Legal Documents

Here’s where you will find various legal documents including the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese. It also has templates you can download and use to develop documents for use in your congregation.

The 2016 Diocesan Constitution & Canons [PDF], also include the Rules of Order that govern how the Diocesan Convention is conducted. The Constitution of the Diocese of Rhode Island identifies the Diocese of Rhode Island as a member of the Episcopal Church in the United States, and identifies the basic structures of governance within the diocese. The Canons of the Diocese of Rhode Island govern the affairs of the diocese and the churches associated with it.

The diocesan canons are subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church which govern the church-wide organization and the dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

By-Laws are developed by each congregation and approved by the Standing Committee. This TEMPLATE is offered as a starting point in developing your own. Technically a church doesn’t have by-laws because it isn’t an independent corporation — all churches are held in trust for the Episcopal Church as a whole and are subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in general and of their diocese in particular.

As Episcopalians in the diocese of Rhode Island, we affirm that the final authority in our lives derives from, and that we are responsible to, Almighty God as proclaimed in our Lord, Jesus Christ. We pledge that it is our faith that this Constitution and these Canons represent the activity of the Holy Spirit working with the people of God in this part of the body of Christ, the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island.” (from the Preamble)

Leases and License Agreements are legal agreements between a church and an outside group that uses all or part of a church’s facility for determined period of time. Leases are used when you are giving another group exclusive use of a building or portion of a building for an extended period of time. A license is a revocable privilege to perform an act or a series of acts on the property of another, like the use of a parish hall for a wedding reception or regular AA meetings. It can also be used if you are sharing space with a group (e.g., a pre-school sharing rooms with the Sunday School). Remember that a lease gives the user tenant rights and is not easily revoked while a license sets parameters for a user but can be revoked quite easily. So consider which makes sense in your situation — and feel free to call Canon Grenz if you want to consult with someone.

How much should we charge? If you are looking at a multi-year lease, it is best to have a realtor provide a fair market value assessment so you can change a reasonable amount. If you want to support a group that is doing work consistent with your mission, it is still wise to set the fair market value as the “rent” and then grant the group the amount you wish to provide as a “discount.” That means that the renting group clearly understands the value of space they are using and the congregation understands the value of what they are giving the group. It also allows the group to do fundraising since they can show the true cost to potential donors. This is important if you anticipate that you will need to raise the rent over time.