August 24: Pamela Pauly Chinnis (2011)

Pamela P. Chinnis was elected President of the House of Deputies during the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1991 – the first woman to preside over the House in its two-century history. She was re-elected without opposition in 1994, and again in 1997. Her groundbreaking ministry began with lay leadership roles she held at Epiphany.

The following is excerpted from an introduction to Decently and In Order, a collection of Chinnis’s reflections published in 2000. “Pamela Pauly Chinnis was born in Springfield, Missouri, to a political family which included her uncle Dewey Short, who represented Missouri in the United States Congress for a quarter century. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary, Chinnis followed her mother to Capitol Hill where both worked in congressional offices. When family responsibilities interrupted her work in Congress, Chinnis channeled her professional energies into a variety of civic and educational activities, including service as the first woman President of the Society of Alumni of the College of William and Mary, and two terms as member of the Board of Governors. With her former husband and children, she became increasingly active in her parish, the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C., serving as its first woman senior warden. Serving in the parish women’s group led to election as diocesan president of the Episcopal Church Women and Presiding Officer at the 1976 Triennial Meeting. Chinnis’s commitment to the inclusion of all baptized people in the full life of the church is long-standing. She was an early supporter of the movement for the ordination of women and chair of the Presiding Bishop’s Committee for the Full Participation of Women in the Church.”

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