Smothers endorsed as BWC’s candidate for bishop
BY MELISSA LAUBER
The Rev. Rodney Thomas Smothers was endorsed to be the candidate of the Baltimore-Washington Conference at the upcoming election at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, which will be held July 16-20 in Charleston, W.Va., where three bishops are expected to be elected.
He was elected June 1 by a supermajority of members at the BWC’s annual conference, receiving 83 percent of the vote on the fourth ballot.
Also nominated as episcopal candidates from the Baltimore-Washington Conference were the Revs. Laura Easto of Westminster UMC in Westminster; Karin Walker, superintendent of Baltimore-Metropolitan Region; David Simpson of Ellicott City Cooperative Parish and Wade Martin of Montgomery UMC in Damascus.
Smothers, pastor of St. Paul-Corkran Memorial Cooperative Parish in Oxon Hill and a part-time conference Guide on the Annapolis District, thanked the members of the conference, promising “to continue to be the best leader I can be.
“Throughout my life I’ve been embraced by this church. I started my ministry here at A.P. Shaw in Washington, served in the North Georgia Conference, and had the opportunity to come back home and be embraced,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I am thankful, thankful, thankful, thankful, thankful to God for this honor.”
Smothers was ordained as a deacon in the Baltimore-Washington Conference in 1981 and as an Elder in Georgia in 1984. He served four churches in Georgia and as director of Evangelism and Revitalization Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville.
He was called back to the Baltimore-Washington Conference in 2001 to take the reins of Gibbons-Resurrection UMC in Brandywine, a large congregation that was seeking to leave the denomination. He successfully decommissioned the church and went on to found Covenant Point UMC in Waldorf and then served as senior pastor at First UMC in Hyattsville.
In 2005, he was appointed as the conference’s associate Council of Ministries director for Congregational Life and later served as a Guide in the Western and Annapolis Southern regions. In 2008, he was appointed to St. Paul UMC in Oxon Hill.
In addition to his work as a pastor, Smothers has a passion for coaching “the next generation of leaders.” This work includes mentoring interns who are part of the Melvin G. Talbert Academy, providing instruction for mentor coaches who serve as leaders in the Strengthening the Black Church for The 21st Century initiative, and teaching as an adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C.
He received his Master of Divinity Degree in 1982 from Gammon Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry Degree in 1993 from The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He was a consultant to Abingdon Press’ “New Interpreter’s Bible” and is a contributor to the newly published “Black United Methodists Preach!”
Among the challenges Smothers sees facing the church, “are the rapidly changing landscape in congregational ministry, especially as it relates to youth, adult and young adult ministry; economic and societal changes; and the emphasis our congregations must develop to attract new people.
“As a bishop,” Smothers said, “I would assist our congregational leaders to move beyond the walls of the church to create centers of advocacy, transformation and mission in their local communities. Our greatest challenge is renewing our Wesleyan heritage of inviting people to encounter Christ as savior. We must rebrand ourselves as a denomination who cares about people more than structures, committed to renew people’s faith through relationships rather than mandates and who are able to move beyond generic program to ministries that engage life at every level.”
Smothers is married to Dr. Lynn Thomas Smothers and is the father of two young adults and a teenager.