July 17, 2014

Seeking Cash, Virginia Episcopalians Make Way for Evangelical Tenants

Like the 1968 film “The Odd Couple,” a group of liberal Episcopalians, recently divorced from Anglican former parishioners, is looking to share space with some Korean Southern Baptists.

Currently this Episcopal congregation, a small remnant of a once robust congregation that joined the Anglican Church in North America and lost its building to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, is subsidized by the Diocese to the tune of over $6,000 per church attender.

This past autumn I blogged about how two church properties formerly the home of Anglican churches and awarded to the Diocese of Virginia in court rulings were now, somewhat ironically, being rented or sold to evangelical congregations. The rebuilding of continuing Episcopal congregations is slow work, in some cases requiring substantial financial support from the diocese in order to maintain and operate facilities. The Diocese is once again leasing space to an evangelical group, this time at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Herndon.

In an announcement to church members this past Sunday, Epiphany Episcopal Church made public that an agreement has been reached with New Hope Washington Central Baptist Korean Congregation, which will move into the property off of Fairfax County Parkway in late July.

“God has called Epiphany to build, grow and serve. Part of building, growing and serving, is financial self- sustainability,” wrote Priest-in-Charge Hillary West in an e-mail to the Episcopal congregation. “Over the next two and one half years, the Diocese intends to incrementally decrease its financial commitment with the belief that Epiphany will become financially sustainable through increased pledge commitments and sharing our space with a major tenant.”

More than any other continuing Episcopal congregation in the diocesan “dayspring” program, Epiphany relies disproportionately upon diocesan financial support. A 2013 stewardship report from the congregation revealed that the diocese shouldered $325,640 out of a total budget of $560,640 that year. The congregation lists an average Sunday attendance of less than 50 persons, in contrast to an attendance of 380 prior to the 2007 split.

The small remnant Epiphany Episcopal congregation has seen a revolving door of a half-dozen clergy since 2007, when the majority of congregants voted to depart the diocese. Upon assuming control of the property two years ago, a new vicar was installed with fanfare and optimism. That vicar, the Rev. Jennifer McKenzie, served just over a year and then vanished in late summer 2013 with no announcement. Archived newsletters listing autumn events to be hosted by McKenzie indicate a sudden and unplanned departure. After a brief stint with an interim clergywoman, the congregation brought in the current priest-in-charge.

According to West, New Hope began with about 70 persons and has quickly grown to about 150. While “New Hope is not the major tenant still being sought,” in West’s words, leasing to the Korean congregation is “a good, healthy step forward.”

“They love Epiphany and have a long, very favorable history with the Episcopal Church,” wrote West, who did not note that the congregation is affiliated with the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. “New Hope will not simply be a tenant of Epiphany. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to share in ministry together and learn from one another.”

Here’s hoping that New Hope not only thrives, but blesses Epiphany Episcopal through their Gospel witness.


17 Responses to Seeking Cash, Virginia Episcopalians Make Way for Evangelical Tenants

  1. Greg Griffith says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  2. aterry says:

    Would loved to have seen Father Robin in this beautiful facility. I’m relieved at least to see an evangelical body in the space, my money had been on the site being made a mosque just for the spite value.

  3. Greg says:

    Why is every “radically hospitable” and welcoming church shrinking so rapidly?

    • haithabu says:

      Because to welcome one side of a controversy is to implicitly make the other side unwelcome. I was told that explicitly once when I visited a Canadian Anglican church. When I disclosed my [conservative] church background, the woman I was speaking to said “I’m not saying you shouldn’t come here, but……” and went on to suggest I would feel more at home at another church.

      • Sam says:

        Then I suppose you know how gay Christians feel when they are not welcomed at a church. Hopefully, you’ve used your experience to take a stand for welcoming all of God’s people to worship together.

        • haithabu says:

          No, I haven’t, not in the way you evidently mean. The lesson I drew is that some forms of faith are mutually incompatible, and it’s okay to recognize that. I give credit to the woman involved for being up front about it.

          Not that it did that church any good. Its previously thriving membership tanked as its reward for being inclusive. The priest eventually left and the church went back to its default setting (orthodox doctrine and moral standards), but 10 years later it still has not recovered.

          As far as the church where I attend is concerned, everyone is welcome to attend, Christian, atheist, saint or sinner. But if you mean membership in the body, that carries with it standards of life conduct as laid out in the scriptures and a willingness to be accountable for that.

        • Andrew says:

          And how exactly is anyone supposed to know you’re gay? We normal people don’t introduce ourselves as “Hi, we’re Bob and Karen, and we’re straight.” Ever heard the phrase “TMI”? How about entering the church and thinking of yourself as an individual soul, not as part of some oppressed collective with a chip on its shoulder, sniffing around for signs of oppression and bigotry? I personally believe that “gay Christian” is an impossibility, but the left-wing post-Christian churches are in fact very welcoming to all sorts of perverse alternative lifestyles, since they’ve pretty much driven away the normal families.

    • Sam says:

      I attend a church that practices “radical hospitality” – or as we call it, “hospitality” – and the result is that a once dying congregation has more than doubled in size and is lifted up as an example of how congregations can revitalize and become beacons of hope to their community by “welcoming” all people to worship Jesus Christ.

      • Greg says:

        Sam – I used the word “radical” in front of “hospitality” because that’s how it was described to me by a female episcopal priestess. I take it to be code language for “we want gays to come into our church.”

        Truth be told, they want anyone to come into their churches, because they are rapidly shrinking. Why, they might even welcome orthodox Christians, if they thought they could eventually convert them to religious and political liberalism. I’ve certainly heard from enough Christians of “the Great Tradition” that when they don’t come around to Leftism at these congregations, they are subtly invited to find another place to worship.

        No kidding, I’m glad you found a growing congregation. It is an anomaly. The statistics show that the ECUSA, PCUSA, ELCA, and other old-line churches are shrinking at an annual rate of between 1.5% to 3%.

        • Sam says:

          I don’t dispute that mainline churches are shrinking, just that the challenges are only found in progressive congregations. There are many progressive ECUSA, ELCA, PCUSA, and UMC churches that are thriving. Just as many conservative churches are doing well, I’m sure there are conservative churches that are struggling to fill the pews, but that doesn’t mean that their traditionalism is the cause. I wish I could find the article but I just recently read a theory (so it could, of course, be completely wrong) that the diminishing nature of the mainline churches isn’t as bad as people think. The author suggests that it is really in part a matter of people not attending as regularly as they did in the past, leading to numbers that suggest a more precipitous decline. In the end, as a progressive Christian, what bothers me isn’t that others have a more traditional approach toward their faith (that is actually my background so I appreciate it even if it isn’t for me) but that some people, such as the person who posted “hahahaha” below seem to take such relish in seeing their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ struggle. That, in my opinion, is the real challenge for Christianity. To the unchurched, when they see Christians going after one another with such vigor, why in the world would they want to become a Christian?

          • Greg says:

            Sam – I’ve certainly seen a few articles that likewise pin the decline of mainline churches on something other than their liberalism. I, for one, don’t buy it.

            I do, however, concur with you last sentence. Actually, almost your entire post.

        • Andrew says:

          You are correct. People looking for a church home ought to visit a church’s website, because terms like “social justice” and “radical hospitality” translate as “pro-gay,” or, more precisely as, “if you take the New Testament as a guide to life, you will not like it here.” You were really fortunate in having that woman be so blunt to tell you that it was not the right church for you. That’s pretty darn sad, if you think about it, because she was admitting that this was a church that was not ALL people – and does any CHristian church have the right to say that?

        • Andrew says:

          You are correct. People looking for a church home ought to visit a church’s website, because terms like “social justice” and “radical hospitality” translate as “pro-gay,” or, more precisely as, “if you take the New Testament as a guide to life, you will not like it here.” You were really fortunate in having that woman be so blunt to tell you that it was not the right church for you. That’s pretty darn sad, if you think about it, because she was admitting that this was a church that was not ALL people – and does any CHristian church have the right to say that?

  4. Tim Wright says:

    “Gay Christian” is not a reality! Just like a sexually active virgin” Re-word it how ever you want, but no one is a Gay Christian!

    • Andrew says:

      I agree. It’s the whole “rights” mentality – everyone has a “right” to be a Christian, even if they don’t possess a conscience.

    • Andrew says:

      I agree. It’s the whole “rights” mentality – everyone has a “right” to be a Christian, even if they don’t possess a conscience.

  5. fredayers says:

    Remember that Bishop Peter Lee was poised to sign agreements letting the conservative northern Virginia congregations leave with their buildings, when Katharine Jefferts Schori prohibited him from doing so. The result was a series of costly lawsuits with the result being that the Anglican congregations that had, for the most part, built these buildings and were thriving in them were evicted.

    Now the Diocese of Virginia (as well as every other Episcopal diocese where the same strategy has been followed) is having to subsidize the remnant Episcopal congregations and is struggling to keep the doors open and the congregations provided with competent clergy–and the Episcopal Church spent millions to bring this disaster upon itself, supposedly in the interests of the Episcopal Church’s “fiduciary responsibility.” How is it maintaining one’s fiduciary responsibility to spend millions of dollars (reportedly tens of millions of dollars) fighting to win buildings that the Episcopal Church can’t use, can’t maintain, and can’t even keep open without subsidies it can’t afford?

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