Stephen A. Rhodes

Stephen's Biography

 Stephen Andrew Rhodes was born in Kingsport, Tennessee in 1960, officially qualifying him for “Baby Boomer” status.  His parents were Jim and Charlotte Rhodes.  His only sibling, Ken, was born in 1965.

Stephen’s dad, from Scott County, Virginia, ran away from the family farm when he was fifteen, passing for eighteen, to enlist in the Navy during World War II.  When his mother found out what he had done, she revealed to the Navy his actual age and brought him back home. When he turned sixteen, his father gave him permission to serve in the Navy and off he went to the Pacific Theater.  He served in both WWII and the Korean War.  Afterwards, he attended college on the G.I. Bill, graduating with B.S. in electrical engineering.

Charlotte was originally from Wise County, Virginia.  After her father’s death in 1943, she joined her mother, Cora, in Kingsport.  She attended business school and became a bookkeeper.  She worked in business until she met this handsome and very affable veteran at a V.F.W. dance. They married in 1957.  Charlotte’s mother, Cora, lived with them until her death in 1971. Except for a brief, six-month period, Stephen and his family lived in Kingsport during his childhood and adolescence.  

Stephen attended Kingsport City Schools - Andrew Jackson Elementary, John Sevier Junior High and Dobyns-Bennett High School.  He found his niche and also community in the school band, where he played clarinet, tenor saxophone and baritone sax.  He and his best friends, who called themselves “The Pig Patrol,” would regularly cruise Kingsport on Friday and Saturday nights and generally making fools of themselves for all to see.

After graduating from high school, Stephen attended Emory & Henry College in southwest Virginia.  A small, private United Methodist school, this was just the place he needed to be.  Shaped and influenced by great teachers, Stephen was instilled with a love of education.  He majored in religion, but actually took more classes in political science.  He also had a concentration in Koine Greek.  He graduated with a B.S. in religion in 1983.

Accepted at a number of graduate schools, Stephen was awarded a Woodruff Scholarship at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.  This prestigious award persuaded him to go South for graduate studies.  He earned a Masters of Divinity and graduated in 1986.

Stephen met his future wife, Lynn Rasor, on Christmas Eve 1982 after being invited to the home of his professor for Christmas dinner.  For him, it was love at first sight.  For her, it took just a little longer.  They soon began to date and were engaged within three months.  They married in June 1984.

Stephen was ordained a deacon in The United Methodist Church in 1985 at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina.  Three years later, he was ordained an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  He has served five churches throughout his ministry in the Charlottesville area, Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia and Richmond.

During his appointment to Culmore United Methodist Church in Falls Church, Virginia, Stephen served a multicultural congregation with over thirty-two different nationalities represented and with no racial majority.  The church staff was also multicultural.  During the eight years that he served this unique congregation, he became nationally known for his work in multicultural ministry.  In 1998, his first book was published, Where the Nations Meet: The Church in a Multicultural World and was well received.  Because of this cutting edge work, Stephen was named a Distinguished Evangelist of The United Methodist Church. During the period from 1988-1996, Steve and Lynn had five children: Cora, Hannah, Sarah, Gabriella and Abraham.  Steve and Lynn are beginning to ponder what the next stage of their life will entail post-children-at-home.

After coming to Richmond, Virginia in 1999 to serve River Road United Methodist Church, Stephen became suddenly ill in the fall of 2001 with a serious and mysterious illness.  It wasn’t until a year later that he received a formal diagnosis of having Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.  He was able to continue to work until the summer of 2004 when he felt it necessary to take a medical leave from active ministry.  For the past decade he has struggled with chronic illness, learning to live with it and achieve a new and profound sense of life’s meaning.  Currently, he is working on a new book - a memoir that described the spiritual journey he has been on with this disease.  Tentatively entitled, The Reluctant Ascetic: A Journey Through the Desert of Chronic Illness, Stephen addresses the shared struggles, frustrations and life lessons learned by all who experience chronic and frequently invisible illnesses.
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