St. :Paul's Episcopal Church aerial photo

Town Hall Meeting

For parishioners interested in learning more about proposed changes to St. Paul’s Vestry selection process, a Town Hall Meeting will be held at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, January 27, in Colhoun B and C.

A Change in How We Select Vestry?
Your Input Requested

by the Rev. D. Dixon Kinser, Rector

According to the Episcopal Church, a “Vestry is the legal representative of the parish with regard to all matters pertaining to its corporate property.” It is a committee made up of lay people and works with the Rector to steward and administrate the resources and finances of the parish. The way a parish selects a Vestry varies from church to church, and members of the current Vestry at St. Paul’s have some serious concerns about how we select ours.

How We Elect Vestry. St. Paul’s has a 12-member Vestry made up of three four-person classes serving three-year terms. At each year’s Annual Meeting we publicly elect, by simple majority, these four new members from a slate of eight nominees who have been vetted and selected by a Nomination Committee made up of the four out-going Vestry members. It all happens in accordance with our parish by-laws, established in 2001.

The Problem. St. Paul’s current Vestry has asked to change the aforementioned process for electing new Vestry members for two reasons: First, the public election dynamic has proven to be hurtful to parishioners who are not selected and anxiety about this dissuades many from ever letting their name stand. Related to this is the second, more pressing concern: our way of electing does not allow the Vestry to “staff for its needs.”

What this means is that there are skills and knowledge any group charged to deal with the financial and legal matters of a church needs to have: business acumen, investment experience, accounting and legal skills, to name a few. So, what if, for example, the Vestry realizes that the only person in the room who has a finance background is rolling off at the end of the year? By our current process, they have no way to ensure that skill set will show back up in the new class. If this sounds hypothetical to you, it is not. The Vestry has operated without a lawyer ever since Bill Davis rolled off in January 2017. This was alarming to current Vestry members as our work with the nave repair and 875 building marched forward and led to their request for a change.

Changing the By-Laws. But how do you fix it? Putting nothing but lawyers on the slate this year? Well, no, because we need lots of other skills on the Vestry too. The answer this Vestry is asking for is a change in our election process, and that is where you come in.

To change the way St. Paul’s selects the Vestry means we have to change our parish by-laws, requiring a majority vote of the congregation at the Annual Meeting. That bring me to the purpose of this article. The Vestry has been researching how other churches choose their Vestry and they have found a way they are confident fits our needs at St. Paul’s. The Wardens asked me to describe the process so that when it comes up for a vote at the Annual Meeting, everyone understands what we are voting on.

The New Method. The new method for Vestry selection would begin by expanding the Nominating Committee, currently made up of only the four out-going Vestry members. The new committee would expand to include four more members, chosen from the parish at large. These new members would be nominated by open call to the parish, which is the same way we currently call for Vestry nominations. The hope is that more folks on the Nominating Committee will magnify the committee’s knowledge of what is happening in the parish and therefore expand the network of relationships they have to find good candidates.

The at-large members of the Nominating Committee would be selected from at least six potential candidates, four of whom would be chosen by drawing lots. The Vestry finds this to be not only fair, but also a more theological way of making the choice (Proverbs 16:33, Acts 1:22).

This Nominating Committee of eight would begin its work in the fall, preparing a slate of only four qualified Vestry candidates based on the needs of the Vestry for the coming year. That slate of four will be presented at the Annual Meeting where the congregation simply votes up-or-down on the slate as a whole.

The Vestry and Wardens propose this solution because it solves the two aforementioned problems while expanding the parish’s involvement, participation in, and transparency of our Vestry selection process. Win, win.

What Do You Think? If we make this change it would require a vote at the February 3, 2019, Annual Meeting to change the by-laws so we could implement the new procedure in 2020. The Vestry is keen for everyone to understand what is being proposed so that they can answer questions or even reconsider if a better solution is proposed.

The Vestry feels confident in this path because many other churches of a comparable size select Vestry in a similar manner (Christ Church Charlotte, Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati). So now they want to hear from you. Please send any questions or concerns to any current Vestry member or email our Senior Warden, Allan Burrows, at aburrows@capdev.com. The Vestry will also host a town hall meeting to go over this process and answer any questions on Sunday, January 27 during the formation hour in Colhoun B and C.

Thank you for taking time to read this and keep this process in your prayers. The Vestry’s desire is that our process make us a better people who love God and live God’s mission more faithfully in Winston-Salem. That sounds pretty good to me, too.