Reduced tithing and other church donations have slowed down so much religious sanctuaries around the country are forced to cut budgets and staff to stay afloat. An LA Times report also revealed that 69 long-term foreign missionaries and 350 short-term missionaries for the Southern Baptist Convention will remain home this year because of reduced giving by local congregations to the denomination’s cooperative program. Southern Baptist officials also report a $29-million drop in an annual Christmas offering on which half the program’s budget depends. Jewish and Christian seminaries also are feeling the pinch. In Los Angeles, consideration was given this spring to closing the L.A. campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a seminary serving the Jewish Reform movement. Ultimately, college officials opted to keep the campus open, but only after cutting staff and entering into cooperative arrangements with other institutions and seminaries. The national Episcopal Church, which recently reduced its 2010-12 budget by $23 million, said that despite the pinch, it too would continue its social mission. Its leadership decided to cut 30 staff positions at its New York headquarters, but restored funding for programs in the developing world. The church said in a statement that the budget was focused on “giving to others first and then to ourselves last.” Religious leaders said they see another phenomenon at work that may distinguish religious giving from other charitable giving. Those who contribute for religious purposes tend to cut spending elsewhere before holding back on what they put in the offering plate.

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