Written by Deputy Christopher A. Hillak, Senior Warden at the Cathedral of Saint James
July 5, 2018
At the end of November 2017, I received a phone call from a phone number I didn’t recognize so I let it go to voicemail. The caller left the following message.
“Hi Christopher. This is Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies.Could you please call me on my mobile? Hopefully you can call me tonight. Thanks so much. Bye.”
Now, it isn’t every day that the President of the House of Deputies calls you. My first response was, “what did I screw up?” I called President Jennings back that evening. She congratulated me on my nomination by the Diocese of Northern Indiana to be a deputy to General Convention and asked me to serve on the General Convention Executive Committee of the Credentials Committee as its Secretary. President Jennings stated that she was looking to put new young deputies on executive committees as a way to diversify the committees and to provide a knowledgeable line of succession as deputies rolled off committees at future General Conventions. Of course, I was honored to be selected and accepted her nomination.
But what does the Secretary of the Credentials Committee do? I had no idea what I had agreed to! I have since learned that the Credentials Committee is the first stop for any deputy attending General Convention. This committee verifies each clergy lay deputy and alternate deputy attending the triennial meeting and records who is eligible to vote during each legislative session. My job as secretary is to double-check the work of the committee and enter each deputy’s form into the Convention computer database system. Prior to each legislative session, I am responsible for submitting reports to the House of Deputies platform informing them of the number of clergy and lay deputies registered to vote in that specific session as well as provide them with the number of votes required for simple majority and 2/3 majority votes. I am also responsible for collecting the handwritten vote by order ballots and providing a report to the House of Deputies.
Serving on this committee has been an amazing experience. In addition to my reporting responsibilities, I’ve been able to use my technology background to help the committee and House become more eco-friendly by utilizing shared electronic documents and rethinking some of the credential processes. We have already started implementing some ideas including working with the General Convention team to digitize and automate some of our reports this year instead of waiting for 2021!
In addition to my work on the Credentials Committee, I was able to attend two different legislative hearings today on resolution A085 regarding same-sex marriage, adding the trial liturgies to the Book of Common Prayer, and making changes to the Catechism. These hearings were gut-wrenching as people from both sides and the middle shared personal and passionate testimony. Tonight, I was able to quickly share my spiritual journey as a gay Christian. Many people who are gay have a troubled past with the church. My experience is no different. However, I was able to speak to the journey I have experienced in the Episcopal church in Northern Indiana and how the two parishes I’ve been associated with have welcomed me with open arms. I was thrilled to share that Northern Indiana now allows same-sex marriage and that I was honored to have Fr. Brian Grantz and Bishop Doug Sparks con-celebrate my marriage this past Spring. I shared how we may not all agree on the issue of same-sex marriage but how my husband and I have been supported and loved by the people of the Cathedral and the Diocese.
Bishop Curry spoke about love again during his homily this morning. We have to love each other and ourselves and keep our focus on Christ. I believe this is what we need to do, not only as a diocese but as a broader church and community—support and love others regardless of our differences. No exceptions. Hard stop. It doesn’t matter if persons disagree over same-sex marriage, Rite I vs Rite II, gun rights, immigration—you pick the issue! We are called together to be part of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement and to show love to our neighbors. In the two minutes I was allowed to address the legislative committee hearing, I was so proud to share how we are living out Christ’s love in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. You make the entire church proud. Let’s keep showing our communities Christ’s love!