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PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH
IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Adopted in General Convention, in Philadelphia, October, 1789.
THERE shall be a General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, on the first Wednesday in October, in every third year, from the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-one, and in such place as shall be determined by the convention; and in case there shall be an epidemic disease, or any other good cause to render it necessary to alter the place fixed on for any such meeting of the convention, the Presiding Bishop shall have it in his power to appoint another convenient place (as near as may be to the place so fixed on) for the holding of such convention; and special meetings may be called at other times, in the manner hereafter to be provided for; and this church, in a majority of the dioceses which shall have adopted this Constitution, shall be represented, before they shall proceed to business; except that the representation from two dioceses shall be sufficient to adjourn: and in all business of the convention freedom of debate shall be allowed.
THE church in each diocese shall be entitled to a representation of both the clergy and the laity, which representation shall consist of one or more deputies, not exceeding four of each order, chosen by the convention of the diocese; and in all questions, when required by the clerical and lay representation from any diocese, each order shall have one vote; and the majority of suffrages by dioceses shall be conclusive in each order, provided such majority comprehend a majority of the dioceses represented in that order. The concurrence of both orders shall be necessary to constitute a vote of the convention. If the convention of any diocese should neglect or decline to appoint clerical deputies, or if they should neglect or decline to appoint lay deputies, or if any of those of either order appointed, should neglect to attend, or be prevented by sickness or any other accident, such diocese shall nevertheless be considered as duly represented by such deputy or deputies as may attend, whether lay or clerical. And if, through the neglect of the convention of any of the churches which shall have
adopted, or may hereafter adopt, this Constitution, no deputies, either lay or clerical, should attend at any General Convention, the church in such diocese shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such convention.
THE bishops of this church, when there shall be three or more, shall, whenever General Conventions are held, form a separate house, with a right to originate and propose acts for the concurrence of the House of Deputies, composed of clergy and laity; and when any proposed act shall have passed the House of Deputies, the same shall be transmitted to the House of Bishops, who shall have a negative thereupon; and all acts of the convention shall be authenticated by both houses. And in all cases, the House of Bishops shall signify to the convention their approbation or disapprobation (the latter with their reasons in writing) within three days after the proposed act shall have been reported to them for concurrence; and in failure thereof, it shall have the operation of a law. But until there shall be three or more bishops, as aforesaid, any bishop attending a General Convention shall be a member ex officio, and shall vote with the clerical deputies of the diocese to which he belongs; and a bishop shall then preside.
THE bishop or bishops in every diocese shall be chosen agreeably to such rules as shall be fixed by the convention of that diocese; and every bishop of this church shall confine the exercise of his episcopal office to his proper diocese*, unless requested to ordain or confirm, or perform any other act of the episcopal office by any church destitute of a bishop.
A PROTESTANT Episcopal Church in any of the United States, or any Territory thereof, not now represented, may, at any time hereafter, be admitted on acceding to this Constitution; and a new diocese to be formed from one or more existing dioceses, may be admitted under the following restrictions.
No new diocese shall be formed or erected within the limits of any other diocese, nor shall any diocese be formed by the junction of two or more dioceses, or parts of dioceses, unless with the consent of the bishop and convention of each of the dioceses concerned, as well as of the General Convention.
No such new diocese shall be formed, which shall contain less than eight thousand square miles in one body, and thirty presbyters, who have been for at least one year canonically resident within the bounds of such new diocese, regularly settled in a parish or congregation, and qualified to vote for a bishop. Nor shall such new diocese be formed, if thereby any existing diocese shall be so
* In the last official edition, 1841, as well as in the official copy of 1838, after the word "diocese," occur the words "or districts:"—but these words were stricken out of the article by the convention of 1838.-(See Journals for that year, p. 24, line 6th from the bottom; also p. 7 of the Constitution, (1838,) line 7th from the bottom, and p. 7, line 7th from the bottom of Constitution, &c. 1841.) Forming no part of the article, they have been expunged in this edition. H. W. D.
reduced as to contain less than eight thousand square miles, or less than thirty presbyters, who have been residing therein, and settled and qualified as above mentioned.
In case one diocese shall be divided into two dioceses, the diocesan of the diocese divided may elect the one to which he will be attached, and shall thereupon become the diocesan thereof. And the assistant bishop, if there be one, may elect the one to which he will be attached; and if it be not the one elected by the bishop, he shall be the diocesan thereof.
Whenever the division of the diocese into two dioceses shall be ratified by the General Convention, each of the two dioceses shall be subject to the constitution and canons of the diocese so divided, except as local circumstances may prevent, until the same may be altered in either diocese by the convention thereof. And whenever a diocese shall be formed out of two or more existing dioceses, the new diocese shall be subject to the constitution and canons of that one of the said existing dioceses, to which the greater number of clergymen shall have belonged prior to the erection of such new diocese, until the same may be altered by the convention of the new diocese.
THE mode of trying bishops shall be provided by the General Convention. The court appointed for that purpose, shall be composed of bishops only. In every diocese, the mode of trying presbyters and deacons may be instituted by the convention of the diocese. None but a bishop shall pronounce sentence of admonition, suspension, or degradation from the ministry, on any clergyman, whether bishop, presbyter, or deacon.
No person shall be admitted to holy orders, until he shall have been examined by the bishop, and by two presbyters, and shall have exhibited such testimonials and other requisites as the canons, in that case provided, may direct. Nor shall any person be ordained until he shall have subscribed the following decla
"I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Esiscopal Church in the United States."
No person ordained by a foreign bishop shall be permitted to officiate as a minister of this church, until he shall have complied with the canon or canons in that case provided, and have also subscribed the aforesaid declaration.
A BOOK of Common Prayer, administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, articles of religion, and a form and manner of making, ordaining and consecrating bishops, priests and deacons, when established by this or a future General Convention, shall be used in the Protestant Episcopal Church in those dioceses which shall have adopted this Constitution. No alteration or addition shall be made in the Book of Common Prayer, or other
offices of the church, or the Articles of Religion, unless the same shall be proposed in one General Convention, and by a resolve thereof made known to the convention of every diocese, and adopted at the subsequent General Convention.
This Constitution shall be unalterable, unless in General Convention, by the church, in a majority of the dioceses which may have adopted the same; and all alterations shall be first proposed in one General Convention, and made known to the several diocesan conventions, before they shall be finally agreed to, or ratified in the ensuing General Convention.
Done in the General Convention of the bishops, clergy, and laity of the church, the 2d day of October, 1789.
NOTE. When the Constitution was originally adopted, in August, 1789, the first article provided that the Triennial Convention should be held on the first Tuesday in August. At the adjourned meeting of the convention, held in October of the same year, it was provided that the second Tuesday in September, in every third year, should be the time of meeting. The time was again changed to the third Tuesday in May, by the General Convention of 1804.-See Bioren's edition of the journals of the General Convention, 1817, pp. 61, 75, and 216. The first article was put into its present form at the General Convention of
The third article was so altered by the General Convention of 1808, as to give the House of Bishops a full veto upon the proceedings of the other house.—See journals of the General Convention, pp. 248, 249.
The second sentence of the eighth article was adopted at the General Convention of 1811.-See journals of General Convention, p. 274.
The words, "or the Articles of Religion," were added to the eighth article by the General Convention of 1829.
The fifth article was put into its present form at the General Convention of 1838.
The same convention adopted the following alterations. See journal of General Convention of 1838, p. 24.
Strike out the word "States," wherever it occurs in the first and second articles, except where it follows the word "United," in the first part of the first article, and insert in lieu of the word "States," the word "Dioceses." Strike
out the word "State," wherever it occurs in the second, third, and fourth articles, “ and insert in lieu thereof the word "diocese."
Strike out the words "or district," in the fourth article.
Strike out the word "state," in the sixth article, and insert the word "diocese.” Strike out the word "states," in the eighth article, and insert the word "dioceses ;" and in the eighth article strike out the words, "or states," after the words, "every diocese."
Strike out the word "states," in the ninth article, and insert the word "dioceses." Strike out the word "state," in the ninth article, and insert the word "Diocesan."
The sixth article was put into its present form at the General Convention of 1841.