The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, Bishop of North Dakota since 2004, has announced his intention to retire in May 2019.
Bishop Smith made the announcement near the conclusion of his brief sermon to the 48th annual convention of the diocese. His sermon, which drew from The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, focused on challenges to the church amid wide cultural change:
Our diocesan motto is Deus incrementum dat. In English, it is translated “God giveth the increase” or “God gives the growth.” It comes from one of St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians where he writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). In part, Paul is reminding us that as church leaders we are called to take our turns tending God’s garden, and when the time is right, to turn those responsibilities over to others, mindful that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. For some time, I have been in discernment about my future through prayer and by consulting with family, colleagues, a spiritual director, and the Presiding Bishop’s office. I believe the time is right for me to make way for fresh leadership. Therefore, today I announce my retirement as Bishop of North Dakota, effective May 1, 2019.
As I said before, the cultural context in which the church exists is changing. Practically speaking, with a diocesan budget as small as ours, it is extremely difficult to make changes in terms of reorganization for mission and ministry with the incumbent bishop in office. My retirement, along with the approaching retirement of Canon Zanne Ness, will make room to discern and support a renewed vision for the Diocese of North Dakota in the face of ever-increasing challenges for the institutional church.