By David W. Virtue
May 13, 2009
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit may have to close unless it gets an injection of money to keep it going till the end of the year.
The Very Rev. Dean Scott Hunter, Dean of the Cathedral, has asked the Diocesan Council for emergency assistance, saying he needs $200,000 to get through 2009. The dean reported that the cathedral has cash reserves for only six to eight weeks of operations.
When asked if there were staff adjustments that could assist the cathedral in meeting the financial challenges it faces, Hunter said, "There are no staff cuts which save us dollars this year. Even if we release people this year, their departure expenses will equal what we would be paying them for the rest of the year. The bottom line is: if this doesn't happen, my brothers and sisters of council, what are your plans for closing and selling the complex, and ceasing the ministry of the cathedral that is 100 years old and is by congregational age, older than the diocese itself? "That's the challenge we are looking at," Hunter concluded.
A source told VOL that there is much more to this story. "The finances, audits (or lack thereof), and inaccurate parochial reports should be thoroughly investigated."
Neither Herb Gunn Director of Communications nor Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., returned phone calls or e-mails to VOL asking for clarification of these charges.
Hunter outlined for council the various ministries and staff personnel involved in the cathedral's work--including a Sunday morning breakfast ministry that feeds 150 people and draws them into worship and the cathedral's renowned church music ministry.
Council member Matthew Bode, pastor at Spirit of Hope Episcopal/Lutheran congregation in Detroit, noted that the cathedral is engaged in valuable mission and ministry work in Detroit. "To allow a congregation at the intersection of Warren and Woodward to fold, at one of the prime intersections in the largest city in our state, is making a statement of our value in the city of Detroit. The cathedral's problems are our problems," he said.
Council member Sarah Midzalkowski, chaplain at Michigan State University, sought to "reframe the conversations," not only in reference to the challenges at the cathedral, but also the challenges of struggling university chaplaincies and other imperiled ministries of the diocese.
"What is our priority when it comes to the Extended Ministry Fund (EMF) and are we moving into a place where we are going to protect money rather than use the EMF to do the ministry we are called to do in this diocese?" Midzalkowski asked.
"If we want to use it as a rainy day fund, it is pouring for these ministries. If we want to look at it as an emergency fund, it is a red light emergency for these ministries. If there is ever a time to use the EMF for the reason it was established, it is times like this," said Midzalkowski.
Hunter concluded that if the council and the diocese consider the Cathedral Church of St. Paul as only a parish church or another congregation, emergency financial support shouldn't be considered. But he reminded the council of the history of St. Paul's being named the cathedral in the early 20th century and the joint project of constructing the Cathedral/Diocesan complex in the 1950s.
A large number of Episcopal cathedrals are in financial trouble across the country with dwindling congregations and Trust Funds. Most bishops have no idea what to do about it