President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to Deliver Episcopal Divinity School Commencement Address

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings

The Rev. Cn. Malcolm Boyd, Community Organizer Janet Penn, former Cambridge YWCA Director Julia Perez Kennedy, and The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga also to be honored.

Cambridge, MA (April 28, 2014) -- President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings ’77, the first ordained woman to hold that position, will address Episcopal Divinity School graduates at the seminary and theological graduate school’s Commencement Exercises on May 22.

EDS President & Dean The Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale will present Jennings with a Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa) at the ceremony, which will be held at 2pm at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational. Commencement information is available at

EDS will also present honorary degrees to: The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, writer and civil rights activist; Janet Penn, founder and president of Youth LEAD, a Sharon, Massachusetts-based community organization that is a nationwide model of creating a culture of pluralism in communities; Julia Perez Kennedy ’99, former executive director of the YWCA Cambridge and women’s rights advocate; and The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, former Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi and EDS Presidential Fellow.

As president of the House of Deputies, Jennings is committed to fostering a new generation of leaders in the Episcopal Church and encouraging the church to stand with children in need through the actions of General Convention and the work of Episcopalians throughout the church. She works closely with the Presiding Bishop and other church leaders for wholeness, reconciliation, and justice in the Episcopal Church and the world. 

Jennings is a priest, ordained in 1979, and an eight-time deputy from the Diocese of Ohio. She is also the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council. She previously served for 17 years as canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Ohio and for nine years as associate director of CREDO Institute Inc., a church wellness program.

From 2006-2012, Jennings served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, which governs the church between General Conventions. She has held many elected and appointed leadership positions since her ordination, including chairing the General Convention legislative committees on Structure, World Mission, Communications, and Canons. She is a founding steering committee member of the Chicago Consultation, which supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians.

Jennings is a graduate of Colgate University and Episcopal Divinity School. She lives in Sagamore Hills, Ohio, with her husband, Albert, who has been a parish priest for 35 years. They have been married for those same 35 years. Their son, Sam, lives nearby and is a sound engineer. Their beloved daughter, Lee, died in 2010.

The Rev. Cn. Malcolm Boyd was born in 1923 in Buffalo, New York, and was raised in New York City and in Colorado. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1955 after a successful career in advertising and television. Time magazine dubbed him “the coffeehouse priest” in the sixties when he read his prayers accompanied by some of America’s best-known musicians. Boyd has long served the cause of civil rights, commencing with a Freedom Ride in 1961. He is a writer of several best-selling books, including Are You Running With Me, Jesus?Take Off the Masks, and As I Live and Breathe: Stages of an Autobiography

Boyd has served parishes and college chaplaincies in Indianapolis, Colorado, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Santa Monica, California. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his life-partner of 21 years, author, editor, and therapist Mark Thompson. Boyd is now poet/writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Episcopal Divinity School will award him a Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa).

Janet Penn is founder and president of Youth LEAD, a Sharon, Massachusetts, based community organization that inspires and mobilizes youth leaders to reflect upon their values and beliefs, connect with others across difference, and act together to address local and global change. Formerly known as Interfaith Action, Youth LEAD was founded in 2004 and has grown into a nationwide model for creating a culture of pluralism in communities.

Youth LEAD has gained national and international recognition from academia, including the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, in the media, featured on Linda Ellerbee’s Nick News as “youth waging peace” in the name of religion, and with international partnerships, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Jordanian Coexistence Research Center. Youth LEAD was recently called upon by the U.S. Department of State to host visiting delegations of scholars and religious leaders from the Muslim world to learn how, using Youth LEAD skills, Muslim-American youth integrate their identities and navigate across religious and cultural divides. Ms. Penn was sent by the U.S. Department of State to Jordan and Egypt, as part of their program “Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the U.S.”

She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College and Master of Business Administration and Master of Social Work in Community Planning degrees from Boston College.

Episcopal Divinity School will award her a Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa).

Julia Perez Kennedy ’99 is the former executive director of the YWCA Cambridge, which, since its inception in 1891, has advocated for women’s rights and provided affordable accommodations and support services to women. Ms. Perez Kennedy has strengthened the YWCA’s commitment to being a place for women, children, and families to find shelter, support, and opportunities to learn and grow.

Episcopal Divinity School will award her a Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa).

The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga was born in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe. He is a graduate of Zomba Theological College in Malawi and The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest at Austin, Texas, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity. In 1998 he was consecrated bishop of Southern Malawi. 

The bishop has been involved in HIV ministry as a member of the Malawi National AIDS Commission, which coordinates the national response to HIV and AIDS. He is currently a member of the executive committee of the Malawi Partnership Forum, which is the forum for the government and all partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

He has been involved in many mediation talks among political parties in the country and during the 2004 elections he chaired the church leaders committee that facilitated the multi-party talks that led to the Mgwirizano Coalition.

Since January 2014, Bishop Tengatenga has been in residence as a presidential fellow at Episcopal Divinity School. He and his wife, Joselyn, are parents of nine children.

Episcopal Divinity School will award him a Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa).