What IS General Convention?
The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons, it is the ultimate authority in the Episcopal Church. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets regularly once every three years; however, the House of Bishops meets regularly in between sessions of General Convention. From July 3 – 12, 2012, General Convention will be convened in Indianapolis, Indiana.
You can learn more about the schedule of events, resolutions to come before the two houses, who the deputies and bishops are as well as more information on the General Convention 2012 official website.
All diocesan, coadjutor, suffragan, and assistant bishops of The Episcopal Church (active or retired) have seat and vote in the House of Bishops. Each of the 109 dioceses in 16 countries of The Episcopal Church are entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by four clergy deputies, either presbyters or deacons, canonically resident in the diocese and four lay deputies who are confirmed communicants in good standing. Resolutions must pass both houses in order to take effect.
The convention is divided into committees which consider resolutions. Resolutions arise from four different sources: 1) “A” resolutions from interim bodies whose work is collected in what is referred to as the “Blue Book” 2) “B” resolutions which come from Bishops 3) “C” resolutions which come from dioceses and provinces and 4) “D” resolutions which originate from Deputies. Each properly submitted resolution is referred to a convention committee which makes its recommendation to the House. When one house has acted on the resolution it is sent to the other house for consideration.
The Education Committee (#15), a cognate committee comprising House of Bishops’ Legislative Committee #15 and House of Deputies’ Legislative Committee #15, will hear legislation regarding education and formation issues as assigned. Their meetings will occur throughout General Convention, often first thing in the morning. These meetings are generally open to the public and hearings are held so that the individuals may have their voice be heard regarding various issues. No one needs to be a deputy to speak at these hearings or attend to observe their deliberations. Resolutions from the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education will most likely be addressed by the Education Committee.
The House of Deputies is the house of Initial Action for resolutions that are assigned to the cognate committee #15. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (President of the House of Bishops) and Bonnie Anderson (President of the House of Deputies) determine which resolutions are sent to which Legislative committee for hearings and discussion before being sent to either house for a vote of approval or denial. Votes in committees are done by both Houses – a vote by bishops and a vote by deputies. Their representatives then report back to their House at its legislative committee.