Vestry Governance 101

Governance 101

Given the Annual Diocesan Convention being held Saturday, November 11th at Episcopal Schools in Jacksonville, we thought it would be a good time to explain some “Episcopal Governance.”

Diocesan Convention: The annual Diocesan Convention is the legislative authority and policy making body for program and finance in the Diocese. It is composed of all Clergy canonically resident in the Diocese and lay members representing each congregation (Canon 1, Section 2 (a)). The meeting is comprised of worship and business such as the passing of resolutions, approval of the budget, and the election of delegates and members for various roles.

Annual Parish Meeting: The Annual Parish Meeting of each congregation occurs not later than thirty (30) days after the close of each annual Diocesan Convention for the purpose of acquainting the congregation with the work of the preceding Convention, to select delegates to the next Convention, and to conduct such other business as may be brought before it (Canon 19). Annual Meetings also involve reports on the state of the parish and, often, the election of Vestry members. The Annual Parish Meeting will happen this year on Sunday, Dec. 3rd at 10AM in the Church.

Vestry: The affairs and activities of our church are managed by a board of directors called the “Vestry.” Named after the vesting room in English parish churches where they would hold the meetings, the Vestry exercises the corporate powers of the Parish by taking charge of the property of the Parish and its endowments; regulating the Parish’s temporal concerns; electing and calling a Rector and providing for the Rector’s support; and in general acting as helpers to the Rector in the furtherance of the Gospel (Canon 19, Section 4). All of this gives Episcopal churches a clear division of labor: The spiritual concerns of the Parish under the direction of the Rector, and the temporal concerns under the direction of the Vestry, all working together for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the celebration of the Sacraments, and the serving of our neighbors.

Bylaws: The bylaws of the parish are the “operating instructions.” The Vestry will ask the parish to amend our bylaws at the December meeting in order to allow the Vestry to, when it is deemed to be in the interest of the parish, elect vestry members at a time not connected to the Annual Parish Meeting.