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.
ECUSA's General Convention is purportedly the largest legislative
in the world. It's bicameral modelled on the structure of
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
has roughly 800 sitting members and the House of Bishops around 300.
the Episcopal Church, retired bishops of the church have voice and
at Convention, a practice, as far as we know, that is followed by
governing body in the Anglican Communion. The Houses meet and act
and both must concur in order to adopt legislation. In other words,
the House of Deputies passes a particular resolution but the House
Bishops does not, the resolution will not become an Act of Convention.
Individual deputies may write and submit resolutions, as can
dioceses, and entities of General Convention itself (commissions
submitted, resolutions are assigned to am appropriate legislative
and in the hands of these committees lies the fate of any given resolution.
Committees can hold hearings for public comment on resolutions, they
reword or amend a resolution, they can combine two resolutions, decide
not to report a resolution out of committee for consideration by
(thereby effectively killing it), or they can report it out of committee
to be put on the legislative calendar for consideration by the house
the resolution was initiated.
Committees are parallel for each house,
but in recent years they have met together as cognate committees;
example, there are two committees for World Mission, one cmposed
and clerical deputies and one of bishops, but they meet together.
General Convention alone has authority to amend the Book of Common
Prayer and the Episcopal Church's Constitution, to amend the Canons
the Church, and to determine the program and budget of the Convention
itself and whatever missionary, educational and social programs it
It receives reports from various church committees and agencies,
policy, and elects half the forty members of the Executive Council
administers policy and program between the triennial gatherings of
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
in their dioceses, but are ideally people entrusted
with the support and prayers of their dioceses to act and vote as
best at General Convention. Throughout convention, men and women
floor of the House are addressed as 'Deputy [Surname Here]', no matter
how distinguished their titles outside General Convention.
fascinating mix of people.
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
74th General Convention. See his profiles of the House
of Deputies and the House
has work to do.
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.
The official site
General Convention 2003 and the Office
of the General Convention official
web site will provide you with additional information. A
calendar (PDF: 102K) of General Convention is also online.
to Anglicans Online General Convention 2003