A Term Online

November 03, 2021

Sitting in her office in Baton Rouge, LA, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey led and directed the Council of Bishops fall meeting this week from her webcam. 

The practice of leading a meeting via webcam hardly seems peculiar. Still, before a global pandemic, it would have been unprecedented to conduct a meeting of bishops from across the globe via webcam. 

For Bishop Harvey, it has been the standard. 

Since she was elected, she has not led a single in-person Council of Bishops meeting as every meeting has been held online via teleconference. 

“While it hardly seems possible that I have not led a single in-person meeting of the COB,” she said. “I realize that there are pastors and laity that have experienced much of the same at the local church level.” 

As challenging as it is to conduct meetings online, the challenge is multiplied by conflicting time zones across Africa, the Philippines, Europe, and Eurasia. Adding to the complexity is a wide variety of languages. The Church has always strived to be language-inclusive, providing content in English, Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese. 

Bishop Harvey would be the first to tell you — meeting online is not preferred. However, she is quick to highlight how the online space has actually helped the council do more. 

“While it has not always been perfect, we have made the best of the technology and have been able to move large bodies of work,” she says. “We have been able to meet more often to address single topics, and we’ve had the opportunity to host a series of round tables prior to the Council meetings that had provided space to clarify when clarification was needed.”

Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York area will become the next President of the Council of Bishops, a class that includes Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, who will serve as President-Designate, and Bishop Jonathan Holston, who will serve as Secretary.  

During Friday's meeting, Bishop Bickerton thanked Bishop Harvey and reflected on her leadership. 

"I want to acknowledge the steadfast and faithful work of our current President, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey," he said. "She has led us through a pandemic that has altered every rhythm and routine that we have come to know as a norm. And yet, she's taken every challenge in stride, and she's led us with hope and determination." 

Read More About the New COB Officers 

While the pandemic certainly highlights Bishop Harvey’s term as President, it’s just one of countless other issues facing the denomination.

“The work of the Council of Bishops and the United Methodist Church is in a season of complexity,” she says. “Leading during this time has offered me an opportunity to have many, many conversations with persons with varying opinions and theological perspectives. It has been a gift to get a glimpse of the stories that shape people.” 

Tuesday, Bishop Harvey delivered the council’s opening address. She made it clear that she is working hard to shape the continuing United Methodist Church.

“That is my call,” she said. “It honors my ordination and consecration vows. It is who I am. I am and will continue to be an Elder, a Bishop, in The United Methodist Church.”

Her prayer, she said, is that The United Methodist Church receives and honors the gifts of all of God’s children.
“Black, Brown, White, Asian, straight, gay, transgendered – ALL of God’s children – ALL of whom offer their gifts to God and to the church.”
And Bishop Harvey also wanted to make it clear that whatever a “future” United Methodist Church may look like, “you will have a home. If you consider yourselves liberal or evangelical, you will have a home. If you see yourselves as progressive or traditional, centrist or conservative, center-right or center-left, you will have a home in the Future United Methodist Church.”
And that’s because, she said, “that is what I believe the Kingdom of God looks like.”


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