December 2008

Seminaries act in face of financial woes

December 18 2008 by BR staff and agency writers

Southern Baptist seminaries are making steep cuts to deal with economic troubles.

The head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is predicting layoffs and tuition increases to manage a $3 million budget shortfall. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is working to cut its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest implemented a hiring freeze and cut back on all unnecessary capital projects in October.

Southern president Al Mohler said in a Dec. 15 letter to the seminary community that cost-saving measures — including a hiring freeze on non-essential positions and reduced travel — have already trimmed the school’s budget by $1.7 million.

That leaves a projected $800,000 to $1.5 million in further reductions projected over the next several months. Mohler said that would likely mean a reduction in the seminary’s workforce and increasing tuition to boost revenue.

Southwestern is “making difficult decisions in an effort to protect the institution from future financial crisis,” according to a Dec. 16 news release from the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Among reductions being made to the budget are “temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.”

Southwestern president Paige Patterson said in a press release, "The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school." Patterson "went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve," according to the news release.

The statement specifically identified two cutback areas.

Southwestern is suspending the work of its Naylor Children’s Center for at least 18 months. The center, which annually posts a deficit, according to the news release, is a laboratory school under the direction of the school of educational ministries that provides care and instruction for preschool age children from six weeks to age 5.

The seminary has also suspended its Oxford Study Program and all of the Traveling Scholar overseas on-site study trips with the exception of those directly related to the 2+2 missionary training program in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

At Southern, Mohler pledged “to do our very best to limit tuition increases” as a way to keep theological education affordable to as many ministers as possible.

Mohler attributed the shortfall to significant losses in the value of the seminary’s endowed funds. He also said the school projects annual gift levels this year to be lower than usual and has been advised by denominational leaders to expect economic forces to eventually show up in reduced giving through the SBC.

Prior to the shortfall, Southern Seminary’s 2008-2009 budget was $36.95 million.

Southeastern spokesman Jason Hall said the school decided to not print the winter issue of its magazine, which is now only available on the Internet. The seminary also has cut back on how it prepares apartments after they are vacated.

The school has no immediate plans for layoffs.

Southeastern is also preparing for a potential drop in Cooperative Program funding.

“We’re trying to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Hall said.
 

Financial health package

Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.

12/18/2008 7:49:00 AM by BR staff and agency writers | with 0 comments



SBC nixing sex-offender database 'under-reported'

December 18 2008 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NEW YORK — Time Magazine ranked the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) refusal to establish a database of clergy sex offenders one of the most under-reported news stories in 2008.
 
A ranking of under-reported stories in Time's "Top 10 Everything of 2008" special feature placed the story at No. 6, behind a mix-up that accidentally sent U.S. nuclear-warhead fuses to Taiwan, the Congolese civil war, violence in Sri Lanka, and new guidelines for insurance coverage for mental health and regulation of food from animals that are genetically altered.
 
"Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors," the magazine noted.
 
"The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and pedophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse."
 
Christa Brown, Baptist outreach leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), agreed the story was under-reported.

"It's such an extremely important story," she said. "The largest Protestant denomination in the land — a denomination that claims 16.2 million members — refused to even attempt to implement the sorts of proactive measures for routing out predators that other major faith groups have."
 
Brown, a survivor of clergy sex abuse, worked two years to draw attention to the problem of unreported sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches before seeing denominational leaders recommend against her suggestion of a national database.
 
Last month Brown and SNAP National Director David Clohessy wrote SBC President Johnny Hunt asking for a meeting about establishing a system to report abusive clergy.
 
"As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, you now have the opportunity to show genuine leadership on the issue of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups," the letter said. "This may be one of the greatest leadership challenges in the history of Southern Baptists."
 
The SNAP leaders said Southern Baptists' local-church autonomy makes it all-the-more imperative that congregations have enough information to make responsible decisions about whom they call as ministers.
 
"The only way people in the pews will find out about clergy child molesters is if victims feel safe in reporting them," they said. "And victims are never going to feel safe if they have to report abuse by going to the church of the accused minister."
 
"Telling clergy victims to 'go to the church' is like telling them to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them," the letter said. "It is cruel to the victim and unproductive toward the end of protecting others."
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

12/18/2008 2:45:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



WMU-NC sends four teams on mission trips

December 17 2008 by BR staff

Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) sent four mission teams this summer and fall to locations in the U.S. and Mexico.

Teams went to Tijuana, Mexico; Lake Tahoe, Calif.: Nada, Ky., and Hawaii. The women worked with children in various ministries.

In some locations, they helped moms gain parenting and social skills. They gave a baby shower for poor women who had never had a baby shower and held a yard sale to provide sheets, towels and blankets for very small sums.

They did things to establish relationships such as giving manicures to women who had never had one. One group even bought a dumpster for a community that had never had such an efficient, normal way to dump their trash. Local families were astonished that women who did not know them would help in this very practical way.

Volunteers prayer walked, visited prospects, led Bible studies, shared the gospel and conducted a block party.

Participants ranged in age from 24 to 82 and represented churches from the coast to the mountains. National and international WMU-NC mission trips are being planned for 2009. The first will be in April to work with Bedouin women in Lebanon.

For more information contact the WMU office at (866) 210-8602 or e-mail jhigh@wmunc.org.

12/17/2008 9:00:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Research: Baptists believe in CP, want efficiency

December 17 2008 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The large majority of Southern Baptists believe strongly in the Cooperative Program (CP) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) unified approach to missions support — because it allows congregations to accomplish more together than they could achieve by themselves. New data from LifeWay Research indicates 1 in 4 pastors see room for improvement in how CP dollars are allocated and how efficiently they are being used.

A census of all Southern Baptist congregations, conducted by LifeWay Research between November 2007 and February 2008 on behalf of the SBC’s Executive Committee, revealed that 87 percent of pastors are generally satisfied compared to 13 percent who are generally dissatisfied with the Cooperative Program. One out of 3 pastors strongly agree that state conventions and SBC entities supported by the CP use the contributions efficiently.

Pastors also selected one of six descriptions that best fit their view of the Cooperative Program. The description chosen by the most pastors (44 percent) was "mostly positive" stating, "We believe the CP perhaps could be improved in some ways, but is doing a very good job at present of supporting worldwide missions."

The second largest group of pastors (36 percent) describes the Cooperative Program as "overwhelmingly positive," stating, "We believe the CP is not only satisfactory, but is essential to the continued existence of the SBC, and the fulfillment of its mission of worldwide evangelism."

Thirteen percent of pastors have a "mixed" view agreeing that the CP "could be improved in many ways." The remaining responses were spread across "mostly negative" (2 percent) and "overwhelmingly negative" (1 percent). Three percent of pastors describe their church as "unaware" of the Cooperative Program.

Pastors feel strongly that the most important objectives of the CP are to send and support missionaries (83 percent) and to provide resources to plant churches (74 percent) in North America and around the world. More than half strongly agree it is important for the CP to educate and equip pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders, to address social, moral and ethical concerns, and to support state convention missions and ministries.

"Clearly, pastors believe the Cooperative Program is valuable for more than two reasons, but supporting missionaries and church planting are the most widely affirmed as essential," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "Since many churches equate ‘missions’ with the Cooperative Program, we should not be surprised that ‘missionaries’ are at the top of the agenda for pastors."

Pastors indicate that the most important benefit of the Cooperative Program is that it "allows my church to support more missions endeavors efficiently than we could on our own." Seventy-six percent of pastors strongly agree that this is an important benefit and a nearly identical 74 percent strongly agree that this currently describes the CP.

In sharp contrast to the strong overall view of the CP and agreement upon its objectives are pastors’ assessment of how efficiently contributions are used.

While 65 percent of pastors strongly agree it is important for SBC entities supported by the Cooperative Program to use the contributions efficiently, only half that number (34 percent) strongly agree efficiency is present today. Similarly, 63 percent of pastors strongly agree that efficient use of funds by state convention entities is important but only 32 percent strongly agree this is the case today.

Views of the current allocation of funds also fall short of the importance pastors place on it. Fifty-four percent of pastors strongly agree the appropriate division of Cooperative Program funds between state conventions and the SBC is important. Currently 31 percent of pastors strongly agree funds are divided appropriately between state conventions and the SBC.

The 2009 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina budget calls for a CP division that forwards 34 percent of undesignated receipts to ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. That is a two percentage point increase in the past four years.

A larger majority of pastors (62 percent) strongly agree that it is important for the Cooperative Program to allocate contributions appropriately among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities. Only 38 percent strongly agree the current allocation is appropriate among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities.

The primary resources used to promote the CP, according to the pastors, are bulletin inserts (72 percent), posters (62 percent), missions magazines (54 percent), prayer guides (51 percent), videos (50 percent), missionary speakers (49 percent), and subscriptions to state Baptist papers (41 percent).

Click here for a summary of survey results.
 
12/17/2008 5:28:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Young adults impact world, not church

December 16 2008 by Polly House, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Young adults increasingly are making an impact in the world.

"But it isn't so much happening in the church," said Jason Hayes, young adult ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources.                

Hayes was among the speakers at an Adult Ministry Institute attended by ministers and young adult leaders from across the country at LifeWay's headquarters.                

Information from LifeWay Research studies guided much of the conference's content addressing challenges that churches face in reaching young adults as well as baby boomers and those in the "legacy" generation of adults age 55 and over.                

"We heard in our research from both churched and unchurched young adults who said they wanted to go beyond the normal 'hellos' and congeniality of church," Hayes said. "They wanted to go beyond the geographic location of community and connect with social geography."                

Young adults have "more interest in community than anything that could be put on any menu in any coffee shop or restaurant," Hayes said, noting, "It is not the product but the experience."                
Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, said the challenge for churches is not to change what they believe in order to make Christianity more palatable in an era of pluralistic viewpoints, but to communicate those beliefs more effectively to unchurched young adults.                

"Too many churches choose their traditions over their children and grandchildren," said Stetzer, co-author of a new book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them, with Hayes and Rick Stanley. "I just don't believe that the standard pick-up evangelism lines we've used for all these years will work with this generation. I think it's going to require long-term conversations and relationships."                

Unchurched young adults have no problem believing that Christ rose from the dead, Stetzer said, but they also believe that Buddha walked on water and Muhammad healed people. They believe almost anything, Stetzer said, but it doesn't lead to salvation through Christ.                

"Don't leave this conference thinking if you make your church and yourself cool, you'll attract young adults," Stetzer said. "The answer is to make your church more godly and true to the word of God. That is what will draw young adults."                

Baby boomers, meanwhile, want their lives to matter, and they want to make connections and networks that will meet their needs, said Bill Craig, director of LifeWay's business and ministry development area.                

Churches must find ways to help boomers — the generation born between 1946 and 1964 — invest their lives in significant ministries, Craig said. And churches must help boomers find meaning in their relationships — to the church and to each other -– in order to engage them in congregational life.                

Concerning ministry to adults 55 and over, Dan Allen of McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., recounted that when he went on staff at the church, he discovered how complex the transition from median adults to older adults is for people.                

"At McGregor, it was so that at 55, I was suddenly in the same group as my 78-year-old mother-in-law," said Allen, the church's minister to legacy adults. "Now, I love my mother-in-law and we have a great relationship, but we don't share the same interests or want to do the same things."                

In ministering to this group, Allen said they are not ready to be called "senior" adults, nor are they thinking about retirement or moving into 55-plus communities. They are willing to commit to significant ministry and to short-term projects, he said, and they want to be involved in celebrative worship.                

Many of these adults are the "sandwich generation," dealing with children still at home and aged parents who need their care, Allen added. "They need help with the family situations," he said. "This takes up a tremendous amount of their time and resources."                

Alan Raughton, LifeWay's lead adult ministry specialist and coordinator of the Adult Ministry Institute, said participants were provided time during the Oct. 20-22 conference to develop plans to take back to their churches to improve their adult ministries.                

"If they didn't get to do those practical steps here," Raughton said, "when they got home the tyranny of the urgent would take over and they might not get to plan ... for reaching these adults." Polly House is corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

12/16/2008 10:58:00 AM by Polly House, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



1 in 10 adults are caregivers

December 16 2008 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Eleven percent of the people who participated in a LifeWay Research survey said they or an immediate family member are the primary full-time caregiver to an elderly parent or a special needs child, a statistic also shown in two other national studies.

Approximately 14 percent of American children under age 18 have special health care needs, according to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. That survey defined children with special health care needs as "those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition" and require health care beyond the amount required by children generally. Presumably not all children included in the survey require full-time care.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 36 out of every 1,000 Americans 65 and older live in a nursing home while 277 per 10,000 require home health care.

According to the LifeWay study, marital status and race signal the most significant differences in people's status as primary full-time caregivers. People who are unmarried and living with a partner (18 percent) are acting as primary caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children far more than either married people (11 percent) or single people (9 percent).

The online survey was conducted this fall using a national sample of Americans representative of the U.S. population in terms of gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, income and region of the country. The survey used an online panel weighted to be representative of the population. The sample size of 1,580 provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.5 percent.

Females (14 percent) are caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children more often than males (9 percent), according to the LifeWay Research data.

Neither education nor income level make much difference in a person's likelihood of being a full-time primary caregiver to a child or parent. There is also no significant difference based on region of the country. However, those most able to outsource care to others — those making $100,000 and above — actually provide full-time care just as often (13 percent) as other income groups.

Eighteen percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are primary caregivers for elderly parents or special needs children, compared with 14 percent of blacks, 11 percent of Hispanics and 10 percent of whites.

Age and gender also are factors that correlate with differences in caregiving status. Those age 65 and older (6 percent) care for an elderly parent or special needs child less than any other age bracket. Fourteen percent of people ages 35 to 49 are primary caregivers, as are 12 percent of those ages 25 to 34, 12 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 10 percent of those ages 18 to 24.

"This research should open our eyes to the number of people in our churches and communities that are looking for people to be the hands and feet of Jesus," Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said. "Many American church leaders and members that I know reject the idea of increased government involvement in establishing universal health care. But, for the most part, the American church continues to ignore the emphasis that Jesus Himself placed on the poor and the sick. We disregard James' exhortation to not forget the widows and orphans. Until caring for the sick and the poor becomes as cool as church planting and rapid church growth, the church should not be surprised when the government steps in to do our God-called work."

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach writes for LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/16/2008 7:04:00 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Have yourself a simple little Christmas

December 16 2008 by Jennifer Harris, Word and Way

It’s time to Unplug the Christmas Machine, states a book of that title by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. And members of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., are challenged to do just that.

“Simple Christmas,” the church’s Advent theme this year, is a plan to “take back Christmas,” so it isn’t driven by consumerism, commercials and things material, Pastor Doyle Sager said. “It’s to help place the focus on the spiritual meaning, to be set free. The things that mean the most don’t cost anything.”

Why is a simple Christmas necessary? “It’s about focusing on the real meaning of Christmas,” said Laurel Dunwoody, First Baptist’s administrator.

“So many are at the stage where they don’t really need anything,” Sager said. “Instead of feeling guilty for buying things no one needs,” share a more relational holiday and give funds to people and organizations that can use them.

Plans started long before the economic downturn became obvious, he added.

“It made us look genius, but it is really the Lord at work,” he said.

The church featured a “Christmas Made Simple as ABC” event to give members an opportunity to make Christmas gifts and collect a recipe book of gift, gift-wrapping and food ideas. According to Dunwoody, more than 90 people attended, including 33 children.

Some of the thoughts garnered from Unplug the Christmas Machine emphasize thinking through favorite Christmas memories from years past, and finding ways to create similar memories for children. Very rarely are those memories material gifts, Sager said. Instead, it’s “the year we got snowed in” or “the time a homeless man intruded at church and didn’t have anywhere to go, so we invited him home.”

Sager recognizes simplifying the season and focusing on the meaning of Advent is counter-cultural.

“It is a challenge, and it is countering the culture if we do it right — rather than raging (over a so-called ‘war on Christmas’), do positive things,” he said. “People love rituals and simplicity. The church has an open door if it stops complaining and whining. We have a responsibility of stewardship to take back holy days, to redeem time.”

Sager will address simplicity from the pulpit during Advent, focusing on “simple justice,” “simple holiness” and “simple humility.”

The church also has created a web site with resources on simplifying the season, including alternative Christmas gifts, a budget sheet and links to other helpful sites.

Go to www.simplechristmas.org.

12/16/2008 6:40:00 AM by Jennifer Harris, Word and Way | with 0 comments



Oakes, Ridley retiring from BSC

December 15 2008 by BR staff

Two well-known members of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) staff are retiring.
 
Dan Ridley, the BSC’s music and worship team leader, and M. Wayne Oakes, senior consultant in pastoral ministries, announced their retirements in separate statements.

Ridley, 55, has been serving as music and worship team leader since January 2005. He came to the BSC as music consultant in June 1997 and retired effective Oct. 31.

While he was at the BSC, Ridley worked with the N.C. Baptist Singers, the All-State Youth Choir, Music Week at Caswell and Senior Adult Choir Festivals. He helped lead mission trips to South Africa and Alaska.

Ridley said in an article posted on the BSC web site that he is grateful to those he ministered with and ministered to during his time in music ministry.

“I have considered it an honor to serve North Carolina Baptists through music and worship,” he said. “I treasure the experiences, the friendships and the opportunities to walk alongside you, my colleagues in ministry.”

Ridley currently is interim minister of music at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh.
 
Oakes, 64 next month, has helped N.C. Baptist churches deal with conflict for more than 13 years. He also trains search committees in a process to call new ministers; leads an online process for sharing names of ministers with churches; and he trains and supervises a network of ministers who assist churches in conflict.

Oakes said in his announcement that he is grateful for the “high honor and privilege” of working at the BSC.

“I have had the joy of walking beside hurting ministers and churches, and they have blessed me by sharing with me the darkest parts of their journeys,” he said. “This has been a sacred trust for which I am grateful.”
 
Oakes’ retirement is effective Dec. 31.

12/15/2008 10:48:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



National WMU takes steps to keep employees

December 15 2008 by Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With the United States’ economy projected to worsen in 2009, Woman’s Missionary Union SBC has announced a series of measures to enable the organization to retain its staff and stay focused on its mission of involving children, youth and adults in the Great Commission.  

During a Dec. 10 meeting at the 120-year-old organization’s Birmingham, Ala., headquarters, WMU Executive Director Wanda Lee told employees about the measures, which include budget reductions, streamlining expenses, a hiring freeze on vacant positions, a reduction on employer contributions to employee retirement plans, a freeze on merit pay increases, elimination of incentive bonuses in 2009 and the implementation of four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009.  

The hiring freeze and reduced retirement contributions will continue until Sept. 30, 2009, according to a Dec. 12 statement released by WMU.  

WMU leadership focused on avoiding layoffs and keeping health insurance affordable for their approximately 100 employees, Lee said.  

“Let me reinforce our commitment to you of doing everything possible to preserve all jobs at WMU and maintain affordable health care coverage for every person,” Lee told the employees. “These have been our top priorities during these days of evaluating our financial situation.”  

The steps were being taken to position the organization to weather difficult financial times predicted by many economic experts.  

“These were very difficult decisions to make and difficult ones for our staff to hear,” Lee said, “but all indications are that the economic picture for our nation will worsen in 2009 before it improves. These measures were necessary for us to rise above a worst-case scenario during what is projected to be the most challenging economic times for our nation since the Great Depression.  

“While we certainly hope this is not the case, we believe the actions we have taken will position WMU to continue to fulfill the mission God has given us,” Lee added, “and allow us to care for each person that is a part of the WMU family here in Birmingham.”  

Under a revised 2009 budget of $9.6 million, Woman’s Missionary Union will be self-supporting through the sale of magazines and products and from investments, according to the statement.

As an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, WMU receives no funds from the SBC’s Cooperative Program allocation budget, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  

Woman’s Missionary Union also has implemented several new initiatives to engage a growing number of people in missions, including redesigned magazines for children and Hispanic women, new bilingual resources for Korean Baptist churches, online forums to foster community and encourage idea sharing, free downloadable resources to start missions organizations and Facebook communities for young women.  

“God still has a mission for WMU,” Lee told the employee group. “In fact, missions education and involvement is more critical in our churches and communities than ever before. In a time when a growing number of people are hurting in our world, it is imperative that a missional lifestyle be instilled in our children, youth and adults to help them see the world with God’s eyes and minister effectively.”  

In 1995, Woman’s Missionary Union created the WMU Foundation to support the organization’s long-term mission and ministry. Giving to the foundation surpassed $1 million in 2008, according to the statement, but most of those funds are designated for scholarships, state WMU organizations and specified ministries. Nonetheless, the WMU Foundation was the single largest contributor to WMU in 2008. Unlike most nonprofit organizations that are donation-driven, less than 3 percent of Woman’s Missionary Union’s income comes from charitable giving.    

12/15/2008 3:25:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Campaign launched to save crumbling British churches

December 14 2008 by Al Webb, Religion News Service

LONDON  — The British government will spend 1.5 million pounds ($2.25 million) for teams of conservationists who will devise ways to keep historic churches — some built before Columbus discovered America — from crumbling into dust.

 

The money will come from taxpayer-funded English Heritage agency, whose chief executive, Simon Thurley, described the task as "really a big challenge" for congregations, many of whose numbers are steadily dwindling.

 

"We have churches which perhaps were built in 1300 or 1400 (A.D.), (and) they've got a lot of medieval stonework, they've got very complicated roofs with very complicated gutters," Thurley said.

 

The government's culture secretary, Andy Burnham, said the project will involve a team of 30 conservationists. The aim is to save "the finest of the country's built heritage ... our magnificent places of worship."

 

Many of the churches that will be surveyed barely survive on either tourist or historical interest, or both.

 

One, the Anglican All Saints church in the tiny village of Croughton, in England's Midlands, has fought for years for funds to restore a crumbling 14th-century panorama of paintings devoted to the life of the Virgin Mary and the infancy of Jesus Christ.

 

Another major candidate for conservation help is Canterbury Cathedral, founded more than 1,400 years ago but in need of 41 million pounds ($612 million) for vital conservation work over the coming years.

 

The Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal, launched two years ago, already has collected 9 million pounds ($13.5 million), but the storied cathedral still needs more than 14,500 pounds (nearly $22,000) a day just to keep running.

 

In all, the Church of England alone has some 12,000 church buildings that are listed as architecturally important — and most of those, like the one in Croughton, date from the Middle Ages. Some are in advanced states of decay, and efforts to preserve them have proven expensive.

 

The conservationists will report to the commission with its recommendations about which churches are in most need of repairs, with the aim of preventing more costly deterioration.

12/14/2008 3:17:00 AM by Al Webb, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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