FRANCISCO-fact: I know I am going to regret this, how is our local church governed?
Local churches are governed by the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the Constitutions and Canons of the Diocese of Virginia, the Policies and Procedures and/or By-laws of their church, the United States laws governing non-profit corporations (501c3 status), in Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s corporation laws for religious institutions, non-profit corporations, and voluntary associations, the Vestry, and the Rector.
Whew! I guess nothing is simple, but in practical terms, the Rector and the Vestry are the representatives of the organization known as St. Francis Church. By Canon and custom, the Rector of the Church is the church’s ecclesiastical authority and the Vestry’s chair. That means that the rector is held to the vows made to the bishop made at his ordination, and he is also a fiduciary for the legal operations of the church. To really understand the role and function of the Rector, there will be a FRANCISCO-fact in the email next week.
The Vestry are the lay fiduciaries of the church, and the Constitutions and Canons, as well as custom, give the Vestry responsibility for calling their Rector, the business affairs, and real assets of the church. That means the Vestry is the responsible party for legal matters, care of the buildings and grounds, overseers of financial assets, and fundraisers.
From the above paragraph, one can see the importance of this leadership. To carry out these duties, the Vestry has officers with functional responsibilities. There is a Senior Warden, traditionally known as the Rector’s Warden, who is the sounding board for conversations between the Rector and the people of the parish, and the head of the Vestry in the absence of a Rector. There is a Junior Warden, who is traditionally known as the “People’s Warden,” who acts as the primary coordinator of the people’s needs with the Rector. There is also a Treasurer. This office can be held by a non-vestry member who has voice and no vote while managing the finances of the church. Finally, there is a Register (a very Virginia term), who would be a registrar or recording secretary in other places.
As you can see, under all the high theologizing and erudite matters, the local church has real issues to manage, from paying bills and salaries to caring for buildings and endowments to managing the relationships with staff. It is a critical part of being a church in the twenty-first century.