Tom Berlin, Ted Smith endorsed as candidates for bishop

By Linda S. Rhodes

Two clergy members of the Virginia Conference – Tom Berlin and Ted Smith – have been endorsed as candidates for bishop.

Tom Berlin

Virginia Conference delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences voted to endorse Berlin, senior pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, as a candidate for bishop during a delegation meeting Saturday, Feb. 6.

Ted Smith

Members of the Virginia Conference chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) had voted the previous week to endorse Smith, Fredericksburg District superintendent.

Both have been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Virginia Conference Asian-American Ministers’ Association (AAMA).

Five bishops will be elected at this year’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to be held July 13-15 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina.

Delegation votes to endorse Berlin

The conference delegation vote to endorse Berlin came after a number of delegates expressed a desire to reconsider an earlier decision made in October that they would not endorse a candidate from Virginia for episcopal service.

In considering a motion to reopen the discernment process, Martha Stokes, chair of the delegation, noted that her desire was “to honor the integrity of the process and recognize the serious discernment that each person whose name was lifted by the delegation entered into between July and October.”

But she also noted that the delegation was given an opportunity to allow for the work of the Holy Spirit.

“We can each give examples from our own lives of how the Holy Spirit moves, often when least expected and in unique ways,” Stokes said. “This is nothing we can hold to a deadline or schedule, nothing we can make fit into even the most well established formal process.”

BMCR votes to endorse Smith

Following the October announcement that Virginia General/Jurisdictional Conference delegates would not endorse a candidate for bishop, the Rev. Debra Straughter, Virginia BMCR president, said she and some members of BMCR engaged in holy conferencing regarding endorsing Smith for bishop.

“After several conversations and prayer,” Straughter said, “I sent out an e-mail on Jan. 27 to the members of the Virginia Conference BMCR. Of the many votes that came in, an overwhelming majority voted to endorse Ted for the episcopacy.”

Asian-American clergy group endorses Smith and Berlin

The Executive Committee of the Asian-American Ministers’ Association (AAMA), voted in March to endorse both Smith and Berlin as candidates for bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. The Rev. Hyo Joong Lee, AAMA president, said the organization represents more than 50 Asian-American clergy serving in the Virginia Conference.

"We will pray for God’s guidance on these two candidates as they seek to lead us in making disciples of Christ," Lee said.

Official nominations for episcopal service may be made by any annual or missionary conference in the jurisdiction, by any delegation to jurisdictional conference or by another group in the life of The United Methodist Church.

Virginia Conference delegates to General and
Jurisdictional Conferences form a prayer circle around
Tom Berlin and Ted Smith, candidates for bishop.
Photo by Madeline Pillow.

Delegates surround candidates with prayer

The Feb. 6 delegation meeting closed with a time of worship and celebration of Holy Communion during which Berlin and Smith were surrounded and prayed for by the delegates and guests.

Tom Berlin Bio

Berlin has been lead pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon since 1997. During that time, Floris has grown from an average worship attendance of 400 persons in 1997 to an average of 1,300 in 2015. Under Berlin’s leadership, in 2006 the church purchased land and built its current facility. In January 2015, Floris established a satellite congregation, Restoration Church, in Reston.

Berlin has also served Toms Brook UMC, Brucetown-Welltown Charge in Frederick County and was assistant pastor of Duluth UMC in Duluth, Ga.

Berlin was elected a delegate to General Conference in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and was clergy leader of the delegation in 2016, 2012 and 2008.

He has written six books, including Defying Gravity: Breaking Free From the Culture of More; The Generous Church: A Guide for Pastors; High Yield: Seven Disciplines of the Fruitful Leader (co-authored with Lovett Weems), 6 Blocks Small Group Studies – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life, 6 Things We Should Know About God, 6 Ways We Encounter God; Overflow: Increase Worship Attendance and Bear More Fruit (co-authored with Lovett Weems); and Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results (co-authored with Lovett Weems).

Raised in the Shenandoah Valley, Berlin has lived in Virginia most of his life.

“I was raised in the United Methodist Church by parents that regarded church attendance and participation as a highly valued aspect of family life,” Berlin said. “I enjoyed growing up in a congregation that was conscientious in its desire to live out the baptismal vows that they undertook with children and adults. My experience of Sunday school, confirmation, UMYF and numerous other ministries was a means of grace that God used to form me as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Berlin attended Virginia Tech (1981-1985) and received a BS in business with a major in public administration. His Master of Divinity is from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (1985-1988). He was ordained an Elder in the Virginia Conference in 1990. He and his wife, Karen, have four daughters.

Click here to view Berlin’s detailed resume.

Ted Smith Bio

Born and raised in Hampton, at the age of 10 Smith left his family’s Baptist church to go to Central UMC because he had become “greatly disturbed by the constant hell, fire and brimstone messages.”

“Central UMC, combined with the pastoral and fatherly mentoring of the Rev. Gary Shelton, nurtured, formed, and shaped [me] in the mold of Methodism,” Smith said.

Smith went on to attend three United Methodist schools: Virginia Wesleyan College (1980-1984, Bachelor in Religious Studies), Candler School of Theology (1984-1987, Master of Divinity) and Wesley School of Theology (1993-1995, Doctor of Ministry in Evangelism). He was ordained an Elder in the Virginia Conference in 1988.

Smith was appointed Fredericksburg District superintendent in 2011. Prior to that, he was pastor of Regester Chapel UMC in Stafford. He also served St. Stephen’s UMC in Burke, Good Shepherd UMC in Woodbridge, Roberts Memorial in Alexandria, Asbury UMC in Christiansburg and Fowler Memorial (formerly Leesville) Charge in the Lynchburg District.

He has also been director of Ethnic Minority Ministries at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and adjunct faculty Humanities instructor at Strayer University’s Woodbridge campus. He was elected a delegate to General/Jurisdictional Conference in 1996, 2004, 2012 and 2016 and a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference in 2000 and 2008. He has served on a number of conference and district boards and agencies and led several United Methodist Volunteers In Mission teams.

He is married to the Rev. Teresa Signer Smith, and they have one adult daughter, Helen.

Click here to view Smith’s detailed resume.

 — Linda S. Rhodes is Virginia Conference director of Communications


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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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