6/16/2018

The expansion of Presidential (House of Deputies) powers...why?


The General Convention will meet in a few weeks to consider a wide range of legislation. Among the items to be considered are the following:

A059 on the duties of Deputies, which proposes, among other things that "4. Deputies shall serve as a conduit to their Dioceses of any items of importance disseminated by the President of the House of Deputies until such time as their successors are elected."

A099 proposes this addition at its close: "The President of the House of Deputies may, from time to time, assemble the House of Deputies of this Church to meet as a House of Deputies, and set the time, place, and manner of such meetings."


A028 proposes "that this General Convention authorize and direct its Executive Council to fix a salary for the President of the House of Deputies as an officer and agent of the Council and as an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS]"

The President of the House of Deputies will, if these three pieces of legislation pass, have considerable new duties, powers, and a salary to go with it.

The proposed power to assemble the House of Deputies is without qualification. The President of the House of Deputies will be empowered to call for such a meeting at will.

The proposed additional duties of Deputies will include the duty to act as a conduit to disseminate items of importance determined by the President of the House of Deputies.

These two pieces of legislation give the President of the House of Deputies the right to call meetings and to require as a matter of duty, that Deputies act as a conduit of such matters as the President may wish to disseminate.

No wonder it is being proposed that the President of the House of Deputies receive a salary! It will be hard work pulling together the House of Deputies meeting separately from the House of Bishops, and harder still to get deputies to act as a conduit for information from the President to the Dioceses.

These new duties and powers make the notion of a General Convention a farce. General Convention is a two house thing. And for normal purposes that should suffice.

The argument that the House of Bishops meets outside convention, so why not the Deputies is bogus. The House of Bishops conducts some business in its separate meetings, but those items are in line with specific canonical responsibilities of the House. There is no specific responsibilities of the same sort for the House of Deputies.

We are, it seems to me, an Episcopal Church, not an Assembly of Representatives. Bishops may represent their Dioceses as bishops, but more they are together share episcopal oversight of the Church. The two houses are not the same.

More to the point, the aggregation of powers, duties to the President of the House of Deputies, and the salary to go with it, would make that office the head of a separate and parallel agency of the Church along side the College of Bishops. This is a bad idea. Bad theologically, bad practically, bad in terms of polity.

And why should we do it?

The only skin I have in this game anymore is opinion and an abiding love for the Church. I'm not a voting member of General Convention. This is the first convention since 1969 that I have not attended (although I didn't go for more than one day in 1973, having been so discouraged by what I saw happening then). If I were there I'd push to have all three of these legislative propositions defeated. And so I think should the members of both houses.

4 comments:

  1. Maybe it would help to clarify, if when they meet outside of GC, the Bishops would designate themselves "the College of Bishops."

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  2. Mark is correct. The Bishops are what make us an "Episcopal" -- not a protestant church that assumes a parallel with the secular government. In Acts of Apostles, the Apostles have a very special place and maintain their number to carry on their special function. So with the HOB -- but NOT so with the Deputies. If some item is so important that it needs special attention outside of the GC, the Bishops can call a special meeting.

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  3. Mark: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. As an 11 time deputy my sense is that the current structure is appropriate and adequate. I totally agree.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Father, I agree with your analysis, but I have to take issue with your comment that Bishops "represent " their dioceses--Bishops are not expected to be representatives of their dioceses. If they represent anybody but themselves, they represent, collectively, the Apostolic Succession, past, present, and future.

    ReplyDelete

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