The General Convention, comprised of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, is the governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop is the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church. The current Presiding Bishop is Michael Bruce Curry, elected in 2015.
Historically, bishops oversee the Church in particular geographic areas, known as dioceses. There are 109 dioceses in the Episcopal Church worldwide.
Each bishop and diocese, operating through a local annual council or convention, determine the character of life and work in that diocese within a set of general decisions made by the General Convention. These decisions are formalized as canons, or rules that govern. Each diocese elects and sends clergy and lay representatives to the General Convention.
The annual convention of the Diocese of Southern Ohio takes place the second Friday and Saturday of November each year. Congregations elect lay delegates who, along with the clergy, represent their congregation at the convention.
Local congregations are led by a rector, vicar or priest-in-charge. A parish calls, or hires, the rector after a search process. Similarly, a mission congregation calls the vicar, but the bishop, as the rector of the mission, appoints the vicar. A priest-in-charge is appointed to a congregation by the bishop for a contracted period of time. The congregation may choose to call the priest-in-charge as rector or vicar when the contracted period ends.
Congregations also hold their own annual meetings, and elect members as representatives on the vestry or mission council. The vestry is the governing board and legal entity of the congregation. Vestries are led by a senior warden, who supports the rector or serves as leader when a rector is not in place; and a junior warden, who takes responsibility for the property of the congregation.
The similarity of our structure to the United States government is not merely a coincidence – many of the founding members of the church were also framers of the US Constitution.
[su_box title=”Another way to look at it” style=”soft” box_color=”#106CB5″ radius=”2″]The Rev. Chris Yaw, in his book, Jesus Was An Episcopalian (and you can be one too!), describes the structure of the church in this way:
General Convention = Congress
House of Bishops = Senate
House of Deputies = House of Representatives
Presiding Bishop = President
Executive Council = Cabinet
Dioceses = States (or regions therein)
Diocesan Conventions = State Legislature
Bishops = Governors
Deaneries = Counties
Parishes = Cities
Vestries = Town Council
Rectors = Mayors[/su_box]
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Jesus Was An Episcopalian (and you can be one too!), Chris Yaw, 2008