(3) Control of lay office-bearers, churchwardens, sidesmen, organists, parish clerks, sextons.
It is his especial duty to inspect the churches within his archdeaconry, to see that the fabrics are kept in repair, and to hold annual visitations of the clergy and churchwardens of each parish, for the purpose of ascertaining that the clergy are in residence, of admitting the newly elected churchwardens into office, and of receiving the presentments of the outgoing churchwardens.
The legal point in the dispute (which Campbell afterwards made the subject of a separate pamphlet) was whether the churchwardens of the parish, in the absence of the vestry, had any means of enforcing a rate except the antiquated interdict or ecclesiastical censure.
A proclamation issued (December 6, 1553) directed the churchwardens to obtain the proper ornaments for the churches; and the bishops (at any rate Bishop Bonner, see Visitation Articles 1 554, Cardwell's Doc. Ann.
Churchwardens are always lay persons, and as they may, like "artificial persons," hold goods and chattels and bring actions for them, they are recognized in law as quasi-corporations.
Resident householders of a parish are those primarily eligible as churchwardens, but non-resident householders who are habitually occupiers are also eligible, while there are a few classes of persons who are either ineligible or exempted.
The appointment of churchwardens is regulated by the 89th canon, which requires that the churchwardens shall be chosen by the joint consent of the ministers and parishioners, if it may be; but if they cannot agree upon such a choice, then the minister is to choose one, and the parishioners another.
In some of the larger parishes in the north of England a churchwarden is chosen for each township of the parish; in the old ecclesiastical parishes of London both churchwardens are chosen by the parishioners; in some cases they are appointed by the select vestry, or by the lord of the manor, and in a few exceptional cases are chosen by the outgoing churchwardens.
In general, churchwardens are appointed in Easter week, usually Easter Monday or Easter Tuesday, but in new parishes the first appointment must be within twenty-one days after the consecration of the church, or two calendar months after the formation of the parish, subsequent appointments taking place at the usual time for the appointment of parish officers.
The duties of churchwardens comprise the provision of necessaries for divine service, so far as the church funds or voluntary subscriptions permit, the collecting the offertory of the congregation, the keeping of order during the divine service, and the giving of offenders into custody; the assignment of seats to parishioners; the guardianship of the movable goods of the church; the preservation and repair of the church and churchyard, the fabric and the fixtures; and the presentment of offences against ecclesiastical law.
In the episcopal church of the United States churchwardens discharge much the same duties as those performed by the English officials; their duties, however, are regulated by canons of the diocese, not by canons general.
He also attended upon the clergy, the churchwardens and the vestry.
Under the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874, which gave to churchwardens and aggrieved parishioners the right to institute proceedings against the clergy for breaches of the law in the conduct of divine service, a discretionary right was reserved to the bishop to stay proceedings.
The churchwardens, who are representative officers of the parishes, are also executive officers of the bishops in all matters touching the decency and order of the churches and of the churchyards, and they are responsible to the bishops for the due discharge of their duties; but the abolition of church rates has relieved the churchwardens of the most onerous part of their duties, which was connected with the stewardship of the church funds of their parishes.
Each civil or " poor law " parish was governed by the vestry and the overseers of the poor, dating from the Poor Law of 1601; the vestry, which dealt with general affairs, being presided over by the rector, and having the churchwardens as its chief officials.
They elected the churchwardens and overseers, the highway surveyor, if the parish was a separate unit for highway purposes, and the waywardens if it was included in a highway district.
The priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials headed a crowd of boys who, armed with green boughs, beat with them the parish border-stones.
The churchwardens are the principal lay officers.
The civil importance of the poor-law parishes may be dated from the introduction of the poor law by the statute of 43 Elizabeth, which directed overseers of the poor to be appointed in every parish, and made the churchwardens into ex-officio overseers.
The freemen, now appearing as the ratepayers, elected the "parish officers," as the churchwardens and way-wardens, the assessors, the overseers, and (if required) paid assistantoverseers, a secretary or vestry-clerk, and a collector of rates if the guardians applied for his appointment.
Churchwardens are no longer overseers, and the parish council may appoint as overseers a number of persons equal to the number formerly appointed as overseers and churchwardens.