Office of Public Affairs

Julia Ayala Harris, a deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, was reelected June 25 as president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church. Originally elected at the 80th General Convention in 2022, Ayala Harris’ second term as one of the denomination’s two presiding officers begins on June 28 at the close of the church’s 81st General Convention.

Ayala Harris, 43, is the first Latina and the first woman of color to serve as president of the House of Deputies. A first-generation Mexican American and the daughter of an undocumented immigrant, she was reelected from a field of three candidates on the first ballot. To ensure procedural impartiality, she yielded the chair to Crystal Plummer, a deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago during the vote.

Ayala Harris received 521 votes, 107 more than the required number to elect. Candidate Zena Link of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts received 241 votes; the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, a candidate from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, received 64 votes.

Ayala Harris’ reelection on June 25 was historic, marking a slate of three women of color vying for the leadership position. Ayala Harris can serve up to three consecutive terms, or, in her case, a total of eight years.

“As leaders in the church, we are in a moment of significant transition,” Ayala Harris wrote on her personal website. “We’re facing critical questions about how we will navigate the road ahead and co-create, with God and one another, the future of our beloved yet imperfect Episcopal Church. I have strived to embody these principles, providing strong, stable, and bold leadership through times of change and transition, through moments of progress and celebration, and through crises and challenges. Over the last two years, together, we have worked to address our challenges, not ignore them; to bring those challenges into the open, not discussed from the sidelines. We’ve begun addressing issues of accountability, transparency, and safety in our systems.”

The House of Deputies, comprising over 800 lay and clergy members, forms half of the church’s bicameral General Convention, which typically meets every three years to set The Episcopal Church’s mission priorities, budget, and policies. This convention convened after just two years due to the postponement of the 80th General Convention in 2021 because of COVID-19; that convention was held in the summer of 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Ayala Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity International University and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. She is a doctoral student in leadership development at the University of Oklahoma and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Her professional background includes working in social service organizations serving women, children, and people with disabilities and international aid work in Kenya and South Sudan from 2005 to 2008.

From 2015 to 2022, Ayala Harris served on The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, where she chaired the Joint Standing Committee for Mission Within the Episcopal Church. As president of the House of Deputies, she will serve as the Executive Council’s vice chair.

Ayala Harris resides in Norman, Oklahoma, with her husband, John Harris, a regional and city planning professor at the University of Oklahoma, and their teenage daughter, Isabella.

Ayala Harris will work alongside the newly elected presiding bishop, whose election will be held on June 26.

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