Catching Up with the President

The Rev. Gay Jennings ’77 was elected president of the House of Deputies during the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held in Indianapolis on July 10, 2012. We asked her a few questions about her first months in office.

Q: First off, congratulations! How would you describe your first months in office?

A: Thank you very much. It was an honor to be elected by the House of Deputies, and I am very glad to have the opportunity to serve the House of Deputies and the Episcopal Church in this role. I am delighted to have the companionship of the vice president of the House of Deputies, Byron Rushing, who has long been a good friend to Episcopal Divinity School.

It was a whirlwind summer and fall: hiring staff to assist me and the House of Deputies during this triennium, meeting with the Presiding Bishop and various staff members at the Episcopal Church Center, convening my Council of Advice, and attending various meetings, such as Executive Council. Considerable time and energy were spent appointing leaders to commissions, committees, agencies, and boards (CCABs). My strategy was to expand the circle of leadership and to increase the number of young leaders and people of color. Sixty-six percent of those appointed are serving on a CCAB for the first time, 30 percent are under age 40, and 28 percent are people of color. Appointing these new leaders has been very rewarding, and I was excited to see these new leaders at the joint CCAB meeting in November in St. Louis, where I hosted a “tweetup”—a face-to-face meeting of nearly 40 people who use the social media platform Twitter. That was fun!

As the Episcopal Church’s clerical delegate to the Anglican Consultative Council, I traveled to New Zealand for ACC-15, along with former EDS professor Ian Douglas. You can see the resolutions that were adopted on the Council website: There was intense energy for promoting social justice and facilitating transformative change, especially in the areas of gender-based violence, human trafficking, environmental stewardship, and peacemaking in a variety of contexts.

Q: What has surprised you about the job? What has been one of the highlights?

A: I am continually surprised and gratified by how deeply people love the Episcopal Church and how committed they are to serving the Church they love. Some 750 lay people and clergy sought appointment to a CCAB, and more than 450 expressed a desire to serve on the newly formed Structure Task Force. Another highlight has been reading each nomination and seeing the incredible gifts people have to share.

Q: What are some of the ways you stay connected to the sacred in your busy life?

A: The role of president is time-consuming, therefore it is challenging and essential to stay connected to the sacred. It is easier when I remember that the sacred is interwoven into every aspect of my life if I will only pay attention. I encounter the Holy One through relationships with family, friends, and colleagues, and during times of corporate worship and personal prayer. I am a voracious reader, and reading can be a spiritual practice, depending on what I am reading.

Q: Anything else you would like to share with the EDS community?

A: I am a 1977 graduate of EDS, where I was formed for leadership and ordained ministry. I also met my husband (Albert Jennings ’77) in a poker game on the first floor of Lawrence Hall! He is about to celebrate 25 years as the rector of St. Timothy’s Church in Macedonia, Ohio. The school’s purpose statement expresses the hope that those educated and formed at EDS will “serve and advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation [and] be leaders of hope, courage, and vision to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I will take this to heart during my time as president.