Former Diocese of West Virginia Bishop John Smith dies at 72

By ENS staff
Posted Jun 4, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Former Diocese of West Virginia Bishop John Smith, 72, of Brunswick, Maine, died June 2.

He died after a two-year struggle with leukemia, according to an obituary in the Portland, Maine, Press Herald newspaper.

Smith, who was born Sept. 11, 1939 and raised in the Panama Canal Zone, was diocesan bishop of the Charleston, West Virginia-based diocese from 1989 to 1999. Ordained to the priesthood in 1965, he served parishes in Maine and Vermont. He also was chaplain and taught at the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. He was rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Rutland, Vt., when he was elected bishop.

After his retirement Smith also served as priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bridgton, Maine, where he oversaw the construction of a new church building. A celebration of his life will take place June 7 at St. Peter’s, according to an e-mail from Diocese of Maine Bishop Steve Lane.

According to an article here, Smith emphasized cluster ministries in his 10 years in West Virginia, combining smaller churches with a ministry team to avoid each congregation having to pay the costs of employing full-time clergy. A priest in the diocese once estimated that the bishop traveled 40,000 miles a year to visit all the diocese’s congregations.

In 1993 Smith told an Episcopal Church-sponsored evangelism conference that small parishes possess their own distinctive characteristics related to evangelism. “For them, evangelism is not a program, but a prescription about how the church goes about its business.

“Evangelism is not guerrilla warfare for Jesus, nor self-serving efforts, nor recruitment of church members, although this will be the outcome,” Smith said. Rather it is a lifestyle, he continued, “speaking, acting and living out the connection with our Lord Jesus. It is a genuine sense of belonging, a deeply caring fellowship, driven by relationships where personal belonging and wellbeing is tied to the well-being of the whole community.”

He authored Cluster Ministry: A faithful response to change in 1996, in which he wrote about models for ministry in small communities.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the General Theological Seminary in 1964. He also earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Hartford Seminary in 1980. Smith was later awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from both General and Virginia Theological Seminary.

He is survived by his wife, Victoria Dawley Smith, to whom he was married in 1964; his daughters, Allison Smith of Bedford, New Hampshire, and Kirsten Hewes and her husband, Harry, of Denmark, Maine, and Jon Roberts of Chicago; and four grandchildren, Meaghan and Benjamin Chandonnet of Bedford, and Ryan and Abigail Hewes of Denmark.

The Smiths lived in Brunswick since 2003, with a summer camp in North Waterford since 1970.