Dakota Conference

Sharing the unchanging love of Jesus in a changing world.

2024 Constituency Session

Delegates to the 11th Regular Constituency Session of the Dakota Conference of Seventh-day Adventists gathered on June 2, 2024, at Dakota Adventist Academy near Bismarck, North Dakota, for the purpose of receiving reports, selecting leadership, and conducting other church business. Under the theme Forward by Faith, over 230 delegates representing every church in the eight regions of the Conference voted on recommendations from the Dakota Conference Executive Committee, the Nominating Committee, and the Constitution and Bylaws Committee for carrying forward the work of the church in the Dakotas.


Following a welcome by Dakota Conference president Dr. Mark Weir and prayer by Mid-America Union Conference president Gary Thurber, Dr. Ivan Williams, vice president of strategy and leadership for the North American Division (NAD), spoke on 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18. His three main points were that clarity comes when 1) we seek to know God’s will personally, 2) we give up our own will and surrender to the Lord’s, 3) we give up our selfish intentions and serve others.


“Let’s give thanks. Let’s be kind,” said Williams. “We pray for the Spirit to move thick in this place so at the end of the day we can thank God for the hope and future He gives us.”


Dr. Mark Piotrowski, vice president of administration for the Dakota Conference, officially opened the meeting and called for the delegates to “conduct the business of God’s kingdom” by approving the minutes from the previous session and appointing Todd McFarland, General Conference general counsel, as parliamentarian for the session.


While detailing the meeting protocols, Weir said, “Each one of you is here because your church family sees your commitment to Christ and willingness to serve.” Weir added that “we represent the Monarch of the Universe, so we want to do things decently and in order…Even when we think differently we can still have a bond of peace.”


By the time voting began, 234 delegates had registered.


Business Agenda 

One of the first items on the agenda was voting the Ellendale Company into official status as a congregation and welcoming the group to the sisterhood of churches. Sadly, a vote was also taken to disband two churches, the Tolstoy and Mobridge churches, due to severely low membership that prohibited them from functioning.


During his president’s report, Weir expressed sincere thanks to the 14 members of the Dakota Conference Executive Committee, the 14 members of the K-12 Education Committee, and the eight members of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee. He also showed appreciation for the workers who had retired in the five years since the last constituency session, and shared updates on Dakota Adventist Academy property management.


A slight decline in membership over the past five years was noted in Piotrowski’s report, followed by three suggestions for reversing that statistic in light of the fact that the general population of both North and South Dakota is growing. “I believe the best days for the Dakota Conference are ahead,” Piotrowski said in regard to the church revitalization initiative.


The treasury report, presented by Conference vice president for finance Mark Seibold, highlighted the fact that the Conference covers a large geographical region with a slowly declining membership, increasing payroll and healthcare costs, a substantial academy subsidy, and support for two camps, all representing “a tremendous financial commitment.” Seibold further cited rising travel costs, rise in liability and property insurance costs, and deferred maintenance on Conference infrastructure. “Increased academy enrollment and endowment growth are necessary to reduce fiscal pressure on the Conference by allowing subsidy reduction,” Seibold noted.


Seibold added that the Dakota Conference is the fifth smallest in membership of the 59 conferences in the NAD, yet remarkably it had the second highest per-member giving in 2023.


The audit report, presented by JoJean Birth from General Conference Auditing Service, offered a “clean, unmodified opinion” of the past five years of financial records.


All business agenda reports were accepted by the delegates with over 90% support.


Nominating Committee Reports

The 24-member Nominating Committee, chaired by Thurber, met in April to review the evaluations of elected Conference employees and to prepare recommendations for the delegates. Evaluations in five different facets of leadership were submitted by pastors, teachers, office staff, the K-12 committee, and the Dakota Conference Executive Committee. Thurber explained the processes and options for delegates to address the Nominating Committee. A motion for the Nominating Committee to reconvene was defeated by 65% of the vote.


Leanne Erickson, secretary of the Nominating Committee, presented the recommended names for each position to the delegates.


Pastor Vernon Herholdt, current ministerial director for the Conference and lead pastor of the Bismarck / DAA church district, was voted by 70% to serve as Conference president for the coming five years. Current treasurer Mark Seibold was voted by 88% to continue serving as vice president of finance.


The vice president for administration position will be filled by the Executive Committee at a later date. The secondary education superintendent and the ministerial director will also be selected by the Executive Committee at a later date.


All four current departmental directors were returned to their positions with a strong vote of support.


Outgoing president Mark Weir said that he and Herholdt are friends. “I wish well for Vernon. And I will pray for him,” said Weir.


Vernon Herholdt commented on his new appointment: “Stepping into leadership carries great responsibility. People look to you for guidance, and you must remember you can't achieve anything alone. As a leader, I'm accountable first to God, who places us in positions, and then to those who elected me—our constituency. Leadership is service, not achievement. As John Stott says, ‘leaders have power,’ but it can corrupt if not handled with care. To me, leadership means serving people. To achieve collective goals, you must listen to your constituents and understand their needs. I look forward to spending time with people, listening to their stories, and working together to strengthen the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Dakotas and advance God's kingdom on earth. This means loving, caring for, and understanding our people.”


Outgoing administrative vice president Piotrowski stated that he has “sweet memories of the precious times of fellowship” he and his spouse have experienced in the Dakotas. “We will do all in our power to ensure the new leadership team is well established to take you to new heights” in the Dakotas, said Piotrowski.


Sincere appreciation was expressed to both Elder Weir and Elder Piotrowski for their dedicated service to the Dakota Conference.


Constitution and Bylaws Updates

After lunch, delegates spent considerable time discussing and voting changes to the Constitution and Bylaws to update language and clarify wording. The makeup of the Executive Committee membership was discussed, as well as operating guidelines for Dakota Adventist Academy. The section regarding Academy operations was sent back to the bylaws committee for additional work.


One addition that was approved was to allow a constituency session to be convened via electronic means if necessary.


A motion later in the afternoon to table a discussion on ordination for women in ministry was defeated. Delegates voted on a recommendation from the Executive Committee stating that “we recognize whom God calls regardless of gender and ordain them to the gospel ministry in the Dakota Conference.” The motion passed by 59% of the 199 votes cast.


The recommendation from the Executive Committee regarding protocol for returning a church to company status was tabled.


Wrap Up and Dedication

As the session concluded, Thurber shared a final word of encouragement and Hubert Morel, Jr., MAUC vice president for administration, offered a prayer of dedication for the voted leadership and their spouses.


One delegate stated, “I saw many people coming together and focusing on the future of the Dakotas—People who seem to care about how where we are going and how we are getting there.”




Article by Jodi Dossenko, Dakota Conference communication director, and Brenda Dickerson, Mid-America Union Conference communication director. Photos by Jodi Dossenko and Lynnette Struntz, Dakota Conference associate youth and HR director.

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