August 18, 2015

Dean of National Cathedral to Step Down

Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post breaks news of Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall’s early departure from the landmark Gothic church:

A tall and skinny former comedy writer and fierce progressive, Gary Hall made news almost as soon as he showed up in Washington three years ago to take the helm of the Washington National Cathedral, calling the massive church “stodgy,” and opening it to same-sex weddings, a Muslim prayer service and yoga.

Hall made news again Tuesday by announcing he will step down as dean on Dec. 31 – two years early — saying the prominent Episcopal cathedral needs major financial and programmatic changes, changes requiring a good 10-year commitment from a leader.

Critics of the Episcopal establishment say a solid path forward isn’t yet clear. Jeff Walton, who directs the program on Anglicanism — the larger global faith community of which Episcopalians are a part — for the conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, said the cathedral is becoming too narrow with programs focused on contemplative spirituality and left-leaning politics. He noted that while it is accustomed to prominent attention, its regular congregation doesn’t even qualify as a megachurch.

“If they are only projecting that they are for white, upper-class liberals who live in  Northwest (D.C.), that’s the only audience they will reach,” Walton said. The financial model of the past — wealthy givers around the country who were committed to regular institutional giving — can’t be relied upon. “If it can’t be supported by the local community it will continue to struggle.”

Read the full story here.

5 Responses to Dean of National Cathedral to Step Down

  1. Mike Ward says:

    It doesn’t explain with the annual budget is $13 to 15 million per year. Does it really cost so much to sit there and be irrelevant?

    • Jeff Walton says:

      There are enormous costs associated with the upkeep of a physical plant that size. Even subtracting programmatic expenses and personnel, it costs a small fortune to operate that building.

  2. Mike Ward says:

    I’m looking at a Washington Post story from 2010 that says the budget was slashed from $27M to $13M. In 2008 it was $27M! That’s crazy.

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