Convocation, a convention of the English clergy to discuss ecclesiastical affairs in time of Parliament. This body grew out of the ecclesiastical councils held in the earlier times. From the time of Edward I, when the Commons were first assembled in Parliament, it became the practice to summon the Convocation at the same time. About the year 1400 it assumed its present form. There was at this time a Convocation for the province of York, and another for that of Canterbury. At the Reformation the king assumed the title of supreme head of the Church. Both convocations hesitated to acknowledge his claim, but the king, says Strype, made them buckle to at last; and the recognition of his supremacy was made at Canterbury in 1531, and the next year at York. In 1532 the Act of Submission passed: it required the clergy, in the first place, to consent that no ordinance or constitution should be enacted or enforced but with the king's permission; secondly, that the existing constitutions should be revised by his majesty's commissioners; and, thirdly, that all other constitutions, being agreeable to the laws of God and of the land, should be enforced. The bishops demurred, but the king and the commons were against them, and they were compelled to yield; and in 1534 their submission was confirmed by act of Parliament. Since this period the Convocation can only be assembled by the king's writ; when assembled, it cannot make new canons without a royal license, which is a separate act from the permission to assemble; having agreed upon canons with the royal license, they cannot be published or take effect until confirmed by the sovereign; nor, lastly, can they enact any canon which is against the law or customs of the land or the king's prerogative, even should the king himself consent. Prior to this period, the archbishop of each province could assemble his provincial synod at his pleasure; though, at the same time, the sovereign could summon both provinces by a royal writ (Hook).
England is divided into the two provinces of Canterbury and York, and by the term Convocation is meant the synod or provincial council of those provinces. There are, therefore, two convocations, each independent of the other; but instances have frequently occurred in which they have acted together by mutual consent. Commissioners have sometimes been sent from York to sit in the Convocation of Canterbury, with full powers to act on behalf of the northern Convocation. Since the Reformation, for obvious reasons, the legislation of the Church of England was virtually in the hands of the southern Convocation. That of York seldom originated any important measure, or persisted long in resisting the decisions of Canterbury. It became at length the faint echo of its more favored sister's voice. The Convocation of Canterbury consists of all the bishops of the province, who constitute the upper house; and of the deans, archdeacons, proctors of chapters, and proctors for the parochial clergy, who compose the lower house. In 1867 the upper house of Canterbury consisted of 21 members, and that of York of 7 members; while the lower house of Canterbury had 146 (namely, 24 deans, 56 archdeacons, 24 proctors for cathedral chapters, and 24 proctors for the clergy), and that of York 57 members (6 deans, 15 archdeacons, 7 proctors of the chapters, and 29 proctors for the clergy). As president, the archbishop summons the Convocation to meet at the command of the king. Were he to attempt to assemble a synod by his own authority, he would be subject to a prsemunire, and the proceedings of such synod would be void. Since the Act of Submission the power to summon the Convocation at the commencement of a new Parliament has usually been granted, though from the time of George I (1717) until recently no business was transacted. It is also the duty of the archbishop to prorogue and dissolve the Convocation, under the direction of the crown. Of late the convocations of Canterbury and York have been revived, and the revival of the Irish Convocation has been strenuously urged, especially by the High-Church party. The decisions of Convocation have no legal force in England. "As essentially interwoven with the State, the Church possesses no independent action; its articles, liturgy, organization as to benefices, etc., are all regulated by Parliament; while its discipline falls within the scope of the ecclesiastical courts, a class of tribunals apart from the ministering clergy. The Church, therefore, in its distinct capacity, is left little to do in the way of jurisdiction. It is further urged, as a reason for restricting the power of Convocation, that, being purely sacerdotal, it might be apt to run into excesses, and put forth claims adverse to the prevailing tone of sentiment on religious matters; that, in short, as things stand, it is safer for the public to be under the authority of Parliament than to be subject to the ordinances of a body of ecclesiastics" Chambers, Encyclopedia, s.v.). There is an able article against the revival of Convocations in the Edinb. Rev. Jan. 1857. For further information as to the history of Convocation, see Collier, Eccles. Hist. of Great Britain; Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae (London, 1737, 4 vols. fol.); Wake, State of the Ch. of England, etc. (Lond. 1703, fol., containing a large collection of documents on Convocation); Fellows, Convocation: its Origin, Progress, and Authority, Legislative and Judicial, with a Scheme for amending its Power and Constitution (Lond. 1852; proposes to establish one Convocation instead of the three [2 English, 1 Irish] then in existence); Lathbury, Hist. of Convocation (Lond. 1853, 8vo, 2d ed.); Landon, Manual of Councils, s.v. London; Cardwell, Documentary Annals (Oxf. 1844, 2 vols. 8vo); Marsden, Churches and Sects, p. 308 sq.; Christ. Remembrancer, Oct. 1854, p. 369; Overall, Convocation Book (Oxford, 1844, 8vo); Palmer, On the Church.