The most familiar face of General Convention is that of a legislature. They pass policies, revise and approve budgets, and vote on myriads of issues.
The scope of the participatory nature of Episcopal polity convention is seen in the size of the House of Deputies. Four clergy and four laity are elected as delegates by each diocese make for a deliberative body of over 900 members. The House of Bishops includes active bishops as well as retired bishops for a number in excess of 100.
Doing legislation with two houses whose numbers exceed 1000 people is more art than science. It involves providing ways for delegates to express concerns, support, apprehension and to debate the issues while still respecting the limitations of a nine day convention. General Convention has to work efficiently to do its business, So committee meetings and hearings on resolutions, and the budget which makes up a significant portion of the day provides time for this needed discussion in smaller groups and settings.
At the end of convention an extraordinarily long list of resolution and actions will be produced. But many believe the most important work of convention is the interaction, the conversation, the reaching out among Bishops and deputies. As the Presiding Bishop said in her sermon today we each need to find the way to look beyond our own interests to work for God’s interest in the world to reach beyond ourselves to achieve the common good. And as messy and cumbersome as it is as it is the legislative process of convention is how we work to encourage and enable the Episcopal Church to achieve it.