News and Views

BWC Welcomes Interim Director of New Faith Expressions

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on

Bill BrownThe Rev. William “Bill” Brown has been hired to serve as the interim Director of New Faith Expressions for the Baltimore-Washington Conference. He will begin this new position Aug. 1.

When Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling began her duties as the resident bishop for the Baltimore-Washington Conference, one of her first observations was that this conference is well situated to take risks in birthing new faith expressions. That became one of her goals as she envisioned what God was calling her to do in her first quadrennium. This hiring is the first step in the realization of that goal.

In his new position, said Bishop Easterling, Brown will work with other experts in this area to research, analyze, discern and recommend the right places, people and practices necessary to begin new faith communities that will serve as settings for people to explore their faith. Between Aug. 1 and June 30, 2019, he will “creatively explore what is required to begin birthing New Faith Expressions across this conference.”

The bishop believes Brown has the qualities and qualifications for this new initiative. “Bill is deeply grounded in his faith, serious about the mission and ministry of the church, and a proven leader. He has also been working with other experts in this field of ministry, and gained important credentials, partnerships, and expertise. I am excited to watch God work through him to challenge, surprise, and even scare us all into a wider vision of planting.”

“New Faith Expressions involve new ways of doing church. They may or may not be in a building; they may or may not be a congregation. There are a lot of different models,” Brown said “This is really about having an impact for the Kingdom of God, and that’s exciting. This is about doing something, helping to create something, that will have an impact for the glory of God, and also for the denomination I grew up in.”

The Rev. Rodney Smothers, the conference Director of Leadership and Congregational Development, sees New Faith Expressions as the cutting edge of invitational evangelism. 

“This creative approach invites us to explore new ways for people to encounter Christ in non-traditional settings,” he said. “New Faith Expressions also provide opportunities for our healthy and vibrant congregations to expand their ministries in both old and new places.”

Smothers, who will partner with Brown, is excited about this addition to the BWC staff.

“Rev. Dr. Brown is uniquely prepared for this ministry,” Smothers said. “His proven record of leading congregations in creative ways, his formal Doctor of Ministry work in this subject matter, and his gifting as an outstanding communicator and visionary leader equip him to excel in this ministry opportunity. Now that Bill is on board we will be able more fully live into our bishop’s vision for healthy and vital congregations by resourcing existing congregations and developing new resources for New Faith Expressions.”

Brown has “United Methodism in his blood.” He was baptized and confirmed in a Methodist church, worked as custodian at Bel Air UMC when he was a teenager, answered a call to ministry at a United Methodist Camp in Western Pennsylvania and, since 1991, has served as a pastor. During his career he served Graceland UMC in Dundalk, Christ UMC in Baltimore, New Horizon in Phoenix, Epworth UMC in Cockeysville and Wesley Freedom UMC in Eldersburg. Brown will continue to serve full-time as the senior pastor of Wesley Freedom UMC in Eldersburg, one of the BWC’s larger churches, with almost 600 people attending church each Sunday.

The Rev. Charlie Lightner, one of the pastors who shaped Brown’s faith, once told him that, “for a pastor ‘no two days are ever the same.’ That’s been true for 27 years,” Brown said.

As a pastor, he has also “met some of the most interesting people. That’s been a highlight for me,” he said. Brown believes relationship – with God and others – is one of the keys of a successful church start, or any church experience, really.

“We want to focus on what Jesus focused on,” Brown said. “If you follow the model of Jesus, it’s clear he was about personal relationships. That’s a great way to start a new Faith Expression -- being in relationship, meeting people where they are and speaking their language.”

Brown is a voracious reader. One of his favorite writers at the moment is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose writings from the 1930s and 40s Brown considers absolutely relevant for the church today.

Some of Bonhoeffer’s ideas about accountability and discipline shape Brown’s ministry. They also find their way into his personal life.

For example, in 2011, Brown’s brother asked him if he wanted to run a marathon with him in 2012. “I couldn’t even walk a mile at the time,” he said. “My brain said, ‘no,’ but my mouth said, ‘yes.’

He began to train using an app on his phone and today running is an important part of his life. It’s an exercise that often has a spiritual component, giving Brown time for thinking and conversations with God.

With his new interim position, Brown is anticipating hitting the ground running. But, he stresses, “I don’t have all the answers. I am just listening and learning so that I can lead. A friend taught me that. It’s what I do – listen, learn, lead.”