Dean’s Letter: An Ordered Church

Hello St. Paul’s,

You’ve probably heard the term “Holy Orders” from time to time, indicating the disciplined or ordered life that ordained people vow to follow.  When a couple gets married, they enter into an ordered form of life, guided by the vows they make. The church itself has an orderly structure, with Episcopal Church canons or laws which apply to all Episcopal churches, as well as diocesan canons and parish bylaws that are locally applied. These canons and bylaws govern the processes for ordaining clergy, electing bishops, owning property, the General Convention, and many other areas of our common life. Each lower level of canons must conform to the higher levels, so for example the parish bylaws cannot contradict the diocesan canons. [You can find links to each level in the written version of this letter.] Here are links to each level:

Of course, as an incorporated non-profit entity in the State of California, we are also governed by state and local laws.

If you go to the cathedral website you will also see a temporary modification to our bylaws which we were allowed to make because of the pandemic: in 2020 the Bishop declared a state of “Extraordinary circumstances” which allowed us to accept mailed-in ballots when we elect Chapter members: this state will continue into 2023.

In addition to the bylaws, which must be approved by the congregation at its annual meeting, Chapter adopts policies from time to time. Because they are Chapter policies, Chapter has the authority to override the policies if necessary. We don’t yet have a place on the website to publish the policies, but here’s a sample:

The gift acceptance policy calls for a small committee to evaluate any gifts offered to the cathedral, other than unrestricted cash gifts or publicly traded securities. This protects us from becoming a repository for someone’s household goods or from becoming unwitting owners of property that might become a burden because of taxes or restrictions on use.

The gift and bequest disposition policy provides guidelines for when a monetary gift or bequest is to be deposited into our operating fund vs our invested funds, from which we draw income. 5% of all unrestricted bequests go to the Diocese as our Common Life Share Plus contribution.

The Peace and Justice Issues policy gives the procedure by which someone can ask Chapter to formally endorse a Peace and Justice position.

The Archives policy handles access to the archives and requirements for retaining documents.

The Safe Church policy gives guidelines and sets boundaries for permitting a registered sex offender to worship at the Cathedral.

The Nominating Committee policy lays out the procedure for securing nominees for Chapter positions.

There are several policies governing the handling of money by staff, counters, and the endowment committee.

If you would like to view any of these policies, you can ask any Chapter or executive staff member to download them for you.

As you can see, our corporate life is very orderly indeed. I am grateful for all these levels of corporate wisdom, which protect us from hasty or thoughtless unilateral decisions and place responsibility where it belongs, with the body of which we are all members.

See you on Sunday.

Your sister in Christ,

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2 thoughts on “Dean’s Letter: An Ordered Church”

  1. The gift acceptance policy is a good one to have thus keeping the Cathedral from becoming a junk attic. We once had a thrift shop where such “gifts” often went and were summarily converted to cash and I wonder if it might be a good thing to reinstate such a shop for the disposition of tangible gifts.


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