- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

A priest recently defrocked by the Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania is defying his bishop by remaining in his Philadelphia parish.
On Sept. 5, the Rev. David Moyer, 52, rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in the Philadelphia suburb of Rosemont, was deposed or defrocked by the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison Jr. for not allowing Bishop Bennison to visit the parish, as is his right under canon law.
Meanwhile, Mr. Moyer's assistant, the Rev. Garrin Dickinson, had his license to officiate in the Diocese of Pennsylvania withdrawn, which left the church down two clergymen.
However, both men are staying put because a group of bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, committed the unprecedented action of siding with a priest against a bishop wishing to depose him.
Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, the worldwide head of the Anglican Communion, of which the U.S. Episcopal Church is part, recently said he would not recognize Bishop Bennison's actions. His action was unusual because the power of individual bishops is sacrosanct in the Episcopal Church.
Then Mr. Moyer was offered a license from the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, who is to succeed Archbishop Carey next month. No Episcopal priest can function in a diocese without a license from its bishop.
"All I know of him suggests that he is not guilty of any moral or doctrinal delinquency, and is respected as a priest of disciplined life, personal spirituality and great teaching capacity," Archbishop Williams said Sept. 9.
The situation provoked widespread comment in the British press. As Mr. Moyer preached yesterday at his parish, the diocese mulled over ways to react. In a similar case in a parish in Acokeek in Prince George's County, it took the Episcopal Diocese of Washington five months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs to evict a conservative priest who likewise refused to leave his parish.
But the 70,000-member Pennsylvania diocese, whose members are split over the matter, may find it impossible to remove Mr. Moyer.
In March, Mr. Moyer was "inhibited," an ecclesiastical punishment forbidding a priest to conduct ministerial functions for six months, by his bishop. He also was charged with violating canon law because he refused to allow the bishop to preach or celebrate Communion in his church of Bishop Bennison's liberal theology and approval of homosexual ordination. The precise charge was "abandoning the communion" of the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church.
Mr. Moyer was informed by fax the afternoon of Sept. 5 that he was "deposed" from the Episcopal Church, but within minutes, the Diocese of Pittsburgh had transferred him to its jurisdiction. The Anglican Diocese of Central Africa was also willing to license him.
"I knew men were working behind the scenes on my behalf, but you don't believe it until you see it," Mr. Moyer said. "It's a new day in the Episcopal Church. I was inhibited with the misuse of canon law. That is what outraged people."
Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, a conservative who has opposed Bishop Bennison openly, invited Mr. Moyer to his see, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh, to celebrate Communion on Sept. 6.
"How much power shall bishops have?" Bishop Duncan preached. "Are they monarchs or mediators? Can they at will redefine what has always been believed or who may presently be included? My actions related to the defense of David Moyer speak to these questions. By challenging the action of my brother bishop, Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania, I am hoping to bring these questions to debate within the American House of Bishops," when it meets later this month.
"Bishop Duncan is concerned it's a dangerous interpretation of canon law that any bishop has the power to say you've 'abandoned the communion' before determining what that means," said Diocese of Pittsburgh spokeswoman Ronda Carman.
A Diocese of Pennsylvania spokeswoman said the diocese has yet to comment on the events. According to canon law, both Mr. Moyer and Mr. Dickinson may operate in the Pennsylvania diocese for 60 days without a license. After that, the bishop would have to either try them in ecclesiastical court or, as in the case of Acokeek, sue them in civil court.
"They don't know what to do," Mr. Moyer says. "They have caused confusion, and they are confused by the confusion they have caused. We view it that I was illegally thrown out of the Episcopal Church by Charles Bennison."

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