Bener Agtarap to Head New Church Starts (Path 1) at Discipleship Ministries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. December 5, 2016 /Discipleship Ministries/ – The Rev. Dr. Bener Baysa Agtarap, superintendent for congregational vitality in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, has been named Associate General Secretary (AGS) of Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

Bener Agtarap

Bener Agtarap

Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary (CEO) of Discipleship Ministries, said Agtarap will head New Church Starts (Path 1), a unit at the agency. He will assume his new position on Feb. 1.

“Dr. Agtarap is not a stranger to the work of Path One. Even more importantly he has a proven track record in the ministry of starting new churches,” Dotson said. “I am particularly impressed by his understanding of the role that laity play in starting new churches. We are going to forge new territory with Bener.”

Agtarap, a native of Manila, Philippines, is an ordained elder in the California-Nevada conference and has served the UMC more than 30 years as a seasoned church planter, church administrator, project manager and executive officer of the church.

“My vision is for a truly welcoming and inclusive church that stands with people in the margin and advocates for peace and justice in our communities and around the world,” Agtarap said. “I have a passion for discovering new and creative ideas with cohorts of leaders working together to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Agtarap previously held positions at Discipleship Ministries from 2007-2012 as director of conference and ethnic church stewardship and New Church Starts recruiter. As a new church strategist, he led Path 1’s Lay Missionary Planting Network (LMPN) in collaboration with his colleagues.

“The proven leadership of Dr. Agtarap is well known in our church,” said Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Episcopal Area, who chairs the Personnel Committee of the Path1 Advisory Committee. “His passion for planting new churches will continue to push our denomination toward making disciples. The Path 1 team will be blessed by his leadership."

Agtarap started his ministry in the Philippines at age 22 as a lay church planter, organizing a local church in five years with trained leaders and sufficient financial capacity to support its mission and ministry. In the following six years as a local pastor, he led two congregations in planting five new faith communities that later became regular local churches.

Under his watch as district superintendent in the Philippines, 52 churches were tasked to give birth to new communities of faith.

Agtarap was associate pastor at Knox Memorial UMC in Manila and administrative pastor of Cicero and Seymour UMC, Seymour, Wisconsin, before joining the Discipleship Ministries staff in 2007. He became superintendent for congregational vitality in the California-Nevada Annual Conference in 2012. Within three years the conference launched 21 new faith communities. In the past two years, Agtarap helped five ethnic faith communities, which have been in existence for over 20 years, be chartered and recognized by the conference.

Agtarap earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Management and Accounting at Philippine School of Business Administration, a Master in Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary – Philippines, a Master in Business Administration degree at Philippine School of Business Administration and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in development administration at Philippine Christian University.

After February, interim AGS Doug Ruffle will return full-time to his position as New Church Starts (Path 1) associate executive director. He has served as interim since former AGS Candace Lewis left Discipleship Ministries to become a district superintendent in the Florida Conference last September.

The mission of Discipleship Ministries is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit, the Press Center at or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.

# # #