Karen Greenwaldt to Retire as GBOD General Secretary

by Steve Horswill-Johnston*
Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, General Secretary of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), announced during her annual address at the GBOD board of directors meeting that she will retire on Dec. 31, 2013. Before joining GBOD in 1981, Rev. Greenwaldt served as associate council director for the Central Texas Conference, where she is a clergy member. She also served as an associate pastor and a hospital chaplain.

At the time of her retirement, Rev. Greenwaldt will have served as General Secretary of GBOD for 13 years, including an additional year at the request of the board to provide stability and consistent strong leadership during the period immediately following the 2012 General Conference. Before becoming General Secretary on Jan. 1, 2001, she was associate general secretary, administrator and team leader of the Discipleship Ministries division.

“I am choosing to retire at the end of 2013 because it is the right time in the quadrennium to do so,” Rev. Greenwaldt said. “A new General Secretary will be able to shape the future work of GBOD with the new board of directors in ways that can impact decisions going forward to the General Conference in 2016.

“Working together, the board and the new General Secretary can also ensure the ongoing work of the agency to support new and existing local churches as they seek to reach new people on behalf of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said.

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Denver episcopal area, who was recently named president of the newly formed 23-member GBOD board of directors, said Rev. Greenwaldt has provided strong leadership “during a time of great upheaval in the church.”

“She has steadfastly led the United Methodist Church's ministry of equipping disciples to help God change the world,” Bishop Stanovsky said. “She leaves a strong legacy of vision, creativity and compassion that has served the church well.”

Earlier this year, the GBOD board voted overwhelmingly to use a provision in the 2008 Book of Discipline (¶ 714.1) to extend Rev. Greenwaldt’s service for one year beyond the 12-year limit in one position, which the Book of Discipline allows for an elected general program agency staff member.

Under her leadership, GBOD has experienced many unprecedented successes in service to the church, including:
  • Creating a New Church Starts (Path 1) effort in the United States in partnership with the Council of Bishops, congregational developers, national plan leaders, the General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications. The team was formed prior to the 2008 General Conference in response to the church’s support of the Four Areas of Focus. The team recently met the goal of training 1,000 church planters who have successfully planted 650 U.S. churches. 
  • Creating with the Shared Mission Focus a division for Young People's Ministries. This initiative has deployed staff in all five U.S. jurisdictions and in the Philippines, Africa and Europe.
  • Refocusing GBOD's resource delivery systems to support the church's Call to Action initiative to sustain vital congregations. Efforts include webinars to help local church leaders in stewardship, teaching and learning, small group ministries, worship and other areas.
  • Creating the office on Sustainable Resourcing Initiative which is establishing local publishing teams in the various episcopal areas of Africa, the Philippines and parts of Europe. This initiative assures that locally created resources are available where they have been severely lacking or are missing completely.
Rev. Greenwaldt has authored several publications, including Singles Care for One Another, For Everything There Is a Season and Organizing in the Small Membership Church. In addition, she has a long list of published articles related to the vision and mission of the church. She has preached, delivered plenary addresses, led small group conversations and consulted with church leaders around the world.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, Rev. Greenwaldt received a Master in Theology degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

In retirement, Rev. Greenwaldt said she is looking forward to continuing her artistic endeavors. She is a bead and fabric artist, specializing in one-of-a-kind dolls, art quilts, beaded boxes, flowers and jewelry.

“I plan to retire next year as an elder from the Central Texas Annual Conference and will set up my fabric art studio,” she said. “My husband, Russ Harris, and I look forward to volunteering in a variety of ministry opportunities”

Bishop Stanovsky said the search for Greenwaldt’s successor will in 2013. “I will be forming a search committee in 2013 to conduct a thorough search for a new General Secretary. Our goal is to have a new leader in place by the beginning of 2014,” Stanovsky said.
*Steve is the Executive Director of Communications for the GBOD. www.GBOD.org