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BULLETIN: Harris Elected to Lead Deputies

By Kirk Petersen

On the third ballot, the House of Deputies elected Julia Ayala Harris of the Diocese of Oklahoma to serve as president through the end of the 81st General Convention in 2024. She will be eligible for reelection for up to two more terms, and thus could serve until 2030.

Harris was one of five candidates for the position. The other candidates were the Rev. Devon Anderson, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Edwin Johnson, Diocese of Massachusetts; Ryan K. Kusumoto, Diocese of Hawaii; and the Very Rev. Ward H. Simpson, Diocese of South Dakota.

The duties of the president extend far beyond banging the gavel at General Convention. The incumbent is the second-ranking officer of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), the name given 201 years ago to the New York corporate entity that runs the business of the Episcopal Church. The individual is empowered to sign contracts and checks on behalf of DFMS, and serves as vice president of the Executive Council, essentially the church’s board of directors.

Major announcements typically are made over the signatures of both the presiding bishop, currently the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, and the president.

It’s more than a full-time job, and yet was uncompensated until 2018, when General Convention passed a resolution establishing “director and officer fees” for the president, in lieu of a formal salary. The provision was a compromise that persuaded the House of Bishops to compensate the head of the other side of leadership, after voting down proposals three times in two decades.

Jennings, who served most of her tenure without compensation, is paid $223,166 annually as an “independent contractor,” meaning she does not receive the benefits package enjoyed by employees. (As a rule of thumb, the value of a benefits package is often about a third of the annual salary.) It’s a substantial income, but even setting aside the lack of benefits, in nominal dollars Jennings is the lowest-paid of the seven top officers of DFMS.

In the course of a normal triennium, the president makes about 700 appointments to committees, task forces, and offices.

The House of Deputies’ vice president will be elected July 10. Under the canons, the uncompensated vice president must be from the opposite order from the president. The vice president automatically ascends to the presidency if the president does not complete the term.

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The campaign was a low-key affair. | Kirk Petersen photo

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