A question being discussed this week on the Bishop and Deputies listserve (HOBD) is how to answer seekers and new members and perhaps long time members about the structure of the Episcopal Church(TEC) and "who's in charge?"
Of course, we know Jesus Christ is the head of the Church but beyond that how do we define our polity. We know for Roman Catholics the Pope is in charge. Other denominations have other structures, what about TEC. Some suggested that the Presiding Bishop holds that position. However, that role is only one of several with authority in the church. Some have suggested Diocesan Bishops who have extensive power but the reality is that the final arbiter of roles and responsibilities and the head of the church is General Convention with its two houses of Bishops and Deputies, set out through the constitution, canons, and Book of Common Prayer.
Sally Johnson, Deputy and Chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies (laity and clergy) has written a helpful paper, the "Authority Memo" dated 2008, on this subject which can be found on the web pages of the President of the House of Deputies. Following is a summary of the role of the Presiding Bishop, other roles are described in the paper.
Authority of the Presiding Bishop
The responsibilities and authority of the Presiding Bishop can generally be divided into several broad categories. The Presiding Bishop makes appointments to various Church bodies and positions and fills vacancies, has responsibilities regarding bishops in the Church including overseeing the election of bishops, deciding who will consecrate them, overseeing the resignation or removal of bishops for non-disciplinary reasons, and taking certain actions in the ecclesiastical discipline process of bishops. The Presiding Bishop has responsibilities for unusual congregations and ministries, reports annually to the Church, speaks God’s Word to the Church and to the world as the representative of The Episcopal Church and has responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy of the Church. She presides over the House of Bishops and Joint Sessions of General Convention, is the President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and the President, Chair and chief executive officer of the Executive Council.
“The office of Presiding Bishop is a constitutional office, the tenure and duties of which are prescribed by canons, and he has no duties or powers save as so prescribed.” Annotated Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America otherwise known as The Episcopal Church ( “Annotated Constitution and Canons” ), p. 203.
The Presiding Bishop’s authority to delegate her responsibilities to others is limited to choosing a bishop of The Episcopal Church to act in her stead as one of the three bishops of The Episcopal Church to act as chief consecrators at the consecration of a bishop and to delegating some functions “prescribed in these Canons” to persons in “positions established by the Executive Council.”
Maybe the real answer is reflected in the Saturday, May 15 entry from Forward Day by Day
One wonders though, is this the answer to what people really are asking? What say ye?