by the Rev. Raymond Hess
As we celebrate Independence Day in our nation, it is helpful to remember that the Episcopal Church is organized in a very similar way to our country. This was no accident; many of the people who designed the structure of our new nation in the late 1700s were members of the new Episcopal Church, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. Their desire was to form a church that was governed by its people. This is what happened!
The Episcopal Church is set up as a representative democracy, where people at the parish level elect leaders to represent them. Each parish has an Annual Meeting where members of the vestry (the church board) are elected by parishioners. The Annual Meeting also elects delegates to the Diocesan Convention, which makes decisions for the diocese. Our St. George’s delegates for 2018 are Sandra Crenshaw, Aaron Adkins, and Becky Freie. Alternates are Mel Rose and Deb Hess. The Diocesan Convention meets once a year, and this year will be at the Redding Civic Center in Redding on November 9-10.
The Diocesan Convention elects Deputies to General Convention, which meets every three years to make decisions for the whole Episcopal Church. Each diocese elects four clergy and four lay deputies. All diocesan bishops also are voting members of General Convention. General Convention moves around to different cities across the United States. General Convention meets this year in Austin, Texas from July 5 – 13. I was a deputy from our diocese at the General Convention in 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was an amazing experience to be part of this gathering of thousands of Episcopalians!
In the Episcopal Church, our bishops are elected by the people, not appointed from on high. Bishop Beisner will be retiring in June of 2019. A profile of our diocese has been created for prospective candidates, and a nominating committee has been formed. The nominating committee will present a slate of candidates to our diocese later this year. On February 9, 2019, there will be a special Electing Convention of our diocese at Trinity Cathedral. Those who are current diocesan delegates will vote to elect our new bishop. The new bishop will be consecrated at a service on June 29, 2019.
As you can see, our Episcopal Church is set up as a representative democracy, where power comes from people in local congregations. As with our nation, the whole structure depends on active, informed people who get involved in our church’s life. Please keep our representatives and our church governance in your prayers for God’s guidance.
Happy Independence Day!