House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings gave this keynote address to the joint diocesan conventions of the Diocese of Western New York and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennyslvania on October 26:
Thank you, Sean, and thank you Bishop Franklin for your kind invitation to be with you during this pivotal time in your dioceses. I am especially glad to be here with the deputies from both Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, and with my fellow Executive Council members Rose Sconiers and Lillian Davis-Wilson. I am grateful to all of you for your service to the church.
Being here in the Diocese of Western New York almost feels like being home, because I hail from next door in the Diocese of Central New York. In fact, it was a mere forty-four years ago that I went to see the bishop of Central New York to tell him I was going to seminary. I had already been accepted at seminary and I was going on my own self-devised trial year. I didn’t really see what the bishop had to do with it, but the rector of my parish said I should let him know. So, I met with Bishop Ned Cole, who looked like Methuselah, and I told him what I was doing.
It was two weeks after the ordination of the Philadelphia 11—the brave women who defied the canons of the Episcopal Church to be ordained to the priesthood by Bishops Daniel Corrigan, Robert DeWitt, Edward Welles, and Tony Ramos. Although he was in favor of the ordination of women, Bishop Cole was not amused.
He said, “Young lady, why exactly are you here? What would you like from me?”
I said, “I came because my rector told me I had to come see you. And so here I am. And I don’t want anything from you.” He replied, “You are the first person in a very long time to come to see me who doesn’t want anything.”
He then looked at me over the bridge of his bifocals and asked me a question that I somehow knew was very important to him. He asked,
“Gay, what will you do if you’re not ordained?”
I looked him square in the eye and said without hesitation, “Something else!” He burst out laughing and told me he hoped he would be one of the first to know if I decided I wanted to be ordained.
And so, during forty years of ordained ministry, I have always had a heart for people who wanted to do something else. So, it’s a particular honor to be here today with you as you consider the option of doing just that.