Bishops called to bring stability in chaos

Translate Page

United Methodist bishops opened their online meeting in a season of turmoil.

Around the globe, people are contending with the pandemic, struggling economies, natural disasters and a reckoning with racial injustice. In the U.S., United Methodists also face political polarization on the eve of Election Day on Nov. 3.

“Any one of these would be enough of a disruption — enough to make us lose our way,” Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey told her colleagues in her first opening address as Council of Bishops president. “Altogether, they cause us not only to lose our way but forget our destination — where we are going and why.”

Harvey, who also leads the Louisiana Conference, attested to the way this year’s raging hurricanes have uprooted lives along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Bishop Harvey’s address

People can watch Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey’s address at the Council of Bishops Facebook page.

Click here to watch. 
“Sometimes, I catch myself sounding like the Israelites: ‘Egypt would have been better than this,’” she confessed. “The journey is truly a wilderness one.”

Even in this time of disaster and division, she reminded her fellow bishops that God’s compassion is steadfast. Throughout her address, she quoted the beloved hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and its promise that God provides “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.”
Bishops, she said, are in a unique position to provide stability through the chaotic times.
“Stability is not about staying physically in one place but rooting ourselves in the God who dwells among us,” she said. “Imagine if we committed to provide a clear direction toward the Promised Land — leadership toward our mission to proclaim good news to the poor and release to the captive.”

Harvey, the first Hispanic woman to be Council of Bishops president, addressed some 115 bishops across four continents at the beginning of their second virtual meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those participating online, the address started at about 6 a.m. on the U.S. West coast and 10 p.m. in the Philippines.
Harvey told her colleagues that they would do their work together over 16 hours Nov. 2-5. The bishops plan to discuss missional strategies, their ongoing efforts to dismantle racism and possible paths to financial sustainability.
The bishops plan to reopen their meeting to public view Nov. 5 on the Council of Bishops Facebook page.

The bishops meet at a time when they are dealing not only with afflictions around the globe but also anxieties within the denomination. 

COVID-19 has put on hold General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, which faced multiple proposals to split the denomination long-divided over how accepting to be of homosexuality.
With the pandemic still wreaking havoc, General Conference organizers are looking at different options for the meeting, now scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 7 in Minneapolis. The bishops expect to get an update from General Conference organizers during this week’s meeting.
General Conference’s postponement has left some United Methodists feeling that the church’s future is in a state of limbo.

Subscribe to our

Like what you're reading and want to see more? Sign up for our free daily and weekly digests of important news and events in the life of The United Methodist Church.

Keep me informed!

Harvey, however, had another word for this time: liminal.

“The word liminal finds its root in the Latin word for threshold, a transition space,” she said. “We left something, and we don’t know yet what is on the other side.”
She urged her bishop colleagues to use this time to recalibrate and rethink their roles.

“What if we stopped marginalizing the marginalized?” she asked. “What if we made room for all of God’s children, including our LGBTQ siblings? What if we added a voice of courage? Black lives do matter.”

She concluded by reminding bishops that God is not through with the bishops or the broader United Methodist Church.

“No General Conference, no pandemic, no disaster, nothing will disrupt God,” she said. “God’s compassion isn’t through.”

Bishop Samuel Quire, who leads United Methodists in the Liberia Conference, appreciated Harvey’s focus on God’s presence in troubled times.
“For me, Bishop Harvey’s message was heartwarming and filled with hope for all as she emphasized God’s faithfulness!” he said.

The bishops completed their open session Nov. 2 with prayers for peace during the coming U.S. election. Time magazine reports that the level of preparations for political unrest around an election are unprecedented in modern U.S. history.

Bishop Ken Carter, whose Florida Conference has promoted voter registration, read a prayer written by the Rev. Lisa Degrenia, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Sarasota, Florida.
“Bring forth unity and healing in our land,” Carter prayed. “Cover this election with fairness and dignity.”
Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!

Social Concerns
Pamela Coleman, chair of the history committee at Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church, speaks to visitors from the Social Justice Pilgrimage about the joys and struggles of the historic church in west Baltimore. The once bustling “Mother Church of African American Methodism” now hosts about 20 worshippers on Sundays. Photo by Vernon Jordan, UM News.

A whirlwind pilgrimage through Methodist history

Race, social justice and the role of the church in politics all played a role in the first Social Justice Pilgrimage, a day of visiting and learning about United Methodist-associated locales in Baltimore and Washington.
General Church
Council of Bishops President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton addresses a joint meeting of the Connectional Table and the General Council of Finance and Administration board on May 18 in Nashville, Tenn. He said United Methodist bishops want to join in the conversation of how to reduce the number of U.S. bishops strategically without damaging the church’s mission. Photo by Heather Hahn, UM News.

As church exits rise, proposed budget drops

In the wake of projected losses from church closures and disaffiliations, The United Methodist Church’s finance agency continues to shrink the proposed budget heading to General Conference.
Faith Stories
Garden girl Julia Eskridge shows off some of her gourds. During the COVID pandemic, visits to church members and neighbors often took place outside the front door. Photos courtesy of Kay Eskridge.

‘Garden girl’ brings joy, veggies to homebound

Visiting homebound church members may not be a popular pastime for most kids, but 7-year-old Julia Eskridge has been doing it since she was only 2. In the summer, she takes flowers and bags of produce grown in the family’s garden to those she visits.


United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved