After nearly 40 years in the pulpit at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University, Dwight Nelson announces he's transitioning from the role. | Photo credit: Gaddiel Zelaya Martinez

August 14, 2022

Dwight Nelson announces plans to step away from Pioneer Memorial Church pulpit

Pioneer Memorial Church Lead Pastor Dwight K. Nelson has announced plans to transition from the position he has held for the last 39 years, effective June 1, 2023.

“It has finally dawned on Karen and me,” Nelson told the congregation during the Aug. 13 service, “that the privilege and joy of pastoring this parish cannot go on forever. And today we are announcing that it will soon stop.”

Before he began his ministry in 1983 at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University, Nelson pastored for 10 years in Oregon. He preaches on the “New Perceptions” telecast, teaches at the Seventh-day Theological Seminary and has written several books, including “The Chosen.” He and his wife Karen have two children and three grandchildren.

Below is an excerpt from his announcement:

“We praise God every day we wake up—I’m telling you the truth—not just for waking up—but for waking up to the joy of pastoring this congregation we have come to love so deeply. This has not been a job for me. Serving as your pastor has been a delightful honor every single day. Except for those days when it wasn’t (but those were very rare—thanks to your patience, your love, your vision and your energetic commitment to God’s mission here at home and around the world). And there is no campus congregation on earth like this one. Which is why we’ve been so humbled and privileged to serve here all these years. It’s hard to believe 39 years have flown by! But the time has come to begin making the carefully laid plans that are necessary to turn this congregation over to a new leader, a younger leader.


Pastor Nelson announces to the congregation on August 13, 2022 his plans to transition from lead pastor at Pioneer.


Back in May I sat down with our conference president—Jim Micheff, a wonderful leader—to share with him our decision and explore with what our next steps need to be. He reminded me—what you already know. Pioneer is an unusual congregation serving not only the local community, not only the state community, not only the national community, but Pioneer ministers to our world faith community. 


Which means the search process to find a new spiritual leader will not only be prayerful but must be methodical and comprehensive as well. And by the way, I will have nothing to do with the search process. But they are going to need some time to conduct a thorough search for the next pastor of this congregation. So, Karen and I are grateful for the nine months to the end of this new school year—that will give them that time.


I shared this decision with our pastoral staff, with Andrea Luxton our university president and with our office team over these past few days. And everybody is committed to working together, to finish strong together.


Pastor Nelson announces to the congregation on August 13, 2022 his plans to transition from lead pastor at Pioneer.


As it turns out, I began my ministry (as a single not-yet-married-to-Karen pastoral intern) on June 1, 1973. And as it would turn out, we began our ministry at Pioneer on June 1, 1983. So, June 1, 2023, is the right day to sign off (after 40 years here and 50 years in ministry) on what has been for Karen and me an incredible and blessed journey with all of you. 


‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’ is what we sing around our home. But this is not good-bye—we’ve got work to do. And so there will be time for loving on each other in the few months we have yet ahead.”

Video announcement