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General Convention 2000
A three-minute overview

DO REALISE THIS PRIMER IS entirely unofficial, although we believe it to be reasonably accurate. We offer this overview in the hope that it will give our readers a basic idea of how General Convention works.

It's large.
ECUSA's General Convention is purportedly the largest legislative body in the world. It's bicameral — modelled on the structure of the Congress of the United States — with two houses that meet concurrently: the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies and the House of Bishops. At present the House of Deputies has roughly 800 sitting members and the House of Bishops around 300.
In the Episcopal Church, retired bishops of the church have voice and vote at Convention, a practice, as far as we know, that is followed by no other governing body in the Anglican Communion. The Houses meet and act separately, and both must concur in order to adopt legislation. In other words, if the House of Deputies passes a particular resolution but the House of Bishops does not, the resolution will not become an Act of Convention.

A small picture of the GC legislative process
The legislative process
(Click here for a readable image. Or an even better one, 100K.)

It's democratic.
Individual deputies may write and submit resolutions, as can bishops, dioceses, and entities of General Convention itself (commissions and the like). Once submitted, resolutions are assigned to am appropriate legislative committee, and in the hands of these committees lies the fate of any given resolution. Committees can hold hearings for public comment on resolutions, they can reword or amend a resolution, they can combine two resolutions, decide not to report a resolution out of committee for consideration by the appropriate house (thereby effectively killing it), or they can report it out of committee to be put on the legislative calendar for consideration by the house where the resolution was
initiated. Committees are parallel for each house, but in recent years they have met together as cognate committees; for example, there are two committees for World Mission, one cmposed of lay and clerical deputies and one of bishops, but they meet together.

It's powerful.
'The General Convention alone has authority to amend the Book of Common Prayer and the Episcopal Church's Constitution, to amend the Canons of the Church, and to determine the program and budget of the Convention itself and whatever missionary, educational and social programs it authorizes. It receives reports from various church committees and agencies, formulates policy, and elects half the forty members of the Executive Council which administers policy and program between the triennial gatherings of the Convention'.

The cover of the Blue Book
The Blue Book:
Now downloadable.

It's got deputies, not delegates.
Those elected to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies by their dioceses are indeed 'deputies', not delegates. It's a crucial difference, in that deputies are elected to represent their dioceses, but are entrusted to vote their consciences. They do not serve as a mere voters for the most dominant

perspectives in their dioceses, but are ideally people entrusted with the support and prayers of their dioceses to act and vote as seems best at General Convention. Throughout convention, men and women on the floor of the House are addressed as 'Deputy [Surname Here]', no matter how distinguished their titles outside General Convention.

It's a fascinating mix of people.
There is an official online roster of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, but none of the House of Bishops. Louie Crew has assembled fascinating information about the people who compose the 74th General Convention. See his profiles of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.


It already has work to do.
The 'Blue Book' contains all the background information and documents that deputies and bishops need for General Convention. The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church also loom large, as might be expected, at the convention.

More information
The official site for General Convention 2003 and the Office of the General Convention
official web site will provide you with additional information. A general calendar (PDF: 102K) of General Convention is also online.

Back to Anglicans Online General Convention 2003 home page

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