Gary was born and raised in Michigan, where he was an active youth leader in the United Methodist Church at the local, district, and conference levels. In high school, he was active in concert band and school newspaper, and received the inaugural Guideposts Magazine national youth writing award based on his story about participating in the original Appalachia Service Project.
In 1978, Gary came to the School of Theology at Claremont, California, where he tested out of all the exams required at that time, and was one of three students invited by the faculty to compete for the Wilshire Preaching Award. During his studies, he interned with the Pomona Valley Council of Churches, and also First U.M.C. Pasadena; he later served as associate pastor at First U.M.C. Redlands while completing a Master of Divinity in 1982. Following graduation, he served as associate pastor and pastor in charge of a variety of churches, from “tall to small” steeples, including the Native American U.M.C. of Los Angeles, as well as working for Los Angeles United Way and the Conference office of outdoor ministries.
Gary was later ordained an Elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference; he continued to serve on various district and conference committees, and was chairperson of the Credit Committee of the U.M. Federal Credit Union. Then at the age of 34, Gary became the youngest Conference Council Director in the denomination, serving Yellowstone Conference and eventually expanding to serve the Rocky Mountain Conference for the entire Denver Episcopal Area. In this role, he became involved in leading, teaching, and writing about organizational change across the denomination for the General Board of Discipleship. In addition, he served as Interim National Director of Camping for the UMC; and in 2001, he received a Lilly-funded pastoral study leave grant to explore the implications of post-modernism for the main-line church.
In 2003, Gary returned to Los Angeles as Executive Assistant to the Bishop; over time the work of the Director of Connectional Ministries and the Office of Communications were added to his portfolio. After serving four successive Bishops across 23 years, he was appointed to Camarillo UMC as senior pastor in 2013.
Gary is an avid cyclist, and has organized and led hundreds of cyclists over thousands of miles on group tours sponsored through the UMC. Together with his wife Karen on their tandem, they have independently toured much of Western and Eastern Europe, and most recently tackled the Andes between Chile and Argentina. He is a regular hiker, and summited Mt. Rainier in 2006, and he serves as volunteer team manager for the UMC conference wilderness Camp Sturtevant near Mt. Wilson. A fan of movies, his reviews have been regularly published in denominational periodicals, as well as the occasional opinion piece. Gary continues to play piano and recorder, with various folk instruments waiting on the shelf. He currently lives with his wife, artist Karen Kitchel and their ‘caramel coyote’ CoCo in Ventura, California.
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