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Modest drop in Episcopal donations follows row over gay bishop

Modest drop in Episcopal donations follows row over gay bishop

The Episcopal Church has projected that a financial protest by conservative members over the appointment of an openly gay bishop will cause revenues to drop by $3 million this year but won't significantly hurt church operations. The church had anticipated bringing in about $48 million in donations from local dioceses and parishioners when the budget was first crafted in August. But the executive council of the Episcopal Church, which administers the church's programs and policies, was told revenues now will be about $45.1 million. Parishioners and their local leaders have moved to withhold or limit contributions to the national church in protest over the appointment of openly gay New Hampshire bishop V. Gene Robinson. Robinson was first confirmed in August by the Episcopal General Convention. Kurt Barnes, the national church's treasurer, called the lower contributions "almost not material" in the effect on church operations. "The reduction is well below what naysayers and doomsdayers were predicting last August," Barnes said Monday. Presiding bishop Frank Griswold said the church intends to keep some vacant jobs open and trim other expenses but said religious and charity missions will not be affected. He said church operations would be "slightly curtailed." Tough economic times also have an impact on donations, although Barnes said most of the decline in revenue is the result of parishioners protesting. The 7,364 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% of their income, but about half of those who have already made their financial pledges to the national church fall below that threshold. The national church has pledges of $16 million from 51 dioceses and have pledges of future support from another 33 dioceses totaling $8.1 million. Two dioceses, Pittsburgh and Dallas, have refused to send any money to the national church in protest. Bruce Mason, spokesman for the American Anglican Council, a network of conservative bishops, clergy, and laity within the Episcopal Church, said reduction in financial support for the national church might be slight this year but that it doesn't mean it will remain so. Mason said some dioceses have not had a chance to meet since Robinson's consecration, while others have used money from endowments to cover what parishioners are telling them to keep from the national office. "The bottom line is, people are withholding money," he said. "It's a gradual thing that will trickle up from the pews to the national office. This has been something that has torn the Episcopal Church apart."

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