Gil Hanke announces his retirement
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––Gil Hanke, general secretary of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, announced April 1, that he will retire before the end of the year.
Having served as top staff executive of the Nashville-based ministry since 2010. Hanke is subject to a ruling by the 1988 General Conference that limits elected general program staff to a 12-year term of office.
A search team including Mississippi Area Bishop James Swanson, president of the commission, and Arkansas Area Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president of the commission, will begin a national search sometime after Easter.
Bishop Swanson’s statement
“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving these eight years alongside Gil Hanke in my role as the president of the General Commission of United Methodist Men,” said Bishop Swanson.
“Gil’s strong personal Christian witness, his deep devotion to men developing an on-growing relationship with Jesus Christ has fueled our ministry with and for men across the globe. In addition, his personal commitment to engage in Wesley Class meetings have led men to recommit themselves to Christ and to the process of sanctification. In developing these initiatives and in pushing us to become financially stable, leading us to develop real relationships with our Wesleyan brothers (AME, AMEZ, CME, Nazarene, Free Methodists) and other Christian Men’s groups have propelled us into a new and exciting era. Gil will be missed by me personally and by men’s ministry across the globe.”
Bishop Mueller’s statement
Bishop Mueller described Gil as “a faithful leader who is deeply committed to helping men grow in their relationship with Christ. His passion for men’s ministry, his work in starting covenant discipleship groups throughout the connection and his vision for the future of men’s ministry in a rapidly changing world will have a lasting impact far beyond his tenure as general secretary.”
Gil was born July 25, 1950, in Arlington, Va., and he is a 1972 graduate of Lynchburg College (now the University of Lynchburg) with a bachelor’s degree in theater, speech and secondary education.
Faced with the draft following his college graduation, Gil enlisted in the U.S. Army where he did basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., and was later stationed at the Ft. Sam Houston, Texas where he trained Army medics serving in psychiatric and drug and alcohol units at the Academy of Health Services.
In 1973 he married Sherril Lyn Gibbin, a former classmate at Lynchburg College.
He was discharged from the Army with a Meritorious Service Medal in 1975.
He then enrolled in the Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) and received a master’s degree in speech/language pathology (SLP) in December 1977.
He began work at Brenham State School in January 1978 as a SLP, and then transferred to Mexia State School, to serve as the director of rehabilitation therapies.
In 1981, Gil and Sherril moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he formed a private practice in SLP. Son Carl was born in 1985.
Service in the Texas Conference
While in Nacogdoches, Gil served as the president of Perritte Memorial Church UM Men. He was soon elected district president of UM Men and then president of Texas Conference UM Men.
Gil was elected as a delegate to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in 1992, and in 1996 he was elected as a delegate to General Conference meeting in Denver.
At that Denver meeting, he served on the Discipleship Legislative Committee, one of 12 committees that reviewed proposals from individuals, churches and agencies. His committee received a proposal from the National Association of Conference Presidents (NACP) of UM Men to create the General Commission on UM Men. The committee asked Gil, a conference president, to present plans for the proposed commission to the plenary session. Delegates approved the proposal and the Nashville-based agency was established in 1997.
Texas Conference continued to elect Gil as a General Conference delegate; he was a delegate to the 2000, 2004, 2008, 20012, 2016 sessions, and the called session in 2019.
Service with the denomination
In 2000, Gil was elected to a four-year term as NACP president, a position which placed him on the General Commission on UM Men.
In 2004, he was elected president of the commission; that position placed him on the UM Connectional Table, a newly formed international group that included presidents and top executives of all general agencies. Gil was one of very small group of lay persons to hold the position of agency president. Most of the top agency officers were (and are) bishops.
Elected top staff executive
In early 2009, Gil qualified as a men’s ministry specialist and in December he was elected general secretary of the commission; he began work the following February.
During his time as president, Gil worked with the YWCA of Middle Tennessee to create a study designed to eliminate violence against women. YWCA presented him with their “Community Leader of the Year Award” in 2019.
He coordinated National Gatherings of UM Men in 2013 and 2017. It was at the 2017 conference at St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis, that Dr. Kevin Watson introduced The Class Meeting, a small group accountability group formed by John Wesley. Dr. Watson was selected at Gil’s suggestion, after hearing him speak at a Council of Bishops meeting. Gil soon became a champion of these small groups, meeting virtually. He now juggles as many as four of these Zoom meetings at a time. Thanks to Gil, thousands of UM Men now participate in these spiritually enriching groups.
Leader of several ministries
Gil coordinates the ministry of the commission with 20 affiliate organizations including the Society of St. Andrew, a Virginia-based ministry that provides tons of food to hungry people, and Strength for Service, an organization formed by the commission to republish Strength for Service to God and Country, a 1942 book of daily devotions published for members of the Armed Services in World War II. Gil worked with Larry Coppock to publish Strength for Service to God and Community, a similar book of daily devotions for fire fighters, police officers and other first responders.
We aren’t sure how Gil had the time, but he served as convenor of the General Secretary’s Table consisting of all the top executives of the UM general agencies, the coordinator of a national group of leaders of men’s ministry from 12 denominations, and the host of prayer sessions with leaders of African-American denominations. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Society of St. Andrew, Disciple Outreach Bible Ministries, and the founder and coordinator of Hope of Hearing.
Gil still found time to make annual trips to Haiti to test and provide hearing aids for children. He made his first trip in 1989, and he went there nearly every year prior to the pandemic. He plans to resume the practice in retirement.
Gil plans to stay in Nashville where he is a member of Antioch UMC, and a leader of scouting ministries for that congregation.
In addition to making annual trips to Haiti, you may be certain that he and Sher will be making frequent trips to Oklahoma City to see their granddaughter Gentry, daughter-in-law Kalena, and son Carl who serves as field director for the Boy Scouts of America.
Since he retains his credentials, he may do some fill-in work as a speech language pathologist.
We wouldn’t be surprised if the new general secretary makes frequent calls to Antioch.
Bishop Mueller may have spoken for the commission staff, and leaders of UM Men around the world:
“I will miss Gil, but also know that God’s got a new mission for him."