Churchwardens have a duty to represent the laity and co-operate with the incumbent (or, in cases of vacancy, the bishop). They are expected to lead the parishioners by setting a good example and encouraging unity and peace. They have a duty to maintain order and peace in the church and churchyard at all times, and especially during services, although this task tends to be devolved to sidesmen.
Churchwardens in many parts of the Anglican Communion are legally responsible for all the property and movable goods belonging to a parish church. If so they have a duty under ecclesiastical law to keep an up-to-date inventory of the valuables and secondly wherever applicable a terrier of the property (map of the churchlands, some of which may be let). Thirdly whenever churchwardens spend money to pay tradespeople for repairs etc., the wardens must record this in a logbook; it is inspected with the inventory. The churchwardens must ensure these logs are ready for inspection in case of a visitation and for periodic inspections.
Priests and their equivalent tend to devolve day-to-day maintenance of church buildings and contents to their churchwardens.
If an incumbency is vacant, the bishop (or the Archdeacon acting on his or her behalf) will usually appoint the churchwardens as sequestrators of the parish until the bishop appoints a new incumbent. The sequestrators ensure that a minimum number of church services continues to be held in the parish, and in particular that the Eucharist continues to be celebrated every Sunday and on every Principal Feast. They tend do this by organising a regular rota of a few volunteer clergy from amongst either Non-Stipendiary Ministers from within that diocese or in some cases retired clergy living in or near the parish. The bishop will tend to consult the churchwardens before appointing a new priest to take over the parish.
Churchwardens' duties may vary with the customs of the parish or congregation, the canons of the diocese to which the parish belongs, the desires of the priest, and the direction of the parish board and/or the congregation as a whole.