Written by All Saints’ Senior Warden Jason Lyon for the February issue of Saints Alive, this overview of how our vestry election process works at All Saints Church is great preparation for the upcoming Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 19th.
On February 19, we will gather in the Rector’s Forum for the first half of our two-part Annual Meeting. (Part II will convene on March 5.) In addition to reviewing our history-making 2016 and looking ahead to our mission for 2017, we will elect seven new members of the Vestry. For those of us who may have come from other denominations or faith traditions, Vestry is Episcopal-speak for the elected lay leadership of the parish.
The duties of the Vestry are defined by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and by our own bylaws, and they are generally to help define and articulate the mission of the congregation, support the mission of the broader church, provide effective organization and planning, and serve as faithful stewards of our resources and finances. When the position is vacant, the Vestry also hires the Rector. The Vestry is essentially the board of directors of the non-profit corporation. All Saints’ Vestry has 26 members (24 adults and two Youth Members) and is led by the Rector, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden.
Given that representative democracy is a cornerstone of the Episcopal polity, Vestry members are typically elected by the congregation, although different parishes follow different election procedures. At All Saints, our practice for many years has been to appoint a Nominating Committee each fall to discern a slate of six adult nominees to put before the congregation. (We also elect a Youth Member each year whose nomination is discerned by the staff of the Children, Youth & Families department.)
The Nominating Committee is composed of 10-12 members of the parish, and includes the seven outgoing vestry members as well as a diverse array of folks who have experience in as many aspects of our communal life as possible. The goal is to cast a wide net in our consideration of potential leaders. Over the course of several meetings, the committee comes to consensus on three men and three women with demonstrated histories of engagement in the parish to nominate as Vestry members.
To honor All Saints’ long commitment to multiculturalism and inclusion, the Nominating Committee is asked to give special consideration to the slate’s diversity, particularly with regard to race, ethnicity, age, income, and sexual orientation. They may also look ahead to the anticipated leadership needs of the community and, sometimes, seek out folks with specialized skills or experience.
Selection by the Nominating Committee, however, is not the only way a member of our congregation may stand for election to the Vestry. Our bylaws also provide that a member may be nominated by petition, and in January, the Vestry adopted updated procedures for such a nomination. Any member of the parish wishing to stand for election to the Vestry may submit a nominating form signed by 12 fellow All Saints members attesting that the nominee is qualified for election (meaning s/he is a pledging member of All Saints with a clear history of engagement in our community). The petition may also include a short statement of the nominee’s qualifications and/or reasons for desiring election to the Vestry. All petitions are due no later than one month before the Annual Meeting to allow time for publication of the nominees’ pictures and statements.
At the Annual Meeting, each Vestry nominee will have the opportunity to speak briefly about their reasons for seeking election. In years when we have no nominees by petition – including this year – we will continue our long custom of proceeding to a voice vote on the entire slate of nominees. In those years when a petition nominee has come forward, we will proceed to a vote by paper ballot (and in the event of a tie vote, a run-off). Perhaps it is a testament to our Nominating Committee’s faithful discernment that it has been quite a few years since we have had a nomination by petition at All Saints, but it is important to remember that the procedure exists as another way in which the Holy Spirit might guide our corporate discernment.
I look forward to seeing you in the Rector’s Forum for Annual Meeting, Part I, on February 19. May God bless you and keep you until then.
One more important note about the All Saints Vestry: Vestry meetings are open meetings and visitors are welcome to attend and observe. Vestry Notes are published — both in our newsletter and on the website — and the official minutes of Vestry meetings are posted on the website once they are approved. Check out the Vestry pages here.