LOWER MANHATTAN — After months of controversy, the rector of Trinity Church, one of the city’s wealthiest parishes, announced his retirement Wednesday, saying that he will officially step down in 2015.
The Rev. James Cooper has been at the center of bitter church infighting, as some parishioners have accused Cooper of recklessly overspending church funds on concerts and other events, as well as an opulent overhaul of the church's office space, instead of focusing on the church's ministry and helping the poor.
The announcement came just days after Trinity’s former Congregational Council president, Jeremy Bates, filed suit against Cooper and the church over a contested election of its vestry, or board of directors, last April.
Nearly half of the church’s board of director’s resigned last year in protest of Cooper's leadership.
According to information posted on the church’s website, the parish will undergo an 18-month search for a new rector.
Cooper, in a letter posted on the site, thanked the parish he’s led since 2004, "during a time of great challenge and opportunity," though he did not give his reasons for stepping down.
Challenges included responding to the Occupy Wall Street protests and weathering the 2008 economic downturn, Cooper said.
It's estimated that the church oversees more than $1 billion worth of real estate assets.
The church is "well-positioned for the future," Cooper said, and has "embarked on a multi-year capital enhancement program that preserves and maintains Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel, two of New York City’s most treasured and iconic landmarks."
While some parishioners may disagree, Cooper said he's "pleased to observe that we are operating with increased transparency in governance, financial reporting, and grantmaking."
"I look forward to working with you over the next two years as we continue to strengthen Trinity’s ministries in Faith Inspiration, Formation, and Action," Cooper concluded, "and as we continue the capital enhancements and improvement of our sacred and ministry buildings."