by Kay DeMoss
March 9, 2018 | PHILADELPHIA—The United Methodist Association of Communicators announced Wayne Rhodes as the Hall of Fame inductee for 2018. Rhodes served for two decades in The United Methodist Church as an educator and advocate for peace with justice. He was an able voice for both The United Methodist Social Principles and The Advance.
At the time of his retirement in 2015, Rhodes was serving as director of communications for the General Board of Church and Society, the public witness and advocacy arm of the denomination. In that role he edited the agency’s e-newsletter, “Faith in Action,” developed program materials and served as a media relations contact.
Prior to joining Church and Society, Rhodes spent seven years as North Central Jurisdiction Field Representative of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. In that role, he interpreted and promoted mission activities of the worldwide denomination for 12 annual conferences. During his tenure, the North Central Jurisdiction led the denomination in financial support of The Advance every year.
Announcement of the honor was made by UMAC President Mark Doyal, who began the presentation reading a letter by James Winkler. Now president of the National Council of Churches, Winkler was the General Secretary of GBCS during Rhodes tenure there.
“Wayne’s vast experience, good judgment and calm manner were just what we needed as we worked in the whirlwind of issues of justice and peace on Capitol Hill,” Winkler said.
Winkler credited Rhodes’ “Oklahoma accent and empathetic manner” as gifts that served the agency well, noting, “He talked down from the edge many a disgruntled United Methodist who was ready to jump from the edge of reason into the abyss of fake news and alternative reality.”
Citing the confrontational nature of the agency’s work, Winkler concluded, “The temptation to succumb to anger and overreaction was ever-present, but Wayne served as the patient, wise voice of maturity.”
Stepping to the podium, Rhodes spoke to the sometimes beleaguered audience of communicators present with that mature voice. “These are trying times, and you are at the forefront of these trying times,” he reflected. “Jesus told us to go and communicate. You can never back away from communicating that message.”
Echoing a 1960s’ era Saturday Evening Post writer’s view of Methodists, Rhodes celebrated that which drives United Methodists today. “No matter how ornery, United Methodists believe each individual is a person of goodwill … and they believe, no matter how difficult the situation, they can overcome.”
He departed the stage with words of encouragement, “Go back to your conferences, bearing in mind who you are and who you are writing for and writing about. Don’t crawl into a shell.”
Doyal noted, “Every single one of us here, those with longtime experience and those with just a few years, have all experienced Wayne’s warm and welcoming nature.”
Those with a minimum of 10 years of experience as a United Methodist communicator and retired from full-time work for at least three years are eligible for the UMAC Hall of Fame. Annual selection is based on a record of excellence in the communication ministry of the church.
Rhodes graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism. He also has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Earlier in his career, he was a daily newspaper reporter, magazine writer and editor. Before employment by The United Methodist Church, he consulted on how to implement communications programs for a wide range of clients that included multinational corporations and local churches.
Wayne now resides in Glen Allen, Virginia, with his wife Linda Rhodes, a former UMAC treasurer, who recently retired as director of communications for the Virginia Conference.
Kay DeMoss is senior writer and content editor for the Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church.
Press release [PDF]