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Wardens' Handbook

What is a Church Warden?

The office of Church Warden dates back to the 14th Century, when the church in England was still under the Roman See. The Wardens were, and still are, the chief liaison persons between the parish and the Incumbent, and the chief administrative assistants of the parish. There is biblical authority for the establishment of this office.

When Paul wrote to Titus, he said, “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Recognizing that ‘elder’ is not clearly defined, and seems to refer more to bishops and/or priests, the one thing that stands out is that these ‘elders’ would have been several.

In Acts 14, it is recorded that Paul and Barnabas, upon visiting Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, after preaching the Gospel and making disciples in Derbe… “appointed elders for them in each church, [and] with prayer and fasting, they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.” (v.23). Later, James exhorts his readers to call for the elders if they should be sick.... “and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14) [all quotes from NRSV Bible].

It seems then, that if the modern Church is based on the structure of the New Testament Church, a number of ministers are needed in each congregation. It is not satisfactory—and certainly not biblical—for the priests to assume responsibility for the entire ministry. As members of the Body of Christ, we are all members of the priesthood of believers. But there are those selected by the body for specific ministries. In the Anglican Church some of these men and women comprise the ‘Vestry’, with two or three of the vestry members being the church wardens. The members of Vestry, we might suggest, could function as elders in the local congregation, performing that ministry which they assume when they accept their high position. This ministry necessitates a relationship with Jesus Christ, a desire to please Him and an openness to the infilling of the Holy Spirit, so that God may be truly glorified through His Church. Out of this relationship will come a desire to worship Him in all aspects of our daily life, while sharing His love with others in the community and beyond. While Wardens are, to some degree, members of the Vestry, they are recognized as chief among the ‘elders’. This uniquely Anglican office can, and should be, an important part of building our Church.

What Kind of People Make Good Wardens?

A good Warden can be a stimulus, example and spiritual leader for the whole life of the parish:

  • A baptized, confirmed, person of faith who attends church services regularly.
  • A person who knows many of the congregation, and in whom others have confidence.
  • A person who has had previous experience handling parish matters as a member of the Vestry.
  • A person willing to work closely with, to support, and to help the Incumbent.
  • A person whom the Incumbent can take closely into his/her confidence.
  • A person who can be sympathetic and tactful in relating to members of the congregation, particularly in handling complaints.
  • A person who can really reflect the love of Jesus, through encouraging others within the Body, offering prayers and assistance to those who are suffering, and serving to the best of his/her ability in keeping God’s property in top condition, as a witness to the wider community.
  • A person who is willing to be subjected to a police check.


To be eligible for election or appointment as a Warden, a parishioner must be a communicant and of the full age of majority.

What Do Wardens Do?

1. Wardens, together with the Incumbent and Vestry members, are responsible for all aspects of parish life. They must work with and support the Incumbent, be loyal to him/her, and respect his/her confidence.

2. Wardens must be available to the members of the congregation for information, complaints, or suggestions.

3. Wardens are responsible for the holding of regular services, and for the provision of all things requisite for Divine Service. If there is neglect or inability on the part of the Incumbent to perform his/her responsibilities, the Church Wardens must notify the Bishop as to the situation.

4. Wardens should be in attendance for the visitation of the Bishop or an Archdeacon.

Installation of Church Wardens

Next: Duties of a Warden

[Notes to the reader: Throughout this document the word "responsible" is used when defining a warden’s functions and duties. This does not mean that the warden must carry out a specific function or duty; rather, the warden must ensure that the function or duty is carried out.

It is our intent that this document will be reviewed and updated at a minimum of every ten (10) years.]

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