Bess and Bishop Frank A. Smith Honored by Methodist Hospital at Faith Lecture in Houston
By Lindsay Peyton
Houston Methodist is celebrating 100 years of leading medicine with faith at its core. Dr. Marc L. Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital hosted the Centennial Faith Lecture this week where Bess and Bishop Frank A. Smith and other faith leaders were recognized for their power of integrating faith with medicine.
“We are a hospital with a soul,” Bishop Scott Jones, keynote of the event, said. “I believe our values go to the heart of what it means to be in the business of healing people – not only in their bodies but in their minds and their spirits.”
Founded in 1919 as a small, 30-bed hospital, Houston Methodist is now a leader in the Texas Medical Center, with eight hospitals, more than 2,000 beds, 6,700 affiliated physicians and 24,000 employees.
The Methodist center of the hospital makes sense, Jones explained. “Methodists have been trying to bring healthcare to people since our very beginning as a Christian movement,” he said. “Frankly, it’s a tradition that goes back to Jesus. The Bible acknowledges that people are whole – body, mind and spirit.”
Jones said the Arms of Christ Mural, now relocated in the Barbara and President George H.W. Bush Atrium, on the Houston Methodist campus, is emblematic of that relationship between the Bible and healing. In the piece, Christ is in the center of Hippocrates, Galen and Florence Nightingale.
Science and faith are not incompatible, Jones explained. “Science asks the question of how and we, United Methodists, from the very beginning have been practical people looking at what works and how do we actually deliver care for people in ways that are meaningful and long-term,” he said.
Jones added that the commitment to Christianity does not stand in the way of honoring other religious communities. “We believe the grace of God is present in every human being’s life,” he said. “God is at work in these other religions, and we ought to look for points of connection and welcome them and build places where people are included rather than excluded.”
Bess and Bishop Smith a Legacy of Faith and Medicine
That spirit of inclusion was integral to early hospital trustee Bishop Angie Frank Smith and his wife Bess. In 1922, Smith came to Houston, when he was appointed to serve at First Methodist Church. The Centennial Faith Lecture honored the couple’s contribution and legacy at Houston Methodist.
Bishop Smith was also a founder of the Blue Bird Circle, a presiding bishop over the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC, and a member and life member of the Houston Methodist Board of Directors. Bess was also a founding member of the Blue Bird Circle, as well as “first lady” of the Texas Annual Conference during her husband’s service. In addition, she was a life member of the Houston Methodist Board of Directors.
The Smiths’ passion for Houston Methodist was continued by their sons, A. Frank Jr. and William Randolph. Both served on the hospital’s Board of Directors for more than 30 years, with Frank becoming chairman from 1977 to 1991.
During Bishop Smith’s time at the church, Bishop Jones noted that members of Congregation Beth Israel needed a temporary place to worship as they transferred to a new synagogue. Smith invited them to hold their services at his church.
“The theological principle that Bishop Smith, Rev. Smith then, was operating under was this idea that God was at work in other religions and our best witness to Christ was to welcome them and include them,” Jones said. “That’s part of how we approach things today at Houston Methodist Hospital.”
He explained that the hospital serves Houston’s diverse population and welcomes all religions.
“The way in which we treat them becomes a witness to Christ – not only talking about physical healing but applying the resources of faith to all kinds of healing that go on there,” Jones said.
He said that he admires the Smiths for a number of reasons. “They were not only responding personally to need, but they also believed in creating major Christian institutions,” he said. “They wanted to invest in the kinds of organizations that would make a difference to their community, to their state, to the world.”
Rev. Charles Millikan, vice president of spiritual care and values integration at Houston Methodist, explained that Bishop Smith and Bess embodied the spiritual environment of care at the institution.
“We are indeed standing on foundations they built and drinking from wells they dug,” he said.
The Smith family’s spirit was honored and carried forward by hospital chaplains and lay volunteers, Millikan said.
“From the boardroom to the bedside, we have truly been blessed by physicians, clinicians, nurses and staff who embodied what it is to treat every individual as a person of worth, dignity and value,” he added.
As the hospital moves into a new century, faith remains its cornerstone, Millikan said.
During the luncheon, a panel discussion focused on the continued importance of faith-based care. Dr. Thomas J. Pace III, senior pastor at St. Luke’s UMC and member of Houston Methodist’s board of directors, served as moderator.
The panel included Dr. Faisal Masud, medical director of critical care at Houston Methodist, Dr. Stuart Dobbs, the hospital’s chief quality officer, author Sandra Bretting and Jerrad A. Toups, staff chaplain at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital.
The centennial celebration also recognized former bishops, board members, past presidents and others instrumental in building Houston Methodist into world renowned institution it has become.