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ALBUQUERQUE: Financial troubles at St. John's Cathedral sign of broader collapse

ALBUQUERQUE: Financial troubles at St. John's Cathedral sign of broader collapse

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The Episcopal Church, facing its worst spiritual crisis in living memory, is also coming apart at the financial seams. Around the country many downtown cathedrals face massive financial shortfalls coupled with dwindling congregations.

One cathedral, St. John's Episcopal Cathedral, in the Diocese of the Rio Grande (New Mexico and Texas), announced on its website last week that it faces a $145,000 shortfall in its one million dollar 2004 budget. The dollar dry-up is another sign of the continued decline in parish giving to both the local diocese and national church.

The cathedral is expected to roll out an interim pledge drive to try to raise much-needed money. In the meantime the vestry has again chosen to tap the cathedral endowment for five percent of its value, or $140,000. If the vestry had not done so, this year's shortfall would have been $285,000 -- a whopping 28 percent of the 2004 budget. The vestry has been tapping the value of the endowment for several years, said a source to Virtuosity.

The cathedral hired a new dean, Alan Dennis, before the 2003 General Convention in the hope he could boost membership and revenues. Those goals have been derailed by the votes of last year's General Convention to broker in same-sex rites and Robinson's election to the episcopacy.

According to Dr. Steve Bush, senior warden, the cathedral's expenses went up nearly $50,000, but pledges plummeted by $95,000 -- 12 percent less than in 2003. The 2004 pledge drive began after the Episcopal Church's 2003 General Convention which rejected the church's historic Thirty-nine Articles of faith, and voted positively on the sexual issues.

Dr. Bush wrote that unless more money is contributed, the cathedral will not be able to hire a third priest, and persons hired to fill the vacant positions of music and education directors will not be paid at the levels of their predecessors.

The biblically orthodox Diocese of the Rio Grande is in the midst of turmoil and strife, with the local chapter of Via Media attempting to subvert the process to elect a new bishop coadjutor to replace the orthodox Bishop Terence Kelshaw, who plans to retire in 2005. The Diocese of the Rio Grande's Standing Committee has publicly slammed Via Media for its actions. The Committee said it is going overboard with the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop's office -- a revisionist sanctuary in New York -- to ensure a fair election process.

Via Media poses as a non-biased group seeking reconciliation within the church, but it has found sanctuary only in dioceses where bishops voted against Robinson's consecration. Bishop Kelshaw voted against Robinson, same-sex blessings and in favor of keeping the Thirty-Nine Articles, a resolution put forward by Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman at the last GC2003.

The list of Via Media's complaints is stunning.

At its website they complain about the "minority being silenced," of a "huge disregard for diverse views," and "being squelched and replaced by fear." It even dredges up 1950s McCarthyism to justify its existence. In truth, Via Media bares its hypocritical soul by loudly proclaiming what it wants for itself and what it silently denies others in revisionist dioceses like Pennsylvania.

The Rio Grande Via Media (RGVM) says it's worried that it might "be seen as a group of rabble-rousers who want to cause trouble." But the group has already declared its hand. It broke one of the Ten Commandments, according to Bishop Kelshaw, by stealing the mailing list of the Diocese and using it to send out propaganda, giving it the appearance of official Diocesan mail. Bishop Kelshaw had not even allowed official diocesan groups -- except for the diocese's camp and conference center -- to use the mailing list which contained home addresses of all of the members of the diocese.

One of Via Media's leaders is the full-time priest at St. John's Cathedral, Rev. Gary Meade, who is listed on the Via Media website.

St. John's Cathedral, founded more than 120 years ago, has almost 1,500 members on its rolls, but weekly attendance is far less. It is made up largely of older parishioners. The cathedral's large complex with its renowned stained glass windows is one of downtown Albuquerque's architectural landmarks.

The decades-old erosion of the once mighty proud Episcopal Church continues, but now a new torrent of rain floods the pews. This time, members of Albuquerque's St. John's are voting on the ECUSA crisis by withholding their dollars, while costs to maintain their church continues to rise. To survive, they must reach into their endowments, dead men's money, to stay alive.

Robbing Peter to pay for Gene cannot continue indefinitely. The price tag is too high as many are discovering. One day even the endowments will run out.

NOTE: If you are not receiving this from VIRTUOSITY, the Anglican Communion's largest biblically orthodox Episcopal/Anglican Online News Service, then you may subscribe FREE by going to: www.virtuosityonline.org. Virtuosity's website has been accessed by more than one million readers in 45 countries on six continents. This story is copyrighted but may be forwarded electronically with reference to VIRTUOSITY and the author. No changes are permitted in the text.


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