For the past twenty years, Rev. Cynthia Johnson-Oliver has woven the threads of ministry and advocacy, religion and law, and love and justice into a tapestry of hope that envisions the world, not simply as it is, but as it can be. Her life calling is preacher, poet, and public servant.
Born in Nashville, TN, she is the daughter of a Methodist pastor and granddaughter of the late Bishop Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. At the age of 19, she experienced “the call” to ministry, preached her first sermon, and became the first woman in her family’s five generations of Methodist clergy.
She received the AB degree magna cum laude in Comparative Religion from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.
Rev. Johnson-Oliver is an ordained Elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church currently serving “on loan” to the Virginia United Methodist Conference. Since 2007, she has been serving as Associate Pastor of Adult Discipleship at Annandale United Methodist Church, where she founded the Academy of Discipleship.
Rev. Johnson-Oliver has served in numerous clergy roles that have integrated faith and justice. As a national health care and disability rights advocate, she integrates faith, law, advocacy, and her personal experience confronting health care and disability challenges. Most recently, she served as National Organizer for Health Care Advocacy for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. As the national organizer, she co-organized a Prayerful Witness on Health Care at the Supreme Court, coordinated the John 10:10 Challenge and organized John 10:10 teams around the country, spoke at health care forums on the Affordable Care Act, and co-lead a national health care advocacy training in Washington, DC.
Additionally, Rev. Johnson-Oliver has served as National Director of Youth Ministry for the CME Church, Co-Pastor of the Black Church at Yale, and Coordinator of Faith-Based Outreach for the Democratic National Committee. While in law school, she served as Student Director of the Housing and Community Development Clinic and on the National Leadership Development Committee of the Children’s Defense Fund – Student Leadership Network for Children.
Rev. Johnson-Oliver has been a national speaker at churches, annual conferences, and workshops, including a city-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day worship service in Hartford, Connecticut, Guest Preacher at the CME East Tennessee Annual Conference, the New York Washington Annual Conference, and Ninth Episcopal District Leadership Training School, as well as the Plenary Speaker at a CME National Youth Conference. She recently spoke at health care forums sponsored by the General Board of Church and Society, Memphis Conference United Methodist Women, and Harvard Black Alumni Association.
Rev. Johnson-Oliver has written commentaries for Sojourners Magazine and the Virginia Advocate, and numerous blog posts. She is currently writing a book-length biography of her grandfather, Bishop Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. She has also studied in the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in poetry writing.
Rev. Johnson-Oliver lives in Arlington, VA with her husband, Davis Oliver, and their two daughters.