On November 12, House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings spoke to the opening dinner of the first meeting of the new joint commissions, committees, agencies and boards of The Episcopal Church. “

Opening Remarks

Joint CCAB Meeting

St. Louis, Missouri

November 12, 21012

Good evening. Welcome to St. Louis.

Bishop Katharine and I, along with Bishop Ian Douglas and Josephine Hicks, have just returned from New Zealand where we attended a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. It was a fascinating and rewarding experience—even with two consecutive all-night flights on the way home.

While I was in New Zealand, I had the opportunity once again to reflect on our wonderful and peculiar Episcopal polity. One day, I struck up a conversation with a delightful attorney from Singapore. He was very well-informed about the United States—particularly about the politics of our election—and also knew volumes about the Anglican Communion. But when he asked me about my role as president of the House of Deputies, he could not believe what I told him. Clergy and laypeople voting to make decisions in the church?  Scores of lay and clergy volunteers appointed to official church commissions and committees without the approval of bishops? This could not be.

My new friend grew so incredulous at my description of how the Episcopal Church governs itself that he did the only thing he could think to do. He went and found a bishop—in this case, Bishop Ian Douglas—to tell him the truth. Only when Ian assured him that I was correct could my friend from Singapore believe my wild stories about the Episcopal Church.

I wish he could be here tonight to see this group assembled for the first time. You all—bishops, clergy and laypeople together—form the youngest and most diverse group of appointed leaders that the Episcopal Church has ever had serving on its commissions, committees, agencies and boards.

I received more than 750 nominations, and I was privileged to appoint 142 leaders to standing commissions and joint standing committees of General Convention and committees of the House of Deputies.

Thirty percent of you newly appointed leaders are age 40 and under, and nearly half—47%—are age 50 and under. What is perhaps even more important:  Sixty-six percent of you who are newly appointed leaders will be serving on a CCAB (that’s church talk for commission, committee, agency or board) for the first time.

We have vitally important work to do. General Convention meets every three years to do the church’s legislative business, but its efficacy depends largely on the elected and appointed leaders like you who accept the responsibility of carrying out its work between conventions. Our job is to follow through on the resolutions of General Convention by setting policy to guide the program work of churchwide staff and provide opportunities for Episcopalians across the church to participate in churchwide mission and ministry.

We are setting out to do this work during a time of great change for our church and our communities. During this triennium, a soon-to-be-appointed task force will examine the structure of our church and present a plan to the next General Convention for reforming the Episcopal Church’s structures, governance and administration. Be mindful of the mandate of your commission, committee, and board, and when appropriate, consult with the Structure Task Force or the SCSC so as to avoid duplication of efforts.

We are also setting out to do our work in the face of shrinking budgets.  We will have fewer in-person meetings and need to make better use of technology than ever before. Because so many of us clergy and laypeople are new to this work and these ways of working, we are bound to have some learning curve. I hope that you will be sure to come directly to me if you have questions or issues, if you want to talk about your work, or if for some reason you need to resign from your appointment.

I intend to pay close attention to the work of each standing commission, and to help me do that, I have appointed representatives to each body. My representatives, each of whom will serve a three-year term, have seat and voice. I will hold regular conference calls with them so that I can be sure I am staying up-to-date on your work and that I make myself available to help whenever you need me. Please don’t hesitate to email, call, Facebook or tweet me if I can assist you in any way.

Speaking of tweeting: I don’t have to tell most of you that social media is a vitally important way for us to communicate our work to the wider church and world. I encourage you to use social media to keep the church informed about your work, always respecting the confidentiality of your commissions’ deliberations and the privacy of your colleagues. As I told the Executive Council last month, my golden rule for social media is this: Be kind. If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t post it on social media. We’re going to hold a tweetup tomorrow night at 9:30 pm at a location to be announced tomorrow morning. A tweetup is a chance for all of us who tweet to meet face-to-face and talk about how we can use social media to advance our ministry. I want to extend a special invitation to all of you who don’t yet tweet, but who are curious and want to learn. Come to the tweetup and we will help you find out more and get started!

Friends, we are extraordinarily fortunate to serve as leaders in this church that includes bishops, clergy and laypeople together in its councils. I believe that together, we can best discern God’s dream for our church and for the world that we serve. But we must never forget that our Episcopal Church’s tradition of shared authority also means that we hold shared responsibility. The people of the church are counting on us to work hard and do a good job. Let’s get started.


Gracious God:
Grant us a new dream
to awaken our spirit,
to revive our faith,
to restore our wisdom.
Set us to work to value your gifts,
to transform our communities,
and live your resurrected life.
We ask it in the name of the God of love
God in community, Holy, and One.