A Letter from The Lay and Clergy Delegates of the Texas Annual Conference

Date Posted: 11/5/2022

November 4, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,

We, the lay and clergy delegates of the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC, write this open letter to conference members to announce our new bishop and to announce our enthusiastic hope for what her leadership will bring to the conference. Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey will begin her tenure as resident bishop of the Texas Conference on January 1, 2023.
Bishop Harvey, who comes to us after serving 10 years as the Episcopal leader of the Louisiana Annual Conference, met with our delegation today, and spoke of her desire to protect the church’s unity, foster healing in our congregations, while also anchoring us in our theological task. She called upon us to remember our baptismal vows and (in the case of clergy) our ordination vows as we do the work of transforming lives and reshaping futures for Jesus Christ.
While most Bishops do not return to serve their home conference, Bishop Harvey embraces this privilege and challenge of coming home to the TAC. Familiarity, however, does not erase the learning curve that is an inherent part of leadership transition. She anticipates a season of deep listening as she learns the needs of an annual conference that will be strikingly different from the one she previously served as an associate pastor at Memorial Drive UMC and as the Director of the TAC Center for Missional Excellence.
Bishop Harvey, who was elected to the Episcopacy while serving as the General Secretary of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), acknowledges that much has changed since she last called Texas home. The delegation gives thanks that she’s been called home to lead us during this season of change. In a time of deep uncertainty in our denomination, delegates left this conversation with our incoming Bishop with a sense of much-needed hope.
Even amid the joy of the historic election of three bishops on the first ballot (including the first African-American woman and first Native American in the jurisdiction), lament and grief were still strong undercurrents throughout the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. In our time with Bishop Harvey, she addressed many tough topics and concerns – from injustice and equity to the decades-long denominational decline. Despite the weight of the conversation, she generated enthusiasm, a sense of renewed possibilities, and a call to remain faithful disciples who make disciples.
Delegation leader Rev. Tom Pace posed a question for us, that is worthy of the entire conference’s consideration: I wonder if we have the hope of Christ and are not doing anything with it?
After all, God assured us through the prophet Jeremiah that God has plans for us – to prosper us and not harm us – and to give us a future with hope. Truly, the TAC has much for which to be hopeful and grateful, while still remaining prayerful. We are hopeful that the gifts, competencies, and experiences Bishop Harvey brings will yield revitalization and re-imagination of existing ministries, as well as innovative, new expressions of what it means to be the church for such a time as this.
“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” – a refrain from the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness – may well have been the resounding sentiment during the meeting. We, your elected delegates, believe Bishop Harvey embodies the strength and hope we need to live into God’s future with hope.
May it be so.
Together in Christ,
The Lay and Clergy Delegates of the Texas Annual Conference