• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Two of U.S. left-wing Christianity’s most notable institutions – the National Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral – are in very serious financial trouble.

The watchdog agency Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington, reports that the National Council of Churches, headquartered in New York, “continues to financially struggle. On May 17, the NCC governing board adopted its seventh deficit budget in as many years.”

Even as this organization was at work on a resolution that labels the U.S. war on the Taliban as “unjust,” the institute noted:

“During the past fiscal year, 13 of the NCC’s 36 member communions made no contribution to the council. Lack of financial support from over one-third of NCC member churches further undermines this aging dinosaur of stale politics and bureaucratic inertia.

“Former NCC chief (and former Democratic congressman) Bob Edgar’s intense liberal political activism gained secular foundation support, but seems to have further undermined church support. Over the past decade, undesignated contributions by member churches to the NCC dropped 25 percent, and designated church contributions dropped an astounding 65 percent.”

From Virtue Online religion columnist David Virtue comes the following on May 22:

“The Washington National Cathedral, like a number of urban Episcopal cathedrals across the country, is struggling financially to survive. Some cathedrals have closed; others are barely financially viable. Trust funds have all but dried up with pledge plates and congregations rapidly shrinking.

“The National Cathedral, the Episcopal Church’s flagship cathedral, has just completed its fourth round of layoffs. Another seven employees were laid off (65 percent of its workforce was laid off in the first round in the fall of 2008), including senior staff member Canon John Runkle, priest, architect and conservation specialist who is in charge of the preservation of the cathedral.

“The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, cathedral dean, sent out an urgent appeal to supporters this week asking for $500,000 by June 30, ‘to prevent further budget cuts and fix the damage caused by the winter storms.’ (A friend who has supported the Cathedral for many years has offered to match all unrestricted gifts made by June 30, 2010, up to a total of $250,000, wrote Lloyd.)”

It is morally notable that Dean Lloyd, while issuing this public appeal for one-half a million dollars, has not announced any reduction in his salary and allowances, which might have spared one or more of these layoffs.

I telephoned the Cathedral treasurer’s office to ask whether the dean is paid a salary and allowance amounting to six figures, but I was unable to obtain any information on the amount.

He has also refused to answer a number of legitimate questions raised by religion writer Virtue, including the following:

  • I understand the National Cathedral has just completed its fourth round of layoffs this past week. Another seven employees were laid off (65 percent of its workforce was laid off in the first round in the fall of 2008), including a senior staff member who is in charge of the preservation of the building, namely Canon Runkle. Why was Runkle laid off?

  • It seems strange that as the recession supposedly wanes in this of all recession-proof towns that the Cathedral is struggling so mightily to hang on. Can you explain this?
  • I am told that in June 2009, Holocaust murderer James Von Brunn visited the Cathedral two days before the Holocaust Museum tragedy. He parked in the underground garage, walked around the Cathedral for an hour and then was escorted to the administration building where he asked to speak to Dean Lloyd. When Von Brunn was told that Lloyd was unavailable, he asked to to speak to other priests, any priest. Call after call was made by the receptionist. No priest answered or was available – something against the usual Cathedral policy. The staff quickly learned of this story and was dismayed. Was this disturbed man looking for pastoral counseling? Was he looking to harm a clergy – maybe unlikely since he had been walking around the church for a period of time? We’ll never know. An interview with the receptionist is part of the FBI records.

Columnist Virtue also notes:

“To date, neither the dean, Canon Runkle, nor any of the cathedral’s staff has chosen to respond to e-mails or phone calls requesting answers to the above questions. We are therefore running the questions as they were sent to Dean Lloyd.”

This is why I am motivated to suggest that this Washington Cathedral desperation money drive have the following entitlement:

“ONE-HALF A MILLION, PLEASE – AND NO QUESTIONS.”

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.