On December 9, 2011, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with the goal of averting imminent financial crisis, decided to investigate ways to preserve its building on Park Avenue in New York City.
The Synod building has for decades served as the symbol of the lone free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church, a function which has since changed. Still, the Synod Hierarchy prefers that ownership of the Baker and Palmer buildings (as they are known) not change hands. In order for the Synod of Bishops to continue to own the complex, three things are needed:
1) significant financing for urgently-needed capital renovation;
2) continued financial support to cover maintenance costs, and
3) a significant increase in annual revenue to fill a severe administrative budget gap.
The need for a thriving, efficient administrative center, wherever it is located, has grown since ROCOR now participates in the life of the entire Orthodox Christian World.
The Synod budget: The Synod has been running $450-$500k annual deficits in recent years. In addition to income from property rental, donations to the Kursk-Root Icon, candle and bookstore sales, one of the chief sources of revenue for the Synod has traditionally been parish dues. Parishes send 10% of their revenues to their regional diocesan administrations, which then transfer 50% of those dues received to the Synod. Many of our parishes, however, are barely able to provide adequately for their own priests or maintain their own church buildings. Likewise, diocesan administrations need revenue to function properly. Relieving some of the financial stress of maintaining the magnificent but decaying Synod building can free up resources for critical church needs on the local and regional levels.
Benefactor donations: Earlier hopes for donor funding were not realized, and the Fund for Assistance was unable to raise any money to speak of for this purpose. Still, the Synod Chancery is open to any new serious proposals for such aid. An exploratory group was formed to establish the amount of needed funding for renovation, maintenance and administrative expenses. In the interest of transparency, details are forthcoming.
Sale of the Synod building: As announced earlier, this group will also seek other ways of unlocking the value of the property, including the possible sale of the Baker and/or Palmer houses. The Synod Chancery is aware of the need of the Cathedral worshipers in New York to continue their liturgical life should selling the buildings be the only viable option. Funds from any such sale would be designated to finance new church space and rectory.
Timetable: The urgency of the situation leaves little time to find a resolution. God willing, viable solutions will be presented to the Synod of Bishops at its next winter session.
Proposals and serious inquiries can be addressed to the Synod Chancery.