Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and Dr. Pamela P. Chinnis, president of the House of Deputies, announced September 21 that they were appointing the Rev. Rosemari Sullivan, rector of the Church of St. Clement in Alexandria, Virginia, to the position of executive officer of the General Convention Office in New York. She succeeds the Rev. Canon Donald Nickerson who retired in June.
"The choice was made from a list of three finalists, all of whom possessed good qualities," said Chinnis, who has known Sullivan for nine years. "When you have all good people whom you know and like, it is difficult to make a decision." Sullivan will assume her new position November 1 in time to attend a meeting of the Executive Council in Oklahoma City.
"The presiding bishop has, I think, used wonderfully the metaphor of conversation," said Sullivan. "Part of the role of the executive officer, as I see it, is to provide the hospitality for that conversation to take place."
In an interview, Sullivan pointed out that "General Convention is really a process that is happening all the time-not just the visible meeting that happens every three years." She wants the church to see how her office "helps the ministry of the church happen, keeping us constantly in mission."
The General Convention Office not only coordinates plans for the triennial meeting but also the work of the interim bodies-the meetings of the church's committees, commissions, boards and agencies that carry out the work of the church between conventions.
As deputy to the 70th General Convention, Sullivan was a member of the legislative committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy. She chaired the committee at the 71st and 72nd conventions. At the 1997 convention in Philadelphia she also served as chaplain to the House of Deputies, the first woman to serve in that role.
A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Sullivan entered the cloistered Order of the Cross and Passion after her graduation from high school. She left the religious life after four years and earned the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work degrees at the Catholic University of America's School of Social Service. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1985. She and her husband Edmund, who is a senior civil servant in Washington, DC, have two adult children, Ned, who is in the United States Marines, and Meg, who is a college student.
As a candidate for bishop in several dioceses, Sullivan said she has learned a few things about the church.
"Participating in that process gives you a flavor of the uniqueness of each diocese, a glimpse of how the church is carrying out its mission." She added that she has been "energized by the insights of people doing mission at the local level." And she is eager to make the connection between that ministry and her office more visible. One of the functions of her office is to certify consecrations, so she will attend many in the coming years, giving her what she calls "a good look at the pieces that make up the tapestry of the church-and maybe even help put them all together."
The Sullivans found a home in the Episcopal Church when they stopped at a small parish in rural Virginia. "It was almost a homecoming," she said when the family began to attend services that were welcoming and lively. "And that was it for us."