Roland Fernandes of the General Board of Global Ministries addresses the 2024 United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo: Mike DuBose, UM News)

Roland Fernandes, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), has assumed leadership of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), effective July 1, 2024. Fernandes has served since the fall of 2020 as general secretary of GBGM and UMCOR, the denomination’s mission and humanitarian relief agency. He has been with GBGM and UMCOR since 1996, filling many key leadership roles.

In October 2023, Fernandes was appointed general secretary of GBHEM by a unanimous vote of their board of directors. The GBGM board unanimously affirmed the appointment in the weeks following (read announcement here). He is taking on the chief executive position following Greg Bergquist’s retirement on June 30, 2024; Bergquist served as GBHEM’s general secretary for more than five years.

Fernandes and Bergquist began their collaboration in early 2022 when both agencies engaged in collaborative consultations, including possible future alignment. Teams comprised of program staff from both agencies were created in the areas of scholarships, granting, leadership formation and training, theology of mission and regional work to explore potential alignment between the two agencies. The agencies’ boards have signed an agreement for future missional, program, and operational alignment.

Reflecting on his role at GBHEM Bergquist said, “As I reflect on my final year as general secretary of GBHEM, I see an agency poised to achieve remarkable contributions in education and leadership formation, ​​and I extend my gratitude to GBHEM’s constituencies, staff, Board of Directors, collaborative partners, and friends. Their unwavering support, valuable insights, and dedication have enabled GBHEM to fulfill its mission and uphold its values on behalf of the church and the academy. I am delighted that Roland will assume the executive leadership at GBHEM, and I am sure he will advance the connectional, contextual and collaborative solutions that will support the emerging expression of the United Methodist tradition and the transformative educational mission of the church.”

Speaking of his new role, Fernandes said, “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to serve God through the church at a time such as this. I look forward to working with the collaborative partners, boards, and staff of both agencies to lead GBGM and GBHEM in these transformative times for The United Methodist Church and the world. We shall continue to listen to God’s call into this joint mission and respond to the church’s needs and aspirations, aligning our ministry together for more relevance and effectiveness. I am grateful to Greg for sharing this vision of greater missional alignment between our two agencies.”   

GBHEM board chair Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball echoed Fernandes’ sentiments about the future of the agency, “The work that Roland and Greg have already accomplished, aligning the mission and ministry of GBGM and GBHEM, will prepare both agencies for the future. I am thankful for Greg’s unswerving dedication to GBHEM and Roland’s willingness to accept this new opportunity to lead us into a new age, bringing the love and hope of Christ to our world.” 

The boards of both agencies will meet together in Nashville, Tennessee this fall, which will continue their ongoing conversations and process of discovering new opportunities for missional and strategic alignment to better serve the worldwide connectional church of the UMC.

Susan Clark serves as chief communications officer for the Boards of Global Ministries and Higher Education and Ministry.