Editor’s note: An additional candidate, the Rev. Edwin Johnsonrector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, declared his candidacy for Speaker of the House of Representatives on June 3. A video from the June 13 Candidates Forum is here.
[Episcopal News Service] Four presidential candidates and one vice-presidential candidate from the Chamber of Deputies participated in an online forum June 4 to discuss their interest in churchwide leadership and their visions for the future of the Episcopal Church.
The forum was moderated by Reverend Albert Cutié, Rector of St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Plantation, Florida. It can be seen on youtube. A second Zoom forum for assistants and substitutes will be held at 2 p.m. EST on June 13.
The Chamber of Deputies must elect a new president and a new vice-president when the 80e General Convention meets July 8-11 in Baltimore, Maryland. The five declared candidates are Reverend Devon Anderson, Diocese of Minnesota; Julia Ayala Harris, Diocese of Oklahoma; Ryan Kusumoto, Diocese of Hawai’i, and the Most Reverend Ward Simpson, Diocese of South Dakota. The only candidate to publicly run for Vice President is Reverend Rachel Taber-Hamilton, Diocese of Olympia.
The optional candidate forums organized by the Chamber of Deputies were open to candidates who had registered for the forums before May 31. It is still possible for other applicants to apply, provided they submit their application to the General Convention Office by March 8 and agree to a background check.
The current Speaker of the Deputies, the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, is completing her third and final term and, under term limits established by the canons of the Episcopal Church, will step down at the end of General Convention. Byron Rushing of the Diocese of Massachusetts, the current vice president, is also completing his third term and can no longer run, so deputies will also elect his successor.
Cutié opened the first forum by questioning the candidates on the discernment that governed their decision to become candidates for the presidency and the vice-presidency.
Anderson replied that she declared her candidacy after praying and talking with others at the church. She said she also examined her own church-wide experience and felt “a real and lasting sense that my gifts were fully deployed when I was in the midst of church governance and the different expressions of that”.
Anderson, the daughter of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Bonnie Anderson, serves as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, and has served in the past on the Minnesota Diocesan Council and Standing Committee, including as as president. She is currently serving on The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.
Anderson is also a five-time Deputy Speaker of the General Convention and has served or chaired General Convention committees five times. Her complete candidate profile is available here.
Ayala Harris is also a member of the Executive Council, served from 2012-2015 on the task force to reinvent the Episcopal Church, and is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma.
Ayala Harris, who has two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector, said fellow Episcopalians have asked her to consider a bigger role in church leadership in recent years. As she prepared to conclude her six years on the Executive Council, “I wondered what might be the next step for me in the ministry,” she said, and through prayer she felt a call to stand for the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies.
“When Jesus asks you to introduce yourself and invites you to God’s mission, the faithful answer to God is to say ‘yes,'” she said, adding that as a Latin and secular woman, she could bring a fresh perspective to the role. . Her complete candidate profile is available here.
Kusumoto is another secular MP running for president. He has served on the Diocesan Council of Hawai’i, co-chairs the House of Representatives Asian Caucus, and served as a trustee of the Church Pension Fund for the past 10 years.
“I’m just super grateful for this church,” Kusumoto said when asked what motivated him to become a candidate. “Every part of my career, of my life experiences has been touched and guided by this church. … I think of those people out there, all of us, where this church is there for them when they need it, and I think about how I can be a part of it.
Kusumoto has been an MP since 2006. His full candidate profile is available here.
Discernment doesn’t happen on its own, Simpson told the forum. It comes through prayer and conversation, listening to friends and family “but also listening to the voice of God,” Simpson said as he described how he discerned the call to run for Speaker of the House of Representatives. .
Simpson has served as Dean of Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, since 2009. In addition to several terms on the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Executive Council, he has held numerous committee leadership positions in the House of Representatives since his first year as an MP in 1997. His full candidate profile is available here.
At 80e General Convention, the election of the vice-president will take place after the election of the president. Both positions cannot be held by members of the same order, clergy or lay. If a priest is elected president, for example, only lay deputies will be on the ballot for vice president.
Taber-Hamilton was the only vice-presidential candidate to register to participate in the June 4 forum. She is from the Shackan First Nation and has served on the Diocesan Council and Standing Committee of Olympia, including as President.
Taber-Hamilton said she has long felt called “to bring people together in the community and really appreciate each other’s diversity in the church, and I see the opportunity for that in the role of vice president.”
She has participated in former Episcopal delegations to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and meetings of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, or COP. Her complete candidate profile is available here.
The Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies is an unpaid volunteer position. Since 2018, the President is considered a contractual employee and receives fees, set annually by the Executive Council. The president’s compensation has been set at $233,166 for 2022, without other benefits.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].