WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Area has made history by becoming the first Hispanic woman to be president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church.  She is also the first woman of color to lead the more than 128 active and retired bishops of one of the largest denominations in the world.

Bishop Harvey assumed the mantle of office last week as the active and retired bishops from around the globe gathered in a virtual meeting April 29 to May 1 to celebrate new leadership and to discuss plans for episcopal supervision brought on by the disruptions and postponements due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“”I pray that I might lead with the knowledge that we are intricately connected,” said Bishop Harvey in her message after taking office. “We are a web of interactive relationships. Our connection has never been more critical. I pray I will lead with integrity, accountability, compassion, love, and grace for all.”

She reflected on the shutdown brought by COVID-19.  “The question of when we resume in-person worship is paramount for everyone. The recognition that the learning curve has been steep on every corner of the planet is undeniable.  As bishops, we believe our churches are entrusted with the responsibility to care for our neighbor.  We believe that the greatest expression of love for our neighbor has to be our priority,” she said.

Bishop Harvey follows Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Area, who had led the Council of Bishops (COB) since 2018.  Bishop Harvey, who has served as president-designate since 2018, was elected president at the November 2019 meeting of the bishops.

Other new COB officers:

  • Bishop Tom Bickerton of the New York Area, president-designate;
  • Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Area, secretary;
  • Bishop Bruce Ough of the Dakota and Minnesota Area, executive secretary;
  • Bishop Sally Dyck of the Chicago Area, ecumenical officer;
  • Bishop Ough and Bishop Dyck will follow Bishop Marcus Matthews and Bishop B. Michael Watson as COB Executive Secretary and COB Ecumenical Officer, respectively, on September 1.

The April/May meeting of the Council of Bishops also received leadership reports regarding immigration, ecumenical relations, racism, disaster relief, and other mission and ministry work around the global denomination.

Here are some of the highlights of the meeting:

  • The bishops agreed that the General Conference that will be held in 2021 should be referred to as the postponed 2020 General Conference.
  • The bishops approved a motion to support the young people’s call for the Commission on the General Conference to consider school/college schedules in setting the dates for the postponed 2020 General Conference.
  • The bishops supported a global letter calling on the U.S. government to rescind its decision regarding funding of the World Health Organization.
  • With the postponement of General Conference and the Jurisdictional/Central Conferences, the bishops see the Colleges of Bishops, in consultation with Jurisdictional/Central Committees on Episcopacy, as the appropriate bodies to provide coverage of vacancies in episcopal areas dues to retirements, with final approval by the Council of Bishops (BOD, 407, 408).

To watch the video of Bishop Carter’s presidential address, click here.

To watch the video of Bishop Mande’s opening devotion, click here.

To watch the video of Bishop Harvey’s closing address, click here.

To watch Wednesday and Friday sessions of the COB meeting, click here.