Selection and appointment
How long do churchwardens serve?
Churchwardens are elected to serve for a period of one year. However, a person may be re-elected as churchwarden to serve in further years, normally up to a maximum of six consecutive years.
After six years, a churchwarden must have at least a two-year break before seeking re-election.
When and how are churchwardens chosen?
Churchwardens are chosen annually by election at a Meeting of Parishioners (this is a meeting separate from the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, whose voting membership is confined to the Electoral Roll membership).
The Meeting of Parishioners includes anyone on the Electoral Roll, plus anyone resident in the parish whose name is on the register of local government electors, whether or not such a person attends the parish church. This annual Meeting of Parishioners must be held each year before 30 April.
A candidate for election as churchwarden must be nominated and seconded in writing by two people who are entitled to vote at the meeting. Each nomination paper must also be signed by the candidate indicating a willingness to stand for election.
Nomination papers must reach the parish priest (or, in a vacancy, an outgoing churchwarden) before the meeting starts.
Bearing in mind the considerable spiritual, pastoral, missionary and temporal responsibilities of churchwardens, it is important that substantial thought and prayer be put into the process of nomination well before the time of the meeting.
If more than two candidates stand for election, there must be an election, using properly signed voting papers, unless everyone present agrees to an election by a show of hands.
There is a procedure for deciding the result if an equal number of votes is cast, but the law makes no provision for a situation where no-one is prepared to stand for office. It simply assumes that there will normally be two churchwardens, or occasionally one, if circumstances are exceptional.
There is also a special procedure where it appears to the parish priest that the appointment of a particular person nominated might give rise to serious difficulties.
How are churchwardens admitted to office?
Once churchwardens have been elected, they should be publicly affirmed in their office in the context of local public worship. However, churchwardens do not formally take office until admitted to it by the bishop or his substitute - this is normally the archdeacon at his annual Visitations.
Since the office is an annually elected one, a person must be admitted every year, even if he or she has served in the previous year.
Churchwardens therefore remain in office until their successors are admitted, or until 31 July, whichever is the earlier. Anyone elected to the office who has not been admitted by 31 July ceases to be churchwarden, and a further election must take place.
If a churchwarden for any reason cannot attend the Visitation to be admitted to office, he or she must make separate arrangements with the archdeacon for admission.