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Washington National Cathedral announces major budget, program cuts


Washington National Cathedral will eliminate 30 jobs, drastically scale back the Cathedral College of Preachers and cut $8 million from its current budget because of the global financial downturn.

In a November 19 news release, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, the cathedral’s dean, said the cuts are “financially prudent” and are "necessary to protect our important work in the city and the nation.

“Like many other institutions around the world, Washington National Cathedral has been affected by the current downturn in the financial market,” said Lloyd. “And this is having a serious impact on invested funds that we have used to support our mission.”

The cuts include:

* outsourcing retail operations in the cathedral’s Museum Store to Event Network, Inc., a third-party vendor, to save on operating costs and guarantee “income significantly greater than [has] been earned in recent years.” Half of the store’s employees will be able to stay on with Event Network, the release predicted;
* eliminating another 30 staff positions and all vacant positions, including several senior administrative positions, to put the total staff at 94. No clergy will be let go;
* discontinuing the Cathedral College residential course offerings (formerly known as the College of Preachers) effective March 31 and scaling back other college programs;
* establishing an Office for Cathedral Volunteers.

This is the second round of budget cuts this year, the cathedral’s centennial. In May, the cathedral took $3.5 million out of its budget, laid off 33 people -- including clergy -- and closed its popular greenhouse.

More than 700,000 people visit the cathedral or worship there each year. It is the seat of the Diocese of Washington and has been used for three presidential funerals and numerous national prayer services.

It does not receive any funding from the diocese or the wider Episcopal Church. Nearly two-thirds of its annual budget comes from contributions, according to the cathedral’s annual stewardship report for fiscal year 2008. Its donors range from businesses, foundations and individuals that give tens of thousands of dollars to individuals who contribute much smaller sums.

In addition, John H. Shenefield, chair of the cathedral’s governing body, noted in the report that “we are a church for national purposes, but we are not supported by the federal government.”

The current fiscal year’s budget was expected to be $22.1 million, according to the stewardship report, with 60 percent of the money spent on ministry and programs. The revised budget will drop to $14 million. The new budget reflects “a significant reduction in expenses, while adopting a conservative stance on anticipated revenues from donations, endowment draws, retail income, and other programs.”

The cathedral’s endowment, valued at $66 million in the spring, has declined in value by approximately 25 percent. The cathedral leadership decided to decrease its usual $3.5 million annual draw to $1 million.

“We are, of course, distressed that these actions have to be taken, and are deeply saddened by the personal dislocations that will result from the necessary reductions in staff,” Lloyd said. “However, the chapter and the leadership of the cathedral have a responsibility to be financially prudent. This is a vital institution, and we will do what is necessary to protect our important work in the city and the nation.”

Lloyd, who has been dean for three and a half years, launched an ambitious expansion of the cathedral’s programs and capital improvements, financed in part by using part of a multi-million dollar bequest. The cathedral leadership authorized that financing before Lloyd arrived but in anticipation of a new dean wanting to put his “imprint” on the cathedral’s ministry, Michael Hill, a cathedral spokesperson, told ENS.

Some of the new initiatives have brought new donors and new donations to the cathedral, he said. They include a hugely popular Sunday Forum, which is free to those to attend or view online but which has “really ignited a whole new audience,” Hill said.

“These projects will bear substantial fruit in the years to come,” the November 19 release said.

“We believe the future support, dedication, and engagement of our many friends, as well as potential new volunteers and supporters in Washington and from across the nation, will enable us to rise above these challenges,” said Lloyd. “Serving as the nation’s church and as a place of prayer and spiritual renewal is a significant responsibility. And we are committed to being conscientious stewards of this revered cathedral building.”


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