Deputies vote to sell the church center headquarters in New York

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jul 6, 2012

[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] The House of Deputies today voted to direct 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. The action came through a resolution proposed by the Joint Legislative Committee on Structure.

The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops for its consideration.

Deputies on the floor removed a requirement that the sale take place before the 2015 General Convention, to give the Executive Council greater flexibility to sell at the best price possible.

The Rev. Gay Jennings, the deputies’ chair of the Structure Committee, said the issue of selling the property has been studied several times in the past, and committee members decided that now was the time to do it.

The Rev. Frank Hubbard, deputy from New Jersey, urged deputies to agree. He said, “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.”

Deputy Karen Phillips Smith of Southeast Florida said this was not the time to force a sale, given that the building’s tenants are paying only $35 a square foot in rent. Noting her background in international real estate development she said. “There’s no way I could sell that to anybody.” She added, “I’m not saying not sell it, I’m just saying, not now.”

The resolution’s explanation noted that the building will cost more than $11 million to operate over the next three years. Debt service amounts to $8.7 million, with facilities management nearly $6.5 million. Rental income offsets those expenses by just over $4 million, for a net cost of $11,093,156.

— Melodie Woerman is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.


Comments (59)

  1. Jeffrey Berry says:

    Why not a central location in the US such as Memphis? Easy access to all points of the country.

    1. Polk Van Zandt says:

      And it’s in Province IV!

  2. Jason Moskal says:

    I’m somewhat confused when people say move HQ to a more realistic American feel and move to another urban center. NYC and the greater NYC area does offer cultures and peoples that we are all talking about…Urban, suburban, rich, poor, Asian, Latino, Black, White, even Native American in CT and out towards the end of Long Island. This is just to name a few. (I know I have missed others).

    I do agree that we to define what our structure will be and if 815 will suffice and serve that need…who knows it may and that the other space is creatively used cutting our expenses. What I am strongly opposed is rushing to sell an asset in a down market just to cut costs and not being visionary about the whole thing. What i do propose is to fully look at our structure, departments and positions that reside at 815, and fully discern what works and what doesn’t…..cutting staff and departments is not the answer…we need to fully discern as a church what functions will be diocesan level and what functions are national level. Then we proceed on from there, and see at a national level if 815 fits into that picture and as to how much. I do like the idea of satellite offices and 815 to a smaller size can actually function that way and provide regional support and resource to TEC as well as our area denominations that we are in full communion. There is no reason why we cant share resources and office space with the ELCA and make our offices wherever they are more functional and real and build synergies among our churches…….That is visionary.

  3. Mary Hastings says:

    I am glad to hear of the sale of 815. What saddens me is to hear everyone putting their area of the county up for the new home of the National Church. The Church is not a structure or a place but each of us going and doing Gods work. We each do it from our homes, parish and our heart.

    I would propose a virtual headquarters. The technology is available. Web conferences, emails, skype ect. There may be times to have face to face and those can be set up based on the participants. And could be hosted by a parish or diocese. Or even the PB’s home diocese.

    The money saved by not having bricks and mortar to upkeep or rent could be used for Mission. Wouldn’t that be a crazy Christian idea!

    1. Laurie Brown says:


  4. Peter Tucker says:

    Mary – You are so right on the idea of a virtual HQ! It would also help overcome the continuing aggrandizement of the office of the PB. The days of “The Power of Their Glory” ( are long gone for TEC. Simplify, refocus on local churches and mission.

  5. Eulalie Fenhagen says:

    I, too, think that Washington and the national Cathedral would be an ideal location, linking our church to the national and international flavor of that city. The former site of the College of Preachers, a large and beautiful building, now stands empty on the cathedral close. What a perfect fit.

    1. Charles Smith says:

      There is already too much ECUSA presence in Washington. What needs to be is zero as it serves only as a launching point for lobbying. The church should do it’s own works, not pushing government to do it for them. The separation of church and state should go both ways and be absolute.

  6. Peter Tucker says:

    Charles – You are spot on! As Matthew says, “Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” TEC needs to focus on God’s works.

    And frankly, no one outside of TEC really cares about the silly resolutions and such that the GC passes.

  7. Talbot Vivian says:

    Interesting comment by Michael Neal. Yes, our denomination is dying. In 1950 The Episcopal Church had approximately 8 Million members. Today we have 1.95 Million. We lose 50,000 + members a year, mostly from deaths, and have for the past 12 years. From 2006 to 2011 we closed 300 parishes. In 20 years we will consist of fewer than 1 million members and be forced to unite with another Anglican Region. Our church leadership needs to focus on growth and less on esoteric issues if we are to survive.

    1. Peter Tucker says:

      Tabot – As mentioned, the TEC is no longer a church but rather a social activism organization or perhaps batter, a SAC (social activist committee). It is long past time and perhaps too late, for it to return to focus on spiritual and being a church once again.

  8. Scott Norris says:

    I do not see anyone commenting on the clerical and administrative staff people working at 815. Are we really to simply fire them if they cannot move to other non-NYC locations proposed in these comments? Finding new employment in our current economy is next to impossible.

    1. Charles Smith says:

      To bake a cake requires breaking some eggs. If there’s a move to a virtual model, it’s quite possible some of these people – those who can adapt to a non-face-to-face mode of operating – can retain their jobs.

      It should be very clear to anyone who can run the numbers that drastic change is needed now, not in three to six years. Anything less is merely rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic or fiddling while Rome burns.

  9. Becky Winn says:

    I think a virtual headquarters would be a step in the right direction …reading these postings has been eye opening to say the least! It’s time we let Jesus out of the box (buildings) and into the hearts of this country!!

    But, if you’re looking for a relocation, check out McKenney, VA (Prov. III which is next to Prov VI) … a small town dying on the vine with an Episcopal presence that is warm and welcoming though very small in number!

  10. Sandra Koenig says:

    I would hate to see TEC give up 815, but I also understand why it may be necessary. I do hope that the church would still maintain a physical, brick and mortar headquarters somewhere in the country. Somehow it doesn’t seem enough to just have a cyber presence in the world. if it were, why, we could give up all our real estate and just become the cyber church altogether.

  11. Scott Slater says:

    I was underwhelmed when I visited 815. Way too empty and underutilized. Even with more tenants, it looks and feels outdated. The volume of chatter about this issue speaks of its symbolic importance as we re-imagine ourselves as a denomination as part of the Body of Christ universal. Despite my favorable opinion of a more virtual center, less face-to-face meetings, and looking for a way to “facilitate” our new selves as we evolve, we still need a “center” of bricks and mortar, even if it is small. “815” means something symbolic as a term. It is not the same address as CPG, for instance. Jesus’ ministry was still based in “Capernaum” even as his influence spread more broadly. No matter what we do, we still need a place to call “home.”

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