Bishop Cynthia Harvey elected president of United Methodist Council of Bishops

Bishop Cynthia Harvey elected president of United Methodist Council of Bishops

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.  – Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, the area bishop of Louisiana Conference, was today elected president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church during the bishops’ meeting at Lake Junaluska Assembly.

Also elected were:

  • President-Designate: Bishop Thomas Bickerton
  • Secretary: Bishop Tracy Malone
  • Executive Secretary: Bishop Bruce Ough
  • Ecumenical Officer: Bishop Sally Dyck
  • Past President: Bishop Ken Carter

The current officer holders are Bishop Carter, president; Bishop Harvey, president-designate; and Bishop Mande Muyombo as secretary. The new officers will take office at the end of the May 2020 General Conference.

Outgoing Secretary Bishop Mande Muyombo was elected chair of the Connectional Table Chair.

The executive secretary serves as the operations officer of the Council and works closely with the Secretary to monitor actions of the Council and Executive Committee. The ecumenical officer is responsible for relationships with other Churches and/or ecclesial bodies. Both serve four-year terms and take office on September 1, 2020. Bishop Marcus Matthews and Bishop B. Michael Watson are the current holders of the positions.

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172
www.unitedmethodistbishops.org

Bishop Cynthia Harvey elected president of United Methodist Council of Bishops

United Methodist Bishops meet to discuss General Conference, elect new officers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church will meet November 3-6 at Lake Junaluska Assembly in North Carolina to prepare for the 2020 General Conference, elect new officers and ratify a constitutional amendment among other things.

Coming from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, the more than 100 bishops who will be in attendance will also tackle proposals on how to dismantle racism, promote discipleship; and strengthen mission strategies in the global denomination.

The meeting opens on Sunday, Nov. 3, with a Memorial Service at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, to remember and honor bishops and spouses who have died in the preceding year.

Among the bishops to be memorialized are Bishop Benjamin R. Chamness, Bishop William B. Oden, Bishop Judith Craig and Bishop C. Dale White. There will be a special moment of remembrance for Bishop Kenneth Hicks and his wife, Lila Elaine Hicks, who died a few days apart. Spouses of bishops to be honored include Mrs. Mary Ann Hunt, Mrs. Mary Jean Russell and Mrs. Linda Carder.

Election of officers
The bishops will be electing a new president, president-designate, and secretary of the Council who will serve for two years. The current officer holders are Bishop Ken Carter, president; Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president-designate; and Bishop Mande Muyombo as secretary. The new officers will take office at the end of the May 2020 General Conference.

Also to be elected will be the executive secretary and the ecumenical officer. The executive secretary serves as the operations officer of the Council and works closely with the Secretary to monitor actions of the Council and Executive Committee. The ecumenical officer is responsible for relationships with other Churches and/or ecclesial bodies. Both serve four-year terms and take office on September 1, 2020. Bishop Marcus Matthews and Bishop B. Michael Watson are the current holders of the positions.

Constitutional Amendment 1
The bishops will also vote to ratify a constitutional amendment, which annual conferences had to revote because of an error in the earlier text sent to the conferences. Amendment #1 was one of the five constitutional amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference.

Residential bishops will later meet in a Learning Retreat from Nov. 6-8 at the same venue.

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172
www.unitedmethodistbishops.org

Bishop Cynthia Harvey elected president of United Methodist Council of Bishops

Ebony Bishops Demand a Voice in Discussions on UMC Future

The Ebony Bishops of The United Methodists Church (African-American bishops serving in the United States) have called on the denomination to include African-American clergy and laity in the ongoing discussions on the future of the church, as they provide the unique voice of hope for the future, not only for the Black church, but also for the unity of the entire denomination.

In a statement released October 21, 2019 by co-chairs Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling of Baltimore-Washington Conference and Bishop Leonard Fairley of Kentucky Conference, the Ebony Bishops said the voice of the Black church has, within its spiritual, historical, and theological DNA, a word that needs to be spoken into the current conversations being held throughout The United Methodist Church.

“Our witness is grounded in our experience of deliverance from enslavement, Jim Crow, the exclusionary practices of The Central Jurisdiction and the on-going discrimination in our world,” the statement said, adding:

“The Black church understands the prophetic witness required in liminal spaces, spaces of the already and the not yet. Our faith, praise, stewardship and disciple-making focus did not and has not wavered, even as we yet await full justice and righteousness both within and without of the church. The brokenness of our world and denomination can benefit from this steadfast experience and voice. “

The statement by the Ebony Bishops was written after a recent forum that the bishops hosted for key leaders in the Black Church in the United States. The Ebony Bishops also released five points and issues that were identified as cardinal to black leadership at the forum.

Click here to read to full statement from the Ebony Bishops.

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172

Christmas greetings from Bishop Carter and the Council of Bishops

In a Christmas message to the people of The United Methodist Church on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Council president Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., encourages us, with a message from Isaiah 11, to be a sign of God’s peaceable Kingdom.

Read Bishop Carter’s message below or at this link:

A Peaceable Kingdom in a Divided World

The Prophet

Living eight centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah had a vision, which over time was given a name:  the peaceable kingdom.  It’s a compelling vision:  A shoot will come from a stump.  A stump is a tree that has been cut down and destroyed.  But the hope is that life would come out of destruction.  We often place our hopes on a new leader, and so an ideal king would be enthroned, and would come from the family of David.  A new political order would fulfill the hopes of the people.   This passage may have been read on inauguration day, with the prayer that the Spirit of the Lord would guide and govern the leader.

Then Isaiah’s vision shifts from political science to art, to the creation, a vision of a new heaven and a new earth:  the wolf and the lamb will lie down together; no one shall hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain.   Paradise will be restored.  All nature will sing in harmony.  Isaiah is painting a picture:  this is what peace looks like.  This is the peaceable kingdom.

In the United Methodist Church, we have reflected on what it means to have a heart of war and a heart of peace.  In seeking a way forward, we have been honest about the ways we have seen each other as issues to be discussed, problems to be solved and obstacles to be overcome.  And we have seen the image of God in each other and listened with empathy to one another.  We know what violence looks like, the harm we do to one another and the harm that we experience.

The prophet asks a different question: “What does peace look like?”  This vision of the prophet Isaiah has always been inspirational.  You can see it, and, of course, that is a part of what makes it so compelling.  In the 1820s, almost two hundred years ago, there was a deep separation within the Quakers living in the United States over slavery.  It was a church fight.  Some of us have been through church fights.  Conflict is present in many of our local churches, in many of our communities, in our nations, and in our global denomination.  There are deep divisions within the people called Methodist as the year 2018 concludes, over our polity in relation to the LBGTQ community and the interpretation of scripture.

The Painter

Edward Hicks lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and was a Quaker minister. To make extra income he painted, mostly responding to the needs of others.  He painted tavern signs, farm equipment, whatever was needed, and he was good at it.  Although he was self-taught, he had a gift.  He began to make a fair amount of money, and this upset his Quaker congregation, who felt that he was violating their customs of simple living.  Finally, he became enmeshed in a church split, between those who wanted to live more frugally, and others who did not see a problem.  He gave up painting and took up farming, but he was a terrible farmer. Later he gave up the preaching ministry too, and transitioned back to the craft of painting.

Soon enough, he came to discover that he could use his painting to express his faith. He began to draw oil paintings based on Isaiah’s prophecy:  The wolf shall live with the lamb, a little child shall lead them (11.6). He drew the same painting over and over again, and there are now over one hundred versions.  We know it now as the Peaceable Kingdom, and it is his best-known work.  One version of the painting is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; another is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; another, which inspired the composer Randall Thompson, is in the Worchester Art Museum in Massachusetts; and, another is in the Reynolda House,  a few miles away from one of the congregations my wife Pam and I served, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In most of the paintings the predators and prey are together.  There is a bull, a lion, a lamb, a bear, a child.  They are most often to the right of the painting, congested together.  For the artist the animals reflected something of our temperaments–the lion was anger, the bear was calmness.  To the left there is often a separate scene, William Penn conducting a treaty with the native Americans, the first peoples.  A river flows toward them, and light shines upon them.  The spirit, the light placed within us by God, helps us to dwell together in peace, despite our animosities and our differences.

It could be that Edward Hicks was inspired to paint this picture, over and over again, because he was obsessed with a vision of peace.  Perhaps it was due to the growing division in America between North and South over the practice of slavery.  Perhaps it was due to the conflict that was present in his own community, over the teachings of his church and his lifestyle.  Perhaps it was due to the inner turmoil within, over what exactly God wanted him to do with his life.

The Theologian

Thirty-five years ago, in 1983, Stanley Hauerwas published a book entitled “The Peaceable Kingdom.”  His earlier works had been collections of essays in the field of Christian Ethics; this was an attempt to write an introduction to his discipline, from the perspective of character, virtue and narrative.  The title was taken from Isaiah’s prophecy and the introduction included a discussion of the painting of Edward Hicks.  In time, Hauerwas would become one of our most influential theologians.

In “The Peaceable Kingdom,” Hauerwas suggests that Christians are called to bear witness to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, noting that “this world is the creation of a good God who is known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus” (15).  We believe this to be the truth of the gospel, and yet we cannot use violence in the advancement of this truth.  Instead we have trust and confidence in the ultimate victory of God over the forces of evil, sin and death.  In a fragmented and polarized world, this is crucial:  Christians with liberal and conservative convictions are tempted to use coercive strategies for the sake of an end they believe to be just, and Christian leaders mimic the practices of our secular counterparts in seeking strategic gains through actions that are not consistent with our covenant promises.

At our best, we understand that leaders never cease being disciples.  The formation of character and conscience takes place through immersion into the Christian narrative and participation in the Christian community.  We discover that we are sinners, that we have a continuing capacity for self-deception.  To be a Christ-follower is to move beyond individualism to see the persons God has called us to serve; in so doing we discover the needs of others to be the pathways to our freedom, as they remove the greatest obstacle to freedom, namely our self-absorption (44).

Freed from self-absorption, as individuals and congregations, we are given new life.  The call of God is, in Hauerwas’ words, “the confidence, gained through participation in God’s kingdom, to trust ourselves and others.  Such confidence becomes the source of our character and our freedom as we are loosed from a debilitating preoccupation with ourselves” (49).

The Present Moment

United Methodism, at the conclusion of 2018, has become a church infected by “a debilitating preoccupation with ourselves”.  Many of our congregations do not have the energy or will to be in mission beyond the walls of the sanctuary.  Commenting a few days after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis spoke of the “self-referential church”, which believes that “she has her own light”, and “lives to give glory only to one another, and not the rest of the world.”  At a denominational and structural level, we often reflect the systemic polarization of our political cultures; our social pronouncements, even those that advance values of inclusion, protection of the vulnerable, and seek peace, are often harsh and brittle.  Ironically, these pronouncements become louder as the church itself becomes more marginalized, fragmented and disconnected from the real world.

Our fragmentation, violence and disconnection are signs that “we have failed to be an obedient church,” in the language of our prayer of confession (United Methodist Hymnal, p. 8). In our individual lives, in our congregations, in the Council of Bishops, in our denomination, in our nation, we yearn for a right path, for a new and living way, for an alternative to the status quo.  In the language of the hymn, there are “fightings without and fears within.”

The way forward may be the rediscovery of our core mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world” (Book of Discipline, 120). Jesus is the embodiment of the peaceable kingdom.  To recall the words of the gospel about John the Baptist: “he was not the light; he came to bear witness to the light” (John 1. 8). The church approximates the peaceable kingdom as she stays close to the person and work of Christ. This is an act of radical self-denial.  The first task of a disciple, Hauerwas notes, is not to forgive but to be forgiven (89).  To confess our need for forgiveness is an act of humility, and one that calls upon the patience of God.  To confess that we need to be forgiven is to give up control, and to place ourselves in communion with God’s people, who are also imperfect and, yet, who are God’s chosen messengers of grace and acceptance for us.

The Question

And so, we gather under the cross and flame, in communities around the world, to discover anew the meaning and message of Advent and Christmas.    As we take the bread and cup into our hands we hear the good news:

Christ has died–making peace with God on our behalf (Ephesians 2);

Christ is risen–breathing on the disciples and saying, “peace be with you” (John 21);

Christ will come again–this is Advent….”Emmanuel–God with us–shall come to Thee, O Israel” (Matthew 1).

As United Methodists, the words of an eighth-century prophet, the vision of an eighteenth-century painter, and the writings of a twentieth-century theologian can guide us, for our questions and struggles remain the same.

How do we discover restored relationships?
Why is it so difficult for us to ask for forgiveness?
How do we most faithfully advocate for those who have been treated unjustly?
How do we accept God’s will for the future?
Where do we find the capacity to live in fellowship with those who differ from us?
What is our vision of peace?

The ruins and devastation surround the prophet Isaiah in the eighth century, but he remains faithful: he sits still long enough, listens closely enough, discerns carefully enough, and it becomes clear.  God paints a picture for him, and us.  It is a portrait of anger and calmness, strength and weakness, living together.  Could this vision exist, in the present moment: in our nations, in our denomination, in our local churches, in our families, within each of us?

Perhaps, in the words of Hauerwas, “we have the grace to do one thing” (149-151), meaning we live in community, we stay in connection and we engage in the basic practices of discipleship that make the forgiveness and love of God visible and tangible. This is the peaceable kingdom.

How can the United Methodist Church, in its global expression, become a sign of this peaceable kingdom?

At Christmas, if we sit still long enough, if we listen closely enough, if we discern carefully enough, all of this may become clear.  Let us open our eyes and our ears, our hearts and our hands, so that we might see the salvation of God.

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Sources:
John Braostoski, “Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom”, Friends Journal, February, 2000.  Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom.  Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_Kingdom.jpg.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI.  Pope Francis, Speech to the Pre-Conclave College of Cardinals (America, March 27, 2013).  The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.  The United Methodist Hymnal.  The Anatomy of Peace (The Arbinger Institute).

Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172

United Methodist Bishops call for prayers for peaceful elections in Congo

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  The bishops of The United Methodist Church are calling for prayers of peace for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is witnessing violence in the buildup to the presidential elections on December 23, 2018.

Here is the statement from the Council of Bishops:

As President of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, I am joining our colleague bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a call for prayers for peace in this great country as citizens prepare to vote in the presidential elections.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been one of the strongholds of United Methodism for decades and has about one tenth of all United Methodist membership with its bishops serving in major leadership roles in our global denomination.

So, we are asking that you set aside a day to offer prayers for the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially on December 23, the day set for the elections.

Recently, a delegation of bishops and representatives from the General Board of Global Ministries were in Kenya where they had a chance to meet with the ambassador from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ambassador allowed the bishops to pray for him and asked them to keep the DRC in prayer for peaceful elections.

During a special session of the Congo Central Conference held in Kolwezi from December 11-13, 2018, the Congo College of bishops led delegates in prayers for the elections. Furthermore, the Congo Central Conference bishops have taken a proactive approach by conducting electoral civic education seminars with the support of the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church of Society to ensure that citizens are empowered to exercise their right to vote.

As bishops of the church, we appeal for calmness during this time of great anxiety, and we condemn all forms of violence in the run-up to the elections.  We are saddened by the deaths of those who have been killed just because they wanted to participate in this democratic process.  We extend our sympathy, acknowledge their pain and stand with all peace-loving Congolese.

As brothers and sisters in Christ who share in the Cross and the Flame, we call upon the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2), and we search for the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) in these events.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications
Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church, mmulenga@umc-cob.org,  
202-748-5172