From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 7),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 197-201
PROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF DEPUTIES
Dec. 28, 1901
TO THE EDITOR OF THE LIVING CHURCH:
THE advocates of proportionate representation are wont to point to the correspondence between our national government with its Senate and House of Representatives, and our House of Bishops with the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. They liken the House of Bishops to the Senate, and the House of Deputies to that of the Representatives. But do they not make a fatal mistake in overlooking the fact that the General Convention is composed of three houses and not, as Congress is, of but two? To be sure the clerical and lay deputies sit together, and on many questions vote, for convenience, as one body, but their house is composed of two distinct orders. These assert their independence by voting on all important questions separately, and each has thus a veto on the other. Thus the analogy breaks down. There are three Houses, not two.
Again, the House of Bishops is not in many particulars like the United States Senate. In the latter case the Senators are chosen by their State legislatures and represent their respective States. The Bishops, on the other hand, are not elected to the General Convention. They are not chosen by their Dioceses to represent them. They do not represent Dioceses. They do not come, as Senators do, for a term of years. They come there by virtue of their Order, of their prerogative as Bishops of the Church of God. They all have equal rights, whether Diocesan Bishops or Missionary Bishops, Coadjutors or Suffragans. They all belong to that same Order to which by Divine authority the government of the Church is primarily committed. So again the supposed analogy breaks down.
If there is any likeness in our General Convention to the secular government it is to be found in this: that the House of Deputies is like the Senate. It is utterly unlike the House of Representatives, for its members are not chosen by districts or by the people. Nor are the clergy chosen by the clergy of the Diocese to which they belong and so are their representatives, nor are the lay delegates chosen by the laity and so made their representatives. They are both chosen by their Diocesan Conventions or Councils, and so represent the Dioceses, just as Senators represent their States.
Experience has demonstrated the wisdom, in our civil polity, of having a governing body whose members represent the States and whose numbers are not based upon proportionate representation. The House of Clerical and Lay Deputies is this body in our Church and it would be as un-American to try to overthrow it as to overthrow State rights and State sovereignty and the system of their representation in our national government.
But this plea for proportionate representation is based upon a more grave mistake. It is based upon a worldly-minded and un-Christian policy. It is the evidence of a worldly mind to urge that numbers of communicants or amount of contributions should be taken into account. The deputies are not to represent either wealth or numbers. Like the Bishops, though elected, they represent both the Diocese that sends them (and so each Diocese sends the same number) and also their Order. The clergy represent the clerical Order; the laity, who are in their degree kings and priests unto God, represent their Order. The two do not come together to represent the people as the House of Representatives does. They represent, irrespective of the number who may have voted for them, or the wealth of their Dioceses, their own respective orders. As Church legislation does not represent and is not intended to represent the mind of the majority of the Church members, there is no need of any house for that purpose. Herein is a difference between civil government and Church government. In civil matters we are governed, or supposed to be, by the will of the majority. It is not so in the Church of God. We are governed, or seek to be governed in Church affairs, by the Mind and Will of God. To this end the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and presides in its councils. What a Church council seeks by its debates and votes to ascertain is, not the mind of the majority of its Church members, but the Mind of the Spirit. Now the Mind of the Spirit is seen by making men to be of one mind in an house. It is by the agreement of the. Bishops, the clergy, and the laity, acting separately, that this Mind is shown. The plan of proportionate representation, in order that the voice of the majority may be learned, is then based upon a false principle. It is the endeavor to reconstruct the city of God upon the earthly principles of the city of Babylon.
The system proposed would moreover tend to increase one of the worst features of the American Church. Its worst feature is the political spirit, with its ambitions and popularity-seeking and maneuvering. That our whole system of elections engenders schools of theology many be beneficial, but party, or the political spirit, is a deadly thing. It would come to pass under proportionate representation that a few great Dioceses would control the Convention. Even if these were groups of Dioceses the evil would be the same or worse. It would lead to the Boss system, or government by bosses and cliques. It would increase a spirit harmful and dangerous and in marked contrast with the ways of God.
C. C. FOND DU LAC.