As I mentioned in the E-News, for the next few weeks, I am going to mention, summarize and begin to explain some of the many resolutions that have become a part of the Episcopal Church’s life since the completion of its General Convention this past July 3.
Just background FYI: The General Convention is the supreme legislative authority in the Episcopal Church which meets every three years. Like the U. S. Congress (with which it has some similarities), the gathering is a bicameral institution made up of (1) The House of Bishops (which includes every bishop of our church) and (2) The House of Deputies (which is made up of up to 4 clergy and 4 lay persons chosen from each of the over 100 Dioceses of the Church). Therefore there are close to 1000 persons at this gathering.
Any resolution must be voted on and adopted in identical language by both houses or it fails to pass. Any change in language from one house to the other, in effect, creates a “new” resolution, and thus must be sent back to the original house where the resolution passed to be voted on again using the changed language.
Certain issues are considered so serious that in order to pass, not only must the Bishops vote in the affirmative, but the House of Deputies is then split into clergy and lay sections – by diocese – each voting separately. In that case, the resolution must be approved by BOTH clergy and laity separately from each other. You de facto create the need for three and not merely two affirmative votes. This is called a vote by orders.
Of ultimate importance, issues that would change The Constitution of our Church or The Book of Common Prayer must go through a reading at one General Convention, then those resolutions are sent back to the various dioceses for their information. Only at the next General Convention (three years later) can a vote be taken, and approval must be done in a vote by orders.
Next week: some specific changes that will impact our church! (Now aren’t you all happy that your rector is a canon lawyer?)