Rev. Dr. Bener Baysa Agtarap is an ordained elder of the California Nevada Annual Conference. Currently, he is serving as Executive Director, Community Engagement & Church Planting/ Path1, and Director, Connectional Mobilization at the General Board of Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
His life and ministry began in the Philippines, continuing to the United States in the upper Midwest, the South, and on to the West Coast. Bener is a pastor, church planter, and a disciple-making movement multiplier that makes him uniquely qualified to lead our denomination’s efforts to create new places for new people in Jesus’ name.
Married since 1987 to his wife, Clarita Reinante. They have three children: Sola Kristie married to Jason Broadrick with two daughters, Eliana Rein and Aleiah Claire; Katriel Kairos married to Casey Holznecht; and Kiyah Karmia.
He graduated from the Philippines School of Business & Administration (PSBA) with a B.S. in Business Administration, Management & Accounting, received a Master in Business Administration in Organizational Behavior from PSBA, a Master in Divinity from Union Theological Seminary (cum laude), and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Development Administration from Philippines Christian University.
He has significant experience as a Delegate to General, Jurisdiction and Central Conferences:
- Served as Reserve clergy delegate of the Philippines Annual Conference to 1996 General Conference, Denver, CO.
- Served as Principal clergy delegate of the Philippines Annual Conference to 2000 General Conference, Cleveland, OH
- Served as Reserve clergy delegate of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to 2016 General Conference, Portland, OR, and 2019 Special General Conference, St. Louis, MO.
- Served as Principal clergy delegate of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to 2016 Western Jurisdiction Conference, Phoenix, AZ.
- Served as Principal clergy delegate of the Philippines Annual Conference to 1992, 1996 and 2000 Philippines Central Conferences.
- Lay Church Planter, Kaunlaran Village New Church Start, Caloocan City, Philippines (1984-1989)
- Lead Pastor, Church of the Savior UMC, Paranaque City, Philippines (1989-1993)
- Lead Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Tondo, Manila, Philippines (1993-1995)
- District Superintendent, Southwest Metro Manila District, Philippines Annual Conference, Manila City, Philippines (1995-2001)
- Associate Pastor, English Service, and Aldersgate Service at Knox Memorial UMC, Sta. Cruz, Manila City, Philippines (2001-2002)
- Lead Pastor, Cicero & Seymour UMC, Seymour, WI, USA (2002-2006)
- Executive Director on Stewardship, General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, TN, USA (2007-2009)
- New Church Strategist, Path 1/General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, TN, USA (2009-2012)
- Conference Superintendent for Congregational Vitality, California-Nevada Annual Conference, West Sacramento, CA, USA (2012-2016)
- Associate General Secretary, New Church Starts, Path 1 Executive Director, General Board of Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, TN (2017-2019)
- Executive Director, Path 1/Community Engagement and Church Planting and Director, Connectional Mobilization at Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, TN (2019-present)
- Instructor, Harris Memorial College – a school for deaconesses (summer Bible class)
- Instructor, Mary Johnston College of Nursing (United Methodist history)
- Instructor, Mary Johnston Hospital College (Christian ethics)
- Adjunct Faculty, Wesley Divinity School, Wesleyan University, Philippines. Course: Evangelism, Discipleship, and Church Growth
- Seminar Instructor, John Wesley College, and Seminary of the United Methodist Church, Tuguegarao, Cagayan.
- UMC Representative, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
- Co-founder and Incorporator, Christian Mission Service, Inc. – a livelihood and community development organization for women’s and children’s empowerment, education, and livelihood development
- Incorporator & Board of Director, Food for the Hungry International, Philippines – a community development agency working directly with existing local congregations in local neighborhoods for scholarships for children’s education, spiritual formation of children, youth, and adults, and livelihood programs
- Founder and Incorporator, Southwest Metro Manila District Multi-Purpose Cooperative
- Campus Crusade for Christ, Trained Volunteer
- Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), P.S.B.A. Jaguar Chapter, President
- Graduated Valedictorian at Haggai International Leadership Institute, Hawaii, USA
- Led the establishment of Cavite District of the Philippines Annual Conference. It is now a regular Philippines Annual Conference Cavite with two regular districts.
- Led the establishment of the Bay Area District of the California-Nevada Annual Conference
- Led the creation and launching of the Lay Missionary Planting Network (LMPN) – a church planting project to equip and deploy the laity to lead in starting new faith communities
- Executive Committee Member and Secretary, Philippines Central Conference Board of Trustees that completed the construction of Episcopal Residences in Davao and Manila, and renovated the Baguio residence.
- Overall Coordinator, United Methodist Church Centennial Christmas Institute attended by almost 5,000 youth and adult workers at CLSU, Nueva Ecija, in 1998.
- Co-author, Ready, Set, Plant: The Why and How of Starting New Churches, Discipleship Resources, 2021
- Contributor to Launching a New Worship Community: A Practical Guide for the 2020s with Paul Nixon and Craig Gilbert, Discipleship Resources, 2021.
- Co-author, Lay Planting in Today’s World: Engaging All People with Jesus’ Love, 2022
Unpublished Teaching Materials
- Methodism in the Mission of God: Engaging Missional Strategists for Transformation (presented at the 2019 Ugnayan – School of Congregational Development, Tagaytay City, Cavite, Philippines
- The UMC Membership Vows and Life of Discipleship (part of the Unified and Standardized Curriculum for Membership and Confirmation Class, Board of Discipleship, Rizal Philippines Annual Conference)
- Five Ways to Vitalize Your Local Church: Bearing Fruits that Matter to God and the World
Pastor Bener’s Life Story: A Narrative of God’s Abiding Love
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 14:4-5, NRSV)
Pastor Bener Agtarap was born and raised in a working-class home in a lowly fishing town in Manila. He self-supported his education from high school to college. He used his gifts in music and skills as an entrepreneur to support his education and his family’s economic situation. His parents taught him and his siblings the importance of faith and devotion to God, love for family and country, fairness, hard work, and advocacy for social justice. They were poor yet rich in faith and hope in God.
Amid political turmoil in the country and the economic hardships of many Filipino families, Pastor Bener experienced the love of God through the Christian outreach program of a local St. Peter United Methodist congregation in his hometown. The youth volunteers and deaconesses of the vacation Bible school of this church helped him, and other kids understand that every person is sacred and a beloved child of God.
Pastor Bener’s love affair with God that had begun in his youth continues today as the cornerstone of his faith journey and Christian service as a United Methodist following the way of Jesus.
His ministry experience of more than thirty-eight years with all levels of The United Methodist Church structure has established him as a seasoned church planter, church administrator, project manager, cabinet member, and executive officer of the United Methodist Church denomination.
Pastor Bener Agtarap has a solid administrative and project managerial background with experience in local and global contexts and cross-sector exposure within the life, ministry, and organization of The United Methodist Church connection and ecumenical agencies. He can build and implement comprehensive ministry plans with solid adherence to building alliances and partnerships with critical stakeholders.
His rich ministry has made him culturally and theologically competent to serve in any unit within the United Methodist global connection. He is uniquely qualified to lead our United Methodist Church denomination’s efforts to give birth to a vital, vibrant, and Spirit-led Methodism in such a time as this.
Pastor Bener dedicated himself to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ as a core mandate of Christian ministry. His ministry experience has been marked by a commitment to personal piety and social justice.
He has a passion and proven track record 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.
Pastor Bener was born in Manila, the Philippines, on February 17, 1962. He is married to his wife, Clarita Reinante, and they have three children: Sola Kristie married to Jason Broadrick with two children, Eliana Rein and Aleiah Claire Katriel Kairos married to Casey Holznecht, and Kiyah Karmia.