Working through a painful reorganization that saw 10 churches leave the denomination, the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends has been without a permanent superintendent for more than two years.
But with the reorganization set to wrap up at the end of July, the group of 41 remaining Quaker churches was ready to move forward and named Jim Le Shana to be its next leader during its annual session July 25 at George Fox University.
Le Shana, now vice president of academics at Barclay College in Haviland, Kan., checked off pretty much every box the visioning task force, which conducted the search, had on its list of desired skills and qualifications.
To start, Le Shana served as a pastor for 30 years at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., and has an impressive academic track record and history of service with Friends organizations.
Le Shana grew up in Newberg and attended George Fox University (then George Fox College) as an undergrad before earning four graduate degrees: a masters in theology and marriage and family counseling from Fuller Theological Seminary, a masters of divinity degree from Azusa Pacific University, as well as masters and doctoral degrees in history from the University of California, Riverside.
Le Shana helped found and serves as chairman at the Friends Center, the seminary experience for Friends leaders at Azusa Pacific's graduate school of theology.
He also serves on the board of trustees at George Fox and on the council of church leaders for Azusa Pacific, and is an adjunct professor at both Azusa Pacific and at A.W. Tozer Seminary in Redding, Calif.
"In terms of his leadership, we felt he has a gift for visionary leadership," said Debbie Harrison, who served as assistant clerk on the visioning task force. "He really has a good history casting vision and following through and that was pretty exciting. He also has a passion and a desire to bring up new leaders and that was really exciting for us as well. He has a long history with Friends churches and organization, but he also has a long history with the Northwest Yearly Meeting. He knows us well."
Harrison said the task force took a couple of months to prepare the job posting, which was open for the month of April. After a few rounds of phone interviews, she said that Le Shana also stood out during in-person interviews.
"I think his passion for people and developing leaders became really clear when we talked to him," Harrison said. "That was one thing that really spoke to us. He also has an extensive list of connections. He's been involved broadly in lots of Friends organizations, colleges, universities, other yearly meetings and having those connections was really important, too. That was a bonus."
Retha McCutchen, who signed on to serve as interim superintendent in 2016 and has at several times agreed to extend her term, will stay on until mid-October so that Le Shana can transition out of his position at Barclay College.
"It was originally going to be short term, but she has done an excellent job," Harrison said. "Not only me, but I think our administrative council and our entire yearly meeting has been really grateful for the work she's done. She was the right person for that time, I think."