Written by Andrew Boggess and Matthew Orquia
In the past year, four pastors have left their positions at the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists.
David Ferguson, former lead pastor for the Collegedale church, transitioned to the position of campus pastor for Crosswalk, Chattanooga. His last Sabbath at the Collegedale church was May 13. Kris Eckenroth, former associate senior pastor for Connect, resigned, effective December 2, 2022, but continued working as the Connect worship pastor without his other duties until May 3, according to Melody Wallace, pastor of member care. Eckenroth is currently the president/executive director for Retro Ministries, a non-profit supporting organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the ministry’s website.
Jim Moon announced on Sept. 2 that his last Sabbath as pastor of worship will be September 30. A week later, Tim Cross announced that his last Sabbath as pastor of group life will be October 21.
“Our conference administration has decided to transfer me. Why? Their answer is longevity. They believe it is not good for the pastor or congregation for a pastor to stay too long at a local church,” Cross said during his announcement.
Cross said he has accepted an invitation to pastor the Harrison and Cedar Ridge Seventh-day Adventist churches.
In an interview with the Accent, Moon said he had to trust God in the transition process.
“I can’t speak to decision-making at the conference [or] … what their thought process is,” Moon said. “All I can speak to is that God has been faithful in my journey up to now, and so I’m trusting in that and trusting that He’s also looking to direct conference leadership.”
When asked by a friend if leaving Collegedale church was his choice, Moon responded, “It is now,” he told the Accent.
The Accent reached out to the Georgia-Cumberland Conference and sent an email to Communication Director Nathan Zinner with a list of questions. Zinner replied with the following statement: “The Collegedale University Church is a wonderful community of students, dedicated members, lay leaders, and staff, and the Georgia-Cumberland Conference looks forward to continuing to work alongside and support this congregation as it seeks to meet the evolving needs of those it serves.”
According to Carole Verrill, pastor for children’s ministries at the Collegedale church, and Wallace, there is a pastoral search committee currently working to fill the lead pastor position. The committee consists of two leaders from the Collegedale church – Verrill and Youth Pastor Kircio Mota – as well as two representatives from Southern Adventist University – President Ken Shaw and School of Religion Dean Greg King. Four Georgia-Cumberland Conference officials and five members from the Collegedale Church congregation also sit on the committee, according to Verrill.
“Our conference administration has decided to transfer me. Why? Their answer is longevity.”
“How that process is working is we are looking at names, narrowing down the list,” Verrill said. “[We are] hoping to get someone sooner rather than later, but you know, trying to move on in patience and trust.”
According to Verrill, the search committee received input from a focus group of students who spoke with Georgia-Cumberland Conference representatives about their hopes for the new lead pastor. Wallace said the conference also distributed a survey asking people what they wanted for the future of the Collegedale church.
“The conference sent out surveys to different church members, board members and, I believe, to different people at the university asking what their requests were for the church that is on the university campus,” Wallace said.
Verrill said she could not put a timeline on when the search committee will make its decision, and Wallace said the congregation has been praying about the process at its monthly seasons of prayer.
“We specifically pray for the search committee, for the process and for the new lead pastor, that he will hear God’s call,” Wallace said.
According to Wallace and Verrill, the pastors transitioning out of the Collegedale church have worked with the remaining staff to ensure their roles are being covered by someone else.
Matt Spears, worship logistics director for the church, has stepped in as interim worship ministries director, and Verill is now the supporting pastor for worship ministries.
“[Spears] has been working with Pastor Jim Moon for several years now, so he’s kind of stepping up more in his role, and I’m coming along as pastoral support to help him in that role,” Verrill said.
“I know that God has the perfect person in mind for us. It’s not a perfect person that can walk on water, just the perfect one for us at this time.”
Wallace is serving as pastoral liaison to help cover the responsibilities that Eckenroth previously held and is providing pastoral support for the Connect service as well as working to cover the responsibilities that Cross held as group life pastor.
“As far as Kris Eckenroth goes, we decided to go with a pastoral liaison until we had a lead pastor who could work through the process of filling that role,” Wallace said. “So I’ve actually taken on that responsibility, which means I go to their leadership meetings, and we, as pastors, try to go to Connect as often as we can to give them pastoral support.”
According to Verrill, until the search committee finds a new lead pastor, the other three vacant positions will probably remain unfilled because the conference wants the lead pastor to have input on those hiring decisions.
“It’s been very clear to us … from the conference, which is the hiring entity of course, that we have to have that senior lead position in place before we can look at those other positions, because we want that person to speak into [those decisions],” Verrill said.
Wallace and Verrill are hopeful that this period of transition will ultimately be good for the Collegedale church.