Episcopal Café has drawn attention to a dissertation on this topic:
Episcopal Church is not divisible
Bishops thinking of leading their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church seem to have missed lessons on church history somewhere along the line. The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s vote on Resolution 1, as reported in A House Dividing yesterday is based on the idea that Dioceses are free standing entities. This reading of history has no basis in fact according to scholars of American history.
In 1959, James Allen (Jim) Dator, Professor, and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote a dissertation on The Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Confederal, Federal, or Unitary? It was accepted by the Faculty of the Graduate School (School of Government) of The American University, Washington, DC, in 1959 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
The complete dissertation is here.
The whole Episcopal Café article is here. It summarises some key conclusions of the dissertation. In particular:
…after carefully reviewing the various drafts of a constitution for PECUSA, and the Church’s Constitution as adopted on October 2, 1789, I conclude two things:
(1) The Church’s constitution was NOT made in imitation of the US Constitution. Thus, while the US Constitution is a federal system, giving the states certain rights and the central government other rights, “there is not explicit in the Church’s Constitution of 1789 any definition of a division of powers [between the dioceses and the General Convention], even though the framers of that Constitution had models of both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution before them” (p. 53).
(2) PECUSA was created as a unitary and not a federal government: “In summary, neither Bishop White’s “Case”, nor the “Fundamental Principles” of 1784, nor the “General Ecclesiastical Constitution” of 1785, nor the “General Constitution of 1786,” nor the Constitution of 1789 provided explicitly for a constitutional division of powers. Such a division of powers is an essential manifestation of both federal and confederal governments. Neither is there any other evidence to indicate that the Constitution is one of a confederation. Indeed, as far as the written Constitution is explicitly concerned, the Church’s government is unitary” (p. 54).
There is a lot more. Do read at least the whole of the Cafe article.