BUST UP IN THE TEMPLE OF MAMMON

From THE CHRISTIAN POST:

Ten of the 22 members of Trinity Church's board of directors have been forced out or quit over alleged subversion of the institution's mission and extravagant spending by the rector of the Episcopal church in Lower Manhattan, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper. Former directors accuse 67-year-old Cooper, who heads the world's richest Anglican parish with over $1 billion in Manhattan real estate, of departing from Trinity's original mission and wasting money, New York Post reported Sunday.

Accusations against Cooper include misreporting of numbers of worshippers on Sunday services; demands for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse; an allowance for his Florida condo and a fat salary; trips around the world at church's expense; wasting more than $1 million on development plans for a luxury condo tower; and spending $5 million on a publicity campaign. His compensation was worth $1.3 million in 2010 and it included a salary of $346,391 and deferred compensation of $507,940.

A former board member alleged that Cooper concentrated on studying the condo development, "not at all paying attention to the principal focus of those that hired him, which was try to solve the problem and try to make the church more of a powerful force in the philanthropy world."

COMMENT: WTF?!

There's a priest in the Episcopal Church of the USA who earns all that dosh and there's a church in the Episcopal Church of the USA that is that rich? I'm telling you, if the African bishops were at war with TEC about this complete antithesis to the message of Jesus Christ, I would be backing them up to the hilt (although they probably wouldn't approve of that particular turn of phrase).

Comments

BUST UP IN THE TEMPLE OF MAMMON — 31 Comments

  1. This is Trinity, Wall Street, MP. I think it is a very highly monetarily endowed church. As you will notice, they have a board of directors, not a vestry as most smaller churches refer to their decision making lay persons. It is a mess, if you ask me. Of course you didn’t. I personally think that no person needs to be that ‘well paid.’ Too much like being a CEO on Wall Street. . .

    • They are called Trinity Wallstreet for a very practical reason: they own much of the real-estate in and around Wallstreet.

  2. All priests within a province should be paid the same and have adequate housing provided for them. This man cannot possibly call himself a brother and colleague of other priests in TEC. It’s fecking evil when outside his house there are people dying of poverty. And it’s not a “one church, one priest” situation. That the TEC synod allows this sort of discrepancy in priest’s wages is almost as abhorrent as the anomaly itself.

    • It doesn’t work that way here. It is the difference between being a bishop-appointed vicar and a lay-called rector. Trinity Wallstreet was endowed by JP Morgan way back in the 19th century. The position is more like being the CEO of a large financial corp.

      Trinity Wall, supports much of the work of the Dio of NY, TEC and the Anglican Communion.

      I am scandalized by the amounts of money there too. But I also know what kind of good that they do with that $$. I don’t know if these charges are true but church fights of this nature do not help us.

  3. The “synod” (General Convention) doesn’t have the authority to legislate on that topic. Our polity is different than yours. The Diocese of New York probably doesn’t have a budget or resources as large as Trinity Wall Street. I’ll be interested to see if the new bishop is willing to step into this quagmire right off the bat.

  4. I think Trinity is the same lot that keep inviting England’s Archbishop Rowan Atkinson over here to stir things up.

  5. In TEC, each church comes to a separate employment contract with its rector/vicar. Usually it is set by the economic resources of the church rather than by any national standard. The then Rector of Holy Apostles on 9th Ave. and 28th Street in Manhattan was paid a 6-figure sum back in 1988, and his housing was also thrown in–a great loft conversion in Clinton.

    General Convention (not a Synod…) sets minimum terms for presbyteral compensation (I think; someone else may have better and more up to date information). However, setting one level of compensation for all priests would be missing the point. In Manhattan, living is very expensive indeed. (Perhaps not as expensive as the Rector of Trinity’s living expenses, but pretty expensive.) To say that the Rector of Trinity should make the same salary as the Rector of St. Swithun’s in East Jesus, Nebraska is not sensible.

    You are aware, I’m sure, that the level of compensation for C of E clergy is in a band, rather than one amount. We have to pay clergy more down here than they get in, say, Bradford, as the cost of living down here in decadent London is greater than that in Bradford.

    The Rector of Trinity is one of a select band of clergy referred to as “Cardinal Rectors” in TEC. The previous Rector of Trinity was a great preacher and a good man. This one seems to be a bit profligate.

  6. Let me give you a more ‘up to date’ version: my father, a TEC priest, earned approximately 45k a year. That is a total amount, including provisions for housing, healthcare, etc. Now he has Parkinson’s and is no longer fit for work, or much else. So my mother, just recovered from a bout of cancer, *has* to work. Or they will both be on the streets.

    Your pension is based on the highest amount that you were paid during your service as a priest. This immediately says, small churches – screw off; mission work – screw off; churches in a poor community – screw off.

    Mr Chris’ excuses present the patently wrong headed thinking TEC has concerning mammon. It doesn’t occur to him to raise the salary of the Nebraskan priest through funding obtained from Cardinal parishes or the national budget (which btw the Southern Baptists do). No, instead it makes it alright to pay unhealthy amounts to individuals because of their personal connections in TEC and the political games ‘priests’ play in getting to those wealthy parishes.

    And should God call you to serve the poor and the needy? Tough luck for the priest. “If you are the Son of God, get yourself down from the cross.” Because its none of TECs concern.

  7. I don’t usually write to agree with “anonymous” since it’s just not cricket not to reveal who you are. However, in the case of the child of the TEC priest, I can see a reason, and the post is not troll-like at all, so I shall reply. I agree. I even entered the lion’s den over at Episcopal Cafe about it being okay for differing compensation packages depending on the type of congregation and at the end mused that a priest like me, or perhaps anonymous’s pater, should be getting the Trinity Wall Street compensation for walking for over five years with a congregation at risk.

    But more to Anonymous’s point, I have, in Diocesan Council, dared to challenge that instead working to close dying parishes who are nevertheless serving the gospel with every atom of their being, in order to shunt their assets over to the congregations who are not at risk, those congregation who have ought to be required to give of their substance to the congregations who don’t have who are doing the ministries the haves are not doing. I’m 66. I write this even though it is not politic for me to do so. If I go down, I do so in the spirit of MP, saying what has to be said in a time in which churches seem to no longer know, or have the courage to do, the right thing.

    I’m afraid this is a bit rambling. Oh well, there’s a reason for the name of my blog.

  8. you are correct, i simply went anonymous for the sake of my parents. thank you for your considered reply.

  9. Hang on a second! Earlier today I’m receiving comments from Americans saying (quite rightly) that we need to completely change our appointment system because it’s unfair. When I suggest TEC changes its renumeration system I am told that can’t be done – it’s not the way you do things. It seems to me that the revolutionaries are not anywhere near as revolutionary as they would have us establishment bound countries believe.

    • its because you struck too close to home, TECs pockets.
      and while i know that sounds ‘antagonizing’ i mean it sincerely. i grew up in TEC, even before my father went to seminary, so this is not just PK cynicism.

  10. You are touching on very sensitive issues, Chris. Mrs MP is now looking forward to a future with no pay increases and a real lessening of the value of her wages because the government is about to get rid of national pay scales so that Southern business owners can use us as cheap labour. It’s bad enough that all our former sources of extra income such as the national lottery have completely dried up because all funding is now being spent on the Londoners’ Olympics.

    I hate the South. I hate its inhabitants’ greed and arrogant belief that only they are important.

  11. I would suggest, Muthah, that having a priest earning more than the Prime Minister of England helps you a lot less than any church squabble. Or perhaps it doesn’t in America. Perhaps the prosperity gospel is so connected to your national self mythology that you really do believe that a priest can owner a condo in Florida whilst living in a New York mansion. If that’s true, then you church is as far away from the gospel of Jesus Christ as I am from the getting the job of next Archbishop of Canterbury.

  12. No, Susan. We named you insurrectionists. It was your founding fathers who called themselves revolutionaries. Republicanism is revolutionary by its very nature. I think it is a great shame that America has not only forgotten where it came from but has actually become world leaders in the tyranny it originally gave the lives of its young men to overcome.

  13. Actually, my proposal that the “haves” churches spread the wealth to the “have not” churches is revolutionary. And makes people stand up and say, “your little churches should close and come and live with us”. Never mind that means those who already have think it meet and right that they should get more. A parable, the punchline of which I totally reject, except as Jesus being sarcastic.

  14. I completely agree that this priest’s salary package is beyond outrageous. It is scandalous. That said, the parish itself has done enormous good with the income from its property and is truly committed to philanthropy. (Or, at least, it has been historically.)

    In fact, my little Center received a start up grant back in 1996 from the fund Trinity Wall Street had established to promote spiritual formation. That money enabled me to buy a desperately needed computer and hire a part time administrative assistant until we were able to generate enough donations from within Oklahoma to keep going.

    It does sound as if the current rector has truly lost sight of the traditional mission of the parish. Let’s sincerely hope that the exposure of this travesty helps restore what has long been an admirable sense of purpose by the people of that place.

  15. I was the American who commented on your polity, and yes I think we need to fix some inequities in ours.

    The current situation is that each parish is responsible for the salary of its clergy and above a diocese set minimum they are free to make their individual deal. That does not make that right!

    I think; and this is why I won’t ever get back to a diocesan convention [ ie: synod] that there should be a sort of “luxury tax” so that clergy compensation and ministry funding is more equitable. Saying that got me out of convention duty, and effectively ended my time as a vestry person!

    I was a revolutionary, and I paid the price. I was also right.

    In fact, there is something wrong with the idea that we have some parishes that have to find ways to spend money, while others that can do really good things given a chance, are broke. We need to learn to do some radical sharing.

    We have the same sort of inequity in the episcopate. There are bishops, whose salaries dwarf others. Toss in the extreme costs of living in some parts of the country (cf. Alaska) and it gets even worse. I personally know at least two priests who have declined to be on episcopal election ballots in diocese where the salary would be a net reduction compared to what they got in parish or academic settings. No I won’t say who or where.

    So, while I am not sure I (I am American) am up for your model of equal salaries across the board, I do think we need to fix our own house. We overpay some and underpay many. We have rich parishes without many people in some cases, and places that are capable of growth, if only we spend some cash. Diocese should be able to fix that sort of thing!

    But then we also have diocese like Chicago where I live in which parishes can simply not send money to the diocese. Nothing happens to them. How can we claim to be a part of the bishop’s ministry, and expect the bishop to provide services and sacramental presence when we do not participate in the support of that ministry?

    We should be more willing to examine our system and less willing to defend it.

    FWIW
    jimB

  16. When I think how hard our bishop works and the pay he receives, and how hard the clergy in our diocese work for the stipends and benefits they receive, well… I was appalled when I read this story today. Fuel for the Occupiers? But I have the same feelings when I read about the director of certain nonprofit organizations, university athletic directors, healthcare executives. Whatever the market will bear

  17. Prophetic ministry? More paternalism-a hangover from the days when the vicar was the “only gentleman in the parish” and “deserved” a salary commensurate with his status as an educated man?

  18. I do not have enough information to comment on whether or not James Cooper is failing in his philanthropic duties. I expect this is as much to do with the internal politics of this church as much as anything else. I am merely attacking his renumeration package.

    Following Ellie’s comment I feel I must, as a good socialist, throw another question out there. I have no idea, of course, about the motivation of this church’s benefactors or how much of their salaries they give to the church. But my guess is that much of the money this church has been given over the years has come from an unfair system that overly rewards the powerful and keeps the poor in poverty. Therefore, is their philanthropy true philanthropy? Is it dirty money that they are giving away?

  19. Well, MadPriest, you are, of course, quite right. The parish HAS benefited from a terribly unfair system. And in that sense, their philanthropy is certainly tainted.

    I guess I felt obligated to say what I said because I, personally, have benefited from that tainted philanthropy. (Not very much, mind you, but a little bit!)

  20. I am only asking the question. I am unsure of the answer. It could be said that the poor who receive their beneficence are redeeming the sin involved in its original accumulation.

  21. I know many of the characters involved in the current and prior rectorships of Trinity, Wall Street. I am not commenting on them. As a priest who had a tiny holiday cottage in the Cotswolds for 20 years and was licensed in the UK during my holidays and retirement, I am quite familiar with the sweeping differences in polity and practices between TEC and C of E.

    I would offer the following:
    1. You may get even more outraged by examining the association of wealthy parishes in TEC [I forget the actual name].
    2. Most of the clergy who serve in small and/or ghetto and/or rural missions are true saints in their vocations. The sad fact remains that there is some relationship between competency and salary levels in some areas of TEC life and practice and that needs to be acknowledged, as much as I regret it.
    3. One of the sad aspects of TEC pension reckoning is that as noted it is based on a percentage of one’s 7 highest years of income during ministry. That means that ‘the saints acknowledged above’ get an even worse penalty at the end of their active ministries. I am told that our Pension Group is addressing this issue, but we have a long way to go.

    Personally, I think that there should be a ‘cap’ on pension benefits of clergy and especially bishops in the TEC. It might cause a trickle down effect on clergy who so aggressively seek the episcopate or cardinal rectorships. [How many times have I heard “I believe that the Holy Spirit is calling me to this ministry…”

    Little did Queen Anne’s Bounty realize, when it was accorded to Trinity Church, Wall Street!

  22. 1. The Association of Endowed Parishes is the name you’re looking for, Bob.
    2. From your keyboard to God’s ear.
    3. Yes, and the Pension Fund is working on how those who have worked in those parishes that can pay only half time might receive more than 1/4 rather than 1/2 of the pension of those who have been able to work in full time paying parishes.

    This whole thread is a real sore spot.

  23. Also, Turnip Ghost commented, on my blog, to the britishisms in one of my comments on this thread, asking if I was missing Britain.
    Yes.