It took two weeks of discernment, including five days of fasting, for the Rev. Dr. Anne Kiome Gatobu to determine the next step in her ministerial calling.
“I really needed to listen to God’s voice, because I am very happy doing what I’m doing right now,” Gatobu said. “I needed to be sure this was of God.”
Gatobu, who has served as superintendent of the Kansas City District for the past three years, has accepted the new position of executive director of locations and pastoral care at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, the largest church in the denomination. She begins July 1.
“We felt like she would be opening the door and really setting an example of what, at the highest level of our denomination, it looks like to have an inclusive senior leadership team,” the Rev. Adam Hamilton, Resurrection’s founding pastor, said in a video announcing Gatobu’s appointment. “It seems like her gifts will be perfect for what we’re doing.”
In Gatobu’s new post, she will be shepherding the five campuses of Resurrection and their pastors, as well as laying the groundwork for the church’s goal of five additional campuses by 2030.
Hamilton said the national search resulted in 15 candidates, and Gatobu was the most qualified.
“I have so appreciated both her pastoral care for pastors, her care and wisdom and winsomeness and caring for our pastors, not only for our pastors at Church of the Resurrection, but she has a deep love for Church of the Resurrection’s ministry,” he said.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said Gatobu has been invaluable in her three years on the cabinet.
“She brought a global world view, and she brought a multicultural perspective that helped us understand how to better receive and support our international clergy,” Bishop Saenz said.
Gatobu, 54, was born and raised in Kenya, moving with her husband, the Rev. Harun Gatobu — pastor of Overland Park St. Mark’s UMC — to the United States 27 years ago. They have three sons and also have raised a niece.
Gatobu earned a doctorate in psychology and religion, and master’s degrees in pastoral counseling and divinity, all from the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology. Gatobu served as dean of practical theology at Asbury Theological Seminary, where she was also associate professor of pastoral care and counseling. She has written three books on pastoral care, and was the founder and CEO of Flourishing Springs, a ministry of self-care, coaching and creativity.
“She’s a very learned person,” Bishop Saenz said. “Her academic background and her skills and giftedness in counseling and conflict mediation and resolution were invaluable.”
Bishop Saenz said Gatobu was a collaborative team member on the cabinet, leading a task force on self-awareness of biases when making clergy appointments, as well as understanding the needs of pastors and churches in cross-cultural appointments.
“I’m personally going to miss her on the cabinet, and I’m sure her colleagues are going to miss her as well,” Bishop Saenz said.
Gatobu said she was excited to join the staff at Resurrection. She said the 30-year-old church had taken time during the COVID pandemic to plan a reconstruction of its ministry.
“It’s almost a reset button,” she said. “They really have major goals of being able to expand. It’s very exciting to be a part of that, where you know something great is going to happen. If God can use me to be a part of that, that is exciting.”
Besides overseeing the campuses and pastors, Gatobu also will supervise Resurrection’s congregational care program. Among her other duties are making sure the quality of worship and care is similar at all five of the church’s campuses: Leawood, Olathe, Overland Park, as well as Blue Springs and downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
“That’s my niche. I love pastoral care,” she said. “To be able to oversee how this is done in all the campuses is great.”
Helping the former Valley View UMC become the Overland Park campus for Resurrection — where 500 people now worship — is one of several accomplishments for Gatobu in her three years as district superintendent.
Another was the former Metropolitan Avenue UMC in KCK, which has become the Ushindi Mission Outreach Church, a UMC congregation where 130 attend, led by Associate Pastor Joseph Ogole; and it is home for The Hub, a community mission with an expanded food pantry, a growing number of clinics with the Better Together health mission. Beginning this spring, The Hub will host a community garden.
“They are doing an amazing job,” she said of The Hub, managed by the Rev. Carter Ellis. “That is a great use of a church instead of just closing it and moving on.”
Gatobu said another closed church, the former KCK Trinity UMC, was in the midst of a conference church plant led by Elmer Armijo to serve the need for traditional Hispanic worship in the area.
She said she is also proud of building strong networks in the Kansas City District, as well as increasing the number of young candidates for ministry, as well as a districtwide anti-racism effort.
Gatobu said she will miss her time as a member of the appointive cabinet.
“It’s been really the most amazing opportunity, starting with Bishop Saenz,” she said. “He is such a visionary leader, and you cannot be around him and not catch the vision. He has a way of having what you call the 30,000-feet perspective, not only of the conference but of the whole global church. He has given us leadership to do good things.”
She praised the work of her fellow district superintendents.
“It’s such a wonderful training ground,” Gatobu said. “The collaboration between the district superintendents is absolutely amazing. It never feels like anyone is just watching out for their district, but how we can affect the whole Great Plains Conference with great pastors, effective pastors, pastors who want to make a difference in their communities.”
Bishop Saenz said he hoped to name a successor to Gatobu by the end of April.
“It’s a very strategic appointment, and I want to make sure we get the right person to succeed Anne and continue her good work,” the bishop said.
Contact David Burke, content specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.