Bishop announces new district superintendents

NOTE: Headshots of the Revs. Gary Spencer and Rini Hernandez are available at

LAKELAND, FL – Two pastors with experience in new church development and conference leadership have been named District Superintendents by Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker, who made the announcement today.

“I am pleased to announce that the Rev. Gary Spencer and the Rev. Rini Hernandez will be appointed as new District Superintendents, effective July 1,” Whitaker said. “Gary will be appointed to the Atlantic Central District, and Rini will be appointed to the South West District.  Both of them possess much experience in ministry, and they will provide excellent leadership for their districts, the Cabinet, and the Florida Conference.

“I am grateful to both the Rev. Mike Oliver and the Rev. Alan Jefferson for their service as District Superintendents,” Whitaker added.  “Both of them will receive an appointment as a senior pastor of a local church in July.”

The Rev. Dr. Gary A. Spencer is a third-generation Floridian who felt the call to ministry at an early age, and he has devoted his life to bringing people into the church and helping them grow in their faith.

Spencer grew up in First United Methodist Church of West Palm Beach, now called United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches.  He has a degree in religion from Florida Southern College, earned his Master of Divinity degree at The Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree from Princeton University.

Spencer joined the Florida Conference in 1979. He first served as associate pastor at First UMC Pompano Beach, followed by appointments to start a church in Cooper City and to Suntree United Methodist Church in Melbourne. Since 2003, he has served as senior pastor at First UMC in Orlando. There he encouraged the development of new ministries, including the Youth Ministry Institute, which is training youth pastors from across Florida.

Additionally, Spencer has held a number of district and conference leadership positions, including service on several District Extension and New Church Development boards and chair of the District Board of Ordained Ministry of the former Melbourne District.  He served on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for 10 years and was Chair of the Conference Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries. 

He and Judy have two children, Kirby, 26, and Katie, 24.  A University of Florida graduate, Kirby works for AT&T in Jacksonville.  Katie, a graduate of Emory University, is pursuing a master’s degree in broadcast journalism at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Judy works as a manager of community and governmental affairs for AT&T in Central Florida.

The Rev. Dr. Rinaldo D. Hernandez is a fifth-generation Methodist, born in Jovellanos, Matanzas, Cuba. Hernandez received two degrees from Evangelical Theological Seminary, Matanzas, Cuba: Bachelor of Theology in 1984 and Master of Theology in 1998. He completed his doctoral studies at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, receiving his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2000.

Hernandez answered God’s call to pastoral ministry in 1978, and he served the Cuban Annual Conference during 23 years as a pastor.  His service included seven appointments, the longest one at University Methodist Church, Havana, from 1992 to 2000. He was a District Superintendent for 11 years for the Holguin Norte, Pinar del Rio and Matanzas Districts.  Hernandez’s academic career includes serving as a seminary professor for 13 years, teaching Bible, New Testament Greek and Wesleyan Theology, and serving as the President of the Theology Commission.

In 2001, Hernandez moved with his family to Miami, where he started a new United Methodist Hispanic Congregation in Miami-Dade County. He’s been married to his wife Magalis for 32 years, and they have two children: Judy, 29, is married to Alejandro, with two daughters, Natalia and Carolina; and Andy, 24, serves as the Music Director at FIU-MDC Wesley Foundation in Miami.

Rinaldo has served the Florida Conference for the past ten years as founding Pastor of La Nueva Iglesia, Miami. At the District level, he has served as Cuba-Florida Covenant Coordinator, on the SE District Leadership Team, and on the SE District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

At the Conference level, he was the President of the Hispanic Assembly (2004-2008), the Director of the Hispanic Institute (2008-present), has been a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (2004-present) and the Strategic Planning Team (2010-present).

News media contact: Gretchen Hastings, 800-282-8011,, Lakeland
*Hastings is executive editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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