Rev. Dr. Denise Smartt Sears Departs for New General Church Role with GCSRW

Rev. Dr. Denise Smartt Sears Departs for New General Church Role with GCSRW


 NYAC Communications  

After three decades of exemplary service to the New York Annual Conference, most recently as our Director of Connectional Ministries (DCM), Reverend Dr. Denise Smartt Sears is moving on. 
Effective July 1, 2023, she will join the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) to serve as Director of Leadership Development and Accountability.

The position will allow Dr. Sears to intersect with all of the Annual Conferences as she encourages, supports, and educates them in their expansion and push for the full inclusion of women across the entire denomination. 
According to Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, although Dr. Sears’ impending departure is a “real loss for the New York Annual Conference,” the shift will benefit GCSRW immeasurably. 
“It's a joy to share Denise’s giftedness with the general church,” Bishop says, noting that he celebrates her new appointment. “She will bring skillsets that are very much appropriate for the job. It’s wonderful to think about one of our favorite daughters offering her skills to the wider church." 

He adds: "Denise has been intimately involved in the leadership of this Annual Conference for a long time. Her skill sets will be missed around the Cabinet table and in the Annual Conference. I'm very sad for us. But I'm so very happy for Denise and for the United Methodist Church."
Dr. Sears is already dreaming of ways in which she can be highly impactful in her role given her personal understanding of the current landscape for women clergy. 

Rev. Dr. Sears notes, "there is still great disparity when it comes to our salaries and roles in the leadership of the church—both laity and clergy. This position gives me an opportunity to speak to that—which I’m very passionate about—and to encourage women to respond to a call that God might have on their lives –whether it’s in a lay role or an ordained ministry role.”
Although the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women was created over 50 years ago, there are those who still believe women shouldn’t have access to certain roles within the church.

Younger people, meanwhile, may not be aware of the multitude of ways to engage in ministry because they may not have seen examples of them, Dr. Sears explains. Through the combination of education and exposure, Dr. Sears says she hopes to change both of those scenarios. “There’s a wealth of resources in the conference which are sometimes untapped,” she adds.

With her appointment in July 2021, Dr. Sears became the first Black woman to be named DCM in the history of the NYAC.  Her laudable leadership fueled a greater connection among the local, district, annual conference, and general church ministries. In the role, among other things, she is noted for faithfully serving as steward of the NYAC’s mission, vision, and core values. Bishop Bickerton speaks highly of Dr. Sears’ contributions to the Conference in the myriad of positions she has occupied. “Denise is creative and she's insightful,” he says, adding that her gifts will certainly benefit the general church.

Prior to that she served as District Superintendent (DS) of the Metropolitan District, where she provided leadership, strategic direction and spiritual formation for diverse churches located in Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Westchester County.

As a superintendent, Dr. Sears cultivated relationships with clergy and partnered with them to cast a vision for the Metropolitan District churches that encouraged discipleship, community-focused engagement, strategically impactful outreach, and bridge-building.

Rev. Dr. Sears also served as a Chaplain for the New Rochelle Police Department; was elected to sit on the Board of Trustees of the New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital; and was chairperson of the NYAC Pathway to Anti-Racism team which is furthering the goal of building intentional approaches to dismantle systems, structures and behaviors that foster systemic racism within our local churches. 

Rev. Dr. Sears is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science. She earned a Master of Science degree from New York’s Bank Street College of Education, and was awarded a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Congregational Growth and Development from Drew University. She and her husband, Wendell T. Sears are the proud parents of two sons, Daniel and William. 

In parting, Dr. Sears offers the following words of farewell to her NYAC colleagues: “Trust,” she says. “Follow the Lord. May God continue to bless you. Listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice, my friends, and follow.”