By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND— Although the leaders of the Christian Chamber of Commerce of the Northwest several weeks ago kept open the possibility of continuing the organization in an unspecified new format, that will not happen.
The governing board on Oct. 20 voted to officially disband the chamber, which had been formed in 2007.
“We did not see confirming evidence that God was leading us to continue together as a chamber of commerce,” wrote board chair Wende Jones in a letter last month to chamber members. “Rather, we anticipate new forms of ministry will spring up with fresh approaches and leadership. Therefore, the board voted to dissolve the (chamber’s) 501c6 corproate entity to make room for these new forms.”
Since its founding, thousands of people have attended hundreds of the chamber’s luncheons and “coffee chat” events throughout the region. Almost all the events featured speakers representing a wide range of Northwest business and ministries.
Jones said the decision to end the chamber came “not without sadness, but also anticipating renewal to come as a result. We also acknowledge that God brought us all together, forming many relationships (through the chamber) during a season. We hope and trust that these will continue, will flourish, and will build His Kingdom ‘on earth as it is in Heaven.’’’
In an earlier letter in July, the board announced that the chamber was discontinuing the structure under which it had operated since its founding. That model was largely patterned after secular chambers of commerce, one built on membership dues and sponsorship, the expectation of referral business from other members and the constant process of selling memberships to stay financially solvent.
While that worked for several years, it did not produce the long-range growth needed. Membership the last couple of years had plateaud and the chamber struggled to pay its monthly bills. At the end of August the chamber suspended its schedule of 11 monthly meetings —in about 10 cities between Vancouver, Wash. and Eugene— and asked for its members to pray about the organization’s future.
Jones wrote that she was pleased to report that, through members and other supporters, “God has generously provided the means to pay all debts owed, be they to supporters, sponsors, partners, members or contractors.”
The board determined that any funds remaining after shutdown expenses are paid will go to Serving Our Neighbors (www.servingourneighbors.org) a Portland-based collaboration of ministries for which James Autry is a leader and coordinator. Well known in the region’s Christian community, Autry served since 2010 as the chamber’s executive director after founding executive director Charly Kenyon and her husband, Bill, felt called to resign and begin work in a ministry outside the Portland area.
Jones said that while the chamber’s mission of “demonstrating God’s abundance in the marketplace” may yet to be fulfilled, she encouraged chamber members to continue to have contact with one another and to pray together.
“God is not done with the marketplace,” she wrote. “There are yet many lives to be touched and souls to be reached through His people who are called to marketplace ministry.”