August 20, 2015

National Cathedral Dean Exits Amid Struggles

Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
August 20, 2015
Contact: Jeff Walton office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org

 

“The cathedral dean delighted in inserting the church into any national news story he could find, from gun control to the Confederate flag.”
-IRD Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton

Washington, DC—Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall has announced his departure as top official at the Gothic landmark church citing massive budget and program changes needed and “continuing evolution of its internal culture.” Hall concludes his time in December after three years at the Cathedral, two years before his five-year contract was set to end.

The landmark Episcopal church struggled to raise $11 million towards an estimated $34 million in needed earthquake repairs. An expensive underground parking facility and hefty costs for the operation and maintenance of the Cathedral campus have also stressed the church’s finances, which rely disproportionately on outside gifts and grants. During Hall’s tenure, the cathedral began charging an admission fee for visitors and announced it was available to rent for corporate events.

According to statistics from the Episcopal Church Office of Research, average Sunday attendance at the Cathedral dropped from more than 1,800 persons in 2005 to less than 1,400 in 2013, the most recent reporting year. The cathedral’s annual budget has dropped from $27 million in 2009 to $12.9 million today.

IRD Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton commented:

“Despite assuming leadership of the cathedral after the 2011 Virginia earthquake, Hall seems to have been unaware of the scope of fundraising and budgetary challenges that he would necessarily confront. Instead, the cathedral dean delighted in inserting the church into any national news story he could find, from gun control to the Confederate flag.

“As he blamed cathedral struggles on a general disinterest in organized religion, Hall seemed unaware of thriving new evangelical and immigrant congregations populating Washington, D.C.’s religious landscape.

“Cathedral programs, such as contemplative labyrinth walks accompanied by Native American flute music, seemed exclusively targeted at aging white liberals, the declining demographic which populates oldline Protestantism.

“Changes to allow gay weddings at the cathedral, as well as host the first transgender preacher there, kept the National Cathedral in the news, but also limited its appeal.”

www.TheIRD.org


5 Responses to National Cathedral Dean Exits Amid Struggles

  1. Mike Ward says:

    Did they ever actually replace those stained glasses windows with the Confederates on them? I can’t find any news since the story where he said he wanted to.

    • Jeff Walton says:

      No. There is a display sign near the windows that explains the controversy, but Cathedral officials will need a major donor(s) to step forward in order to facilitate the replacement of such expensive windows. I don’t see that happening before Hall steps down in late December. After that occurs, it will likely be forgotten about and the windows will remain.

      • Mike Ward says:

        Thanks for the update. It seems like it would be a terrible expense for a church in such desperate need of money already.

      • Namyriah says:

        Woodrow Wilson is buried in the cathedral, and Wilson absolutely loved the movie The Birth of a Nation, with its positive depiction of the KKK. As long as they’re on an anti-Confederate binge, maybe they ought to exhume Wilson too.

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