Bishop King (left) installs Gil Hanke as top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –– Although he has been in office since Feb. 1, Gilbert C. Hanke was formally installed as general secretary of the General Commission on UM Men at a March 4 installation ceremony of the National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men (NACP).
In remarks following the service, Hanke noted how difficult it was to leave the Nacogdoches, Texas, community where he had served as a manager of speech pathology for the Nacogdoches Medical Center and a faculty member of Stephen F. Austin State University while leading the Perritte Memorial UMC choirs and teaching an adult Sunday school class.
A new start
“This has been a humbling few months,” said Hanke. “I left a community that had cared for me and for my family for the last 28 years. I ended a career I loved, to begin this exciting new adventure. When friends found out I had accepted this job, they were happy for me, but not surprised. It is my honor to have this position, and I am here to serve you, as you are a vital link in men’s ministry in this great church.”
Hanke asked the presidents and conference prayer advocates to help renew the two-way connection between the Nashville-based agency and local congregations, and he promised to help expand connections with other church agencies.
“I have sat where you are sitting, at times overwhelmed by the tasks ahead,” said Hanke who has served as president of a local chapter of UM Men, a district president, a conference president and NACP president. He also served as president of the board of the commission.
He specifically addressed conference presidents who wondered where they would get funds for all the challenging ministries. “I believe we must be faithful first, and then as the song and scripture remind us ‘and all these things will be added unto you,’” said Hanke.
“We are not going to agree on everything, but what holds us together is much more important than anything that might separate us. I firmly believe that Wesleyan, disciplined leaders have that balance of spiritual growth and Christian action. I want that balance to be seen in all our leaders, all our churches, all our agencies, in everything that carries the name of this great church.
Keep your eyes on Jesus
Hanke recalled the story of Peter getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus.
“When Peter stepped out of the boat, it wasn’t the waves or the wind or impossibility of water walking that made him sink. It was taking his eye off Jesus. So that is what I ask that we do together, lets make sure that Gil doesn’t take his eyes off Jesus, and in return I will do the same for you.
“I was selected for this position to lead, to be your servant leader. And in my style of leadership there is accountability between you folks at the front line and me, and between me and you guys on the front line.
“If we loose sight of Jesus, we will sink like a stone.”
Noting there are several styles of leadership, Hanke told the 150 leaders that they can have 10 expectations:
1. “I will begin every day in the Bible and reading the Upper Room Disciplines, I invite you to join me. Knowing you are doing that will keep me on track. Knowing I am doing it might keep you on track.
2. “Wesley talked of a balance between spiritual holiness and social holiness. The notion that we grow in our spiritual disciplines (prayer fasting, worship, study of the scriptures) so that we can act in the world, that Christian action. I will strive for that balance, and I invite you to do the same.
3. “I am in a small accountability group, I hope you are too.
4. “I support this ministry with my time, talent, gifts, service and witness, I hope you will too. That ministry includes the Upper Room Prayer Ministries, the Society of St. Andrew, Scouting, and the UM Committee on Relief.
5. “I will continue to do mission projects in this community and around the world; I hope you will do that as well in person or by gifting someone else to go in your place.
6. “The church that holds my membership has a chartered UMM unit, I will see that it always does even if I have to pay for it myself. I’m sure you feel the same way.
7. “I am a Legacy Builder, because I believe that is a way to build this ministry so I ask others to join me. You can’t sell something you won’t buy.
8. “I carry a Strength for Service for God and Country book every time I travel. God usually makes His plan plain to me as to who I give it to.
9. “I will balance my work with my family, I hope you will too
10. “I will be open to new ways of serving Him. I hope you will join me in the great adventure God has prepared for us.
“Thank you for your many kindnesses and I covet your prayers. As Wesley stated:
‘Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth’
“We are His 100.”