PHoD Candidates Offer Brief Video Pitches

By Kirk Petersen

On Saturday morning, July 9, after some routine preliminaries, the House of Deputies will elect a successor to the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, who is term-limited after serving 10 years as president of the House of Deputies. There will not be much time for campaigning in Baltimore, so deputies need to do their research before they arrive.

The PHoD is the second-ranking officer of the church — a demanding role that was uncompensated until the 2018 General Convention, because of the decades-long reluctance of some members of the House of Bishops to enhance the stature of the other legislative house. 

The compromise reached in 2018 is that the PHoD receives compensation as an independent contractor, without employee benefits. Jennings was paid $216,666 as of 2021 — a tidy sum, but only the seventh-highest cash compensation among top officers of the church, disregarding the benefits package that Jennings alone does not receive.

There are five declared candidates for PHoD — most or all of whom would be unable to serve in a more-than-full-time role without compensation. In addition, there is one declared candidate for vice president — an uncompensated position, but the automatic successor if the president leaves office before the end of a term.

The president and vice president must be from different orders, which means that if one of the three clergy candidates is elected president, the Rev. Rachel K. Taber-Hamilton will be disqualified from running for vice president.  

Additional candidates may emerge for either president or vice president, although they would have to come from among the small but unknown number of people who have already passed background checks. Candidates for president would have to declare by noon on Friday, July 8, the first legislative day. Candidates for vice president must declare by 6 p.m. Saturday, after the president has been chosen from either the clergy or lay order.

The candidates took part as a group in two pre-convention forums. Deputy News, the official publication of the House of Deputies, has now published brief, one-on-one video interviews with the candidates, as seen below.

Each of the candidates was asked the same two questions by the Rev. Albert Cutié, the moderator:

  • What are the biggest problems facing the Episcopal Church that can be tackled via the legislative process?
  • Why should deputies choose you, and not one of the other candidates?

The candidates were provided the questions in advance. The written statements below have been lightly edited and condensed by TLC, and thus will not precisely track the videos.


Devon Anderson
Diocese of Minnesota

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Devon Anderson: The Presiding Officer’s Working Group on Truth Telling, Reckoning, and Healing has presented this general convention with six pathways – things we can do together to begin chipping away at racism, which is a sin that hurts everybody and diminishes all of us.

I’ve had one foot in church governance for almost 25 years at every level of church life and governance. I think the church is headed into some really significant leadership transition across the board. And through experience, I can offer some continuity, and strength, and inclusivity, and some clear and solid processes.

I’m also bringing a big relational web from across the church that I’ve worked on and built over time. And then through those relationships I’ve kind of learned how to lead in an approachable, collaborative way, and kind of learning to be a trusted person and a really good listener.

I have a lot of experience in church governance, in the United States Senate, and community organizing, and I know how to navigate innovation and adaptive change to really big, unwieldy systems.

Julia Ayala Harris
Lay Order
Diocese of Oklahoma

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Julia Ayala Harris: As a Mexican American woman from a working-class family who was not raised in the Episcopal Church, there are several issues that are important to me. Racism and white supremacy are addressed in the resolutions from the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing, which I also serve on. 

We also have two big evangelism resolutions that point us toward opportunities for future church growth and revitalization. 

I believe that I am uniquely positioned to hit the ground running as the next president of the House of Deputies. Because as chair of an Executive Council Joint Standing Committee, I am already working alongside our presiding officers to make difficult and urgent decisions. 

I have a broad cultural perspective having lived in multiple dioceses, as well as in Kenya and South Sudan. I have more than two decades of experience working in the nonprofit sector. I hold a master’s of public administration, and I study churches and congregations as a doctoral student. 


Edwin Johnson
Diocese of Massachusetts

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Edwin Johnson: Our contexts are not safe. They aren’t safe for so many of our LGBTQ siblings. Our contexts aren’t safe for women and for other people who seek their reproductive health. They aren’t safe for so many of my parishioners and family and siblings seeking asylum, and who have tried to immigrate to this country and other places. 

I think about myself. I have a ton of privilege, and nonetheless they aren’t safe for me at times as a Black and Latino man. Right now I’m chairing [the House of Deputies committee] on Social Justice and United States Policy. And we’re excited about legislation coming forward around gun safety, around immigration, around healthcare, around school-to-prison pipeline. 

I’ve been at this for a really long time. Since the 1997 convention in Philadelphia, I’ve chaired multiple committees. And through my work with Union of Black Episcopalians and Black and Latino ministries, I’ve had the chance to bring together large bodies of folks in our church. As a community organizer, so much of my work is about talking to enough people so you can get them in the room and figure out how to have great impact. 


Ryan Kusumoto
Lay Order
Diocese of Hawaii

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Ryan Kusumoto: COVID-19 reminded us how connected we are to one another and that now more than ever we need to care for each other. But we need to address institutional racism and oppression. First, I think we need to focus on truth-telling resolutions. We need to hear the voices and stories of marginalized communities and not sweep them under the rug. I’ve seen first-hand here in Hawaii the benefit of placing power where the pain is.  

We need to work on more ways to bring more voices to the legislative process. We can work on systems that allow for written testimony, for example, for those who cannot afford to come to General Convention. 

I’m confident that whoever is called into this position will bloom where they are planted. I know that this position is not about me. This position is about working together. It’s about us as one team. I believe that we can do this work through using grace and kindness and really striving for what we call here in Hawaii, ohana, a place where everyone feels safe and no one is left behind.


Ward Simpson
Diocese of South Dakota

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Ward Simpson: As we continue to move forward in this new COVID reality, one of the biggest challenges we have is we don’t understand fully what that change means for us. How do we provide the flexibility, the infrastructure, the support to enable our congregations to meet, and our diocese to meet those challenges in new ways? 

At Calvary, we went to a fully online ministry in two weeks and reinvented how we had to do everything. What can General Convention do to help support our congregations, especially smaller congregations that may not have the resources to be able to pull things like this off? 

A second area I see General Convention taking a lead role in is racial reconciliation. I see us as General Convention having a strong role to play in enabling that, providing that infrastructure, that support that’ll make that happen. 

My knowledge base, my history with the church – I think I bring a lot to the table. If people believe that I have that right combination of temperament, vision, experience, faith, then I’m your person. If I’m not, then let’s together find the person who does. 


Candidate for Vice President

Rachel K. Taber-Hamilton
Diocese of Olympia

Complete candidate profile


Condensed video excerpt:

Rachel K. Taber-Hamilton: Legislative initiatives can be a really important way for the Episcopal Church to both shape and express its identity, and continue to draw the church out of its own colonial history, in a mindful way. 

The second thing that’s critical is any legislation around creation care. Any legislation that continues to bring us into faithful covenant with God through the ways that we relate to the earth, and especially within the reality of human-induced climate change. 

I think we’re going to continue to see vital legislation on recognizing our global community as a church, and our impact in the world. There is a greater awareness than ever before of the international character of the Episcopal Church. That ought to increasingly inform our identity as a church, and the need for advocacy on issues like resource extraction, indigenous rights, carbon emissions, and global distribution of wealth.

I’ve been active as an Indigenous priest in the church and Indigenous ministries throughout the Anglican Communion for 20 years. Indigenous leaders throughout the Communion are going to be very important partners moving forward. 


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