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BUFFALO: Episcopal churches see cut in donations

Episcopal churches see cut in donations

By CAROLYN THOMPSON
The Associated Press

BUFFALO -- Some Episcopal parishes opposed to the confirmation of a gay bishop last summer are withholding financial gifts to the diocese, causing a budget deficit that has already forced one layoff, Bishop J. Michael Garrison said Friday.

"The protest is real. It affects real people and that's sad," said Garrison, who said parishes had withdrawn an estimated $100,000 in pledges to the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

Nationally, donations to the Episcopal Church are down about $3 million, or 6 percent, since the confirmation of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, officials said.

Elsewhere in New York, dioceses reported none of the hardship being felt in Buffalo, where at least five parishes are withholding most or all of their financial pledges. An additional 22 parishes have not yet submitted pledges or have pledged less than the diocese had hoped for.

Coupled with the poor economy, Garrison said the diocese's $1.1 million budget has a $200,000 hole.

An office manager was let go this week. "By June we will have to cut a couple more positions," Garrison said.

In Rochester, diocesan spokeswoman Carolyn Lumbard said giving was down in some parishes hurt by the hard times befalling Eastman Kodak Co. and other employers, but no parish has withheld or reduced their gifts in protest of Robinson.

"It's not that we're not having the discussion," Lumbard said. "We do have some folks who have left the church. But more have come into the church."

In Albany, diocesan treasurer Jerry Carroll said there had been no financial fallout from the confirmation of Robinson, who was first confirmed by the Episcopal General Convention in August.

A call to the Diocese of Central New York in Syracuse was not immediately returned.

Garrison attributed the action in his diocese to an older, more conservative population.

"But I know that what we're facing is a collision of a couple world views, that more conservative Biblical interpretation and a more progressive, I believe," he said.

He added that the majority of the diocese's 63 parishes are continuing to give "and are welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian Christians in their midst."

The more than 7,000 congregations of the Episcopal Church receive $2.14 billion in offerings a year and forward a portion to the national church. Individual dioceses are asked to send 21 percent of their income.

As of February, about half of the dioceses who had made their financial pledges to the national church pledged less than 21 percent.

The Rev. Jan Nunley, a spokeswoman for the national church, said it was difficult to tell how much of the drop is attributable to protests by parishioners and their dioceses and how much the economy has affected giving.

END

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