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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FOR SALE: Episcopal Church Center

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FOR SALE: Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue ordered to put out "For Sale" sign

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
July 6, 2012

In an unexpected cost cutting move the House of Deputies passed Resolution D016 ordering the sale of The Episcopal Church headquarters building in New York.

Affectionately known throughout The Episcopal Church as "815", the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society's corporate location is 815 Second Avenue in New York City, just a block behind the United Nations.

When the HOD finally approved D016 late Friday afternoon it was passed without a deadline for the actual sale of the Manhattan Island structure.

Originally the Resolution came out of the Committee on Structure Friday morning with the mandate to sell the church headquarters building before the 2015 General Convention is convened in Salt Lake City.

Now the tweaked version simply reads: "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring - That it is the will of this Convention to move the Church Center headquarters away from the Church Center building at 815 2nd Avenue, New York City. Accordingly, the General Convention directs the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to sell the Church Center Building at 815 Second Avenue, New York City."

All references to time "...prior to the 78th General Convention and to report to that Convention on the sale," were stripped by the House of Deputies.

The next stop for D016 is the House of Bishops. The bishops have several options. They can pass the Resolution as presented to them, or put the teeth back into D016 by reinserting a timeframe, or scuttle the Resolution altogether and go back to the drawing board.

TEC financial figures show that it costs more than $11 million a year to be backyard neighbors to the UN.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.


GC2012: Deputies Swing Axe on 815


By Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
Special Correspondent
July 6, 2012

After heated discussion at committee level, the House of Deputies to the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to sell the denomination's prestigious headquarters at 815, 2nd Avenue, in Manhattan.

In what one deputy described as "lively debate," the House voted by voice to approve Resolution D016, stating, "That it is the will of this Convention to move the Church Center headquarters away from the Church Center building at 815 2nd Avenue, New York City."

The pared down resolution was the result of an amendment from the floor of the House of Deputies, which removed a timeline for the sale, and heated debate in the Committee on Structure, which cut D016 from 8 resolutions to 1.

This drastic move was made after an open hearing of the Structure Committee in which some 40 persons spoke, arguing for drastic change in the way the church was managed. The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle of Texas, vice chair of the Bishop's committee, spoke forcefully to the theme of selling the Episcopal Church's center.

"People are not happy with us spending this much money to talk to each other about people who are not here. ... People are not happy that we have a building in New York that takes millions of dollars out of our missionary operations. They are not happy, and we have known that for years. How many studies have we done? Do we need to study it again? ... Let's force change. Don't study it. Let's sell [815]. We in this committee have the power to make change happen."

The "change" considered comes after several days of sometimes acrimonious discussion concerning TEC structure and finances. One message on the House of Bishops, House of Deputies listserv summed up the mood:

"If we don't make some huge changes, shed real estate and hierarchy, we will wind up in bankruptcy court. A budget built around a 15% or 19% expectation that will never be achieved is a phony budget. And eventually we won't have money to spend on any projects. How then will we proceed? Who will make the drastic decisions as to what goes and what stays? Why not do the major foresting NOW and see what missional priorities are most urgent."

While selling 815 might count as "major foresting" it is far from clear that the potential sale of the property will count very far towards meeting the Episcopal Church's budgetary crunch as multi-million dollar legal fees compete with project and mission funding. When representatives were asked by Virtueonline whether any money would be raised by the sale of a building already encumbered by large mortgage debt, estimated by some at $40 million, no answer was given.

Despite this lack financial detail, many deputies appeared jubilant that D016 had passed and with it the days of TEC's iconic H.Q. "815 is a relic of our illusions of being an established church from an imperial era," twittered one deputy, "Constantine has just left the building," tweeted another.

Resolution D016 will now move to the House of Bishops for approval.


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