Amid budget cuts, staff layoffs and losses in membership, a legislative house of The Episcopal Church voted Friday to sell the denomination's headquarters in New York. Church leaders will also vote on a resolution calling for pastors to bless same-sex unions.
The House of Deputies passed a resolution directing the Executive Council to sell the Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Avenue in New York, where most of the church's administrative staff offices are located, Episcopal News Service reported.
The resolution, passed during a weeklong convention which started Thursday in Indianapolis, Ind., explains that the church will need to spend more than $11 million to operate the building over the next three years.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Structure, on whose recommendation the deputies acted, had called for the sale of the building before the 2015 General Convention is convened. However, the deputies removed the clause, providing no deadline to allow the Executive Council to sell at the best price possible.
The Rev. Gay Jennings, the deputies' chair of the Structure Committee, said that the issue of selling the property had been studied several times in the past, and committee members decided that now was the time to do it.
"815 Second Avenue is the relic of our delusions of being an established church from an imperial era. Constantine has left the building. Unfortunately, Constantine has left us the building," the Rev. Frank Hubbard, deputy from New Jersey, told his colleagues, according to the news service.
The decision to sell the church property situated just a block behind the United Nations now goes to the House of Bishops, the other legislative body of the bicameral General Convention of The Episcopal Church, for its consideration.
The denomination rooted in the Church of England now has the lowest membership in decades, as 200,000 members and 300 parishes parted ways between 2006 and 2010, partly due to the denomination's shift to the left on social and political issues. Membership has declined to below two million with average Sunday attendance as low as 657,831.
At the ongoing convention, Episcopal leaders are also scheduled to vote on a resolution calling for pastors to bless same-sex unions.