“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust” (Psalm 25:1-2a).
Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and executive director of the denomination’s Office of Ministry, died this morning at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center.
She had been hospitalized and underwent surgery after having suffered bleeding in her brain on Feb. 21. At the time, she and her husband Mark Flory Steury were driving home to Elgin, Ill., following a visit in Shenandoah District and with family in Pennsylvania.
Her colleagues at the Church of the Brethren General Offices gathered for a service of prayer for her this morning, and in that setting received the news of her passing.
“Your continued prayers for Mark, [their children] Joshua, and Jessica, and for the many friends and colleagues who have been touched by Mary Jo’s ministry are appreciated,” said a prayer request from interim general secretary Dale Minnich.
A strong leader in the church
Over the course of her career Flory-Steury held numerous leadership positions in the Church of the Brethren and was active in key roles in the denomination. She oversaw the Office of Ministry, a position she held since 2001. Her appointment as associate general secretary came in 2011.
Her work included oversight of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership–a partnership between the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary, and the human resources department of the denomination. Her responsibilities included support for district executives and district offices, in particular assisting districts with the hiring of staff, and the ministry training, certification, and placement of pastors, and continuing education requirements, among other services. Also in the purview of her work were the Ministry Summer Service program, ministry training for pastors in sister churches in Haiti and elsewhere, and service as staff liaison for the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.
Most recently she led development of a major revision of the denomination’s ministerial leadership polity, which was adopted by Annual Conference in 2014. She also shepherded a revision of the Ethics in Ministry Relationship paper passed by Annual Conference in 2008. She has been part of a group working on a new minister’s manual to be published by Brethren Press.
Over the years she helped convene some major meetings and consultations about the nature of leadership in the church, including a 2012 leadership summit held in northern Virginia, as well as a unique event examining the role of young adults in church leadership. She also helped organize retreats for clergywomen.
She took an active interest in the mission efforts of the denomination, having been born in India to parents who served in the Church of the Brethren missions in China and India. As a young woman, she taught at Hillcrest School in Nigeria. In 2003 she was part of a delegation from the Church of the Brethren that visited in India, doing work that led to official recognition of the India Brethren. In 2010 she traveled to China with a group that visited the Ping Ding hospital, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of western medicine in Shansi Province brought by Brethren medical missionaries. In 2012 she was on an ecumenical delegation to Israel and Palestine, a trip that helped renew Brethren commitment to a place sacred to the faith tradition, and called for the expression of love to all the people involved in the violent struggles ongoing in the Middle East.
Her volunteer service to the denomination included a term of service on the former General Board from 1996-2001, during which time she was named as chair.
Her earlier career included some 20 years as a pastor in Ohio. She served at least two congregations in Ohio: Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering, and Troy Church of the Brethren.
She was a 1978 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College and earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1984.
She is survived by her husband, Mark Flory Steury; son, Joshua (Stacy) Bashore-Steury and granddaughter Olivia Grace; and daughter, Jessica (Logan) Strawderman and grandson expected to arrive in coming weeks.
Plans for a memorial service and opportunities for gifts in memory of Mary Jo Flory-Steury will be shared as the information becomes available.