The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who heads the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s relief agency, has been elected as a United Methodist bishop by delegates at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Harvey, 53, was elected Thursday, July 19, at the jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting in downtown Oklahoma City. On the fifth ballot, she received 165 of 720 votes cast. The number of votes needed for election on the fifth ballot was 144.
Harvey acknowledges that she will be seeking guidance from her peers and clergy and laity in her assigned conference.
“As I was receiving my hugs on the stage, I kept saying to these bishops, I’m counting on you to help me lead the way,” Harvey said. “I’m fortunate now to have folks who have plowed that field on my behalf, particularly Bishop Huie and Bishop Sherer-Simpson, to whom I am incredibly grateful.”
“We haven’t done this in 16 years, right?” said Harvey, referring to the fact that 1996 was the last time the South Central Jurisdiction elected a female bishop.
“I’m honored that I would be this person at this point in our life of the church.”
Harvey said that she wants those across the denomination to know that sharing the gospel with people that live on the edges or who haven’t heard about the gospel yet is important to her.
“To me that’s really an important part of who I am as a human being, certainly as a clergy person, and I hope now to be able to share that with an annual conference,” Harvey said.
Harvey was the first bishop elected by the 256 delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity, from the eight states that form the South Central Jurisdiction. The assignments of bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction for the next four years will be announced later in the week. Her four-year term of service begins Sept. 1.
Harvey was endorsed for the episcopacy by the Jurisdictional Conference Women’s Leadership Team and affirmed by MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans), the denomination’s Hispanic caucus. She also was endorsed by the Nebraska Annual Conference delegation.
Before leading UMCOR, she previously was the director of missional excellence for the Texas Annual (regional) Conference. In that role, she initiated a partnership with the Côte d’Ivoire Annual Conference. She is fluent in Spanish as well as English.
She also has previously served as executive associate pastor of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston and associate pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Houston. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.
A consecration service for the three new bishops will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 21, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. The ceremony can be watched live at the South Central Jurisdiction’s website (http://scj.umportal.org/main/article.asp?id=8808).
Within the United States, local United Methodist churches are organized into increasingly larger groups: numerous districts, dozens of annual conferences and five jurisdictions (regions). Ten active bishops now lead the 12 annual conferences that form the South Central Jurisdiction.
A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life. Typically, a bishop will serve in a specific annual conference for eight years. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, directs each bishop to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” and to “lead all persons entrusted to their oversight in worship, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in their mission of witness and service in the world.” Bishops also are to be “prophetic voices and courageous leaders in the cause of justice for all people.”
The states represented in this jurisdiction are: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.