Friday, July 10, 2009

General Convention Reform

I've never been to the Episcopal Church's General Convention (GC). Thanks to modern technology, I will never need to. This GC has around 1,000 delegates for a church that has less than a million attendees. Add to that, the more delegates a legislative body has, the less gets done. More people means more time for discussion. The GC is both ungainly and expensive.

Were I in charge, which is highly unlikely, I'd change things in the following ways: First, I'd trim the delegates to 1 bishop and 1 lay delegate from every diocese. That cuts the delegates down to slightly over 200 total. Allow for the election of a non-participating, unfunded alternate. But the total funded attendance would be one fifth of the present size. That means instead of using expensive rented facilities, the GC could meet in a parish hall. That would be a lot less glamourous to be sure, but it's also a great deal more frugal.

I'd also allow for committee meetings, either live or virtually ahead of time. In fact, I'd probably make that mandatory. The bishops already know whether or not they are delegates. With the laity, all that would have to happen are elections far enough in advance for committees to be formed.

By trimming delegates and shifting committee meetings to before, the GC could be reduced in its length as well. Currently it's a two week commitment, which prevents a great number of potential delegates from participating. Two weeks is the standard annual vacation for most Americans. Trim it to four days and all of a sudden working stiffs can run for delegate. To counter balance this egalitarian move, I'd remove all delegate funding from the diocese. Delegates would have to pay their own way. This would further encourage the delegates to be about their business.

Of course, none of the above will ever happen.

Preview: I'm working on a detailed rant/essay about grilling. I've no idea when I'll post it though.


Tregonsee said...

Mostly agreed about cutting GC down to size. One bishop per diocese, but I would prefer to see HoD more representative of the size of the diocese. Perhaps the largest dioceses would get 3, the smallest one, and the middle 2. That would at least shift the power somewhat away from those which are doing the best job of driving people away.

Matthew said...

Agreed. But as long as we're fantasizing, the Episcopal Church not only has too many GC delegates, it also has too many tiny dioceses.

It's looking as though Eau Claire and Fond Du Lac will merge. IMHO, there need to be no more than fifty diocese. Twenty diocese would likely be optimal. Just hire suffragans as needed.