Constitutions, Canons, and Conventions

by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar

In my previous writings, I focused on the ministry of the people within the governance of the Episcopal Church. The laity, bishop’s, priests, and deacons each have special functions in the governance arena, while all still share the task of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God on earth.

When it comes to making rules in the Episcopal Church, we look to the triennial meeting of the General Convention. This meeting, which happens at various and designated places around the country, involves two houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The composition of the House of Deputies comes from the Navajo land Mission plus each diocese (four clergy and four laity). This house selects a presiding officer and can be either a lay person or a clergy member. This is the older of the two Houses, formed in 1785.

 All diocesan bishops, assistant bishops, suffragans, and coadjutor bishops in good standing are members of the House of Bishops. There is also representation from the Convocation of The Episcopal Church in Europe. The presiding officer of the House of Bishops is currently Bishop Michael Curry (pictured). This House was formed in 1789, and for the first 20 years could have been overridden by an 80 percent vote of the House of Deputies.

Others having privileges of seat, voice, but no vote at the National Convention: The Youth Presence (two from each Province – 18 total), and the Episcopal Church of Liberia.

There are 14 Standing Commissions of the General Convention including Structure of the Church, Liturgy and Music, National Concerns, World Mission, and Constitutions and Canons. Both houses must concur when referring an item to a Commission for consideration, and both houses can pass a measure with a simple majority (though not always) for it to pass.

The Constitution of the Episcopal Church defines the internal operation of the church like how it operates at Conventions. The Canons define the relationship between members of the Church (my explanation).

Moreover, the local diocese also has its Conventions, Constitutions, and Canons. They are managed in similar fashion as on the National Level, but with greater frequency and with local membership.

For example, the Diocese of Los Angeles meets each fall (this year in Riverside) for its Convention. Representation is afforded each parish and mission in the diocese. Like the National Church, there are also two houses, but they are referred to as orders. The first order is the Order of the Laity; the second is the Order of Clergy. The membership of the first order comes from parishes and missions, and the number is determined by the number of registered members in the community. The 2020 Convention was held virtually.

All clergy resident in the Diocese — an official designation that means the person has residency AND has been acknowledged by the bishop as being in good standing — make up membership in the second order.

Changes in the articles of the Constitution can be made only at the Convention after a lot of discussion, an approval by a majority of each house, a second reading and approval at a convention in a succeeding year. Canons may be changed in the context of a single Convention, with a majority vote of either all members (clergy and lay) or by a majority vote in each house.

If this structure and order sounds familiar, it should. This is basically the same structure that was adopted by the founders and builders of the government of the United States. Here we have a bicameral legislature (House of Representatives and Senate), and many of the rules that govern operations in those houses are much like ours. We have a constitution, and so does the country. The church has canons, the country has laws, codes, and regulations. We have a court of Ecclesiastical Authority; the country has civil and criminal courts. We have a proud history of influence in how the government was formed and operates today. It is no wonder to me why we ‘preach with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other’ — with apologies to Karl Barth.

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Here’s Sunday’s worship bulletin.

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Sunday, September 12 the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce joins us for worship and the BBQ. Please sign up and let us know what you’ll bring, and whether you can lend a hand for set up and take down.

Feel free to sign up to bring more than one item —
show off your cooking/baking/design talents!

In addition to burgers and hot dogs we’re also having tri-tip!

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Here’s What Else is Happening at St. John’s:
+ Saturday evening In-person worship is at 5 p.m. today. Join us!
+ Godly Play, Sunday School, and the Nursery are open to receive your children! Check out the Children’s Ministry opportunities available below.
+ Pacific Chorale’s “The Wayfaring Project” is available online Monday, August 23 and features members of the Pacific Chorale, members of the Pacific Symphony, and soloists performing the music of J.S. Bach, Samuel Barber, Thomas A. Dorsey, Tarik O’Regan, Dolly Parton, and Moira Smiley. Members of the Pacific Chorale include our own Diana Farrell and former tenor section leader Jason Francisco. Details in the News.
+ Dates to Save:
• September 12 for the St. John’s BBQ (now with tri-tip!) and Bishop’ Bruce’s visit — here’s the sign up link.
• Saturday, November 6 our annual fellowship event and fundraiser. Details for all the events in the News. 
+ You can drop food donations for RSM Cares Food Pantry at church on Sundays. Items needed include soup, chili, beans; pasta, pasta sauce; peanut butter, jelly, and also grocery store gift cards. The next food distribution is this Wednesday, September 1.StJ
+ Join the Altar Guild! Learn more, by contacting Christy Morinello.
+ Youth Group is back from Summer break Wednesday, September 1. If you’re in junior or senior high, or have started college, ZOOM with us! Get more YG info from Patti Peebles, our Youth Pastor and School Chaplain.
+ Women’s Hybrid Bible Study is back this Wednesday, September 1! We gather Wednesdays from 10:15 – 11:30 a.m. at DJ Gomer’s home. Hybrid = in-person and on ZOOM.
+ Join us for coffee after the Sunday service on the lower courtyard (Learning Commons Courtyard) which is the perfect spot to hold coffee hour where tables, comfortable seating, and shade abound. We even have an elevator you can use to get there!
+ Women’s Ministry: Meet Saturday, September 18, Kathy O’Connor’s home in Pasadena (aka The Bishop’s residence) for lunch and a presentation by author Lian Dolan discussing her book, The Sweeney SistersSee the NEWS for details.

+ Altar Flowers. Remember loved ones with altar flowers! More than one donation can be submitted per week. Send your commemoration along with your name and mail it to the Church Office or drop off on Sundays while at church. The suggested flower donation is $60.

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We’re back on campus:
Clergy and staff are back in the Church Office. Schedule a time to come to the church office and meet face-to-face. Contact Rev. Christopher or 949.888.4568, or Rev. Karen or 949.888.4595, x239.

In-Person Worship Schedule:
• Evening Prayer or Compline ZOOM services continue to be held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. Rev. Christopher sends the links in his Saturday email; if you’d like the links and to receive St. John’s news, let us know!
• Sunday morning worship will be held in-person at church and on ZOOM at 9 a.m. 
• Saturday in-person worship in the church at 5 p.m. with live music.

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From Chrissy Hennings, our Children’s Ministry Director: “We’re looking for door greeters on Sundays to welcome the children into Godly Play and to be a helping hand to the teacher.
Please let us know if you can help out and would like more information!”


We’ll see you at St. John’s!