Briefly describe your experience in church governance.
I have been actively engaged in the ministries, representation, and organizational governance of the Episcopal Church for over 20 years. I have served five terms as President of the Standing Committee of my diocese, with a total of 7 years as a member. I served for 3 years on Diocesan Council and am currently serving on our Commission on Ministry. I served in a three year term as representative of the bishop’s office to the Faith Advisory Board of the Governor of the State of Washington. I served as First Clergy Alternate to General Convention in 2015, followed by two terms as a Clergy Deputy (2018 C2 and 2022 C1). During the 79th (2015) General Convention, I sat on the HoD Legislative Committee of the Church Pension Fund, followed by serving on the Joint Standing Committee for Nominations as a deputy to 79th General Convention. I am currently the Chair of the HoD Legislative Committee (#20) on Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation. I served as Secretary of the Province VII Executive Committee from 2015-2018 and was President of the Board of the Mission to Seafarers in Seattle (representing our diocese) from 2013-2016. I served as co-chair of our diocesan Bishop Search Committee (2006-2007).
Why do you want to serve as Vice President of the House of Deputies?
In the event that a lay deputy is elected to serve as President of the House of Deputies, I would be deeply honored to serve in the support role of Vice President as a representative of the clerical order. Firstly, I am an impassioned champion of lay ministries and lay leadership in the life, worship, and governance of the Episcopal Church. I believe that good leaders are also good followers, and I would be genuinely delighted to be a follower of a lay order presidency of the HoD – to provide support as may be helpful, to take up work as may be ascribed to me, and to lend my gifts in support of the work and governance of the Episcopal Church as may best serve its need. I believe that the coming years will call upon the gifts of all our leadership, both lay and ordained as we are increasingly called to explore creativity and innovation in how we are the Church, humility in how we lead the Church, and deepening our sense of love for and connection with God and the diversity of Creation. To me, the Vice President’s position potentially lends itself to helping support efforts to revitalize old connections/networks and help create new ones as we venture into the future together as an international and diverse community of faith.
Describe your most meaningful experience in a leadership or legislative role, and explain its relevance to your candidacy. (This experience need not have taken place within the church.)
I am an Indigenous priest in the Episcopal Church. As a Shackan First Nation person, I was the first known Indigenous person ordained by my diocese in 2003 in its then 150 year history. In the fall of 2019, a group of clergy and lay leaders of color in my diocese came together of our own accord for the first time in about ten years. Due to changes in the diocesan budget accompanied by a transition in diocesan priorities and the passing of former leaders of color, we people of color were feeling isolated, marginalized, and forgotten.
During and after our diocesan convention that fall, I began to speak truth in public way about this situation following many years of many of us attempting to address the issues privately with leadership. My peers of color recognized the risk of the public stance I had initiated, so they had organized to meet with me in a show of support. We began to meet regularly after that and to expand our gathering with additional lay and ordained Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). With their support and empowerment, I was entrusted to establish and develop a new series of networks of people of color in our diocese that I called, Circles of Color. I created a logo, developed an email list, established a Facebook page, and organized an online retreat. The Circles were already meeting on Zoom before the pandemic began in March of 2020. Our advocacy work exponentially increased in support after the murder of George Floyd. By the next diocesan convention that fall, Circles of Color had six substantive resolutions ready htat would transform the work and leadership of the diocese through enhancing BIPOC representation on our governing bodies, making changes to diocesan canon and to the diocesan budget, and building greater awareness of the experiences and needs of the people of color in our diocese. I organized a moderated truth-telling session that was a part of convention, and all six of the Circle of Colors resolutions were passed by convention that year and five more the following year.
I served as Coordinator of Circles of Color until the spring of 2022, when one of our most important initiatives was fulfilled in the hiring of a full time diocesan Canon for Multicultural Ministry and Community Engagement. I believe that all of this work is profoundly relevant to my tasks and leadership within the House of Deputies. The church cannot continue to do business as usual. We must continue to develop meaningful changes towards greater inclusion and better meet the needs of our diverse member ship, more fully appreciating the perspectives and experiences of the many nations represented within the Episcopal Church and within the important governing and advocacy work of General Convention.
What are the most significant challenges facing our church and how do you propose to address them?
I believe that there three basic categories of challenges that the church must courageously meet for a sustainable future, a future that must be relevant in the lives of people and in our global partnerships. Firstly, the Episcopal Church is historically a colonial enterprise, and it must stop the continuing colonization of people of color in how we do leadership formation, both lay and ordained. Secondly, we must become much more facile in our ability to adapt the models of leadership and congregational development to meet the needs of the reality of the contexts in which the church serves. Finally, the direction of the energy of our work and governance (and budget) must change from one of inwardly-focused domestic/American preservation to expansively-focused innovation on the world stage – we must better utilize, engage, and energize our international Episcopal networks and global partnerships.
With regard to leadership formation in the church, we must prioritize and support educational programs that are affordable to under-resourced communities and that can be accomplished locally as context specific to the needs of a given community. At this time, innovative leadership training initiatives are supported through grants outside of the triennial budget and do not seem to be a priority of General Convention. I would work to identify and support innovative leadership development programs across the church towards creating a centralized resource list of both programs in search of development resources and potential donors/grant sources. In whatever ways are appropriate and canonical within my role as Vice President of the HoD, I would serve to educate the church about evolving leadership education programs and advocate for their funding.
Secondly, I have long felt that the church would benefit from the creation of a diocesan level assessment tool to better evaluate the realities, local context, and needs of congregations. As a church, we cannot simply throw programmatic spaghetti on a wall and hope something sticks. Contextualized assessments can help identify what needs to be let go and what needs to be claimed towards equipping lay leaders and clergy with the skills/resources that would actually benefit them. I would like to put together a team of folks from across the church to work on such an assessment tool.
To my third and final point of challenge, the church has a nearly untapped wealth of incredible skills, talents, and broad ranging experience in the lay and ordained leadership of the international Episcopal community. I sometimes wonder what the dominant culture church of General Convention could engage if we topically centered (rather than marginalized) countries such as Haiti, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Cuba, or any of the countries of Province VII – Colombia, Dominican Republic, Central Ecuador, Littoral Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico, or Venezuela. Even topically centering dioceses like Hawaii, Alaska, and Navjoland Area Mission might give us an important education in the diversity among congregational and leadership models, problem solving, local challenges, and needs around equity and advocacy – topics that should concern the church overall. We are a broad and diverse church, and none of us are alone. Yet, a strange and unfortunate (uniquely) American ethnic of rugged individualism and independence serves in many ways to disconnect us from the very sources that can and would inform our transformation as a church.
As Vice President, I would be informed by the international work I have done on behalf of the church. I am currently active within the networks of the Anglican Communion as a representative from TEC to the Anglican Indigenous Network. I have served as representative on the delegation of Anglican Consultative Council to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW 66) and was honored to be on the delegation representing the Office of the Presiding Bishop to Conference of Partners meeting on Climate Change (COP26). I have also represented the Episcopal Church as a delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I enormously appreciate the value of global community and of the power of international relationships to leverage change. In light of the reality of forces that affect all of life on earth – including war, climate change, and pandemics – the Episcopal Church must continue to strengthen our relationships and be intentional about learning and sharing what we learn at every level of the church.
In my role as Vice President, I would work to create opportunities and forums (both within and outside of General Convention meetings) for sharing and engaging the stories, wisdom, and experiences of each of our nations and regions. Through online discussion forums, special speaker panels, educational materials that can be shared, and social media outlets there are many ways that I would like to explore and deepen our collective awareness of who we are as a church and what we have to offer one another. There is so much enrichment just waiting for us to discover one another as a church.
Are there specific changes you would like to make in the way the House of Deputies functions or the role the president and vice president play in the wider church?
I would like the Vice President’s role both within and outside of the meeting of General Convention to be one of connectivity, connecting with people, connecting people with one another, encouraging innovative partnerships, supporting the development of international community forums, and helping to centralize collective resource sharing for education and mutual benefit. I am very excited by all that the VP role could provide to bring people together and cultivate the actualization of a truly known and shared experience of Beloved Community.
Is there anything else voters should know about you?
I love wildlife. I love the planet. I love the universe we exist within, and a love the God who holds it all and is in it all. I am an passionate advocate for environmental justice, an environment which – by the way – includes people and is never separate from our most authentic understanding of humanity.