Smith, Joseph M.
Joseph M. Smith, 98, of Blacksburg, Va., died on January 15, 2011. Before his retirement in 1977, Dr. Smith served for 12 years (1964-1976) as director of the Department of East Asia in the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He was in charge of the work of the Christian Church with the United Churches in Thailand, Okinawa, the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Taiwan. He also served as associate executive secretary in the Department of India and Nepal and as Dean of the College of Missions in the Division of Overseas Ministries. Prior to these positions, Dr. Smith taught missions and history of religions for eight years at the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Dr. and Mrs. Smith went to China as missionaries in 1940. During the war between China and Japan they were transferred to the Philippines, where they were interned for three years with their small son. After the war, Dr. Smith remained in the Philippines for nine months, surveying damage to mission property, aiding in rehabilitation, and serving as interim executive of the Philippine Federation of Churches. The Smiths returned to China in 1947 and worked at Wuhu. Due to the civil war in China and the illness of their oldest son, Dr. Smith left China six months following the Communist victory. A long-time advocate of normalization of U.S. relations with China, Dr. Smith made three trips back to China after his retirement. In 1986, he and Mrs. Smith led a group to China to celebrate the centennial of the first Disciple missionary, who arrived in Shanghai in 1886. Dr. Smith was born at Cliff, Virginia. He earned the A.B. from Lynchburg College; B.D. from Yale Divinity School; M.A. in rural sociology from the University of Wisconsin; and doctorate of theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. His 1961 Th.D. dissertation “A Strategy of World Mission” remains a primary source for those studying the theology and practice of mission in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Joe Smith was ordained at the Euclid Avenue Christian Church in Lynchburg, Va. in 1932. Before going to China, he held pastorates at Bedford, Va.; Boones Mill, Va.; Niantic, Conn.; and Covington, Va. Following their return from China, the Smiths served churches in Ann Arbor, Mich. and Coachella Valley, Calif.(1950-1956). After retirement, the Smiths made their home in the north Georgia mountains, then moved to Indianapolis, and, in 2005, Blacksburg. In “retirement,” he and Mrs. Smith also served interim co-pastorates at Chapel Christian Church in Winder, GA; Memorial Boulevard Christian Church in St. Louis, Mo.; First Christian Church in Waynesboro, Tenn.; Ashland Terrace Christian Church in Chattanooga and Calvary Christian Church in Covington, Va. Dr. Smith was predeceased by his wife, Winnifred Watson, and is survived by three children, Frederick, Douglas, and Barbara Ellen; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on January 22 at 11 a.m. at Blacksburg Christian Church. Gifts in memory of Joe may be made to the Christian Church Foundation, P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Arrangements by McCoy Funeral Home, Blacksburg.