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Executive Council, in a contentious vote, approves acting chief operating officer

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris, sitting at the center on the left side of the table, join a meeting of Executive Council’s Finance Committee to discuss plans for funding a new Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice. Photo/David Paulsen/ENS

By David Paulsen

Episcopal News Service

A divided vote on one of the Episcopal Church’s executive leadership positions was a flashpoint at the recent Executive Council meeting, intensifying an internal debate over how to dismantle systemic racism in the church. Some members argued that Executive Council itself and its processes may exemplify the problem.

“This issue brought to the forefront the issues of racism and white privilege, and if the council doesn’t address that, then that will set the tone for our relationships going forward,” Joe McDaniel, a lay member from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, told Episcopal News Service. The council met in San Francisco from Feb. 9 to 12.

Most of the internal debate over hiring a successor for former Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Smith, who retired at the end of 2022, happened in closed sessions, and the council’s electronic vote in favor of Jane Cisluycis did not identify how individual members voted. Over the Feb. 9-12 meeting, however, some members expressed in committee meetings and in interviews with ENS that this experience underscores the need to do more to dismantle racism, both within the governing body and across the church.

McDaniel, who is Black, was convener of the Deputies of Color group at the 80th General Convention in 2022 and is known around the church for leading anti-racism trainings as a lay leader from Pensacola, Florida. When ENS asked him about the COO search process, he described it as a textbook case of white privilege and said he felt dispirited by the outcome of the closed-session discussion.

To read the full ENS story, click here.

To read The Living Church’s coverage, click here.

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