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A bishop-elect moves to a new House

A bishop-elect moves to a new House

Rhode Island Bishop-Elect Nick Knisely, on his blog Entangled States, shares the experience of moving from the House of Deputies to the House of Bishops:

While I started in the House of Deputies, after the second day, I and seven of my class of bishop-elects were granted consent to be consecrated by the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Once that happened the two of us attending as deputies were translated down the hallway of the Convention Center from the cavernous Hall of Deputies to the smaller Hall of Bishops. And that experience of moving from one place to another has colored my whole experience of this Convention.

I was aware of this as the first full day of General Convention drew to a close. I realized, having heard the vote on all eight of us in the House of Deputies, that this was going to be the last legislative session in Deputies that I would ever attend. That was bittersweet honestly. As I remarked to President Bonnie Anderson later in the week, I was struck at the end of the day by the familiarity of the rhythm of the work in House of Deputies. The way people used the microphones, the way the chair managed the meeting, the way we spoke to each other in our deputation during the flow of legislation was the same as it had been in 2003, 2006, and 2009. George Werner once described General Convention as a sort of Brigadoon, which rises from the mist every three years for two weeks and then disappears again. It’s a little different every time it appears, but only a little. And that’s very much true of the way the House of Deputies assembles itself, decorates its stanchions, organizes its seating and talks about itself. And that was all very familiar to me. I knew automatically what was happening, what to pay attention to, when to work on something else.

The last walk off the floor as a deputy was a very private and powerful moment. I was remembering all the tense moments, the holy moments, the moments of decision and the relationships that I had with others in that place. And I knew I wasn’t coming back – at least not in the same way.

A number of people asked me about the differences between the House of Bishops and of Deputies. There are two strong impressions. One is that the people in the House of Bishops know that they will be coming back to the next convention. Unlike the deputies who are re-elected each triennium, the bishops are members of their House for the rest of their life. That automatically gives a different rhythm to the conversation. The bishops all know each other, they respect each other even when they disagree and they take collegiality very seriously. One of the bishops mentioned to me that he thought the particular charism of the office of bishop was “unity”. It took me a while to agree with that, but having watched the House of Bishops stress the importance of their communal life which is meant to serve as an icon to the rest of the Episcopal Church, I eventually came to understood his point.

The other is that House of Bishops takes a much longer view of the matters being discussed. I suppose that is a consequence of the fact that they know they’ll be part of the conversation at the next convention and the one after that and one after that… Deputies also looked to the future, but my own impression as a deputy was that if I had a particular issue that needed to be addressed, it needed to be done now, because there was no guarantee that I’d have a chance to deal with it at the next convention. That focus on the long view tends to make the quieter side conversations around the table very different in nature than what I heard, and said on a few occasions, in the House of Deputies. I’m not sure I can explain it much better than this, but if you can make sense of what I’m trying to say, it was a striking impression of the difference.

Click to see the rest of Bishop-Elect Knisely’s thoughts on General Convention…

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