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Some Episcopalians cut back donations

Some Episcopalians cut back donations
The parishioners are responding to support for an openly gay leader


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Some Virginia Episcopalians, angered by actions the denomination has
taken in support of homosexuals, are showing their displeasure by
cutting back on donations and pledges. Giving to the Diocese of
Virginia, the largest in the Episcopal Church USA, is about $230,000
short of the diocese's $4 million-plus budget for 2003, said the Rt.
Rev. Peter James Lee, the diocese's bishop. In addition, pledges for the
2004 year are running about 18 percent behind last year at this time, he

The Rt. Rev. David C. Bane Jr., bishop of the Diocese of Southern
Virginia, said church members' pledges are coming in slower than usual.
Churches pledge to the diocese based on what members pledge to their

A great deal of our budget is being prepared with a pencil instead of a
pen," Bane said. "We have set priorities as best we can, but there
probably will be a couple months before we will know what we have. We
are continuing with our mission and ministry."

At the Episcopal Church's General convention last summer in Minneapolis, the
Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest who had been living with another
man for
13 years, was confirmed to be the bishop of the Diocese of New
Hampshire. Lee voted for Robinson's confirmation. Lee said at the time
that Robinson was selected by the people of New Hampshire, who knew he
was gay. Lee said he thought he should respect the Diocese of New
Hampshire's decision. Bane, on the other hand, voted against Robinson's
confirmation. Lee and Bane lead dioceses that are largely traditional.

They do not bless same-sex unions and do not ordain noncelibate gay or
lesbian priests. Still, they have received phone calls, e-mails and
comments from parishioners angry over the general convention's
confirmation of a gay bishop. William H. Goodwin Jr. denied a rumor
circulating in some Episcopal churches that he and his wife, Alice, are
withdrawing a matching grant they gave the Virginia diocese in 2000 to
start new churches.

The Goodwins are members of St. Stephen's Episcopal
Church in Richmond. Goodwin said yesterday that he and his wife pledged
$5 million to the diocese to be paid over five years. "We will honor our

We have always honored our pledges," he said. "We indicated at
the time that we might pledge another $5 million. We probably will not
renew that. We don't necessarily agree with the bishop" on his vote to
confirm Robinson.

Some churches are telling parishioners to write on
their checks if they do not want their contributions to go to the
diocese or to the Episcopal Church USA, said the Rev. John A.M.
Guernsey, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Woodbridge.
Restricted money will be given to mission work, he said.

"We will still give away 43 percent of our budget. We are not withholding
money from
the diocese and spending it on ourselves," Guernsey said. "This is not
aimed at Bishop Lee personally. People just have strong feelings of
grief and disappointment with the way he voted," Guernsey said. Lee said
he hopes no churches split from the denomination.

The American Anglican Council, a conservative organization within the
Episcopal Church, may provide an alternative for unhappy Episcopalians. "It's a
network of
churches that will support one another," Lee said. If people don't want
their donations to go to a diocese, Lee hopes "they will look at other
ministries where they can continue to participate with conscience."

The council is a part of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church,
said the Rev. Jeffrey Fishwick, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in
Charlottesville and a council member. One thing the council is looking
at, Fishwick said, is to have a church pick a different bishop if they
don't like the views of their current bishop. Christ Episcopal's 2004
budget will stay the same as its 2003 budget, which is $725,000,
Fishwick said. "Staff is not getting a raise. We have done well in
previous years.

There are good seasons and not-so-good seasons," he
said. St. James's Episcopal Church in Richmond also will keep a flat
budget for 2004, said the Rev. Randy Hollerith, rector. Money pledged to
last year's $1.4 million budget is still coming in, he said. "I'm hoping
we will be no lower than that," Hollerith said. Fewer than 10 families
have left St. James's because of the general convention's actions, he
said. "But each has been very, very painful," Hollerith said.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Richmond is discontinuing its women's
prison ministry. The stock market rather than decreased contributions is
to blame, said the Rev. Robert Hetherington, the rector. The church runs
a halfway house for women who have been released from prison. Four women
currently live there, Hetherington said.

The house, which is to close March 31, is being financed though St. Paul's
investment income and grants. The grants also are running out. Efforts to find
someone to take
over the program have failed, he said. Some churches are trying to put
last summer's general convention behind them and go on with the work of
the church.

"At Christ Church, we have decided we can't be paralyzed by this one issue,"
Fishwick said of the Charlottesville church. "It's time to get on with the
greater mission of the church. We are all fired up about our mission and the
things God is doing here."


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