Constitution of the General Convention
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. This Constitution, adopted in General Convention in Philadelphia in October, 1789, as amended in subsequent General Conventions, sets forth the basic Articles for the government of this Church, and of its overseas missionary jurisdictions.
Article I: Of the General Convention
Sec. 1. There shall be a General Convention of this Church, consisting of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which Houses shall sit and deliberate separately; and in all deliberations freedom of debate shall be allowed. Either House may originate and propose legislation, and all acts of the Convention shall be adopted and be authenticated by both Houses.
Sec. 2. Each Bishop of this Church having jurisdiction, every Bishop Coadjutor, every Suffragan Bishop, every Assistant Bishop, and every Bishop who by reason of advanced age or bodily infirmity, or who, under an election to an office created by the General Convention, or for reasons of mission strategy determined by action of the General Convention or the House of Bishops, has resigned a jurisdiction, shall have a seat and a vote in the House of Bishops.
A majority of all Bishops entitled to vote, exclusive of Bishops who have resigned their jurisdiction or positions, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
Sec. 3. At the General Convention next before the expiration of the term of office of the Presiding Bishop, it shall elect the Presiding Bishop of the Church. The House of Bishops shall choose one of the Bishops of this Church to be the Presiding Bishop of the Church by a vote of a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, except that whenever two-thirds of the House of Bishops are present a majority vote shall suffice, such choice to be subject to confirmation by the House of Deputies. The term and tenure of office and duties and particulars of the election not inconsistent with the preceding provisions shall be prescribed by the Canons of the General Convention.
But if the Presiding Bishop of the Church shall resign the office as such, or if by reason of infirmity shall become disabled, or in case of death, the Bishop who, according to the Rules of the House of Bishops, becomes its Presiding Officer, shall (unless the date of the next General Convention is within three months) immediately call a special meeting of the House of Bishops, to elect a member thereof to be the Presiding Bishop. The certificate of election on the part of the House of Bishops shall be sent by the Presiding Officer to the Standing Committees of the several Dioceses, and if a majority of the Standing Committees of the Dioceses shall concur in the election, the Bishop elected shall become the Presiding Bishop of the Church.
Sec. 4. The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention, each area Mission established as provided by Article VI, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, shall be entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not more than four Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church, in good standing in the Diocese but not necessarily domiciled in the Diocese; but the General Convention by Canon may reduce the representation to not fewer than two Deputies in each order. Each Diocese, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, shall prescribe the manner in which its Deputies shall be chosen.
To constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, the Clerical order shall be represented by at least one Deputy in each of a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation, and the Lay order shall likewise be represented by at least one Deputy in each of a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation.
Sec. 5. The vote on all questions which come before the House of Deputies shall be governed by the following provisions, supplemented by such procedural provisions as the House of Deputies may adopt in its Rules of Order:
Unless a greater vote on any question is required by this Constitution or by the Canons in cases not specifically dealt with by this Constitution or unless a vote by orders on a question is required, the affirmative vote of a majority of all of the Deputies present and voting shall suffice to carry any question. A vote by orders on any question shall be taken if required for that question by this Constitution or by the Canons or if the Clerical or Lay representation from three or more separate Dioceses shall so request at the time of the call for the vote on that question. In all cases of a vote by orders, the vote of each order, Clerical and Lay, shall be counted separately, each order in each Diocese shall have one vote, and a vote in the affirmative by an order in a Diocese shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the Deputies present in that order in that Diocese. To carry in the affirmative any question being voted on by orders requires concurrence in the affirmative by both orders and, unless a greater vote is required by this Constitution or by the Canons in cases not specifically dealt with by this Constitution, concurrence in the affirmative by an order requires the affirmative vote in that order by a majority of the Dioceses present in that order.
Sec. 6. In either House any number less than a quorum may adjourn from day to day. Neither House, without the consent of the other, shall adjourn for more than three days, or to any place other than that in which the Convention shall be sitting.
Sec. 7. The General Convention shall meet not less than once in each three years, at a time and place determined in accordance with the Canons. Special meetings may be held as provided for by Canon.
Article II: Of Bishops
Sec. 1. In every Diocese the Bishop or the Bishop Coadjutor shall be chosen agreeably to rules prescribed by the Convention of that Diocese, provided that the retirement date of the Bishop Diocesan shall not be more than thirty-six months after the consecration of the Bishop Coadjutor. Bishops of Missionary Dioceses shall be chosen in accordance with the Canons of the General Convention.
Sec. 2. No one shall be ordained and consecrated Bishop until the attainment of thirty years of age; nor without the consent of a majority of the Standing Committees of all the Dioceses, and the consent of a majority of the Bishops of this Church exercising jurisdiction. No one shall be ordained and consecrated Bishop by fewer than three Bishops.
Sec. 3. A Bishop shall confine the exercise of such office to the Diocese in which elected, unless requested to perform episcopal acts in another Diocese by the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof, or unless authorized by the House of Bishops, or by the Presiding Bishop by its direction, to act temporarily in case of need within any territory not yet organized into Dioceses of this Church.
Sec. 4. It shall be lawful for a Diocese, at the request of the Bishop of that Diocese, to elect not more than two Suffragan Bishops, without right of succession, and with seat and vote in the House of Bishops. A Suffragan Bishop shall be consecrated and hold office under such conditions and limitations other than those provided in this Article as may be provided by Canons of the General Convention. A Suffragan Bishop shall be eligible for election as Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor of a Diocese, or as a Suffragan in another Diocese.
Sec. 5. It shall be lawful for a Diocese to prescribe by the Constitution and Canons of such Diocese that upon the death of the Bishop, a Suffragan Bishop of that Diocese may be placed in charge of such Diocese and become temporarily the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof until such time as a new Bishop shall be chosen and consecrated; or that during the disability or absence of the Bishop, a Bishop Suffragan of that Diocese may be placed in charge of such diocese and become temporarily the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof.
Sec. 6. A Bishop may not resign jurisdiction without the consent of the House of Bishops.
Sec. 7. It shall be lawful for the House of Bishops to elect a Suffragan Bishop who, under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, shall be in charge of the work of those chaplains in the Armed Forces of the United States, Veterans’ Administration Medical Centers, and Federal Correctional Institutions who are ordained Ministers of this Church. The Suffragan Bishop so elected shall be consecrated and hold office under such conditions and limitations other than those provided in this Article as may be provided by Canons of the General Convention. The Suffragan Bishop shall be eligible for election as Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop of a Diocese.
Sec. 8. A Bishop who has for at least five years next preceding, exercised jurisdiction as the Ordinary, or as the Bishop Coadjutor, of a Diocese, may be elected as Bishop, Bishop Coadjutor, or Suffragan Bishop of another Diocese. Before acceptance of such election a resignation of jurisdiction in the Diocese in which the Bishop is then serving, conditioned on the required consents of the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Church to such election, shall be submitted to the House of Bishops, and also, if the Bishop be a Bishop Coadjutor, a renunciation of the right of succession. Such resignation, and renunciation of the right of succession in the case of a Bishop Coadjutor, shall require the consent of the House of Bishops.
Sec. 9. Upon attaining the age of seventy-two years a Bishop shall resign from all jurisdiction.
Article III: Of Bishops Consecrated for Foreign Lands
Bishops may be consecrated for foreign lands upon due application therefrom, with the approbation of a majority of the Bishops of this Church entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, certified to the Presiding Bishop; under such conditions as may be prescribed by Canons of the General Convention. Bishops so consecrated shall not be eligible to the office of Diocesan or of Bishop Coadjutor of any Diocese in the United States or be entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, nor shall they perform any act of the episcopal office in any Diocese or Missionary Diocese of this Church, unless requested so to do by the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof. If a Bishop so consecrated shall be subsequently duly elected as a Bishop of a Missionary Diocese of this Church, such election shall then confer all the rights and privileges given in the Canon to such Bishops.
Article IV: Of the Standing Committees
In every Diocese a Standing Committee shall be elected by the Convention thereof, except that provision for filling vacancies between meetings of the Convention may be prescribed by the Canons of the respective Dioceses. When there is a Bishop in charge of the Diocese, the Standing Committee shall be the Bishop’s Council of Advice. If there be no Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop canonically authorized to act, the Standing Committee shall be the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese for all purposes declared by the General Convention. The rights and duties of the Standing Committee, except as provided in the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention, may be prescribed by the Canons of the respective Dioceses.
Article V: Of Admission of New Dioceses
Sec. 1. A new Diocese may be formed, with the consent of the General Convention and under such conditions as the General Convention shall prescribe by General Canon or Canons, (1) by the division of an existing Diocese; (2) by the junction of two or more Dioceses or of parts of two or more Dioceses; or (3) by the erection into a Diocese of an unorganized area evangelized as provided in Article VI. The proceedings shall originate in a Convocation of the Clergy and Laity of the unorganized area called by the Ecclesiastical Authority for that purpose; or, with the approval of the Ecclesiastical Authority, in the Convention of the Diocese to be divided; or (when it is proposed to form a new Diocese by the junction of two or more existing Dioceses or of parts of two or more Dioceses) by mutual agreement of the Conventions of the Dioceses concerned, with the approval of the Ecclesiastical Authority of each Diocese. After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.
Sec. 2. In case one Diocese shall be divided into two or more Dioceses, the Bishop of the Diocese divided, at least thirty days before such division, shall select the Diocese in which the Bishop will continue in jurisdiction. The Bishop Coadjutor, if there be one, subsequently and before the effective date of the division shall select the Diocese in which the Bishop Coadjutor shall continue in jurisdiction, and if it not be the Diocese selected by the Bishop shall become the Bishop thereof.
Sec. 3. In case a Diocese shall be formed out of parts of two or more Dioceses, each of the Bishops and Bishops Coadjutor of the several Dioceses out of which the new Diocese has been formed shall be entitled, in order of seniority of consecration, to the choice between the Bishop’s Diocese and the new Diocese so formed. In the case the new Diocese shall not be so chosen, it shall have the right to choose its own Bishop.
Sec. 4. Whenever a new Diocese is formed and erected out of an existing Diocese, it shall be subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese out of which it was formed, except as local circumstances may prevent, until the same be altered in accordance with such Constitution and Canons by the Convention of the new Diocese.
Whenever a Diocese is formed out of two or more existing Dioceses, it shall be subject to the Constitution and Canons of that one of the said existing Dioceses to which the greater number of Members of the Clergy shall have belonged prior to the erection of such new Diocese, except as local circumstances may prevent, until the same be altered in accordance with such Constitution and Canons by the Convention of the new Diocese.
Sec. 5. No new Diocese shall be formed unless it shall contain at least six Parishes and at least six Presbyters who have been for at least one year canonically resident within the bounds of such new Diocese, regularly settled in a Parish or Congregation and qualified to vote for a Bishop. Nor shall such new Diocese be formed if thereby any existing Diocese shall be so reduced as to contain fewer than twelve Parishes and twelve Presbyters who have been residing therein and settled and qualified as above provided.
Sec. 6. By mutual agreement between the Conventions of two adjoining Dioceses, consented to by the Ecclesiastical Authority of each Diocese, a portion of the territory of one of said Dioceses may be ceded to the other Diocese, such cession to be considered complete upon approval thereof by the General Convention or by a majority of Bishops having jurisdiction in the United States, and of the Standing Committees of the Dioceses, in accordance with the Canons of this Church. Thereupon the part of the territory so ceded shall become a part of the Diocese accepting the same. The provisions of Section 3 of this Article V shall not apply in such case, and the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor, if any, of the Diocese ceding such territory shall continue in their jurisdiction over the remainder of such Diocese, and the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor, if any, of the Diocese accepting cession of such territory shall continue in jurisdiction over such Diocese and shall have jurisdiction in that part of the territory of the other Diocese that has been so ceded and accepted.
Article VI: Of Missionary Dioceses
Sec. 1. The House of Bishops may establish a Mission in any area not included within the boundaries of any Diocese of this Church or of any Church in communion with this Church, and elect or appoint a Bishop therefor.
Sec. 2. The General Convention may accept a cession of the territorial jurisdiction of a part of a Diocese when such cession shall have been proposed by the Bishop and the Convention of such Diocese, and consent thereto shall have been given by three-fourths of the Parishes in the ceded territory, and also by the same ratio of the Parishes within the remaining territory.
Any territorial jurisdiction or any part of the same, which may have been ceded by a Diocese under the foregoing provision, may be retroceded to the said Diocese by such joint action of all the several parties as is herein required for its cession, save that in the case of retrocession of territory the consent of Parishes within the territory retroceded shall not be necessary; provided that such action of the General Convention, whether of cession or retrocession, shall be by a vote of two-thirds of all the Bishops present and voting and by a vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Article I, Sec. 5, except that concurrence by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by two-thirds of the Dioceses.
Sec. 3. Missionary Dioceses shall be organized as may be prescribed by Canon of the General Convention.
Article VII: Of Provinces
Dioceses may be united into Provinces in such manner, under such conditions, and with such powers, as shall be provided by Canon of the General Convention; provided, however, that no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent.
Article VIII: Of Requisites for Ordination
No person shall be ordered Priest or Deacon to minister in this Church until the person shall have been examined by the Bishop and two Priests and shall have exhibited such testimonials and other requisites as the Canons in that case provided may direct. No person shall be ordained and consecrated Bishop, or ordered Priest or Deacon to minister in this Church, unless at the time, in the presence of the ordaining Bishop or Bishops, the person shall subscribe and make the following declaration:
I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of The Episcopal Church.
Provided, however, that any person consecrated a Bishop to minister in any Diocese of an autonomous Church or Province of a Church in communion with this Church may, instead of the foregoing declaration, make the promises of Conformity required by the Church in which the Bishop is to minister.
If any Bishop ordains a Priest or Deacon to minister elsewhere than in this Church, or confers ordination as Priest or Deacon upon a Christian minister who has not received Episcopal ordination, the Bishop shall do so only in accordance with such provisions as shall be set forth in the Canons of this Church.
No person ordained by a foreign Bishop, or by a Bishop not in communion with this Church, shall be permitted to officiate as a Minister of this Church until the person shall have complied with the Canon or Canons in that case provided and also shall have subscribed the aforesaid declaration.
A Bishop may permit an ordained minister in good standing in a church with which this church is in full communion as specified by the Canons who has made the foregoing declaration, or a minister ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or its predecessor bodies who has made the promise of conformity required by that Church in place of the foregoing declaration to officiate on a temporary basis as an ordained minister of this church. No minister of such a Church ordained by other than a Bishop, apart from any such ministers designated as part of the Covenant or Instrument by which full communion was established, shall be eligible to officiate under this Article.
Article IX: Of Courts
The General Convention may, by Canon, establish one or more Courts for the Trial of Bishops.
Presbyters and Deacons canonically resident in a Diocese shall be tried by a Court instituted by the Convention thereof; Presbyters and Deacons canonically resident in a Missionary Diocese shall be tried according to Canons adopted by the Bishop and Convocation thereof, with the approval of the House of Bishops; provided that the General Convention in each case may prescribe by Canon for a change of venue.
The General Convention, in like manner, may establish or may provide for the establishment of Courts of Review of the determination of diocesan or other trial Courts.
The Court for the review of the determination of the trial Court, on the trial of a Bishop, shall be composed of Bishops only.
The General Convention, in like manner, may establish an ultimate Court of Appeal, solely for the review of the determination of any Court of Review on questions of Doctrine, Faith, or Worship.
None but a Bishop shall pronounce sentence of suspension, or removal, or deposition from the Ministry, on any Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon; and none but a Bishop shall admonish any Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon.
A sentence of suspension shall specify on what terms or conditions and at what time the suspension shall cease. A sentence of suspension may be remitted in such manner as may be provided by Canon.
Article X: Of The Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer, as now established or hereafter amended by the authority of this Church, shall be in use in all the Dioceses of this Church. No alteration thereof or addition thereto shall be made unless the same shall be first proposed in one regular meeting of the General Convention and by a resolve thereof be sent within six months to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting, and be adopted by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Article I, Sec. 5, except that concurrence by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies.
But notwithstanding anything herein above contained, the General Convention may at any one meeting, by a majority of the whole number of the Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by a majority of the Clerical and Lay Deputies of all the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies, voting by orders as previously set forth in this Article:
And provided that nothing in this Article shall be construed as restricting the authority of the Bishops of this Church to take such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worship.
Article XI: Of Dioceses and Missionary Dioceses
Whenever the term “Diocese” is used without qualification in this Constitution, it shall be understood to refer both to Dioceses and to Missionary Dioceses and also, wherever applicable, to all other jurisdictions entitled to representation in the House of Deputies of the General Convention.
Article XII: Of Amendments to the Constitution
No alteration or amendment of this Constitution shall be made unless the same shall be first proposed at one regular meeting of the General Convention and be sent to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting, and be adopted by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting by a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, and by an affirmative vote by orders in the House of Deputies in accordance with Article I, Sec. 5, except that concurrence by the orders shall require the affirmative vote in each order by a majority of the Dioceses entitled to representation in the House of Deputies.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the foregoing paragraph, the adoption of any alteration or amendment of this Constitution which inserts or repeals an Article, or a Section or Clause of an Article, shall effect the necessary change in numbers or letters of Articles or Sections or Clauses of an Article, that follow, and in references made in this Constitution to any other part, without the necessity of specific provision therefor in the alteration or amendment.
Each duly adopted alteration or amendment to this Constitution, unless otherwise expressly stated therein, shall take effect on the first day of January following the adjournment of the General Convention at which it is finally adopted.