Resistance In The Diocese of Albany Goes Public
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Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 02:50:44 PM EST
The Times Union newspaper of Albany, New York on Sunday, February 12, 2006, ran a huge front page article, byline, Marc Parry, regarding questionable use of diocesan funds by the Bishop of Albany, Daniel Herzog.

According to the article, internal debate has revolved for months around outgoing Bishop Daniel Herzog, who is accused by some in his flock of concealing church finances, short-circuiting the election of his successor and sidelining those who clash with his theological beliefs.

The story might have little significance beyond the region, but because of the high-profile battle Herzog has waged as a national leader in the Episcopal Church's internal fight over the ordination of gay clergy priests, which Herzog loudly opposes, Episocopalians across the country are nervously watching the state of affairs of the Diocese of Albany.  

Any temptation, however, to write the dispute off as an internecine battle between the conservative and liberal wings of diocese was upended when a conservative trustee, Thomas Maggs, closely aligned with Herzog's aims, goals and vision for the Diocese of Albany resigned last September.  The Times Union article states  
"His job as a fiduciary," Maggs wrote in a letter obtained by the Times Union, had become impossible. "The bishop had stonewalled his every request for financial information."

Maggs and others feared the information clampdown hid major debts that have grown out of Herzog's pet project -- the creation of a 612-acre retreat in the hills of Washington County. A conversation with the diocesan accountant, William Kahn, only reinforced Maggs' concerns.
"The picture painted by Mr. Kahn was not a pretty one,"
Maggs wrote to Herzog in his resignation letter.
"He confirmed my worst fears by telling me that our borrowing in the current year had outpaced our income. He urged me to share this information with the rest of the trustees and stated that we should be provided with any financial information necessary to fulfill our role as a fiduciary."

In 2002, the 19-county diocese of about 20,000 baptized members began selling church real estate worth millions of dollars to raise money for Herzog's project, known as the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center. That angered some parishioners who cherished the old properties. Lives were disrupted in the case of the Nelson House adult home in Albany, when 60 senior citizens were forced to relocate.

Other concerns noted by the article involve:
·    the appearance of nepotism in hiring decisions for the construction and management of the Spiritual Life Center

·    the selling of church properties foreshortening at least one social mission of the diocese

·    the use of endowment funds as collateral for loans

·    the right wing political influence on the approval and acceptance of new priests (and conversely the isolation and silencing of extant priests who do not share his charismatic and rightwing perspective)

·    the use of charitable funds intended for health care on its healing ministry which, according to director, Rev. Nigel Mumford, relies on "God's desire that we be healed." ie, laying on of hands.  Those funds are the proceeds from a tax-exempt charitable foundation established from its 1999 sale of Child's Hospital in Albany for $10.5 million. The Episcopal Charities' mission statement says it will fund "health care services and health care-related educational and religious program."  

All of the concerns listed above reflect a curious alignment with the tactics of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a radical religious right think tank whose primary goal is infiltrating and defanging mainline denominations with histories of progressive social justice attitudes and actions.

Coverage of the story continued in the Times Union on Monday, February 13 issue

I have to wonder if a further goal of the IRD is not only to take over congregations, but also to defund them to empower the continuing hostile takeovers?

Moderate congregations are sitting on billions of dollars of real estate and other funds. Maybe they're seen by the IRD as a treasure chest to loot.

by Lorie Johnson on Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 03:32:46 PM EST

If you can get your hands on the book, United Methodism@Risk, it makes that very clear.  The foundations funding the IRD are not religious but political.

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