(3) In sharp contrast, the HOD, with over eight hundred and forty members, meets once every three years for ten days. Half of each diocese’s HOD deputation is lay; priests or deacons comprise the other half. The HOD has a more fluid membership than does the HOB, as dioceses elect deputies for a single three-year term, although many deputies do serve multiple terms. Alternates may also substitute for a deputy during part or all of a Convention. Deputies have no staff to prepare briefings on the vast array of subject matter and a sizable number, based on my observations, seem largely ignorant of HOD parliamentary procedures. These problems were glaringly apparent when eight hundred plus deputies allotted themselves only ten minutes to consider most resolutions, then spent much of that time on parliamentary questions. To their great credit, most Deputies work long hours, strive to do their best for Christ’s Church, and seek to understand an incredibly broad gamut of issues that encompass liturgical, pastoral, theological, and ethical subjects far beyond the competence of any one person. The problem is not with the Deputies as individuals but with the Church’s structure, which imposes this impossible task on these good people. It is no wonder that well before Convention’s end most deputies (and many bishops!) look overwhelmed and fatigued.
(4) General Convention’s structure inherently entails some self-selection on the part of lay deputies. Ten days of sessions with travel can easily mean twelve days away from home. Even with their Diocese paying expenses, few working poor or lower middle class people, who generally receive little if any vacation time, can attend. Single parents may have difficulty arranging twenty-four hour childcare during their absence. I suspect that few high-powered professionals, corporate executives, or small business owners attend, reluctant to be away from their work that long. In other words, those present must have sufficiently flexible schedules to give the Church an uninterrupted block of ten or twelve days, valuing the Church above their other commitments. Anecdotally, rather than based on formal research, lay deputies appear to be mostly upper middle-class and closer in age to retirement than to high school. The deputies were laudably diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Except for their degree of commitment to the Church, I wonder how well the socio-economic status of HOD lay deputies mirrors that of the Episcopal Church.
In sum, General Convention structure is dysfunctional. In particular, the HOD because of its size, lack of resources, and infrequent meetings cannot give the majority of legislation adequate time or informed consideration. Arguably, the Episcopal Church should revise its governance process.
Read it all.