October 25: General Convention (1898)

The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets every three years. The first General Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1785. The thirty-ninth General Convention was held in Washington, D.C, October 5-25, 1898. It was the first time the governing body had met in the nation’s capital. The new Diocese of Washington had just been created at the previous General Convention. The presiding bishop at the 1898 convention was the Rt. Rev. John Williams of Connecticut. At the time the presiding bishop was the senior bishop of the church having jurisdiction. The president of the House of Deputies was the Rev. Morgan Dix, rector of Trinity Church, New York City. Of the eight delegates from the Diocese of Washington, Epiphany’s rector, Randolph McKim, was one of four clerical delegates and junior warden, William D. Baldwin, was one of four lay delegates. In total, about 70 of the 75 American bishops and 500 delegates attended the gathering.

In a time prior to large convention centers, General Conventions were typically held in large churches. The 1898 General Convention was held at the Church of the Epiphany. The church had completed a renovation in 1890 that included the enlargement of the chancel area.  Today’s parish house had not yet been built, but there was a Sunday school room behind the church. This is where the bishops held their business sessions. The House of Deputies held its sessions in the church, with the public being admitted to the galleries. At the conclusion of the convention, the House of Deputies through resolution gave thanks “to the Rector, Wardens, and Vestrymen of the Church of the Epiphany for the provision they have made for the comfort of the members of the Convention.” Thirty years later in 1928, the forty-ninth General Convention met in Washington, D.C. The main meetings were held on the Cathedral close and the Willard Hotel, but some meetings were held in Epiphany’s parish hall.

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