The Rev. Twila Smith and the Rev. Jason Shank have joined Bishop Sean’s staff in new part-time positions that will provide congregations with resources, tools and capacity to participate in the partnership’s mission strategy and form vital partnerships in their communities.
“As we continue responding to the ministry and financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am grateful to Twila and Jason for agreeing to augment their congregational ministry with roles that will support all of us in the diocesan partnership,” Bishop Sean said. “I look forward to working with them more closely as we continue adapting our ministry to answer God’s call.”
In her new role as canon for mission development, the Rev. Twila Smith will work with congregations and leaders in both dioceses to foster mission through collaborative projects and initiatives across our dioceses. She will work two-thirds time on the bishop’s staff and continue as priest-in-charge at St. Simon’s and the Genesis Center in South Buffalo. Between now and next March, Smith will work with Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, canon for strategic change, as she transitions out of that role.
Smith, who has served as co-chair of the Mission Strategy Advisory Group, came to the Diocese of Western New York in 2019 after ministry in the dioceses of Bethlehem, California and Oklahoma. She has spent time with the Whirlwind Mission on the Oklahoma prairie, taken a month-long pilgrimage around the San Francisco Bay, and led the start-up of an urban, refugee community center with neighbors. Smith, who was raised in Oklahoma, holds an M.Div. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in adult and higher education from the University of Oklahoma.
“In this time of considerable change, I believe God is calling us to be a changed church,” Smith said. “I see it as a step of hope-filled courage that we are embarking on a new chapter of mission development at this time and look forward to working alongside people from across the partnership to collaborate, adapt and reach for the future God intends.”
The Rev. Jason Shank will serve three-quarter time on the bishop’s staff as missioner for congregational vitality and transition ministry and continue as priest of Resurrection Church in Hermitage, a church plant begun in 2016. In his new role, he will focus on congregational collaborations and other initiatives to foster vitality, including clergy transitions.
Shank, a graduate of Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., was ordained as a United Methodist elder in 2014 and as an Episcopal priest in 2017. He has served congregations in Maryland and Pennsylvania, including two church plants, and is a graduate of the Lewis Fellows Program at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Seminary. Shank is married to the Rev. Erin Betz Shank, priest at Trinity, New Castle. Their daughter, Chelsea, is 18 months old.
“I am looking forward to working in our diocesan partnership during this very critical time for the church,” Shank said. “Our communities are faced with many challenges and possibilities. I am excited to see the ways we can build on Bishop Sean’s vision to be one church – called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, try new things for the sake of the gospel and transform our communities through God’s love.”