William Lupfer, rector of Manhattan church with billions in assets, resigns for 'Sabbath rest'

The Rev. William Lupfer, rector of Trinity Wall Street, rings the Bell of Hope in the churchyard of the historic St. Paul’s Chapel which forms part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, on September 11, 2015.
The Rev. William Lupfer, rector of Trinity Wall Street, rings the Bell of Hope in the churchyard of the historic St. Paul’s Chapel which forms part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, on September 11, 2015. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair)

The Rev. William Lupfer, rector of the land-rich, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church in Lower Manhattan that boasts a diverse investment portfolio worth $6 billion, resigned from his post with a plan to follow his dreams “like the Holy Family.”

 Lupfer, 59, who has served in the role since 2015, resigned from the more than 300-year-old church noted as the richest Episcopal church in the world, in a brief letter on Jan. 3, according to Episcopal News Service.

“After five years of intensive work together with the Vestry, staff, parishioners, and our other stakeholders in the community and around the world, Kimiko and I have come to the decision to step away for a time, resign as Rector of Trinity, and enjoy some Sabbath rest to open our hearts to God’s call for the next chapter of our ministry together,” Lupfer wrote in his three-paragraph resignation letter, cited by The Living Church.

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In his final Sunday at Trinity Wall Street on Jan. 5, Lupfer told the congregation that while it's customary for rectors at the church to retire, he isn’t the “retiring type” and plans to go follow his dreams with his wife, like the Holy Family.

“Some of you have heard that this is my last Sunday at Trinity and I have offered my resignation as rector. Most people do not resign from rector, they retire from rector here at Trinity. That’s the custom, but I’m not the retiring type and so my wife and I have opened our hearts for discernment,” he said.

He explained that he had not been able to effectively discern while in his role as rector and is looking forward to improving that part of his life during a period of rest.

“The role of rector is pretty busy so it’s hard to discern while driving about 100 miles an hour down the road day and night. So we’ll take some time and [are] grateful for Trinity’s generosity to do that. We’ll take some time on Sabbath,” he said. “I promise you. As my wife and I go forward to follow our dreams like the Holy Family followed their dreams, we will always hold you in our hearts and we will pray for you and we will be your biggest fans and your loudest cheerers.”

The vestry noted in a letter also cited by The Living Church that they were grateful for Lupfer’s service.

“Dr. Lupfer has made significant progress toward the goals he set out to achieve. He has been a champion of expanding community engagement through the church’s Housing and Homelessness and Racial Justice initiatives and through the development of Trinity Commons as a convening space for the local community; he has overseen a historic renovation of Trinity Church’s nave, which re-opened on Christmas Eve; and he has led an effort to help the Anglican Communion build capacity and develop leaders who can serve the Church’s mission far into the future. We are grateful for his years of service,” the vestry said.

Much of the church’s financial success has been attributed to their tax-exempt status as well as wise management of their holdings which can be traced to a gift of 215 acres from Queen Anne in 1705. The church still owns about 14 acres of that grant.

With Lower Manhattan now in the middle of a real estate boom, the value of the church’s holdings in an area known as Hudson Square has also helped to improve the church’s wealth immensely.

The church’s real estate arm, Trinity Real Estate, entered into a joint venture that gave it a majority stake in 12 buildings with 6 million square feet of commercial space. In 2018, they signed a $650 million deal with the Walt Disney Company.

It is also building its own glass tower that will house administrative offices, public gathering spaces and commercial tenants while giving its historic sanctuary a $110 million renovation.

With a membership of just 950 parishioners, the church reportedly largely lives off its assets, reporting no congregational plate-and-pledge income for the past four reporting years.

Most of the church’s 22-member vestry, including Gabrielle E. Sulzberger, wife of New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., are also reportedly not members of the church. Only seven persons serving on the vestry are listed as members of the parish.

The Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, Trinity’s vicar, was named priest-in-charge effective Jan. 6.

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