- Photo 1: Gilbert Hanke
- Photo 2: Gilbert Hanke screens a child for hearing at a Haitian school for children with special needs. The newly elected general secretary for United Methodist Men led 18 trips to Haiti where he and other team members provided the gift of hearing to 1,000 adults and children
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––Gilbert C. Hanke, 59, the first layman to serve as president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men (2005-2008), will become the top staff executive of the Nashville-based agency on Feb. 1.
Having served as president of United Methodist Men in his local church, district, and annual conference, and having served as president of the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men, Hanke would seem to be the obvious choice to serve as top staff executive of the commission.
“From a distance, my coming to this position follows a logical progression,” Hanke said. That progression was not always visible to me, but it was clear to my brothers and sisters in Christ. No one that really knows me is surprised by my decision to accept this position. All that has gone before has prepared me for this time.
“In my past positions in the church, my greatest personal frustrations involved splitting my time between my jobs in Nacogdoches and my tasks for the church. One great advantage for me is now, finally, I can put 100 percent of my work time in full-time service to this ministry,” he concluded.
Welcomed by leaders
“I am delighted with the selection of Gil Hanke as the new general secretary,” said Bishop James King, who now serves as president of the 23-member commission. “Gil has a profound faith in God combined with a love for men’s ministry which makes an awesome combination for effectiveness. He is aware of the issues facing men’s ministry today and the resources available to address those issues.
“Gil’s experience as a former president of the United Methodist Men means he can hit the ground running,” said the bishop. “His appointment comes at a crucial juncture in the history of men’s ministry. His experience and commitment makes his new assignment very timely. I await his first day on the job with enthusiasm and great expectations.”
Glenn Wintemberg, chair of the General Secretary Search Committee, said the six-member team conducted personal interviews with five exceptional candidates. “It wasn't until we interviewed Gil Hanke that we knew we had the man that would serve in the position of general secretary,” said Wintemberg who is vice-president of the commission. “Gil's knowledge, understanding and passion for men's ministry were evident in his responses to the panel. In addition to that we gained an insight into the extensive history of United Methodist Men he possesses and to the groundwork he has made in dealing with the higher levels of the church. The committee made its unanimous decision and feels Gil will be able to hit the ground running when he does take his place as our third general secretary.”
Leader in local church and conference
A member of Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, Hanke said it will be difficult for him to leave the church where he serves as president of United Methodist Men (until January 29). He also teaches an adult Sunday school class and directs both the sanctuary and bell choirs.
Hanke serves on the District Leadership Team, and District Lay Speaking Team, and he is a member of the Texas Annual Conference Episcopal, Missions, and Nominations Committees. He has been a delegate from the Texas Conference to the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 General Conferences. In 1996, he served on the legislative committee that approved a proposal to create the General Commission on United Methodist Men, and he presented the resolution to the Denver assembly.
Hanke is a graduate of Lynchburg College of Virginia with a baccalaureate degree in speech and drama, and the Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University, San Marcos) with a master’s degree in speech pathology and special education.
He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member of Stephen F. Austin State University, and manager of speech pathology for the Nacogdoches Medical Center where he is responsible for all inpatient and outpatient speech/language pathology and dysphasia services. He has held both positions since 1993.
He has written several professional articles, and he has made presentations at 75 local, state, regional, and national meetings in the areas of speech-language pathology, mental retardation, autism, and swallowing disorders.
Hanke has combined his professional career with his service in the United Methodist Church to lead 18 mission trips to Haiti, eight trips to Costa Rica, and one trip to Tomsk, Siberia. The primary focus of these trips has been to provide assistance and training for children with hearing impairments and other handicapping conditions which affect communication and swallowing. Through contacts with the church, his profession and Rotary International, he and other team members provided training, equipment, and over 1,000 hearing aids to Haitian children and adults.
Hanke grew up in Dulin United Methodist Church, Falls Church, Va., where his mother was minister of music and his father, chairman of the Official Board, introduced Hanke to Methodist Men. He has two brothers, Myron, an award winning physics teacher in Loudon County, Virginia, and Jay, a retired United Methodist pastor and district superintendent living in Winchester, Va. Hanke is named after his grandfather, Gilbert C. Meyer, who was a pastor in the Kansas East Conference.
Following his 1972 enlistment in the U.S. Army, Hanke served as an instructor in the Psychiatric Nursing Branch, Behavioral Science Division of the Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Following his 1977 graduation from Southwest Texas State University, he served as senior speech/language pathologist for Brenham (Texas) State School. In 1980 he served as director of Habilitation in the Therapies Department of Mexia (Texas) State School and in 1981, he entered into private practice to provide speech and language services in Nacogdoches.
Hanke was named a fellow in the John Wesley Society of the United Methodist Men Foundation in 1996 and in 2009, he was named a men’s ministry specialist by United Methodist Men and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“I have had the humble honor of watching men leave burdens and pain at the cross and at the same time pick up skills, knowledge and a new and revived relationship with their families and friends through a new and revived relationship with Jesus Christ.” said Hanke.“Since our mission as a church is to ‘make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,’ then reviving and renewing men’s relationships with Jesus Christ is a vital part of that ministry.” he said. “The continuous growing of personal faith and opportunities to practice social justice through action––so important to Wesley––are still the essential elements of vibrant men’s ministry in the United Methodist Church.”