The leadership structure or “governance” of Luxumbrian Parish can be very confusing for those who are new to to the church. It’s hard to know who is in charge of what and why.
Here are four terms and definitions for four distinct leadership roles in a local Parish.
Parish Priest: The Parish Priest is the ordained “presbyter” or elder who holds chief ecclesiastical/spiritual authority in a given parish. They are the spiritual head of the congregation who is ultimately responsible for all ecclesiastical/sacramental liturgical worship.
Canon: The Canon, responsible for the magical education, training, and non-ecclesiastical Holy Days – is also an ordained priest. However where the Parish Priest is the representative of your local Diocesan Bishop (your Ordinary), the Canon is the representative of your local Dean.
The Parish Priest and Canon work together and support each other in serving the dual nature and needs of Luxumbrian parishioners. Occasionally, if the parish is small or new, the Parish Priest may serve both roles.
Wardens: The word warden comes from the middle-English word “wardein” which means to “guard”. The wardens are the elected lay-guardians of the parish. There are generally two wardens in a Parish. Wardens hold the highest non-ordained elected authority in the congregation. They serve for a term of 3 years.
Vestry: The vestry is a group of elected members of the parish, serving for terms of 3 years. The term “vestry” refers to the room where clergy “vest” or put on their robes before the service. Centuries ago, a group of lay-leaders held parish meetings in the vestry room of their church, probably somewhere in England. Over time the name of the room became the name of the group. The name stuck and spread. The vestry is responsible for financial decisions of the parish. All expenditures, acquisitions, property sales, etc…must be approved by a majority vote of the vestry.
The Parish Priest, Canon, and wardens are members of the vestry along with anywhere from 3 to 6 regular vestry-members. Each vestry member including the Priest, Canon, and wardens is permitted one vote. Note: a priest serving as both Parish Priest and Canon is still only permitted a single Vestry Vote.
How the Structure Works
Parishes are governed through a very careful system of checks and balances. These checks and balances serve to ensure that 1. the Priest and Canon have the authority necessary to lead effectively as spiritual heads of the parish without becoming tyrants and 2. the vestry can exercise fiduciary responsibility over the parish without running over the Priest or Canon.
Balance is achieved by giving vestry authority over the way all money is spent while giving the Priest and Canon authority over the spiritual and magical life of the parish and all other aspects of church leadership.
This does not mean that the vestry is uninterested or uninvolved in spiritual decisions. It does mean that the Priest and Canon have the authority to make final decisions about these matters.
In the same way, this does not mean that the Priest and Canon do not pay attention to money–they are, after all, members of the vestry. It does mean that the vestry, not the Priest or Canon, has final say with regard to how money is spent.
Functioning properly, this system encourages and produces a deep bond of trust and cooperation between Priest, Canon, and vestry as each party finds it necessary to think through the ramifications of decisions from the others’ perspective. A Priest must consider the budget consequences of any mission and/or ministry plan, keeping in mind that they must craft a strategy that the vestry will be able to fund. Smart Priests and Canons will work with vestry-members and wardens before setting goals and creating programs. The vestry on the other hand cannot simply think like a business and focus on the bottom line. Vestry-members have to consider the consequences, both spiritual and financial, to the Priest or Canon, the parish they have been elected to serve, and the community they are called to reach when voting to fund or cut funding for any program.
When this balance is disrupted there can be big problems.
Should the vestry seriously overstep its bounds and attempt to dictate decisions or policies in the spiritual or magical realm, the Priest or Canon may call in the bishop who, having been called, has the authority to replace the entire vestry or mediate the conflict. In like manner, should the Priest and/or Canon egregiously abuse their authority, the vestry, too may vote to contact the Bishop Ordinary.