This month I decided to focus on some of the words we use and hear when it comes to governance.
Synod is the governing body of the Diocese and is made up of clergy and lay representatives from parishes, assembled to make decisions around doctrine (what we believe) and application, and administration. We, the Diocese of Toronto, usually meet every other year, unless the bishop calls an additional meeting to either elect a bishop (electoral synod) or for another specific reason. At synod we hear reports, receive financial statements, adopt the budget, discuss the vision and priorities for the diocese and make decisions reflecting that vision of what we are and what we want to be and do. Lay delegates are elected by the parish, with the number of delegates per parish based on average weekly attendance of the congregation. In our case we have one lay delegate, Gretchen Dewhirst.
Canons are the set of laws of the Church, governing its life and discipline. There are diocesan, provincial and national canons. Canon Law is the term given to the legal interpretation of the canons.
Vestry is the annual general meeting of the parish. Every member of the parish over age 16 is a voting member. Membership only requires attending at least 3 services in the previous year. The list of eligible voters is posted near the end of the year. The meeting includes: acceptance of the financial statements, adoption of the budget, reports from the various leaders including clergy, the wardens (see below) and the various ministries and groups, the election and appointment of lay leaders for the coming year and finally an opportunity to talk about our work and mission in the wider community
Warden. There are two wardens: an elected People’s Warden and an appointed Rector’s or Incumbent’s Warden. Wardens have the legal authority of the parish in matters of finance and property. They are the only ones legally allowed to sign contracts on behalf of the parish. Along with the incumbent (priest) they make up the so-called corporation responsible for the parish.
Deputy Warden. There are two deputy wardens, usually in same pattern of one elected and one appointed, who assist the wardens in the execution of the duties of running the parish.
Advisory Board is the elected and appointed representatives of the congregation who meet to advise the wardens and clergy, helping to plan and organize the life of the parish and to hold the larger vision of the parish. In most parishes the Advisory Board represents the various groups of the parish so it is also an important part of ensuring our communications across groups and with the wider parish.
These are just a few of the words you might hear when it comes to the governance in the Anglican Church.