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GBHEM and GBGM Move Toward Greater Missional Alignment as Bergquist Announces Retirement (Higher Education & Ministry; Global Ministries)

October 24, 2023

Roland Fernandes Named as Successor to Lead Both Agencies

Rev. Greg Bergquist, general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), has requested a retired relationship from the California-Nevada Annual Conference, effective June 30, 2024, after serving as GBHEM’s chief executive for more than five years. Roland Fernandes, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), will assume leadership of GBHEM following Bergquist’s retirement. GBHEM and GBGM will remain separate tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.  

During his tenure at GBHEM, Bergquist led strategic planning work to clarify and strengthen the agency’s mission, built a plan for future sustainability, led an agency-wide diversity, equity and inclusion plan and facilitated educational discussions with partners across the globe. He is an advocate for Christian leaders around the world who are informed and formed by a holistic process of intellectual engagement, spiritual and character formation, and the leadership practices that have the capacity to transform the church, the academy and the world. 

Bergquist has been a member of the clergy for 40 years. A long-time member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, he served Los Altos United Methodist Church as associate and executive pastor and First United Methodist Church of Santa Rosa as senior pastor. He served the conference on the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) as chair of the Conference Relations Committee and cabinet representative to the BOM. Bergquist also served on the faculty of the Pacific School of Religion, teaching in the areas of Historical Theology and Wesleyan/Methodist Studies. 

Commenting on his tenure as general secretary, Bergquist said, “I have strived to lead GBHEM into a future that embraces the ministry of learning and leadership formation in the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition while also re-imagining our ministry and mission in relation to the changing United Methodist Church and our Pan-Methodist and ecumenical partners around the world. By convening and co-creating experiences of discerning, learning and leading that unite knowledge and vital piety, GBHEM is well positioned to advance connectional, contextual and collaborative solutions to the challenges facing the church, the academy and the world.”

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, GBHEM board president, praised Bergquist as a future-focused leader who seeks to discover and develop God’s dream for what is possible. “Greg is a source of confidence, inspiration, strength and hope,” she said. “His strong and collaborative leadership style, as well as his ability to lift and empower others in God’s ministry, has served, positioned and prepared GBHEM well for the present and the future. I am thankful for Greg’s unswerving dedication to the mission and ministry of GBHEM and his willingness to make bold and creative decisions for the ongoing and future collaborative ministry of GBHEM that brings Christ’s transformation and hope to the world.” 

After receiving executive committee recommendations from both agencies, the GBHEM board unanimously voted to appoint Fernandes as general secretary of GBHEM on Oct. 3. The GBGM board then unanimously affirmed Fernandes’ appointment on Oct. 21, during their fall board meeting. Fernandes will take on his new responsibilities on July 1, 2024, and he will spend the coming months working on the transition with Bergquist. 

Throughout 2022 and 2023, Fernandes and Bergquist have led both of their agencies toward greater collaboration and alignment, attending consultations and meetings and bringing together program staff in the areas of scholarships, granting, monitoring and evaluation, shared services, and leadership formation and training. With Fernandes leading both organizations, missional and operational alignment between the two agencies will be stronger.  

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, president of GBGM’s board of directors, described Fernandes as an innovative leader serving at a critical time. He affirmed the common visioning of the two boards, saying, “This time of change within The United Methodist Church, although challenging, also provides opportunities for collaboration, cooperation and communion. This is an opportune time to lead the denomination in reshaping our journey together.”  

Fernandes has served since the fall of 2020 as general secretary of GBGM and UMCOR, the denomination’s mission and humanitarian relief unit. A layman originally from India, Fernandes has been with GBGM since 1995, filling key roles, including chief operating officer, chief financial officer and interim general secretary.

Speaking about both leaders and this announcement, Thomas Bickerton, president of UMCOR and the Council of Bishops, said, “These two very important agencies are contributing to a new expression of Methodism in the 21st century. Greg is truly an innovative and forward-thinking leader who has been unafraid to challenge the church to expand its outlook.” He added, “This expanded role for Roland feels quite natural. He brings great integrity and innovative thinking to GBGM and now to GBHEM.”

Speaking of his additional responsibilities, Fernandes said, “Our rapidly changing world and church context is requiring us all to work differently. I am honored to be asked to take on this leadership role as it provides impetus for even more program alignment, while still remaining separate entities. It will not be without challenges, but I look forward to addressing those challenges in partnership with the boards and staff of both agencies.”