Q: What is General Convention?
A: General Convention is the Episcopal Church's triennial gathering of bishops and elected clergy and lay deputies. Its bicameral makeup is the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies in which lay and ordained deputies are equally represented. It is a combination of legislative assembly, family reunion, bazaar of goods and services.
Q: What is a deputy?
A: Deputies are elected at diocesan convention, and include four clergy and four lay deputies as well as four alternates in each order. The House of Deputies is chaired by the President of the House, Bonnie Anderson. Deputies are expected to serve on committees (if appointed); to attend forums and hearings; to read the reports to the church from the various commissions, committees, agencies and boards; to listen to, and, if so moved, to respond to resolutions on the floor of the house.
Deputies are not delegates; that is, they are not elected to represent the electing dioceses. Deputies vote their conscience for the good of the church. They cannot be instructed to vote one way or another, for to do so would preclude godly debate and preempt the work of the Holy Spirit.
An interesting presentation about the demographics of the 2012 House of Deputies is available by clicking here.
Q: Who are the deputies from the Diocese of Pittsburgh?
A: The Rev. Canon Scott Quinn, the Rev. Dr. James Simons, the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert, the Rev. Jeffrey Murph, Andy Muhl, Mary Roehrich, Joan Gundersen and Stephen Stagnitta.
Pittsburgh's alternate deputies are the Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison, the Rev. William Geiger, the Rev. Vicente Santiago, the Rev. Lou Hays, Jamie McMahon, Kathy Ogline and Michael Braxton.
Representing Pittsburgh at the Episcopal Church Women's Triennial meeting are Betty Duckstein, Darrell Powell, Shelley Snyder and Deb Wiles.
Q: Are all bishops members of the House of Bishops?
A: All bishops of the Episcopal Church, active and retired, are entitled to seat, voice and vote in the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops is chaired by the Primate of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Bishop Ken Price will be representing Pittsburgh.
Q: How are resolutions considered?
A: Resolutions proposed for discussion at convention are referred to legislative committees, which consider, amalgamate and present them to the floor of convention (either to the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops).
Legislative committees hold hearings on legislation at which the following can speak: deputies, registered alternates or registered visitors. While there are bishops and deputies on committees, the House of Bishops and House of Deputies meet, deliberate and vote separately on proposed legislation.
To be enacted, resolutions must pass both houses in the same language. Both houses have the right to amend legislation, but the amendment must then be accepted by the other house.
A useful "infographic" detailing the process is available here.
Q: Is there worship at General Convention?
A: General Convention meets prayerfully. Each day bishops, deputies, registered alternates and delegates to the Episcopal Church Women's Triennial gather for Bible study and Holy Eucharist. Both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops have chaplains, who lead their houses in regular prayer at the beginning and end of sessions and daily at noon. Chaplains are also asked to pray before the enactment of important legislation. Organizations within the church sponsor additional worship services, while volunteers staff a prayer room in which there is continual intercession for the work of convention. At one special festival Eucharist at the United Thank Offering is presented.
Q: What actions at Convention are important to Pittsburghers?
A: Members of the diocese will be updated daily on the happenings with a local impact in Indy (see the column on the left), but arguably, the most important event will be the official consent for the election of the Rev. Dorsey McConnell as our next bishop.
Q: What additional events take place during General Convention?
A: The national Episcopal Church Women's organization meets concurrently with General Convention as do the Daughters of the King. One of the most interesting parts of convention is the Exhibit Hall, a marketplace of goods and ideas in which the organizations and interest groups within the church present their wares, recruit members and do their best to influence legislation. Many church-related organizations hold meetings in conjunction with convention, and there are lunches and dinners hosted by seminaries, provinces, societies, boards and staff offices of the church.