Governance of The Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church is governed democratically and functions at three main levels of organization: national, diocesan and local. Our national Constitution and Canons (ecclesiastical rules or laws) define the authority of bishops, the structure of the congregations, the responsibilities of priests and deacons, and the worship of the Church.
Bishops, clergy and lay delegates meet every three years at General Convention to discuss important local, national and international issues. Through this democratic process, the Church determines its stand on challenging, and often controversial, social and moral issues.
The Church Constitution, adopted originally in 1789, and the Canons set forth the authority and jurisdiction of bishops, establish requirements for the acceptance and ordination of clergy, provide for General Convention and the admission of dioceses and their basic structure, define parish structural requirements and the responsibilities of priests, and set standards for the worship of the Church.
The Book of Common Prayer, the first American edition adopted in 1789 and revised most recently in 1979, sets forth the doctrine of the church and forms of worship required of member congregations.
General Convention, which meets every three years, consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops, as its name suggests, is composed of bishops of the Church; the House of Deputies consists of clerical and lay representatives elected by each diocese. The House of Bishops elects the Presiding Bishop of the Church, subject to confirmation by the House of Deputies. General Convention is also responsible for the program of the Church and its overseas and domestic mission. Executive Council has administrative responsibility for the program of General Convention between its triennial sessions.
The Church organizes dioceses geographically into Provinces. We are part of Province II: New York, Long Island, Albany, Central New York, Western New York, Rochester, Newark, New Jersey, Haiti, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of the American Churches in Europe.
In accordance with Title I, Canon 9, each Province has authority to deal with all matters within the Province but shall not regulate or control internal policy or affairs of constituent dioceses. It performs such duties as are committed to it by General Convention.