Church pledges for next year are down $1.1 million in North Carolina's largest Episcopal diocese, officials say, because people are upset over the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Michael B. Curry, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, voted with the majority of United States bishops to ratify the election of the Reverend V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the 2.3 million-member church. The denomination has also opened the door for blessing same-sex unions. "There has been an impact, and I'm not minimizing that," Curry said. "But there have also been Episcopalians who have stepped up to the plate and said serving Jesus is more important than matters we disagree about."
The shortfall brings the total proposed budget for 2004 to $3.6 million, down from this year's $4 million budget. At least four staff positions at the diocesan headquarters will be cut. Fifteen of the diocese's 118 churches have said they will give no more than the minimum next year. This year only two churches pledged the lowest amount. "Folks are so bewildered and upset about what their church has done, they don't know what to do," said the Reverend John W. Gibson Jr., rector of the Church of the Holy Cross in Raleigh. "The only thing they can do is withhold their giving."