, Randy, and Katie.
Folkenberg replaces Max Torkelsen II, who was elected president of the North Pacific Union in November, 2008. Torkelsen, in a statement, said, “It’s providential we have such a well-qualified, energetic, and committed person willing to lead the Upper Columbia Conference."
The Upper Columbia Conference is the headquarters for the 25,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the Inland Northwest of the United States, and, as of 2007, provides leadership for 30 schools and 117 churches throughout Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and North-eastern Oregon.
-- With additional reporting by Jay Wintermeyer, Upper Columbia Conference