Dearing moves to Sudan for Methodist post

In 2009, Dr. Fred Dearing was asked to move in his role of district superintendent within the United Methodist Church's Holston Conference from Kingsport to Chattanooga. The next move in his career will take him a bit farther afield.

Later this month, he and his wife, Libby, will move to Yei, Sudan, to become district superintendent of the Sudan District of the United Methodist Church's East Africa Annual Conference.

"We feel very blessed to go over there and serve alongside folks," said Dearing, who is taking retired status within the denomination this week. "The [general] church has a very strong presence and is a positive force there."

Although United Methodist clergy are annually given one-year appointment, his assignment is open-ended, he said.

Dearing said the East Africa Conference bishop does not have enough clergy elders to appoint to district superintendent positions, so he will be replacing another Holston Conference minister, the Rev. Buford "Boo" Hankins, who served in the position for two years along with his wife, the Rev. Phyllis Hankins.

The Holston Conference, which covers much of Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee and Dade County in North Georgia, has created a covenant with the United Methodist Church in south Sudan, he said.

Short-term mission teams in Holston, according to Dearing, already have been at work in the country - South Sudan is expected to become an independent country in July - on community health care, education, economic development and sustainable agricultural practices.

His job, he said, will be to supervise 17 churches - as opposed to the 63 he had at one time in the Chattanooga District - provide leadership training and church growth training, and help build a church and school.

His wife, who has been to the country on eight short-term mission trips, will work in the care of orphans, community health care and help build an orphanage, he said.

They will work alongside United Methodist missionaries Steve and Diantha Hodges, who worked as missionaries in East Tennessee before going to the south Sudan region in 2010.

Dearing said he and his wife will receive no salary and be basically self-supporting in the country, but United Methodist funds will cover staples such as home maintenance, electricity, transportation and fuel.

They will live in the furnished Captain's House, a mission residence built through a donation of $92,000 from the family of Walter Lee Wright III, a retired Chattanooga pilot who died in a 2009 car accident.

Dearing said he took the first of three short-term mission trips to the country in 2006, and his wife took her first of eight in 2007.

"We fell in love with the people," he said.

Contact Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497.