Alum Stories

Lives of Leadership: Called to Serve in Churches and Beyond

For the Reverend Dr. Duane Gebhard (GTS 1969, 1972), the call to serve came early in life. He grew up in Minnesota, surrounded by pastors and religious educators. His father, Edward Gebhard, and all three of his father’s brothers were Methodist pastors. His mother, Anna Laura Gebhard, wrote several books about family worship and life in the parish, and his grandfather, Harry C. Munro, was a nationally known pastor, Christian educator, and author in the Christan Church (Disciples of Christ).

It’s no wonder that Gebhard knew from a young age that he wanted to become a teacher and pastor.

“I felt early on a call to pursue some form of ministry.”

As a student at Winona State University in 1961, Gebhard followed the certification process to become a local pastor and was appointed to serve a nearby rural church in Minnesota. After graduating from college, Gebhard served as a short-term missionary in the Congo in Africa for three years and then enrolled at Garrett Theological Seminary.

While pursuing his studies full time, he also served as a part-time associate pastor at Edison Park Methodist Church.

When he graduated in 1969, Gebhard was appointed to Emmanuel United Methodist Church in North Chicago, Illinois. He continued to study at Garrett and earned his master of arts in Christian education in 1972. For the next 33 years, Gebhard served as a pastor and Christian educator in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and in Rochester and Winona, Minnesota.

He completed his doctor of ministry degree at Iliff School of Theology in faith formation in 1982, served as the district superintendent of the Northwest District in the Minnesota Annual Conference from 1991 to 1998, and taught faith formation in the Course of Study at Garrett for 20 years.

Even after he retired in 2005, Gebhard continued to serve for nine years as pastor half-time to churches in northern Minnesota. During those years, he also served as chaplain to the clergy of the North Star District in Minnesota. This brought his years in mission service and parish ministry to more than 53. “My deepest desire has been to live as a follower of Jesus and help others come to know the presence of Christ in their lives,” Gebhard said. “My connection with Garrett-Evangelical over the years has helped to strengthen that path.”