Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Becoming president of the House of Deputies has been a little bit like full immersion baptism. It’s great to be enveloped by the Holy Spirit, but you still have to come up for air.
For most of the last two months, I’ve been swimming in the process of making appointments to standing commissions and joint standing committees and working with the Presiding Bishop to make joint appointments to committees of Executive Council and the Resolution C095 structure task force. Our joint appointments to other bodies were confirmed by Executive Council this week, and we’ve committed to naming the structure task force mandated by Resolution C095 in December. I’ve enjoyed working with Bishop Katharine this summer, and am grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received from her and from the staff at the Episcopal Church Center, where I’ve visited several times since General Convention.
Thanks to the nearly 750 people who applied to serve, this triennium’s crop of new appointees is younger and more diverse than any that I remember. While I am president, I intend to build on the current momentum for young leadership, and I will be appointing a House of Deputies Study Committee on Young Leadership later this fall. In particular, I hope that we can cultivate even more young leaders with diverse personal experiences and professional lives outside the church. Few young people were nominated for more internally focused bodies such as the House of Deputies State of the Church Committee and the Joint Standing Committees on Nominations and Program, Budget and Finance. Service on these committees is limited to deputies, and I will ask the House of Deputies Study Committee on Young Leadership to explore ways to increase the number of young deputies and to consider how best to identify young leaders with the interest and gifts to serve on these essential committees.
I am grateful to all of the leaders, young and otherwise, who have agreed to serve the church in this triennium. But just including young leaders in old structures won’t work. Another thing that won’t work is sitting back and waiting for the 24 members of the soon-to-be-appointed structure task force to answer all of our questions and solve all of our problems. All of us, at every level of the church, need to look around with fresh eyes. What needs to be restructured? What can we change in order to gain new opportunities to proclaim the gospel and serve God’s mission? A number of dioceses and congregations have already rewired for mission, and we can learn from them. For example, the Diocese of Connecticut has redesigned its diocesan convention. This short video describes some of the process they have used to do a new thing.
One of the great moments in our House in Indianapolis was singing the hymn “Sing a New Church” after the unanimous adoption of Resolution C095 on the restructuring of our beloved Church. The words of the third verse bear remembering:
Trust the goodness of creation;
trust the Spirit strong within.
Dare to dream the vision promised,
sprung from seed of what has been.
I hope you will send me stories of new ways of doing ministry so that we can share dreams of the “vision promised” during the triennium. Please send your stories, pictures, and videos and any other ideas or comments to the House of Deputies email.
Restructuring begins at home–or at least it should. To that end, I’ve appointed a House of Deputies Study Committee to redraft the Rules of Order of the House of Deputies. This draft will, in due time, be submitted to the HOD Legislative Committee on Rules of Order, which will hold hearings, make revisions based on their deliberations, and submit the proposed amendments to the House of Deputies for debate and vote. I expect to seek the counsel of deputies about this revision on our forum, which will begin sometime in 2013. I hope that we will work cooperatively with the House of Bishops on this issue so that the Rules of Order of the two houses can be consistent with one another where appropriate, and the Joint Rules of Order can be updated to reflect new ways of doing business that will benefit both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops
It’s probably clear to you by now that the first few months of my triennium have been about getting the House in order so that we can do our work. As I’ve been doing this housekeeping, I’ve been praying about how I can serve the church by calling attention to our ministry in the world. And as I’ve talked to so many terrific young Episcopalians who are eager to serve, I’ve found myself thinking about the millions of children and youth in the countries of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion who don’t have the food or health care or education that every child deserves. The staff of both Episcopal Relief and Development and the Office of Government Relations in Washington DC have been most receptive to my early musings, and I look forward to working with them to advocate for children at risk and fight the poverty, hunger and disease that afflict them.
As the work of the new triennium begins in earnest with this week’s Executive Council meeting and the first meeting of many standing commissions, committees, and boards in November, please pray for me as I am praying for all of you. General Convention may not be in session, but your work as deputies remains essential. If you’re wondering what to do now that you’re home, have a look at my Top Ten List for deputies returning home. And if you’d like to know more about the rich tradition of the House of Deputies and our particular role in the Episcopal Church’s charism of shared leadership in God’s church, read this excellent paper by General Convention Executive Officer Gregory Straub.
It is a privilege to serve you as president, and I remain grateful for your trust and confidence. Please know that I will do everything in my power to bear witness to the risen Christ and work to strengthen the Episcopal Church we all love. I pledge to support you in your ministries to the best of my ability. I will continue to pray for you, the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, and the Presiding Bishop every day.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies
The Episcopal Church