Leadership in the Anglican tradition and especially in the Episcopal Church is shared and democratic. The Sacrament of Ministry in our understanding is Baptism. By baptism into Christ we are all made Ministers of the Gospel.
Lay leadership in the parish church is vested in a board of trustees known as the “Vestry.” The name comes from the long-standing tradition in ancient English churches of the lay leadership meeting in the Vestry Room of the church, the room where vestments were stored and where the clergy would dress for the services. This was often the only heated room in an ancient church, which made it a comfortable place to meet.
Clergy leadership in a parish is primarily the responsibility of the senior priest or pastor. In the Anglican tradition, this individual is known as a “Rector”, from an ancient Latin word meaning “ruler” although the Rector is by no means the ruler of the parish.
The Vestry and Rector share responsibility for the governance of the parish. The Vestry’s primary areas of oversight are the financial and legal affairs of the congregation, while the Rector’s primary areas are the pastoral, educational, and worship-related activities. Their shared responsibility is represented in the fact that they meet together; the Rector is ex officio the president of the parish corporation and chairs the Vestry meetings.
The Vestry and Rector are assisted in their ministry of oversight by volunteer program leaders and by paid staff, lay and clergy, who are supervised by the Rector.