Documents of an unfolding crisis

THE Inhibition of the Chairman of Forward in Faith North America is without doubt the most important event in the current battle between American Traditionalists and the revisionist hierarchy in that Church. This archive chronicles the development of the crisis, which will come to its climax in five months time, immediately after the 2002 National Assembly of FiF/NA

From David Virtue

ROSEMONT, Pa —Bishop Charles E Bennison told the vestry and rector of Good Shepherd, Rosemont, the flagship Anglo-Catholic parish in the Diocese of PA that when the Primates called for sustained pastoral over sight, that is flying bishops, ‘the Primates were wrong. ’

Furthermore, when the vestry challenged him at a regular vestry meeting to which Bennison was invited, about his responsibility to foster unity with diversity, he made it clear that he ‘did not want the diversity represented by Good Shepherd. ’

The rector, Fr David Moyer told Bennison that Good Shepherd was ‘submissive to the Anglican Communion ’ and ‘that there is nothing personal in any of these issues with the bishop. ’ He then said this entire issue was a distraction to both sides. ‘Good Shepherd is a growing parish while many others are decreasing in membership, ’ he told Bennison. Moyer then reviewed documents from the Lambeth Conference, Primates meetings and meetings of bishops from ECUSA and pointed to references involving the issues in dispute and the primates call for sustained pastoral care.

Bennison then stated, ‘the Primates are wrong. ’

When it was pointed out to him that several ECUSA bishops currently allowed flying bishops (for example, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island) Bennison said that they were also wrong. When told that St James the Less would consider rejoining the diocese if they could be assured of alternative pastoral oversight, the bishop said he was not interested.

Bennison then expressed pleasure that he had only spent $28,000 so far in his legal battle against St James the Less and ‘nowhere near the half million spent in Washington, DC in that case. ’

When asked how he saw lawsuits being pursued by the diocese as helpful and a good use of monies that had been given to the diocese by the faithful over the years, the bishop said he was not interested.

The bishop said, ‘As a bishop, I am primarily responsible for unity in the diocese, while allowing diversity at the same time. ’ He also said, ‘We miss the presence and gifts of Good Shepherd in the diocese and we should not be satisfied with not being together. ’

When asked how his actions not to honor his agreement to maintain the plan for Bishop Parsons to minister to Forward in Faith parishes which resulted in the loss of both St. John ’s, Huntingdon Valley and St. James the Less, his actions against All Saints ’, Wynnewood and his threats against Good Shepherd and Fr Moyer fostered unity within diversity, Bennison replied that he did not want the diversity represented by Good Shepherd.

Bennison said he found the Public Conversation Project lacking and personally decided that it would be better to have individual conversations himself with Good Shepherd. The PCP people had proposed a single conversation between the diocese and various representatives of the diocese. Bennison pointed out that the diocese had a shortfall of $164,000 in the budget and he had decided not to spend the $25,000 needed to fund the process.

Later, in response to a question, however, Bennison said that the PCP had been the ones to pull the plug on the conversations sensing it was hopeless.

Moyer then offered to restore payment of the parish ’s assessment to the diocese if the plan for alternative pastoral oversight was restored. The bishop countered by saying the diocese always runs with a budget deficit of $164,000. NOTE: The latest issue of The Pennsylvania Episcopalian shows the diocese has a current shortfall of $266,000.

Bennison expressed concern that Moyer ’s name had been put forward as a candidate for the proposed FiF/NA bishop plan. When asked why, Bennison said it would ‘involve a foreign province. ’

When he was asked why he had no such concerns when Fr Moyer was being proposed as Bishop of Northern Malawi, Bennison had no answer.

When he asked the vestry if they agreed with the FIFNA plan, they told him that they would prefer the plan not be implemented, but that is was a result of actions like his that it was proposed in the first place. Bennison was told that he had had a lot to do with whether there would be a need for it to go forward. He was also told that ‘only God knew who would be selected if the plan did proceed. ’

When challenged that his actions and beliefs caused ‘impaired communion ’, Bennison responded ‘all communion is impaired. ’

Later he said that the only requirement that should be used to determine if a person was a Christian and therefore in communion with him was baptism. When asked if actual beliefs impacted this statement, he affirmed his statement that baptism ‘is the only thing necessary. ’ Bennison was unable to state any difference between his being in full communion with a Unitarian as opposed to being an Episcopalian. ’

When Bennison was challenged about his broken promise given prior to his election as Bishop of PA that he would allow the continuance of flying bishops in a deal with Bishop Allen Bartlett, Bennison admitted he made the agreement, but that he changed his mind after the election. When it was pointed out to him that as a bishop he had a higher standard than a politician making campaign promises, and that he was morally obligated to honor his promises, Bennison had no answer.

A vestryman challenged Bennison saying ‘you are our bishop administratively but not pastorally, ’ and that ‘I could not receive Holy Communion from you. ’ The bishop glibly replied, ‘Sure you can, just hold out your hands. ’

During a discussion on the canons, Bennison tried to use them selectively against them, according to one source, but when they were actually read to him showing that they did not say or imply what he thought they said, Bennison then said he came with only one intention to ‘seek discussion on reconciliation. ’ He then demanded that he be welcomed to celebrate and preach.

Reasoning with the bishop apparently failed. When they informed the bishop that the HOB would meet in two weeks to discuss pastoral oversight, the bishop was not moved. A proposal to allowing pastoral oversight by a bishop of his choosing and acceptable to the vestry and Moyer was met with a stony refusal by Bennison. Bennison then threatened Moyer with inhibition and left. To date that has not been carried out.

From William Murchison

PHILADELPHIA —Months of heated ecclesiastical sparring climaxed March 1 as Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E Bennison, Jr, ordered a leading traditionalist rector to cease functioning in his parish for six months.

Bennison accused the Reverend Dr David L Moyer, rector of Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, of having renounced the Discipline of the Church through, among other actions, denying him the right to preach and celebrate the Eucharist at the parish.

Moyer, who is also president of the Church ’s largest traditionalist organization, Forward in Faith/North America, is to step down from all parish responsibilities beginning Monday, March 4. Under Church canons, he faces formal deposition from the Episcopal priesthood at the end of the period.

Moyer called Bennison ’s action –formally known as inhibition of ministry –‘a very unfortunate and unnecessary act of aggression against someone who is faithfully committed to upholding the Gospel and the Catholic religion. ’ He said he was ‘consulting with a number of trusted individuals, both clergy and lay, in an attempt to discern the proper course of action. ’

Inhibition commonly is levied against priests who already have left the Episcopal Church. Moyer, 51, called himself probably the first Episcopal priest to remain in the Church and still undergo inhibition.

Bennison, who strongly backs the gay rights agenda and has affirmed the Church ’s right to ‘change ’ Scripture, has long been at odds with Moyer and the historic parish in the Mainline suburb of Rosemont. The bishop, insistent on asserting his authority over the parish by presiding at worship there, met over several years with reputed refusals by Moyer and his vestry to allow such visits.

Bennison likewise objects to Moyer ’s nomination to become bishop of a US Anglican presence unaligned with the Episcopal Church. Forward in Faith/North America (FiF/NA)at a meeting in August may ask an overseas Anglican primate to consecrate an American priest who would serve American traditionalists under that primate ’s supervision rather than inside official Episcopal Church structures. Moyer is among several Episcopal priests nominated for the responsibility.

The diocesan standing committee, which met with Moyer February 26 in a session it called ‘candid and respectful, ’ advised Bennison by letter that Moyer ’s actions, ‘continuing over an extended period and demonstrating increasing level of confrontation with the bishops of this diocese constitute an “open renunciation of the … Discipline …of this Church “’ within the meaning of Church canons.

The committee cited Moyer for disobeying orders to permit a Bennison visit, for failing to present Good Shepherd communicants for confirmation by Bennison, and for ‘willingly participating in an election process that clearly violates the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church. ’ The committee ’s report takes swipes at traditionalists, whom it accuses of ‘willingness to disengage themselves ’ from the diocese while continuing –like Moyer and Good Shepherd –to call themselves Episcopalians.

The report makes plain that the standing committee sees obedience to the canons as a larger matter than theological ‘debate and disagreement. ’ Neither Bennison nor the standing committee addresses Moyer ’s and Good Shepherd ’s theological point, which is that, believing and teaching as he does, Bennison at many points steps outside the historic Christian faith.

Bennison has refused Good Shepherd ’s repeated requests for oversight by a bishop other than Bennison. The bishop says he would allow such a plan only if Good Shepherd agreed to have him also as a visitor. Such a scheme, the parish believes, would overthrow the whole purpose of substituting a faithful bishop for one –namely, Bennison – deemed to espouse false teaching. . Anglican primates recently urged the Episcopal Church to provide some such plan as Good Shepherd and other traditional parishes have desired. Bennison, in a late February meeting with the Good Shepherd vestry, said bluntly, ‘The primates are wrong. ’

From Fr David Moyer

The Rt Rev ’d Charles E Bennison, Jr 240 South Fourth Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

Dear Bishop Bennison,

After careful reading of the Inhibition of March 1, 2002, I must contest this judgement and disciplinary action, which is based on the accusation that I have abandoned the Communion of the Church. I do this without prejudice to my legal position, which is separately stated by my attorney. It is precisely my grave concern for and loyalty to the Communion of the Church that undergirds my continuing and consistent actions as a priest. At this time, I have chosen to take an inhouse retreat to be concentrated in prayer and discernment, and not formally engaging in priestly duties.

My fundamental concern, past and present, is for the structures of the Church being upheld. The basic structure of the Church is grounded in Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, which shapes the mind of the Anglican Communion. The Canons are clearly subservient to the Bible and the Prayer Book.

With that background, I am in full agreement with your statement in your March 1, 2002 letter to the clergy of the Diocese of PA, where you write: ‘We have to uphold the structures of our Church if we are to maintain our unity, and we have to hold one another accountable at the same time. ’ In that spirit, I ask you to assist me. If I am mistaken, and have a misunderstanding of how you have violated the structural elements of the Christian Faith, you can easily clarify this by publicly affirming:

The uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way of obtaining eternal salvation.
The Book of Common Prayer: Article XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ:

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

The Book of Common Prayer, Fifth Sunday of Easter (p173):

O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Bible:

Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life;no one comes to the Father, but by me. ’ (John 14. 6) And there is salvation in no else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved ’. (Acts 4. 12)

The physical bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Common Prayer: Article IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ:

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man ’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

The Holy Bible:

Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side;do not be faithless, but believing. ’ (John 20. 27)

‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have ’. (Luke 24. 39)

That sexual intimacy and genital relations are only properly expressed in a monogamous, heterosexual marital union. Book of Common Prayer: Article XX. Of the Authority of the Church:
The Church hath power to decree Rites of Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God ’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against to the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

The Declaration of Intention:
‘We ___________________________ and ___________________________ desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer or in the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in the Episcopal Church. ’

The supremacy of the Holy Scriptures as the inspired Word of God
The Book of Common Prayer: The Presentation at the ordination of a bishop (p513): In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N N , chosen Bishop of the Church in N , solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church. To bring us to the point of reconciliation, I respectfully ask that you publicly affirm these tenets of the Christian faith promptly, and certainly before Holy Week. Upon your public affirmations I would see myself in a position to welcome you to the Church of the Good Shepherd for a full Episcopal visitation. You remain in my daily prayers and in the prayers of the people of Good Shepherd. Faithfully in Christ The Revd Dr David L Moyer, SSC