CONVOCATION, an assembly of persons met together in answer to a summons. The term (from Lat. convocatio, a calling together), is applied to assemblies of the clergy or of the gradu ates of certain universities, and in England to an assembly of the spirituality or clergy of the realm, summoned by the metropoli tan archbishops of Canterbury and York respectively, within their ecclesiastical provinces, pursuant to a royal writ, whenever the parliament of the realm is summoned, and which is also con tinued or discharged, as the case may be, whenever the parliament is prorogued or dissolved. These assemblies consist of two Houses, an upper and lower. In the upper house sit the archbishops and bishops, and in the lower the deans and archdeacons of every cathedral, the provost of Eton College, with one proctor elected by each cathedral chapter and two by the beneficed clergy in each diocese in the province of Canterbury (in the province of York two proctors are elected by each archdeacon), with a prolocutor at their head.
For the early history of convocation in the Church of England the reader is referred to the works named at the close of this arti cle, and to the relative portions of the articles ENGLAND, History, and ENGLAND, CHURCH OF. The present account proceeds from the period of the Reformation.
The period of greatest activity and greatest importance of con vocation extends from about 1534 to 1664. It is marked by four important assemblies of the spirituality of the realm in pur suance of a royal writ—the two first of which occurred in the reign of Edward VI., the third in that of Elizabeth, and the fourth in that of Charles II. The two earliest were summoned to complete what is known as the reformation of the Church of Eng land, which had been begun by Henry VIII., the third was called together to reconstruct that work, which had been interrupted by the reign of Mary (the consort of Philip II. of Spain), whilst the fourth was summoned to re-establish the Church of England, the framework of which had been demolished during the civil war. On all of these occasions the convocations worked hand in hand with the parliament of the realm under a licence and with the assent of the crown. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1661 convoca tion was not anxious to retain the liberty of taxing itself apart from the laity, seeing that its ancient liberty was likely to prove of questionable advantage to it. It voted, however, a benevolence to the crown on the occasion of its first assembling in 1661 after the Restoration and it continued to do so until 1664, when an arrangement was made between Archbishop Sheldon and Lord Chancellor Hyde, and afterwards confirmed by Act of Parliament, under which convocation silently waived its long-asserted right of voting its own subsidies to the crown, and submitted itself thence forth to be assessed to the "aids" directly granted to the crown by parliament. In consequence of this practical renunciation of their separate status, as regards their liability to taxation, the clergy have assumed and enjoyed in common with the laity the right of voting at the election of members of the House of Com mons, in virtue of their ecclesiastical freeholds.
The most important and the last work of the convocation dur ing this period of its activity was the revision of the Book of Common Prayer which was completed in the latter part of 166r.
The Revolution in 1688 is the most important epoch in the next following period of the history of the synodical proceedings of the spii!ituality, when the convocation of Canterbury, having met in 1689 in pursuance of a royal writ, obtained a licence under the great seal to prepare certain alterations in the liturgy and in the canons and to deliberate on the reformation of the ecclesias tical courts. A feeling, however, of panic seems to have come over the Lower House, which took up a position of violent antag onism to the Upper House. This led to the prorogation of the convocation and to its subsequent discharge without any practical fruit resulting from its meeting. Ten years elapsed during which the convocation was prorogued from time to time without any meeting of its members for business being allowed. The next convocation which was permitted to meet for business, in 17oo, was marked by great turbulence on the part of the members of the Lower House, who denied the right of the archbishop to pro rogue their sessions. In the first year of Queen Anne convocation was summoned again, when the Lower House, under the leader ship of Dean Aldrich, its prolocutor, again challenged the right of the archbishop to prorogue it, and presented a petition to the queen, praying her majesty to call the question into her own presence. The question was thereupon examined by the queen's council, which decided against the claim of the Lower House. During the remaining years of Anne's reign the two Houses were engaged either in internecine strife, or in censuring sermons or books, as teaching latitudinarian or heretical doctrines; and, when it had been assembled concurrently with parliament on the acces sion of George I., a great breach was before long created between the two Houses by the Bangorian controversy (q.v.). Dr. Hoadly, bishop of Bangor, having preached a sermon before the king, at St. James's Palace in 1717, against the principles and practice of the nonjurors, which had been printed by the king's command, the Lower House, which was offended by the sermon and had also been offended by a treatise on the same subject published by Dr. Hoadly in the previous year, lost no time in representing the ser mon to the Upper House, and in calling for its condemnation. A controversy thereupon arose between the two Houses which was kept up with untiring energy, until the convocation was prorogued in 1717 in pursuance of a royal writ ; from which time until 1861 no licence from the crown was granted to convocation to proceed to business. During this period, it was usual for a few members to meet when first summoned with every new parliament, in pur suance of the royal writ, for the Lower House to elect a pro locutor, and for both Houses to vote an address to the crown, after which the convocation was prorogued from time to time, pursuant to royal writs, and ultimately discharged when the parlia ment was dissolved.
In 1852 the clergy at last aroused themselves from their long repose, and the Upper House took the lead. The active spirit of the movement was Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, but the master mind was Henry Phillpotts, bishop of Exeter. On the convocation assembling several petitions were presented to both Houses, praying them to take steps to procure from the crown the necessary licence for their meeting for the despatch of business, and an address to the Upper House was brought up from the Lower House, calling the attention of the Upper House to the reasonableness of the prayer of the various petitions. After some discussion the Upper House, influenced mainly by the argument of Henry, bishop of Exeter, consented to receive the address of the Lower House, and the convocation was thereupon prorogued, shortly after which it was discharged concurrently with the dis solution of parliament. On the assembling of the next convoca tion of the province of Canterbury, the sessions of the convoca tion were continued for several days; and from this time forth it may be considered to have resumed its action as a consultative body, whilst it has also been permitted on more than one occa sion to exercise its functions as a deliberative body. In 1865, under licence from the crown, the convocations of Canterbury and York framed a limited number of new canons; and in 1872 it was empowered by letters of business from the crown to frame resolu tions on the subject of public worship, which were incorporated in the Act of Uniformity Amendment Act of that year.
As a deliberative body, convocation has done much useful work, but it suffers considerably from its unrepresentative nature. The non-beneficed clergy still remain without the franchise, but the establishment of the groups known as Houses of Laymen for both provinces has, to a certain extent, secured the co-opera tion of the lay element. Several attempts were made to promote legislation to enable the convocations to reform their constitu tions and to enable them to unite for special purposes; in i9o5 a bill was introduced into the House of Lords; it did not, however, get beyond a first reading. An important advance was made in 192o, when the Church of England (Assembly) Powers Act (1919) took effect. The Assembly consists of three houses, com posed of bishops, clergy, and laity respectively. The first two consist of the convocations of Canterbury and York, of which the respective upper houses form the House of Bishops, and the re spective lower houses the House of Clergy; the House of Laity comprises representatives of the Laity of the provinces of Canter bury and York, elected every five years by the lay members of the diocesan conferences, which consist of representatives elected by the members of the Church of England on a roll prepared in each parish. None of the powers belonging to the convocations of Canterbury and York is to be diminished by the Assembly, which is also prohibited from exercising any power belonging to the bishops by right of their episcopal office.
See Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law (2nd ed., 1895) ; Joyce, Hand book of Convocations of the Church of England (1887) ; Lathbury, History of Convocation (1853) ; Cardwell, Synodalia (Oxford, 1842) ; and for sources: Gibson, Synodus Anglicana (1 702 ; edited by Card well, 1854) ; Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae (1737)