[Episcopal News Service] There are at least two announced candidates for president of the House of Deputies, and more may come forward in the next two weeks, with opt-in candidate forums scheduled for June 4 and June 13 on Zoom.
“Thank you for the discernment that has led you to consider standing for election for president or vice president of the House of Deputies,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the house’s current president, said in a May 12 message that was addressed to potential candidates. “Please know that each of you is in my prayers as you continue to discern God’s call to you in this pivotal time for our church.”
Jennings is finishing up her third and final term as House of Deputies president and, according to term limits established by The Episcopal Church’s Canons, will step down at the end of the 80th General Convention, July 8-11 in Baltimore, Maryland. She has served as one of the church’s two presiding officers for 10 years – one year longer than expected because the pandemic prompted a one-year postponement of the 80th General Convention.
Julia Ayala Harris, a deputy from the Diocese of Oklahoma who serves on the church’s Executive Council, announced her candidacy to succeed Jennings in March. “I am uniquely positioned to hit the ground running as the next president of the House of Deputies,” Harris said in a post on her website, citing her role as chair of Executive Council’s Committee on Mission Within the Episcopal Church.
“I am already working alongside our presiding officers to make difficult and urgent decisions. I am ready and eager to serve our church in this pivotal time,” she said.
The Rev. Devon Anderson, a deputy and priest from the Diocese of Minnesota, announced her candidacy on May 20. She, too, serves on Executive Council and is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota.
“Navigating the church through times of dramatic change will offer both challenges and opportunities that will require open hearts, deep faith, and greater unity,” she said on her website. “My vision is grounded in relationships, collaboration, and trust-building across polarities that have, at times, vexed the church.”
Anderson’s mother, Bonnie Anderson, served as president of the House of Deputies from 2006-2012.
Earlier this week Jennings and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry endorsed a plan to scale-down the 80th General Convention, as the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly at large gatherings, continues more than two years into the pandemic. The convention will still take place in person, but with fewer attendees and over a shorter period – down from eight days to four.
Curry, Jennings and other church leaders now must determine which legislative priorities will be taken up by this General Convention; noncritical matters will be shelved until the 81st General Convention in 2024. Elections, including House of Deputies president and vice president, are among the actions that, they say, cannot wait.
Byron Rushing of the Diocese of Massachusetts, the current vice president, is completing his third term and cannot run again, so deputies will also elect his successor.
The General Convention Office facilitates all churchwide elections. Any deputy interested in being considered for president or vice president was required to submit an application to the General Convention Office by March 8 and agree to a background check. Those applicants still have time to decide whether or not to officially declare candidacies for the leadership roles.
Although Jennings is not involved in staging the elections, her May 12 message to potential candidates invited them to complete a voluntary survey by May 31 if they wanted their personal information and vision for the church to be included in online profiles of announced candidates. They also have until the end of the month to commit to participating in the two Zoom forums, at 2 p.m. Eastern June 4 and 2 p.m. Eastern June 13, moderated by the Rev. Albert Cutié, rector of St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Plantation, Florida.
The House of Deputies’ Rules of Order specifies that candidates for president must officially inform the house’s secretary of their intent to stand for election by General Convention’s third legislative day, with the election occurring on the fourth day. That timeline likely will need to be amended for the 80th General Convention, to accommodate convention’s shortened duration.
The election of vice president takes place after the election of president. The two positions cannot be held by members of the same order, clergy or lay. If a priest is elected president, for example, only lay deputies will be on the ballot for vice president.
This also will be the first time the House of Deputies will elect a new president since the 79th General Convention in 2018 approved a financial compensation plan for the position. Previously an uncompensated volunteer, the president is now considered a contractual employee and paid a fee for her work, set annually by Executive Council.
Jennings’ compensation is set at $223,166 for 2022, making her the lowest paid of the church’s officers. The president is considered an independent contractor and receives no employee benefits.
The vice president remains an unpaid volunteer position.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.