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ECUSA: Episcopal protest hits collection plate

Episcopal protest hits collection plate

By Julia Duin
Published February 10, 2004

Episcopal Church officials yesterday announced a $3 million shortfall in the church's 2004 budget, caused chiefly by parishes and dioceses withholding funds to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop.

The shortfall equals 6 percent of the $48 million in revenue the church had expected this year. Church officials, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times, have revised the budget to $45.1 million.

Figures released at an Episcopal executive council meeting in Tampa, Fla., showed the denomination's 107 dioceses are giving $2 million less this year. A reduction in government funds for social-service programs produced an additional drop of roughly $900,000.

Conservative Episcopalians say the budget reduction is a direct result of the Nov. 2 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, the first openly homosexual ordained to such a position by the church. Bishop Robinson, who is divorced, lives with his male companion.

"This is a result of the uproar they said would never happen," said Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, the lead conservative group protesting the Robinson ordination. "If you stand on the air hose, the diver surfaces pretty quickly to see what's going on."

At an October meeting of the AAC, 2,700 Episcopalians pledged to "redirect our financial resources, to the fullest extent possible, toward biblically orthodox mission and ministry, and away from those structures that support the unrighteous actions of the General Convention."

Thus, conservatives say, the revenue losses by the end of 2004 will be even worse than denomination officials predict.

"These are all hopeful numbers put out by the national church by people trying to diminish any effect Robinson might have," said the Rev. Don Armstrong, an AAC leader and rector of the 2,400-member Grace and St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs, the largest church in the Diocese of Colorado.

But Kurt Barnes, the national church's treasurer, called the reduced contributions "almost not material" in their effect on church operations. "The reduction is well below what naysayers and doomsdayers were predicting last August," he told the Associated Press.

Only 84 dioceses have told church headquarters in New York what their contributions will be this year, but of those dioceses, 40 have promised to equal or exceed their yearly gift of 21 percent of their budget.

Two dioceses are giving no money, and 42 have reduced their contributions, giving between 3 percent and 20 percent of their income. The Diocese of Virginia, for instance, is giving 16 percent of its budget.

Mr. Armstrong predicted more reductions as Episcopalians continue to divert their offerings to other causes.

"This is just the beginning," he said. "People will be more excited about supporting hospitals in Tanzania and soup kitchens in the United States than [Presiding Episcopal Bishop Frank] Griswold in a limousine."

In a related matter, a group of 14 Anglican archbishops from mostly Third World countries released a statement Friday condemning the Episcopal Church as having departed "from 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian teaching and practice." The primates, from 13 Anglican provinces, represent 45 million parishioners, more than half of the world's 70 million Anglicans.

"We reaffirm our solidarity with faithful bishops, clergy and church members in North America who remain committed to the historic faith and order of the church and have rejected unbiblical innovation," they said. Specifically, the primates praised the newly formed Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes, created last month during a meeting of conservative Episcopal bishops, clergy and laity in Plano, Texas.

Copyright © 2004 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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