|There are over 840 members of the House of Deputies!|
The General Convention is a legislative body. In fact, in case you were wondering, it is second largest bicameral legislative body in the world! However, the legislative process can be slow, monotinous tedious, to say the least. And yet, this is how we do our work! Here is a brief overview of how things get accomplished at General Convention:
Many Resolutions are Proposed (Sometimes too many!)
The process begins when a resolution is drafted and sent to the General Convention for consideration. These resolutions can come from official church-wide committees, bishops, dioceses, and/or deputies who have been elected to serve at the convention. Several hundred resolutions are proposed for each General Convention
Committees (A Favorite in the Episcopal Church)
Once the resolution has been received, it is assigned to a committee. These various committees meet during the early days of convention to refine, edit, and amend the resolutions if needed. Bishops and deputies serve as members of these committees.
Listening To One Another (Very important!)
The committees that I mentioned above are required to hold hearings, during which members of the convention can share their ideas about each resolution. These hearings are publicly announced in advance, so bishops and deputies can plan to attend. These hearings are a vital part of the process, because they provide an opportunity to not just hear one another, but (hopefully) to truly listen to one another.
Let's Vote! (Another Favorite in the Episcopal Church)
Finally, once a resolution has been processed by the committee, it is sent to either the House of Deputies (lay and clergy members) or the House of Bishops for consideration. When a resolution is put forward for a vote, there is an additional opportunity for debate and possible amendment! Once a resolution has been voted upon, it is sent to the opposite "House" for consideration. A resolution has to pass in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in exactly the same language in order to become an official "action of General Convention." If there are any changes or amendments in one House, the resolution is sent back to the other House for reconsideration!
This process can be long (very long) and tedious. There are probably many other ways of ordering ourselves and conducting our business as a church. So, why do we persist through this painstakingly tedious process? Because, one of the great strengths of this system is that everyone gets to participate. Laity, deacons, priests, and bishops all have a vital role to play in this process.
In the coming week, the members of the General Convention will be tired, joyful, frustrated, prayerful, annoyed, and grateful (all at the same time!) The days at convention are full and long. And yet, we pray that the Holy Spirit is at work in our midst. We pray that despite our actions or inaction, God's grace and power will continue to lead and sustain the Body of Christ as we seek to be faithful witnesses of God's transforming and reconciling love.