July 4, 2015

A Triumph of Clericalism

I thought one of the better and less controversial ideas floated by those who would reform the structures of The Episcopal Church was to make the office of President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) a paying position. This office is increasingly important and the office holder, by canon, plays a significant role in the church. Alas, the 78th General Convention, largely because of the House of Bishops, did not agree to giving a stipend to the PHoD. Surely, this was not simply an economy measure.

An Episcopal News Service story published today reviews the process of amending and adopting Substitute Resolution D013. The story makes it clear that the House of Deputies and House of Bishops had very different ideas about paying the PHoD for his or her work on behalf of the church. The story includes this paragraph:
“When someone volunteers to do a job, it is not an injustice not to pay them,” said Diocese of Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller during debate in the House of Bishops on July 3.
One might argue that the President of the United States and, indeed, all bishops of The Episcopal Church, have stood for election in the same fashion as the PHoD. In other words, this is a stupid and self-serving argument.

As it happens, I was watching the debate in the House of Bishops when the matter of a stipend for the PHoD was being discussed. Because I was actually interested in Resolution A019, which was on the day’s consent calendar, I was not taking notes. I do remember, however, that one of the bishops expressed the concern that the PHoD was accumulating too much power.

I think that clericalism is the real reason the bishops do not want to pay the PHoD. Simply put, bishops do not want to cede too much power to a layperson or even a priest or deacon who might be PHoD. (Perhaps the real problem is episcopalism.) Frankly, we give bishops too much power in the church and ordinary clergy, and especially laypeople, too little.

I hope that, at the 79th General Convention, the House of Deputies will insist that their leader be paid.


  1. that is just un believable BS on the part of the HOB be very glad boys, that I am not in the house
    Dan Jarvis

  2. My preference, somewhat different, would be instead to maintain the volunteer status of the PHoD and then also to remove the PB's stipend and simply require that he or she continue as diocesan. The general sense of the TREC effort was that we need to scale way back on church-wide, denominational program and conserve resources for more effective uses at the local level. This would be a sign that we are serious about that goal.

    Bruce Robison

    1. I don’t see how we could remove the stipend for the PB and let the office holder retain a diocese without greatly reducing the duties of the office. Just the fact that the PB is required to visit every diocese makes it a time-consuming position. Moreover, would this mean that only bishops from rich dioceses that could support the PB (and other bishops for the diocese) could be considered for election?

  3. Yes indeed. "Greatly reducing the duties of the office" would be necessary--and, in my view, most desirable. Certainly reimbursement of expenses and perhaps an allowance to the bishop's diocese for some supply assistance--a part-time retired assisting bishop might be one idea--could take the edge off. But the basic idea is a significant reduction in church wide infrastructure and program and a redeployment of resources to dioceses and parishes.

    My $.02, anyway.



Anonymous comments are not allowed. All comments are moderated by the author. Gratuitous profanity, libelous statements, and commercial messages will be not be posted.