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New York Post on the tensions at Trinity Wall Street

New York Post on the tensions at Trinity Wall Street

More on the tense relationship between the Rector of Trinity Wall Street and some current and former Vestry-members. Some members have resigned in protest over Cooper’s leadership.

The New York Post:

Cooper was supposed to be the guardian angel of Trinity. Instead, former board members say his dictatorial style of leadership and grandiose ambitions have fomented insurrection in the staid Episcopal community. They accuse him of undermining Trinity’s mission of good works since taking over as rector in 2004.

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.

As with any church conflict, there are those who want the Rector to stay.

A current board member, Susan Berresford, said the 600-member church has “full confidence in the leadership of Trinity’s rector.”

“Even during these challenging economic times, Trinity’s ministries are strong, flourishing and addressing a full range of social and spiritual needs,” said Berresford, former president of the Ford Foundation.

But the Post reports:

Instead of concentrating on the endowment, Cooper began planning for a grand development on Trinity Place. He proposed tearing down two Trinity-owned buildings across from the church. One, a 25-story tower at 74 Trinity Place, housed the church offices, its preschool and a gathering place for parishioners.

Cooper wanted to build a luxury condominium tower, with church offices on the lower floors. He also looked at buying the adjacent American Stock Exchange and demolishing it, even though the building has long been considered for landmark status.

One former board member called the plan insensitive and too big for the area. Others questioned the need for such a development, which would involve borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars.


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Lois Keen

All very helpful, Paige. Thank you.

I stand by what I wrote: the content of each priest’s day differs widely, and by that I do not mean solely what duties we each perform nor do I mean solely how many hours we are on duty. Some parishes are easy going. Some are high maintenance (I mean the people and the dynamics, not the building, although some buildings make problems for a priest that others of us don’t have). Serving a congregation on the edge of closing being highly stressful, with no one-size-fits-all procedure possible, some would think should be paid more highly than some other congregations, even Trinity Wall Street. I feel I must say this is not an exhaustive list of how each priest’s 24/7 day differs. These are simply the things that were in my mind, the intangibles, that compelled me to qualify the impression that having standard stipend quidelines is the whole story. Congregations are at liberty to pay more than the quidelines. One might think that Trinity Wall Street is more demanding than the congregation I serve, even tho my congregation has its own stressors. I make no judgment on Trinity’s rector’s compensation package, except, “Thou shalt not covet, Lois!”.

Bill Dilworth

What’s the average salary of parishioners at Trinity? One of the only things I can think if as an explanation for his salary is that you might want the rector to be more or less on a standing with the parishioners. Do parishes ever decide salaries based on a percentage of income?

Paige Baker

Lois–you can find all the info here:

We don’t all have the same 24 hour day, except for the hours themselves. The content of those days varies greatly.

Every full-time rector I know is essentially on call 24/7. They do pastoral care, counseling, community service, meetings with the Vestry and church committees, sermon prep, education prep, and repairs to the building when necessary. And that’s just what I pulled off the top of my head….

Lois Keen

We don’t all have the same 24 hour day, except for the hours themselves. The content of those days varies greatly. The compensation figure for clergy, typically, includes stipend, housing, reimbursement for FICA. I have no way of knowing if the figure given in the article is typical, or only the stipend portion. The figure given may exceed many bishops. I don’t know that, either.

Paige Baker

Cooper, 67, whose compensation totaled $1.3 million in 2010

The mind…she boggles.

I know NYC is an expensive place to live, but I wonder how the vestry of Trinity Wall Street justifies this? I am all for priests being compensated fairly, but am I the only one who thinks it just looks bad to pay clergy a sum like that?

I went to the diocesan website to see if they listed minimum salaries for clergy, and they do. All minimum salaries are given as of 1/1/2011:

*Ordained to priesthood less than 3 years: 39,400

*Ordained to priesthood more than 3 years but less than 10 years: $45,000

*Ordained to priesthood more than 10 years but less than 15 years: $45,500

*Ordained to priesthood more than 15 years: $51,500

Since all clergy have the same 24-hour day, I wonder how anyone can justify the disparity between the Rev. Cooper’s salary and those of his peers?

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