From Episcopal church to Islamic center
Since 1879 the Church of the Good Shepherd stood at #79 Conklin Avenue in Binghamton, NY. In February of this year, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York sold the building to Imam Muhammad Affify. The cross has been removed from the top of the bell tower, the red doors have been repainted green, a windowpane cross has been painted over, and all Christian symbols have been eradicated. That is symbolic in itself considering that the building now houses the Islamic Awareness Center.
But this isn’t a story about a congregation that had dwindled down to nothing, leaving the Diocese no choice but to sell church property to the highest bidder. Quite the contrary.
In 2006 Fr. Kennedy and other representatives from Good Shepherd met with their Bishop and explained why they felt they could no longer, in good conscience, remain in the Episcopal Church. Despite their theological differences, Fr. Kennedy describes their relationship with the Bishop as very positive. Good Shepherd offered to purchase the property for $150,000 in cash plus a large bequest. A verbal agreement was reached. Several more meetings were held throughout 2007 which were cordial and positive.
Then, as Fr. Kennedy told me, things suddenly changed. The verbal agreement to purchase the property was rejected, and they were slapped with a lawsuit by the Diocese. Even throughout that process, Fr. Kennedy explained, Church of the Good Shepherd made efforts to resolve the issue out of court. But to no avail.
For the record, the Diocese of Central New York sold—or perhaps sold out—to the Imam for a mere $50,000. It is astonishing to note the lengths the Episcopal Church, under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, went to in order to keep a “traditional” congregation from remaining in its buildings.
Thanks to them, #79 Conklin Avenue is no longer a house of Christian worship.
Thanks to some good Christian neighbors, Fr. Kennedy, his family and his congregation all have a home again, just down the road.
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