One of the most frequent questions we’ve been asked is “Why did you call it a Memorial?” Great question! We didn’t invent the word. Our church has been passing Memorials for a long time. The Muhlenberg Memorial of 1853 is a really famous one. Basically Memorials are open letters to the church. When they are passed by General Convention, they are meant to guide the work of General Convention, and they also are commended to the whole church.
So what are the exact rules for a Memorial? What exactly is it? For that, we have to dig deep into the Blue Book, an official set of reports coming to General Convention 2015. On page 125, under the Proposed Rules of Order for the House of Deputies, you find this language, which itself is an update of longstanding practice.
VII. Resolutions and Memorials
A. Resolutions. Resolutions are matters by which the House or the General Convention speaks to a particular subject or matter, amends the Constitution or Canons, or expresses the mind of the House.
1. Memorials are statements about matters of great importance that urge General Convention to take action on a particular topic.
2. Memorials are referred to a legislative committee to inform the committee’s work and deliberation.
3. A committee may propose a resolution in response to a memorial.
C. Form. A Resolution or Memorial will take the form prescribed by the Secretary.
D. Proposing. A Resolution or Memorial may be proposed by:
1. a Deputy, if:
i. three other Deputies endorse the resolution; and
ii. the Deputy proposes no more than three resolutions.
2. the President of the House of Deputies;
3. a House of Deputies Committee;
4. a Message from the House of Bishops;
5. a Diocese;
6. a Province;
7. a Standing Commission, Task Force, or body required to report to the General Convention; or
8. the Executive Council.
And there you have it! The language is archaic, but it conforms to the rules of order by which we are all governed. Most important, a Memorial is a document that can guide our work at General Convention and throughout the church.
Memorials (and how they are processed) are more thoroughly explained in the current House of Deputies Rule 23: