The Rev. Dr. Winfred (Fred) B. Vergara has been named director of Ethnic Congregational Development (ECD) for the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, director of mission, announced on January 25.
The Office of ECD, an integral part of the church's work of evangelism, holds advocacy and congregational development as equal responsibilities. It is comprised of the offices for Asian American Ministries, led by Vergara; Black Ministries, led by the Rev. Canon Angela Ifill; Native American Ministries, led by Janine Tinsley-Roe; and Latino/Hispanic Ministries, led by the Rev. Anthony Guillén.
"What we saw in Fred was a real zeal for mission," said Lemler. "He is a person who understands that the multicultural reality of mission and of the church in the 21st century is at the very forefront of what it is for us to be a church."
Vergara succeeds the Rt. Rev. Arthur B. Williams, Jr., retired bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Ohio, who served in the position for nearly four years at the request of former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
"This position is a great honor, and a large responsibility but I am looking forward to it," said Vergara.
In his letter of intent, Vergara said as a leader he is able to see the "big, hairy audacious goals" but can prioritize so that the goals become specific, attainable and measurable.
"Over the past two years as Missioner, I have led the Asia American Ministries unit to achieve the highest growth in congregational development, advocacy for Asian involvement, support for Asian clergy, youth, women and seminarians, and training of Asian leaders for effective ministry," he said.
Lemler, with assistance from Human Resources and a director in the Mission cluster, said in making a decision about the best direction for the future of the ECD unit, it was clear that the missioners themselves had the competence to provide that leadership.
"So the invitation was made asking all of them to do a very prayerful discernment and have conversation with each other about what might be the best way to go; what interest would appear within each one of them and how to proceed," he said.
Vergara expressed that call and desire. Lemler said Vergara's skills and experience were recognized in the interview process leading to the invitation to be the director and leader for this unit into the next phase.
Vergara was formally educated in journalism, political science, and public administration, in the Philippines and Singapore, and studied non-profit management, in San Jose, California. According to Vergara, theological training and ministry experience in diverse settings such as Asia, Africa and the United States enable him to "navigate the complex multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial and multilingual constituencies of the ECD."
He said he feels as if he has been preparing for this opportunity since 1975 when he attended the World Council of Churches 5th Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, and Youth Assembly in Arusha, Tanzania. In all his "theological travelogues," he envisions a "church and a world where reconciliation, unity and collegiality happen."
"Fred is a remarkable advocate of justice, anti-racism, and inclusion in the life of the Episcopal Church," said Lemler. "In the balance that we seek, Fred has tremendous skills in both advocacy and congregational development."
Lemler explained that the role of the director is part-time work, and will enable Vergara to continue his work as missioner.
"All of the directors of mission units here also carry portfolios and Fred will continue to carry his portfolio as missioner for Asian American Ministries," said Lemler. "He will have some additional assistance so that he can do that as well as be director."
Lemler said that Vergara is a manager who has made the ministry of administration and management effective in his own ministry in the past.
Vergara described his managerial style as a "balance between whatever it takes to accomplish our mission, God will provide" and "maximizing results from minimal resources."
"We know that he will bring that kind of administrative capacity to this work," said Lemler. "He also will bring respect for his colleagues and the capacity of community building to all of us."