What is an AGM and what is it about?
Every Anglican parish holds what is called an Annual General Meeting (AGM) some time before the end of March each year. This meeting used to be called the Annual Vestry Meeting. Parishes can hold other ‘general meetings’ if they want to, which are opportunities to open up decisions and discussions to anyone in the church community. The AGM is a special general meeting that attends to a particular set of decisions that are very important for the life of the parish. Although the conduct of the AGM can often seem a bit lifeless and procedural, the process and rules followed are designed to enable representation, participation, and responsible stewardship of the parish. What happens at the AGM?
The business of the AGM is set out in the ordinances of the Diocese of Sydney (Parish Administration Ordinance Schedule 2 [PAO], 3.1). In brief, it is as follows:
1. To ensure the meeting is conducted well
2. To receive reports about the ministry of the parish
3. To receive financial statements and reports from the parish wardens
4. To elect qualified persons to be Wardens and the auditor.
5. To determine the makeup of the parish council and to elect its members
6. To elect parish nominators (to nominate a new minister when required) and Synod representatives.
7. To deal with other issues where needed. What is a church warden?
There are three church wardens, one appointed by the minister and two elected at the AGM. The job of the church wardens is to ‘administer the financial and property affairs of the parish’ (PAO 2.9). That is, the church wardens oversee the week-to-week management of the church’s physical and financial resources. This is a big job! The wardens are responsible, for example, for approving all payments made by the parish, approving bookings of parish buildings, ensuring we meet various compliance requirements, monitoring our financial records, and maintaining our property. The wardens meet regularly with the rector and are also part of the parish council. More information about this role is available here
.What is a parish councillor?
The parish council is ‘the governing body for the financial and property affairs of the parish’ (PAO 2.3). It has responsibility for matters of policy, approving budgets, and authorising payments in the parish. This means that it has a governance role in the life of the church. The senior minister consults with parish council about major decisions such as staffing and significant aspects of ministry. The parish council can vary in size and shape depending on decisions made at the AGM. At a minimum, it is made up of the minister and wardens, but it usually includes a number of elected members. In addition, the minister may appoint one qualified person for every three people elected at the AGM. More information about the role of parish councillor is available here
.Who should be a warden or parish councillor?
To stand as a warden or parish councillor, a person must meet certain basic conditions: they must be part of our church, over 18, and able to sign the following declaration:
“I declare that I am a communicant member of the Anglican Church of Australia and am not a prohibited person within the meaning of the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998.”
In addition, to serve as church warden, a person must not fall into one of a number of excluded categories such as being the spouse of one of the ministers. For more on these, see here
These, however, are only the baseline requirements. Beyond these, it is important to consider a person’s character, their availability for the role, and their capabilities. There is no one kind of person that is right for these positions. It is always good to have a diversity of points of view on parish council. However, these are weighty roles within the life of the church, carrying responsibility and requiring significant investment of time. They should therefore be carefully and prayerfully considered. How are wardens, parish councillors, and so on elected?
At the AGM, the church wardens and parish council will be elected in stages. Normally, the minister first notifies the AGM of the name of the warden he has appointed, and then two wardens are elected by the AGM. If there are more than two nominees, there will be a vote. If there are only two names, they will be elected by a simple motion. The AGM will then make some decisions about the makeup of the parish council. It must first decide whether to have elected parish council members. If the answer to this is yes, as it has been at this parish for many years, it will then need to decide between two ways of electing the parish council.
(a) To vote as a whole church for either 3, 6, or 9 elected persons
(b) To vote as a whole church for between 0 and 3 elected persons, and then vote separately by congregation for 1 elected person per congregation
The most recent practice of this parish has been to go the first way, and to have 6 elected parish councillors. This has mostly involved good congregational representation. The second way is a way of ensuring this, but is more time-consuming and sometimes unnecessarily rigid. Whichever method is followed, the minister is entitled to appoint 1 parish councillor for every 3 elected members. What are parish nominators and synod representatives?
The final people elected at the AGM are the parish nominators and synod representatives. Parish nominators are those who, in the event that the senior minister resigns or cannot continue his role, are tasked with searching for and nominating a new rector. In the event that this occurs, it is a very demanding role. Synod representatives are those who attend and participate in the synod (general council) of the Diocese of Sydney on behalf of the parish. Synod representatives are elected for a three-year term, and were elected in 2020, so do not need to be elected at this AGM.
If you would like to nominate someone to be warden, parish councillor, or parish nominator, use this form: