Magazine article The Christian Century

Giving from Episcopal Dioceses Dips 7 Percent

Magazine article The Christian Century

Giving from Episcopal Dioceses Dips 7 Percent

Article excerpt

The Episcopal Church has seen a 7 percent drop in contributions from local dioceses since it voted last year to approve an openly gay bishop, but officials say it may be premature to link the two developments directly.

A report presented to the church's Executive Council February 9 revealed a decline of about $2 million in six months--perhaps the first tangible measure of the fallout from the controversial decision to approve openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

As a result, church treasurer Kurt Barnes has ordered a 5 percent spending cut at the church's New York City headquarters. "The bottom line is we are continuing the mission of the church," Barnes said in an interview. "The doomsday forecast or scenario that was thrown around at General Convention has not materialized."

The 2.3-million-member church asks dioceses to send 21 percent of their budgets to fired the national church. That money--expected to be $27.5 million this year, down from $29.4 million--funds 62 percent of the church's operations.

The conservative dioceses of Dallas and Pittsburgh have said they will no longer send money to church headquarters. Forty dioceses said they will meet their pledges, and 42 dioceses will send a lower amount. Twenty-four dioceses have yet to finalize their budgets.

Barnes said the lagging economy had as much impact on the budget as any protest decision to withhold funds--especially since 2004 pledges are based on income in 2002, when the economy was more sluggish. "Many have struggled, or have not been able, to give the 21 percent in the past," he said in an interview. "Some of that reflects a decline in their own income."

According to Barnes, no diocese has explicitly linked any decline in giving with the Robinson vote. "The zeros said zero with no explanation," he said, "but clearly Dallas and Pittsburgh should not be surprises. …

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