By Linda Unger*
July 31, 2012—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and the General Board of Global Ministries of which it is a part, bade Godspeed yesterday to Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, outgoing head of the global relief and development organization of The United Methodist Church.
Harvey, who has been with UMCOR just over two years, was elected a bishop in the church’s South Central Jurisdiction on July 19 and immediately was assigned to head the Louisiana Annual Conference. She left New York City, where UMCOR is headquartered, for Baton Rouge yesterday to take up that post.
In a celebration before her departure, UMCOR and Global Ministries staff praised Harvey’s leadership and recalled how the relief organization responded during her tenure to natural and civil emergencies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States.
Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries general secretary, addressed the staff and said, “Cynthia put her firm administrative hand to the tiller and kept the work steady and the UMCOR ship on course. I think she fell in love with it because UMCOR is a great ministry of deep value, and Cynthia has a deep sense of mission.”
Harvey began her service with UMCOR in 2010, following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti and the death in that disaster of her predecessor, Rev. Sam Dixon, and of the head of Volunteers in Mission, Rev. Clinton Rabb.
While still managing the response to that complex emergency, UMCOR, under Harvey’s leadership, responded the following year to the unprecedented triple disaster in Japan and the deadly spring storm season in the US South. Dozens of other emergencies, from Alabama to Zimbabwe, occupied the organization’s energies in this period.
In countless ways, said Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR’s International Disaster Response executive, Harvey showed she was “willing to trade comfort, fatigue, or precious time to build partnerships, spread the word, and make difficult decisions to promote the importance of UMCOR’s work around the world.”
Harvey told her UMCOR staff and her colleagues at Global Ministries, “Working with each of you has been an incredible blessing to me and has only prepared me for what is yet to come… You’ve taught me that the world is a big place and… that our ability to reach out to the world in mission is what we’re called to do.”
Speaking of her new appointment, she said, “I am so excited to be in Louisiana, to be in the local church, and to try to make a difference for the church and the world….”
UMCOR Strategic Plan
Over the past year, Harvey and the UMCOR leadership team drafted a strategic plan designed to align the organization’s strengths and build on its experience to make it increasingly effective as The United Methodist Church’s relief and development arm.
Kemper extoled that effort and reaffirmed the General Board of Global Ministries’ “strong support” for UMCOR’s ongoing work.
Very recently, he said, UMCOR received a consultant’s proposal to continue and strengthen the strategic plan. “UMCOR will implement those recommendations, guided by its leadership team, and we will continue to move forward,” he said. He announced that until a deputy general secretary is named to succeed Harvey he will be UMCOR’s acting head and will continue to advance the plan.
Kemper thanked Harvey for her accomplishments and for her “vision and strength of character” and told her, “[W]e are depending on you to remain an ardent ambassador for mission and humanitarian relief in the South Central Jurisdiction and throughout the church.”
He closed his remarks by reading from a message from Bishop Bruce Ough, current president of the General Board of Global Ministries’ Board of Directors, who wrote Harvey:
You came to the post [at UMCOR] at a time of great disruption, grief and uncertainty in the unit. You have led with clarity of vision and determination of purpose. UMCOR is one of the signal ministries of the entire denomination. You have reinforced and strengthened the signal position UMCOR plays in ‘connecting the church in mission.’ Thank you for faithful and fruitful service. I look forward to you serving with the same energy, vision and distinction as a bishop of the Church.
*Linda Unger is UMCOR’s staff editor and senior writer.