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Hanke named top executive of United Methodist Men

Gilbert C. Hanke, conducts a hearing test for a Haitian child at
a school for children with special needs. He becomes top executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men Feb. 1.
A UMNS file photo courtesy of United Methodist Men.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 4, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)

The United Methodist Church needs men, and men need a spiritual home. The challenge is bringing the two together, said Gilbert C. Hanke, new top executive for the Commission on United Methodist Men.

Hanke, 59, will become top staff executive of the agency Feb. 1.

Gilbert C. Hanke

“Men are searching for something spiritual, and many are looking in the wrong places,” Hanke said. “The United Methodist Church is uniquely equipped to help men because of that wonderful balance between personal and spiritual piety as John Wesley calls it. We are always growing and understanding our relationship to Jesus Christ.”

For men, a key component is putting that understanding into action, he added.

“I think some men are tougher nuts to crack. They will discover Jesus Christ with their hand on a hammer sooner than they will discover Christ with their hand on a Bible.”

Leading by example

Hanke has combined his professional career as a speech pathologist with his service in the church, leading 18 mission trips to Haiti, eight trips to Costa Rica and a trip to Tomsk, Siberia.

The trips provided assistance and training for children with hearing impairments and other handicapping conditions that affect communication and swallowing.

He also has been a church leader at the local, annual and national church levels. He was the first layman to serve as president of the Commission on United Methodist Men from 2005-2008.

He has served as president of United Methodist Men in his local church, district, and annual conference, and as president of the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men. He has been a delegate from the Texas Annual (regional) Conference to the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 General Conferences, the denomination’s top legislative body. 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.

He is music director and has been a member of Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, for 28 years. He also teaches an adult Sunday school class and directs both the sanctuary and bell choirs.

Called to serve

“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.”

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Others agree.

“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.”

Both King and Hanke said the commission and the whole church needs to be concerned about reaching out to young people and “bringing them into the faith.”

“It is critical that young people, particularly young men, come into the faith and are formed as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are at a critical place in the life of the church and in our history when more and more men need to be taught the value of faith,” King said. “We need to identify men and help them see how exciting ministry can be and how fulfilling and blessed their lives can be as they center themselves in a mission that helps them fulfill not only their purpose but the purpose of creation.”

Hanke said it has been an honor “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.”

This new job, he said, “is a call that has been placed on my heart.”

*Rick Peck, a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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