Last updated on: 2/6/2013 5:34:06 PM PST | Author: ProCon.org

Winnie Varghese, MDiv Biography

Title:
Priest in Charge at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery, New York City
Position:
Pro to the question "Should Churches (Defined as Churches, Temples, Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt?"
Reasoning:

“I am religious — a progressive Christian — and I will argue for the tax-exempt status of religious organizations for only one reason. Moderate and progressive religion is overwhelmingly formed in the U.S., and it is an essential voice in national and international discourse. We are an important moral and ethical voice for society as a whole, a voice that has to be religious to respond to other kinds of religious movements.

The bottom line is that if historic churches like the one I serve had to pay property taxes, many of us would close. The liberal, diverse, urban churches in historic buildings would be priced out, and the newer, suburban minimall churches would be the church of the future. They are not always, but tend to be, overwhelmingly conservative. In the political arena, the right defends its agenda by that same conservative Christian language. The Christian center and left are a minority whose faith demands they work toward a more just or compassionate society, and many of us are also the stewards of prime real estate.

Our tax-exempt status gives minority views a space to seed and grow, often ahead of the political culture.”

“Sustaining Progressive Faith,” NYTimes.com, May 10, 2012

Theoretical Expertise Ranking:
Experts
Individuals with JDs, PhDs, or equivalent advanced degrees in fields relevant to churches and taxes. Also top-level government officials (such as foreign leaders, US presidents, Founding Fathers, Supreme Court Justices, members of legislative bodies, cabinet members, military leaders, etc.) with positions relevant to the churches and taxes issue.
Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Priest in Charge at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, New York City, Mar. 2009-present
  • Member, Executive Council of the Episcopal Church
  • Member, Board of Directors, Episcopal Service Corps
  • Member, National Executive Council, and board member, of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship
  • Blogger, Huffington Post, June 2011-present
  • Former writer, The Witness Magazine and Episcopal Life
  • Episcopal Chaplain, Columbia University, Episcopal Diocese of New York, June 2002-June 2009
  • Episcopal Chaplain, University of California at Los Angeles, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Sep. 1999-June 2002
  • Assistant to the Rector, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Los Angeles, Sep. 1999-June 2002
  • Ordained as a priest, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Jan. 2000
  • Case Manager, Episcopal internship program, Long Beach, CA, 1994
  • Episcopal intern, Long Beach, CA, 1993
  • Featured in two educational video series on progressive Christianity: Living the Questions and via media
  • Education:
  • MDiv, Union Theological Seminary, 1999
  • BA, Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, 1994
  • Contact Info:
    Phone
    212-674-6377 (St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery)
    Email
    [email protected]
    Website
    StMarksBowery.org
    Other:
  • Sister of comedian Paul Varghese
  • Born in Dallas, TX, to Indian parents
  • “My parents belong to extremely orthodox sects of Christianity — my father is Mar Thoma [ancient church of Kerala, a state in southwest India] and my mother, a Jacobite from Kerala. But I was raised in the US in a very liberal Christian family, as my parents, who were young adults right after Independence, grew up with an understanding of Christianity that was framed by the many Independence movements of the 20th century… When I came out to myself as being gay, I wasn’t in a relationship, or attracted to anyone. It felt like I understood something about myself and was, for the first time, completely aware of myself… I was always open about my sexuality and was surprised to be accepted for ordination.”
    Dhamini Ratnam (interviewer), “‘I Complicate the Picture a Bit,'” Mid-Day.com, Jan. 22, 2012
  • Quoted in:
    Should Churches (Defined as Churches, Temples, Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt? – Pro & Con Quotes