Good morning. Before I begin, I want to introduce you to my husband, Albert Jennings, who has never been to an Executive Council meeting before. Albert and I have been married for 46 years, and for 34 of those years, he has been the rector of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Macedonia, Ohio. He is also a CREDO faculty member and an active leader in our diocese and in the church. This is my forty-ninth Executive Council meeting—more on that in a few minutes—and Albert has kept the home fires burning for those forty-nine meetings, and I’m so glad you have a chance to meet him. He made a brief appearance at General Convention in 2012 when I was elected, and I have heard that he may also make an appearance this summer in Baltimore!

Welcome to San Juan! It is so good to be here with all of you in person again, at last. I pray that we and everyone who is making our visit possible will stay healthy and safe while we are here. I am especially grateful to the Diocese of Puerto Rico for making our meeting possible, and I am looking forward to having Bishop Rafael Morales with us and to Dr. Victor Feliberty-Ruberte for the time he will spend with us on Friday afternoon talking about colonialism and racism in Puerto Rico and in the Episcopal Church. I am sure it will be a valuable and meaningful presentation.

I hope that this conversation about the church’s complicity in colonialism will inform our continuing work to dismantle systemic racism and repent of the church’s role in Indigenous boarding schools. I also look forward to being able to think with you about the ways in which colonialism shapes relationships among the leaders of the Anglican Communion. As the Lambeth Conference approaches, I continue to think about, and maybe you do to, about how we might best invest the resources we have to spend in the Anglican Communion in light of both the legacy of colonialism and our clear commitment to opposing homophobia and transphobia.

But before the Lambeth Conference is upon us, there’s the 80th General Convention in Baltimore! Usually at the final meeting of Executive Council before General Convention, we are eagerly anticipating the work that will begin when we arrive in our host city and preparing for ten days or more of nonstop work together. This year, the rhythm is different. Legislative committees began meeting last year, and work began in earnest several months ago. I want to say a word of gratitude to all of you here who are officers and members of legislative committees. Thank you for that work.

This experiment—and it is an experiment—is one way to find out how our governance structures can be adapted and scaled to the reality of today’s church and the lives of its leaders, lay and ordained. In the House of Deputies, we’re learning a lot from this experiment. We’re learning that the online tools we have use to collaborate across time zones and geography need to be more intuitive and comprehensive; we’re learning that people’s lives, especially at this stage of the pandemic, don’t necessarily adapt to hours of legislative committee meetings and hearings in addition to all of their daily responsibilities; we’re learning that some committees, with modest workloads, are managing online work well, while others are straining under the load. And we are noticing that working together as we continue to experience pandemic-related grief and trauma is especially hard.

On the other hand, we are also seeing new relationships form via Zoom, new committee officers taking leadership and gaining experience and confidence in their roles, and new opportunities emerging for careful consideration and longer-term thinking about key initiatives and resolutions. We’re seeing the advantages of having months, not hours, to consider the potential benefits and unintended consequences of proposals on every aspect of our common life. And we are hopeful that having a General Convention that is eight days instead of nine or ten will ease the strain on people who must take time away from family and work responsibilities to attend.

As I said, it is an experiment, and I commend to you Resolution A097, submitted by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, which asks General Convention to direct Executive Council to evaluate this experiment thoroughly and professionally.

Although we have begun the legislative work of General Convention in advance, there is still a great deal to do to prepare for our time in Baltimore. As COVID cases rise across much of the United States, my office is fielding many questions from deputies about how we will protect ourselves and our hosts against COVID-19 at General Convention; how we will handle travel delays caused by the possible need to quarantine; what kind of access to testing and medical support we will have while we are on site; and how we will handle a possible large-scale outbreak. I am exploring ways to make sure that appropriate COVID protocols are in place in the House of Deputies, and we are working hard to respond to changing conditions.

We all want to go about our lives normally, and many people are able to accept the risk of contracting COVID-19. It is surely the case that vaccines, boosters, and antiviral treatments have saved many lives, and I urge everyone to be vaccinated and fully boosted. But in the House of Deputies, we hear regularly from fully vaccinated people whose lives have been seriously compromised by long COVID; from people who live with and care for immunosuppressed people and children too young to be vaccinated; and from people whose age and health puts them at particular risk for serious infection, even after they are vaccinated and boosted. As we seek to follow Jesus in caring for the most vulnerable among us, I am committed to a House of Deputies that considers the needs and experiences of those who are most at-risk and values the voices of those who are not yet able to put COVID-19 behind them.

This is, for me, a pivotal meeting, and I am glad that I am sharing it with all of you. I have served on Executive Council since 2006, and as I said earlier, this is my 49th, yes, I said 49th, and final meeting. When I was elected as the clerical representative from Province V, it was just weeks before General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and the church was beset by fear over what would become if we moved closer toward full inclusion for God’s beloved LGBTQ+ people and addressed, openly and honestly, the Church’s complicity in slavery and racism.

In the sixteen years since then—if my Executive Council career were a person, she would be preparing for her driver’s test!—we have continued to struggle with this fear of being a church that truly respects the dignity of every human being. It has not always been easy and we have made mistakes. But we have not quit. We have not finished the work—we will never finish the work—of making this church entirely fair, entirely just, entirely like the realm of God. But I am grateful to you, and to so many who came before you, for the privilege of working alongside you to make the Episcopal Church what God longs for it to be.

As I look forward to the end of my time as president of the House of Deputies, I also give thanks that I have served the House during a pivotal time of generational transition in our church’s leadership. For the past ten years, I have been fortunate to know, to appoint, to support, and to work alongside many leaders whose lives, experiences and perspectives the Episcopal Church has too often disregarded—young people, laywomen, genderqueer people, people of color, and so many others. Some of them are here with us today, and many, many more of them will be with us in Baltimore.

I can tell you two things from my work with these new leaders. The first is that the church is in good hands. People like me—people who have served faithfully for decades—can step aside knowing that the church we love will be well-tended, well-stewarded, and well-loved by those who come after us.

The second is that the new generation of leaders who are rising up to lead our church will change it, and that is a good thing—that is all to the good. I am inspired by the love that so many of these younger people have for our church, and their creative thinking about how to change our governance structures while holding fast to our identity as a church where authority is shared among laypeople, clergy and bishops. We are no longer as large a church as we once were, we are no longer bound by needing to work only in face-to-face meetings and only in formal committee structures, and we are no longer well-served by many of the 20th century institutional structures that we still inhabit even when they hinder us and perpetuate the systemic racism we are committed to ending.

This change will not come easily—as you have probably heard me say before, my mother used to say that no one likes change except a wet baby. But change will come, and I am eager to see these young leaders make it happen.

Until then, I look forward to serving with you here, one last time. Thank you, as always, for your faithful service to The Episcopal Church, Executive Council and the work we have shared these many years. It has been a privilege, and I have been in great company.