Friday, April 26, 2013

Wealthy Wall Street Church Faces Controversy and Litigation

In a front-page article yesterday, the New York Times called national attention to the controversy raging in New York's Trinity Wall Street Episcopal parish over whether the church is spending enough of its extensive wealth on charity and promoting Episcopal belief.  The Village Voice carried a long article last December on the turmoil at the historic Lower Manhattan church.  The Times says that disclosures in a pending lawsuit show that Trinity's assets-- largely Manhattan real estate-- amount to more than $2 billion. The February lawsuit was filed by Jeremy C. Bates, a former leader of the church's Congregational Council who believes the church is being too corporate and not acting on its values. The complaint (full text) in Bates v. Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of Trinity Church, in the City of New York, (Sup. Ct. NY County, filed 2/11/2013), challenges the manner in which votes are counted in the election of church wardens and vestrymen. Bates wants the court to rule that even in uncontested elections, candidates need to obtain support of a majority of the votes cast in order to be elected. The church argues that in uncontested elections, "no" votes can be ignored.  The suit also seeks access to Trinity's financial statement.