HIGHLIGHTS OF PRINCIPAL CHANGES TO ST. PAUL'S BYLAWS
[recommended for Parish Approval on February 24, 2019]
by Jon Delano, chair, Bylaws Review Task Force
Over a year ago, the Vestry commissioned a Task Force to review the old Bylaws and propose changes. The proposed new Bylaws represent a lot of work by a lot of people over the year, and after extensive review and revision, we are pleased to submit these new Bylaws for Parish approval at the Parish Meeting on February 24.
Much of the current rules and practices in our old Bylaws remain intact in the new Bylaws, but the Task Force made a number of improvements that are reported below. Throughout the past year, we invited your suggestions, and we also held a Parish-wide forum on January 6 to take suggestions from parishioners. The Vestry, of course, had good suggestions as well.
Two church lawyers (Andy Roman, Diocesan Chancellor, and Ken Argentieri, Parish Chancellor) made certain we were in compliance with both Canon Law and secular law. On February 12, the Standing Committee of the Diocese approved the Bylaws. So now the proposed Bylaws are submitted to the Parish for approval with the Vestry's unanimous recommendation for adoption.
So what is new and different in these Bylaws?
Much of the changes are cosmetic, reorganizing sections and language to make them more coherent.
Some of the changes are required by the Episcopal Church. For example, the voting age in the Parish is required to be lowered to 16, although state law still requires one to be 18 to serve on bodies (like the Vestry) that can make legally binding decisions for the Parish.
We also recommend changing the words of qualification to vote from the current "on the Treasurer's records as a regular subscriber" with the new words "active in the life of the Parish and supporting its operation." Because of the growing size of this Parish, we have set the quorum at Parish Meetings to conduct business at 20 percent of average Saturday/Sunday attendance, roughly 60 parishioners.
The current Bylaws contained a hodgepodge approach to the duties and responsibilities of the Vestry and its officers. That has been simplified and clarified in the proposed Bylaws. One important change involves the Senior Warden. While some parishes elect their Senior Warden, St. Paul's (like most in this Diocese) empowers the Rector to pick the Senior Warden. We recommend that the Rector nominate the Senior Warden, subject to a confirmation vote by a majority of the Vestry.
Much of the changes affect the operations of the Vestry, allowing greater flexibility to operate electronically or with "remote" participation when necessary. We also recommend expanding the "voting period" to elect Vestry members from the current single Parish Meeting to include voting following the Saturday evening and early Sunday morning services. And we recommend a limited absentee voting for those known to the Rector or Wardens with "medical impairments" or who are "out of town" at the time of the Annual Meeting provided that such request for absentee ballots be made two weeks before the Annual Meeting. This applies only to the election of Vestry members. We want people to attend the Annual Meeting, but we also recognize that extraordinary situations may prevent that.
We also recommend a slight change in the manner of "calling" a new Rector to St. Paul's. Obviously, the Vestry is charged with setting up a process for such a search, but we recommend that the formal nomination and confirmation of the new Rector occur at the same Vestry meeting to avoid information (in this rapid social media environment) of the "call" getting to the Rector's old parish before St. Paul's acts definitively
We recommend a new section to our Bylaws that require a voting member of the Vestry to recuse or refrain from voting in certain situations of conflict of interest. While this has been a standard practice, we felt it should be mandated
With the help of our lawyers, we have strengthened and modernized the liability and indemnification language. This section will easily put you to sleep, but it is important. And we recommend one key change. The current Bylaws make it permissive as to whether the Vestry obtains insurance to cover those who serve St. Paul's, especially volunteers. We recommend making that mandatory, which has been our practice anyway.
Finally, special thanks to our Task Force: John Adams, Ken Argentieri, Barbara Bachman, Jon Delano, Sarah Downey, Jeff Dunbar, Joe Gray, Courtney Horrigan, Geoff Hurd, Jon Paulus, Pat Eagon Stafford, Steven Sumpter, Doug Toth, Jan Toth, and Ansley Westbrook for their hard work on this project; to our chancellors, Andy Roman & Ken Argentieri, for their legal eyes; and to the Vestry for their suggestions and ultimate unanimous approval: Ginny Barnicoat, Lisa Brown, Gina Brownfield, Jon Delano, Frank Horrigan, Geoff Hurd, Bob Johnston, Mark Lamendola, Jon Paulus, Pat Eagon Stafford, Stephen Sumpter, Ell Vines, and the Rev. Noah Evans.
If you have any questions at all about these proposed Bylaws, feel free to contact Pat Eagon Stafford, senior warden; Geoff Hurd, junior warden; or Jon Delano, chair of the Bylaws Review Task Force.