- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Giving by local dioceses to the national Episcopal Church dropped roughly $4 million last year, a 12 percent decline in the first full year after the denomination confirmed its only openly homosexual bishop, according to a new report.

When tallies are complete, church officials expect $27.5 million in donations from local dioceses for 2004, down from $31.2 million in 2003, according to a report given to a key church governing body yesterday.

Through Nov. 30, the denomination had received $22.6 million from dioceses, the report said. Final figures were not available because December contributions have not been fully tabulated.

Denomination Treasurer Kurt Barnes told the Episcopal Executive Council, meeting at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, that he does not expect a continuing decline.

Rather, he predicted a 3.7 percent increase — about $1 million — in diocese giving to the national church this year, and another 4 percent rise in 2006.



But canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, a conservative group of Episcopalians, said he expects donations to keep going down in protest of “the liberal revisionists’ agenda, which includes a homosexual agenda.”

“That big of a downturn, whatever the dollar amount is, hardly argues for a church where everything is fine and wonderful,” Mr. Anderson said.

In an interview after his presentation, Mr. Barnes said the August 2003 confirmation of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson — who has lived with his male partner for years — was not the only factor in falling donations.

“There’s a decline … but what I’d emphasize is that some of that may be an economic reaction or reality,” Mr. Barnes said. “People’s incomes in 2003 and 2004 were recovering or were hurt by the market decline of 2001 and 2002.”

Mr. Anderson responded that “the economy is not down, it’s up. … Maybe he could have argued that two years ago.”

Since Mr. Robinson was first confirmed by the Episcopal General Convention in August 2003, parishioners and their local leaders upset over the denomination’s direction have moved to withhold or limit contributions to the national church in protest.

Some dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Dallas, have refused to send any money to the national church. However, some individuals and parishes from those dioceses have continued to give. Parishioners from Pittsburgh, for example, gave $60,000 directly in 2004 after the diocese dropped its $129,000 contribution from 2003.

The more than 7,000 congregations of the Episcopal Church receive more than $2 billion in offerings a year from parishioners, and forward a portion to the national church. Donations from dioceses make up about 60 percent of the national denomination’s total operating budget.

Church officials have dealt with the dip in donations by keeping some vacant jobs open and trimming other expenses. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has said the denomination’s religious and charity missions would not be affected, while church operations would be “slightly curtailed.”

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