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PHoD Forum and a Third Candidate for VPHoD

By David Paulsen
Episcopal News Service

Top churchwide elections are generating increased interest in the run-up to next month’s 81st General Convention, most recently with a third candidate declared for House of Deputies vice president and candidate forums beginning next week.

In the latest announcement, the Rev. Ruth Meyers, a Church Divinity School of the Pacific professor and a six-time deputy from the Diocese of California, said in a May 22 Facebook post that she intended to run for vice president. She joins the Rev. Steve Pankey of the Diocese of Kentucky and the Rev. Charles Graves IV of the Diocese of Texas, who declared their candidacies earlier this month.

“My experience in churchwide leadership and as a seminary professor gives me a unique perspective, and my commitment to collaborative leadership will make me effective in a supporting role,” Meyers said. “I will work with the president of the House of Deputies to foster a broad range of voices and perspectives in our governance, and to ensure clarity and transparency in communication.”

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris, who is concluding her first term in office, also has drawn two challengers so far: the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, a priest in the Diocese of Olympia who is the deputies’ sitting vice president, and Zena Link, a lay deputy from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts who previously served seven years on the church’s Executive Council.

Ayala Harris, Taber-Hamilton and Link have agreed to participate in a presidential candidate forum to be held online at 3 p.m. Eastern June 8 by Virginia Theological Seminary and the Deputies of Color, an umbrella group that combines the four caucuses that are organized around the church’s ethnic ministries. Dean Ian Markham will moderate.

Joe McDaniel, a deputy from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast who serves as convener of the Deputies of Color, told Episcopal News Service by email that the forum’s details are still being finalized, though he was able to share preliminary information about the format.

“The questions will be solicited from across the church. We will ask the deputies and any other interested Episcopalians to submit questions in advance, ” McDaniel said. “From there, approximately eight or nine questions will be chosen, and each of the three candidates will have up to three minutes to answer.”

An incumbent House of Deputies president or vice president has faced a challenger only three times since 1970. Taber-Hamilton has said she does not intend to run for vice president if she loses the presidential race, ensuring at least one new leader will be elected in the House of Deputies – at the same General Convention where the House of Bishops is set to elect a new presiding bishop.

General Convention is The Episcopal Church’s primary governing body, dividing its authority between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies. It typically convenes every three years in a different host diocese, and in addition to governance functions, the churchwide gathering of up to 10,000 people also serves as a hub for networking, formation and discernment over the church’s doctrinal stances and policy positions on a range of issues, from immigration to prayer book revision.

The 81st General Convention is scheduled for June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Many bishops and deputies will arrive days earlier for committee meetings and pre-convention events, including candidate forums.

With Presiding Bishop Michael Curry scheduled to conclude his nine-year term on October 31, a slate of five bishops will stand for election June 26 in the House of Bishops, after which the House of Deputies will be asked to vote to confirm the result. The candidates are Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker, Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright and Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York.

The presiding bishop candidates are scheduled to address bishops and deputies in person at 4 p.m. June 21 at a two-hour session in Louisville that also will be livestreamed.

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, General Convention’s executive officer who also serves as House of Deputies secretary, has scheduled a forum for the candidates for House of Deputies president at 2 p.m. June 21 in Louisville. A separate forum for vice presidential candidates is expected but has not yet been announced.

Early this year, before the incumbents faced any challengers, Barlowe’s office released a tentative timeline that would have set the presidential election for June 26, the same day as the presiding bishop election. The vice presidential election would have occurred two days later, on the last legislative day.

Since then, the deputies’ Dispatch of Business Committee and Bryan Krislock, the house’s parliamentarian, have revised the proposed schedule to move both elections earlier in the week, with the vote for president on June 25 and the vote for vice president on June 27. Those dates won’t become official until the House of Deputies approves its calendar on its first legislative day, June 23.

“Several factors go into the calendaring for the House of Deputies, which have been discussed for months and well before additional candidates were announced,” Krislock told ENS by email. Those factors include avoiding overlap with the presiding bishop election, the challenges of scheduling a shorter-than-usual six-day convention and the need to keep the final legislative day open for last-minute business.

Krislock also noted that the house must provide time for potential vice presidential candidates time to come forward after the presidential election. Episcopal Church Canons require the president and vice president to be from different orders, clergy and lay. No lay deputies have yet declared candidacies for vice president, though some would be expected to come forward if the house elects a president from the clergy order.

This year will mark the first time an incumbent House of Deputies president has sought re-election since the role became a paid position. In 2018, General Convention adopted a plan to pay the president as a contractor “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.” The president’s pay in 2024 is $236,757, with no other employee benefits.

In addition to chairing the House of Deputies during convention, the president is canonically required to serve as vice chair of Executive Council and is responsible for appointing hundreds of people to interim bodies and legislative committees. The president also travels throughout the church, speaking at conferences, representing the church at official functions and other gatherings and meeting with deputies and other Episcopalians.

The vice president has far fewer canonical duties and responsibilities, and it remains an unpaid position.


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