Episco-Fact #114
November 8, 2018

Recently, we prayed for the Diocesan Convention. What is it? What does it do? Who goes? What happened?

In an Episco-fact from last year I talked about the ecclesiology (a church way of talking about our political organization) of the Episcopal Church, which is peculiar, even in the Anglican Communion.

In England, our progenitor, the Church of England has two Archbishops, York and Canterbury, the most honored of whom is in Canterbury. They have synods, which are assemblies, generally of clergy, who confer and sometimes vote on issues of concern for the church: ecclesiologically, theologically, and canonically. This blog post is a supporter of synods, especially ones that include the laity, because their spirit is consultation first, voting if necessary. There are also issues in England that are interesting because it is the official religion of the state and the Queen is the head of the church.

The United States is very different because of our history, especially, our separation from England, and the disestablishment clause of the Constitution. The Episcopal Church (TEC) was founded in 1789 (the same year as the country). TEC chose to have a bi-cameral legislature (House of Bishops and House of Deputies-made up of lay people and clergy), a Presiding Bishop (as opposed to an Archbishop) who would chair the House of Bishops and the whole General Convention when meeting jointly, and a President of the House of Deputies when the bodies meet separately. The dioceses were created as independent religious bodies, with their own decisions as to how to create parishes and churches, as well as how those local bodies would relate to the local bishop and their own governing structures.

The Diocese of Virginia is organized under the Commonwealth of Virginia's religious association law, as are the individual churches. We have episcopal functions, The Bishop, Diocesan; the Bishop, Suffragan; and Bishop, Assisting, all as needed or required, as the case may be. Annually, we meet as a body in Convention, which until 2017 was known as a Counsel. (Conventions are nice, but the spirit of Conventions is to vote, and Episco-fact believes they often vote without real consultation too often). Conventions, which include clergy and lay delegates discuss and vote on resolutions, including the annual budget which must be approved by Convention. Other matters such as choosing a bishop, amending canons, and appointing appropriate lay and clergy members to boards and commissions of the diocese also occur.

Two important boards which require Convention approval are the Standing Committee and the Executive Committee which consult with the bishop regularly on Diocesan Governance, and assist the Diocese when in the absence of a Bishop.

This year's Convention approved of the assumption of The Right Rev. Susan Goff as the Ecclesiastical Authority until a candidate for Bishop, Provisional is identified, or the Diocese determines that a search and election for a new Diocesan should be held. The annual budget was approved, as well. It is in balance and provides for sufficient oversight for the next year. Episco-fact thanks Tracey Kelly and Rick Larson for their services at Convention this year.