Church Governance

Church Governance 

The Episcopal Church is governed by a bicameral General Convention, which meets every three years, and by an Executive Council during interim years. The General Convention consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

The General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church. The Convention is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies, which has more than 800 members, and the House of Bishops, which is comprised of nearly 300 active and retired bishops. The Convention meets every three years and has the authority to amend the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church; adopt the budget for the church for the next three years; authorize liturgical texts and amend the Book of Common Prayer; adopt communions and covenants with other churches; set qualifications for orders of ministry and office-holders; elect officers of the General Convention, the Executive Council, and members of boards; and delegate responsibilities to the interim bodies of the Episcopal Church.

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is an elected body representing the whole church. In the three years between General Conventions, the Executive Council meets quarterly. The Executive Council has the duty to carry out programs and policies adopted by General Convention and to oversee the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church. The Executive Council is comprised of twenty members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and twelve lay leaders) and eighteen members elected by Episcopal provinces. 

In addition to presiding over the House of Deputies when it is in session, the President of the House of Deputies serves as vice-chair of the Executive Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, appoints clergy and lay members to standing committees and commissions and other churchwide bodies, and serves as an ambassador and advocate for work that carries out the resolutions of General Convention.

Each diocese of the Episcopal Church appoints up to four clergy and four lay leaders as deputies to attend the General Convention, which is the governing body of the church. Just as the governing body of the United States is comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the General Convention is comprised of two houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. They meet and act separately, and both houses must concur to adopt legislation. The House of Deputies has over 900 members (including alternates), and at each General Convention, the House of Deputies elects a president to serve a three-year term.

All bishops of the Episcopal Church, active or retired, make up the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops has nearly 300 active members and comprises half of the governing body of the Episcopal Church. Like the governing body of the United States, the governing body of the Episcopal Church (called “the General Convention”) is comprised of two Houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. They meet and act separately, and both Houses must concur to adopt legislation. General Convention meets every three years, and the House of Bishops meets twice a year between conventions in a non-legislative capacity. The Presiding Bishop is the president of the House of Bishops.