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"Evangelistically Speaking" Comes to Liberal Christianity

We’ve been told that this doesn’t happen, but now we know better…

During a Sunday morning service at Trinity Church last summer, a longtime parishioner looked around during the reading of the Gospel and counted the worshippers. By her tally, there were 49 people in the pews of the historic lower Manhattan church – a meager turnout for the storied, 314-year-old parish.

She was puzzled, then, when the next week’s church bulletin reported attendance at 113. Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James Cooper, had decided that tourists who wander in and out of the chapel should be counted as well, she was told. “That’s just a little snapshot into the way he presents everything,” said the parishioner, who was also a member of the governing board until she resigned in protest.

It’s pretty much standard fare amongst the left that “TV evangelists” and other conservative preachers are nothing but money-grubbing charlatans who will say just about anything for a buck and an audience.  And I’ve always looked at “preacher math” with a jaundiced eye; in the Church of God, we infelicitously refer to such hyperbolic rhetoric, esp. re numbers of people, as “evangelistically speaking.”

The liberals aren’t going be left out of the competition. Although the numbers of people are smaller, the money is a different story.  And Rev. Cooper isn’t shy about taking that in too:

Instead of helping the poor, Cooper’s helped himself – with demands for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse, an allowance for his Florida condo, trips around the world including an African safari and a fat salary. Rather than building an endowment, he is accused of wasting more than $1 million on development plans for a luxury condo tower that has been likened to a pipe dream and burning another $5 million on a publicity campaign.

Cooper, 67, whose compensation totaled $1.3 million in 2010, even added CEO to his title of rector. He began listing himself first on the annual directory of vestry members. The atmosphere has become so poisonous that nearly half the 22 members of the vestry, or board, have been forced out or quit in recent months.

The only good news in this sad situation is that Cooper is spending God’s money on African safaris rather than undermining the orthodox Anglicans on same continent, which is what his superiors at “815” would like for him to do.  But the TEC left, which has never taken the challenge of sell all or shut up, will, through mismanagement and corruption like this, end up with neither voice nor funding.


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