The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. Every three years it meets as a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese.
The Executive Council serves as the governing body of The Episcopal Church between sessions of the General Convention, charged specifically with executing the program and policies adopted by the Convention (Canon I.4). They also serve as the board for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (commonly referred to as the DFMS) (Canon I.3) and the Executive Office of the General Convention (Canon I.1.12). The DFMS is the corporate entity of The Episcopal Church (Canon I.3). This structure encompasses the Office of the Presiding Bishop and their staff, the President of the House of Deputies and their staff, and the Executive Office of the General Convention as well as the offices of the DFMS that are shared by all three.
The General Convention also includes Interim Bodies which meet between the triennial sessions to accomplish ongoing work and tasks set in the triennial sessions.
What happens at the General Convention meeting?
The legislative process of the General Convention is an expression of The Episcopal Church’s belief that, under God, the Church is ordered and governed by its people: laity, deacons, priests, and bishops.
The General Convention is the Church’s highest temporal authority. As such, it has the power to amend the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church; to amend the Book of Common Prayer and to authorize other liturgical texts; to adopt the budget for the Church; to create covenants and official relationships with other branches of the Church; to determine requirements for its clergy and other leaders; to elect its officers, members of the Executive Council, and certain other groups; to delegate responsibilities to the Interim Bodies of The Episcopal Church; and to carry out various other responsibilities and authority.
How is the General Convention organized?
There are two legislative Houses of the General Convention: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Each of the two Houses has a presiding officer: the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. When there is a joint meeting of the two Houses, the Presiding Bishop has the right to preside.
- The House of Deputies is composed of deputations elected from each diocese of The Episcopal Church; from Navajoland; from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe; and from Liberia (which has seat and voice). Deputations may include up to four clergy and four lay members. Members of the Official Youth Presence also have a seat and voice in the House of Deputies.
- The House of Bishops is composed of every bishop of The Episcopal Church with jurisdiction; every bishop coadjutor; every bishop suffragan; every assistant bishop; and every bishop “who by reason of advanced age or bodily infirmity, or who, under an election to an office created by the General Convention, or for reasons of mission strategy determined by action of the General Convention or the House of Bishops, has resigned a jurisdiction.”
The General Convention acts through the adoption of resolutions. A resolution becomes an Act of Convention only after both Houses adopt it in the same form and at the same General Convention meeting.
The Secretary of the General Convention has responsibilities to support the work of both Houses. This person must first be elected as Secretary of the House of Deputies, and then, through concurrent action by the House of Bishops, becomes the Secretary of the General Convention. The Treasurer of the General Convention is elected by concurrent action of both Houses.