FRANCISCO-fact: What is the Rector’s role in church governance?
The rector of a church has two roles in the Episcopal Church: the first and most important is to be the spiritual leader of the church and the second is to preside at vestry meetings. These dual commissions extend from the Constitution and Canons of the church and the traditions which hold that the local head of the church is, in reality, the bishop’s representative.
Some explanation is probably required by the above statement. The Apostles were the original representatives of Jesus, including the twelve and other unnamed but recognized apostles. Tradition holds that Bishops (episcopos—overseers) were the direct successors to the Apostles. It was the Apostles, with the consent of the Jerusalem Church who created deacons (deaconos—servant/minister), and later, the appointed presbyters (priests—elders) to carry out certain duties and functions in the absence of the bishop, including baptisms, celebrating the Eucharist, unction, blessing marriages, pronouncing reconciliation of a penitent, preaching, and teaching. When the Bishop is making a visitation, all these responsibilities return to the bishop to perform or to delegate in the moment. You will notice that when the bishop visits St. Francis, the rector and all assisting priests are very quiet.
The same holds for the legal responsibilities of the Church, the rector as the chief spiritual leader on behalf of the bishop, is charged with the legal responsibilities which are part of that role and carried out in consultation with and in cooperation with the lay members of the vestry. Therefore, the rector is essentially the vicar (from vicarious, or vice versa) of the bishop for business affairs just as they are when celebrating the sacraments and carrying out pastoral duties. The rector protects and promotes the interest of the bishop, which is gospelling and serving.
Therefore, the Rector carries out spiritual leadership in administering the sacraments and in directing the business and real asset affairs of the church on behalf of promoting the Gospel as it is proclaimed and lived.