- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

A highly publicized battle between a Philadelphia area priest and the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania may come to some sort of resolution next week if the priest is named as bishop to a traditional Episcopal group.
The Rev. David Moyer, whose conservative views concerning Christian doctrine resulted in the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison putting him on six-month probation beginning March 4, may be recommended as a bishop of Forward in Faith North America, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
FIFNA is having its annual convention Aug. 18-21 at Our Lady of the Snows, a Roman Catholic shrine in Belleville, Ill. Delegates will select one or more priests to be named as potential bishops for a future "province" or separate group of traditional Episcopalians in the largely liberal U.S. Episcopal Church.
The 2.3-million-member denomination has lost one-third of its adherents during the past four decades partly because of disagreements over ordaining women, the role of homosexuals in the Church and liberal theological trends. FIFNA, which has 19,000 members in U.S. parishes, has fought these trends.
Two candidates for a possible FIFNA bishop have been named. The second candidate, besides Mr. Moyer, is the Rev. William Ilgenfritz, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, Pa. There is a chance both men will be nominated.
Mr. Moyer "is not going to be consecrated a bishop unless there is a critical number of primates [Anglican archbishops] who can back that," says FIFNA spokeswoman Cris Fouse. "We do not want to be another continuing church," like the many "breakaway" churches that have left the Episcopal church.
But Mr. Moyer may be out of a job as of Sept. 4, when Bishop Bennison has threatened to defrock him. Mr. Moyer has refused to allow Bishop Bennison in the pulpit of his Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, Pa., because Mr. Moyer says his superior is too liberal. Canon law mandates that a bishop have access to every pulpit in his or her diocese at least once every three years.
"His only crime is upholding the Christian faith," Mrs. Fouse said, adding that Presiding Episcopal Bishop Frank Griswold has asked Bishop Bennison twice to back off from defrocking Mr. Moyer.
"If Bennison gets away with this, what other bishops will use an illegal canon [law] to also get away with it?"
The bishop's detractors have said Bishop Bennison improperly cited two church canon laws in prosecuting Mr. Moyer.
To forestall criticism, Bishop Bennison ordered the diocese's 162 parishes to read a five-page letter during services Aug. 4 detailing his side of the story.
"Because he and I differ in our approaches to the place of women and homosexual persons in the church, as well as on other theological and pastoral questions, some have erroneously depicted my inhibition [suspension] of him as prejudicial with regard to those of a conservative ideology," Bishop Bennison said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
In a statement posted in FIFNA's Foundations newsletter, Mr. Moyer says he knows "God is at work."
With three weeks to go before his defrocking, "My theology (which I pray is the theology of the Church throughout the ages) tells me that God is very faithful to those who strive to love and honor Him," he wrote. "I certainly don't want to go, nor do I think I should have to go; but I don't call the shots."

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