|New UMW leader likes mix of devotion, action|
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 10, 2007 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
Harriett Olson believes that personal devotion and a call to action are a good mix.
Harriett Olson addresses directors of the United Methodist Board
of Global Ministries in her new role as top executive of the Women's
Division. A UMNS photo by Cassandra Heller.
That was one of the reasons she was attracted to United Methodist
Women and the position of chief executive of the Women’s Division,
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, which serves as UMW’s
Olson, 49, who was unanimously elected to that position on Aug. 17 by
the division’s board of directors, began her new job on Sept. 4. She
succeeded Jan Love, who is now dean of the Candler School of Theology in
Her election was confirmed by the entire Board of Global Ministries during its Oct. 8-11 annual meeting.
The New Jersey native has long been an active church volunteer,
despite a busy law career. After graduating from Houghton College in New
York in 1980 and from Harvard Law School in 1983, she joined the firm
of Pitney, Hardin, Kipp and Szuch in Morristown, N.J., where she was a
partner in the real estate department from 1991-96.
Olson was involved in a number of committees and activities as a
member of Morristown United Methodist Church and the denomination’s New
Jersey Annual (regional) Conference, including four years as chairperson
of the Conference Council on Ministries. On the international church
scene, she was a delegate to the 1988, 1992 and 1996 General Conferences
and a director of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship from
The Morristown church was one of five congregations originally
supporting the denomination’s Russia Initiative, and Olson was able to
visit with church partners there and be part of the committee
responsible for having the Disciple Bible Study translated into Russian.
"We're really about living a life that's becoming the Gospel. It's not just an individual life; it's a corporate life."
In 1996, in a "looking forward, look back" mood, Olson said she
wondered about "an opportunity to serve God in a different way" rather
than fitting such work into her spare time.
Neil Alexander, president of the Publishing House, recommended her
for the position there, and "it gave me the chance to work directly on
things that seemed very important to me," she said.
Olson plunged into Christian education and projects such as the
Spanish-language worship book and Korean-English United Methodist
hymnal. "I learned a lot from the academic work," she said.
Her personal experience with United Methodist Women includes being
part of the leadership team at the Morristown unit. Now, as the leader
of UMW, she wants to continue to meld the organization’s collected
memories and stories with its aspirations for the future.
"The work right in front of us is the work of negotiating that
connection," Olson explained. "We’re really about living a life that’s
becoming the Gospel. It’s not just an individual life; it’s a corporate
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audio: Harriett Olson on:
United Methodist Women's storied past
United Methodist Women's hopes for the future
Women's Division wants more action on Jena crisis
Olson elected to lead church's Women's Division
Olson nominated to lead church's Women's Division
United Methodist Women
Board of Global Ministries