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single article of the Constitution that seeks to confer any power on a Bishop. The Constitution and Canons recognize the powers inherent in the office of Bishop, they only prescribe the manner in which the Bishop shall exercise his powers, and in some cases limiting the scope of those powers.
The Constitution of the General Convention, which remember, is not the Constitution of the Church, is simply an instrument under the terms and conditions of which, organization was effected and jurisdiction recognized, but not conferring or attempting to confer any law-making or governing power. Those powers were inherent in the supreme council of the Church.
When, in 1789, the whole Church in the United States through its competent representatives, declared, "there shall be a General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States," it enunciated the great principle that this was a national Church, and that such a Convention was to be its highest Council. The mere act of establishing this Council involved and attached to it every power inherent in such a body, and not expressly refused to it. In a word, the General Convention was established to be the one body of superior ultimate jurisdiction in the Church.
Thus we have a theory of the power of the General Convention, adequate, consistent, and practical. neither safety, union nor progress in any other.
A comparison between the Constitution of the nation, and the Constitution of the General Convention again shows the falsity of the assumed parallel between the nation and the Church. Observing the source of the power of the delegates by whom the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention were framed, we might be led to the supposition that the analogies of the national Consti
tution would prevail; and the question upon any law would be whether the power to make it had been expressly granted, or by a necessary implication was vested in it under some clause of the Constitution. But this rule of construction will be found wholly inapplicable. Every power rightfully exercised by the Government of the United States in any of its branches, has its source and its bounds in some clause of the Constitution. But it is impossible to find in the Constitution of the General Convention, either in express language, or by any warrantable inference, any provisions on which to rest the validity of the greater part of the Canons. It is a significant fact, that the canons were enacted by the Convention of 1789 before the Constitution as a whole was adopted. Again, at the last revision of the Constitution in 1901, Article 6 of the Constitution was added, providing for the erection by the House of Bishops, of Missionary Districts. But Missionary Districts had been erected for fifty years or more, and a Canon enacted, defining the duties of Missionary Bishops before there was a word in the Constitution authorizing the erection of Missionary Districts or the Creation of Missionary Bishops. The General Convention of 1916 provided by Canon for a Suffragan Missionary Bishop, although there is no authorization for such a Bishop in the Constitution.
The truth is, that the Constitution of the General Convention is not a Constitution in the true sense of the word, but a higher set of Canons rendered more stable, and the difficulty of altering or repealing them greater, by requiring the action of two successive Conventions to amend or repeal them.
The very nature of the powers that vest in the General Convention by reason of its inherent sovereignty, renders a strict definition or circumscription impossible. But cer
tain general rules necessarily follow. Where the power to legislate is expressly given by the Constitution, all authority of the separate Dioceses upon the subject is superseded at once.
Where there is no legislation of the General Convention upon a subject of Diocesan interest, the authority of the Diocese is entire and unrestricted. But when an act of the General Convention upon such a matter is enacted, it becomes the supreme law, superseding what has been done in a Diocese, or any power of a Diocese at variance with it, but abridging the power of Dioceses only so far as the law by just intendment extends.
What are the restrictions then, if any, upon the power of the General Convention to legislate? There are two principal restrictions.
1st. The General Convention cannot enact a Canon conflicting with the Constitution. 2nd. It cannot enact any Canon for discipline of a limited and local operation. It must be for the whole Church, and uniform throughout the whole Church.
But is there not, also, some limit to its power in the regulations of the churches of the Dioceses-some subjects of internal Diocesan government which it may not touch?
On first consideration it would seem that the regulation of a Diocesan Convention and the qualifications of its members, were subjects exclusively within the control of the Diocesan Convention. We might, in like manner, suppose that the bodies through which its internal government was to be carried on, would be constituted as each Diocese saw fit. Yet since 1789, there has been a Canon unquestioned and submitted to, directing that there shall be a Standing Committee appointed in every Diocese, and since 1808, another declaring the duties of such Committee.
The General Convention has enacted Canon after Canon, not only affecting the internal affairs of Dioceses, but also of parishes. The Canon on Business in Church affairs, is an example.
If the right to pass such Canons as these is conceded or established, it is difficult to find any subject of Church discipline either in Diocese or parish that is not within the province of the General Convention. It would therefore seem that upon every question of jurisdiction, the inquiry is not, whether the power has been conferred, but whether it has been denied or restricted.
Having endeavored to show that the General Convention is the national council of the American Church, indispensable to the unity and perfection of an Episcopal Church, and necessarily endued with paramount power, except where it has been expressly restricted, let us now consider, very briefly, the nature of our Diocesan Conventions.
They represent, in a large degree, the Episcopal Synods of former periods of the Church, but with powers expressly defined. It cannot be doubted, that in the earliest ages of the Church, as soon as a system of Dioceses was established, and the Bishop of each was restricted to its limits, the power of legislation vested in him. At first a regulation must have been adopted, or else suggested, to meet particular cases. As similar instances occurred, and the fitness of the former rule was proved, it was applied, until it became the ordinary regulation, and as such was known and fixed in the Church. Doubtless, this was the origin of those "usages and institutions of Churches" which we find so often adverted to and recognized in provincial councils. In fact, the exercise of judicial power preceded and was the source of legislation. From several decisions grew up a general law, and this was finally em
bodied and promulgated in a Canon or Constitution. But originally, as I have said, the Bishop, in his Diocese, was clothed with the ultimate and exclusive power of government, and that this involved all judicial and all legislative authority, seems to me to be the only doctrine consistent with the tenet of an Apostolic Episcopacy.
At what period the Clergy were united in council, as a senate, with the Bishops-and when they arose from being mere advisers to coadjutors in the business of legislation is difficult to determine. The exercise of the judicial authority was restricted as early as the Council of Carthage, when a Bishop was prohibited from hearing causes without the presence of his Clergy; and Ignatius speaks of the Clergy forming the Bishop's senate.
All the authorities on the subject seem to be agreed, that everything of limitation upon the original jurisdiction of a Bishop has been self-imposed, or has sprung from the laws of councils of superior authority, and to which he was a party, and that therefore, in every case in which there is no express enactment, or legitimate conclusion from an enactment to control it, the question is, where is the evidence of the surrender of the power to rule the Church? If none can be produced, then we have the Bishop's primitive juridiction to resort to for guidance and direction—a power without a shadow of claim to infallibility, but with an absolute claim to obedience.
One of our great jurists has declared: "The Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in its legitimate sphere, must be upheld or Christianity will become torpid. Let us not be affrighted from the support of discipline, because of the harsh excesses with which it has sometimes been enforced. It is not made less essential, because bigots and tyrants have employed the sword or the flames in its execution. A Church without discipline must become, if it is not al