Central Florida bishop appoints part-time assisting bishop

Posted Dec 5, 2023

[Diocese of Central Florida] Central Florida Bishop Justin Holcomb has appointed the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith as part-time assisting bishop for the diocese. Smith has a unique view of the primary focus and goal of this new role, said Holcomb, who described it as “enhancing what my office can offer in terms of pastoral care and ministry.”

“I think it’s in the DNA,” said Smith, referring to what he said is the Diocese of Central Florida’s long history of excellent clergy care. “It’s important work because people don’t come to a congregation as a priest in isolation from their backgrounds. And so healthy clergy can make a healthy congregation, and healthy congregations make a healthy diocese.”

Set to begin his new role in January 2024, Smith retired in December 2022 as the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. In a letter announcing the appointment, Holcomb noted that during Smith’s episcopacy, he and his wife, Mary, became known for their “gifted clergy care.”

“At this point, it looks like I will be doing a couple of visitations on Bishop Justin’s behalf every month and doing some concerted, focused work with clergy and clergy family systems on the deanery level, to basically have journeys toward health,” said Smith, who has just completed similar work in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. “And then the third point will be ‘other responsibilities as requested.’”

In his visitations, Smith will typically preach and preside at both confirmations and the Eucharist. He expects to meet with confirmation classes and vestries and said he may preside at additional meetings in the case of crisis circumstances or needs in the community at large.

“I’m so thrilled to come back home to where I started,” he said. “When I think of Central Florida, I think of not only my times in the church, but I think of my grandfather. The last church where he served was in Enterprise. My father was rector of St. James, Ormond Beach, and my daughter was ordained at the cathedral here and came out of this diocese to go to seminary. So there’s a real, if I can coin a phrase, ‘Smith lifeblood’ here.”

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a treatable blood cancer, in 2015, Smith, who has been in full remission for the past two years, remains confident in his ability to fulfill his responsibilities. “I attended a fair number of Executive Council meetings of The Episcopal Church on Zoom, sometimes when I was in the treatment chair,” he said. “They used to just think of me as ‘stamina man.’”

He looks forward to his new role and all it encompasses with both hope and enthusiasm. “I’m excited and pleased to be working with Justin,” he said. “He’s a resourceful leader. I think he has what it takes to be a really strong, great pastor with the full knowledge and breadth necessary to be an apostle.”