Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
For Immediate Release
November 03, 2021
Bishop Bickerton elected as next president of UMC Council of Bishops
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Bishop Thomas Bickerton, the residential bishop of New York Conference, was elected today as the next president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church during the bishops’ online meeting via ZOOM.
"It is very humbling to be asked to offer my leadership at this point in the church’s life and work,” Bishop Bickerton said after the election. “While the road ahead will no doubt present us with great challenges, I celebrate a faith which offers the firm assurance that God will provide us with the light we need to find the next step on the path. My prayer is that with grace and deep respect, we will continue to find ways to love one another as a response to God’s great love for us. I pledge to lead out of that same conviction and covet the prayers of the church as we embark on this journey together.”
Also elected were:
• President-Designate: Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of East Ohio Conference
• Secretary: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston of South Carolina Conference
The current officers are Bishop Fierro Harvey, president; Bishop Bickerton, president-designate; and Bishop Tracy Malone as secretary. The new officers will take office at the end of the 2022 spring meeting of the Council of Bishops.
Bishop Harvey will serve as the immediate past president of the Council.
Bishop Harvey calls on COB to lead by love
As the COB began its virtual meeting Tuesday, the current president of the council, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey called her colleagues to a time of leading by the example of love.
The bishops, meeting online because of the continuing world-wide pandemic, heard Bishop Harvey say, “It’s time to face the reality that our Big Tent is having trouble holding up to the winds of change.”
Bishop Harvey serves the Louisiana Annual Conference, which has seen more than its fair share of heavy winds, rain, and flooding in recent years.
The bishop said that the denomination is in a waiting period that began last year and is now extended to at least 2022, when the postponed 2020 General Conference is scheduled to meet. During this time of waiting, she said, there is the “potential to shift our focus from the very people we are called to serve.”
Quoting John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, Bishop Harvey said that for him, 1 John 4:19 was the “sum of the whole gospel: ‘We love God because God first loved us!’”
She urged all United Methodists to do the work of shaping a new future for the church led by love.
“There are many conversations taking place, many narratives being formed,” Bishop Harvey said. “It is time for us to join together and shape the future for the continuing United Methodist Church.”
Noting that United Methodists are called to do this work with head connected to heart, she said she believed that this is what will keep many people “in The United Methodist Church.”
“Our Methodist DNA calls us to love – to experience love, to be love in a world that does not know love. Love calls for civil discourse. Love calls for a heart of peace,” Bishop Harvey said.
“We must use this time well – with or without a General Conference and out of our love for one another – put our rhetoric aside,” she said, “and begin to work together so that the gospel has a chance of being proclaimed.”
Bishop Harvey 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 the bishop 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.”
Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church