No meeting of minds

The following are excerpts from a video recording of a recent meeting between Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania and the Vestry (PCC) of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont.

MALE PARISHIONER: Your press releases said that there were 125 present at a recent clergy meeting and they gave you a standing ovation. But no-one stood. There was nowhere near that many there. Your website has extensive discussion on strategic mission with eight objectives and one is about conflict, but you generate conflict rather than resolve conflict, which is the primary component … it is being sabotaged by you. The website does not state that you are in impaired communion with the See of Canterbury, with this and the previous Archbishop of Canterbury.

The way you disregarded the advice of Pam Darling (Diocesan theologian consultant), the Presiding Bishop, priests, bishops, and Primates around the Anglican Communion only confirms that you are acting in your own interests. The Diocese of Pennsylvania under your leadership has abandoned its history, lies about its current status and is working contrary to its own stated goals. You are out of touch with reality or you don’t care. Does the diocese remain a religious organization? You have dropped the cross from diocesan stationery.

LADY PARISHIONER: There are ways in your own structure with Pam Darling’s [suggestion] to deal with this. It is clear that David Moyer stays and is restored.

BENNISON: That is not going to happen. Because of his status…

LADY PARISHIONER: It is going to happen.

BENNISON: It is not going to happen.

LADY PARISHIONER: You are embarrassing our church. My husband made a trip to Europe. You are a disgrace in the Episcopal Church in England. David Moyer is consecrated a priest and we are going forward. The only way we can move forward and the parish of Good Shepherd to meet in an official way is to work with David Moyer in the picture.

MALE PARISHIONER: Fr Moyer should have gotten a trial. It was disingenuous to use Canon 10 and give him 6 months. You thought you could avoid a trial.

BENNISON: There were a number of reasons why Title IV Canon 10 seemed to us to be appropriate. Use of Canon 3 would have been prompted by a single offence. And what was before us was a more serious situation a pattern of neglect of canons over a number of years. The clergy regularly break the canons.

Other bishops had used Canon 10 … it is available to us, it is a kind, wise way to go. Bishop Robert Ihloff (Maryland) and Frank Powell (Southwestern VA) all came up to me and told me that they had used Canon 10 in the same way. It gives us time to change his (David Moyer’s) mind during that 6-month period. It is a test of the charges. But there was not a whole lot to test.

MALE PARISHIONER: It strains credulity. The purpose was that you didn’t
want a trial. You didn’t think the trial was useful.
BENNISON: A trial costs money, parish money as well as diocesan money and should be used for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. A trial would have brought more publicity in the case. Who needs this publicity going around the world? There are a whole host of reasons the use of Canon 10 more was a prudent way to exercise this discipline.

MALE PARISHIONER: He [David Moyer] did not abandon the communion of the church in any common sense use of the English language. There is no cult of personality around the rector. Let us separate out the rector from parish concerns. If you persist in this course of action you will end up with an empty building … with 10 or 15 people and if you want that then pursue this course of action. My family and I will not be there.

People will not support you. Your supporters are very small. There is no silent majority to support you.

LADY PARISHIONER: Pam Darling said on page 2: ‘Being in communion is not something that can be legislated and cannot force the priest to share in the Eucharist.’ So design a visitation that does not include the Eucharist. The canons do not require that. Secondly to fulfil the canonical requirement you must deliver to the wardens a written document of your sermon. Thirdly institutional unity means presenting the church’s books and examining the parish records. This fulfills the letter of the canon. Why is this unacceptable to you when it was acceptable by your own theologian?

BENNISON continues…: The deposition means David must vacate the pulpit but I continue to recognize his gifts of ordination. They cannot be taken away from him. David Moyer is not deprived of the gifts. He is deprived of the rights to exercise the gifts of spiritual authority. He is a good man but Fr Moyer has to go. It is non-negotiable. He has to go for his own good.

LADY PARISHIONER: There are ways you can make this work.


MALE PARISHIONER: How many in the congregation do you think will be left? And you’re using the sheriff’s deputies to remove him … if anything will end their relationship with you.

ANOTHER MALE PARISHIONER: We are heading for the train wreck.

DIOCESAN PANEL PERSON: It is non-negotiable with David Moyer.

PARISHIONER TO BENNISON: There are no guarantees in this place. You say you reserve the right to change your mind. I reserve the right to change my mind. How can you build a church with a congregation of 15 people?

MALE PARISHIONER (speaking of a letter Bennison had sent to the parishioners stating that it was his ‘present intention’ not to make any changes at Good Shepherd): You understand why given the history of the Parsons’ plan and everything else that when you say it is a statement of your present intention and that was your present intention and later your present

BENNISON: I can understand that.

BENNISON (again): Why would you and your family leave?

PARISHIONER: There is no room for traditionalists in the Episcopal Church … because of what you are doing. You won’t offer any response or assurances. You would make us accept a woman bishop.

BENNISON: I cannot predict the future.

MALE PARISHIONER: If David Moyer goes, there is no place for me and my

LADY PARISHIONER: This is not a country club, it is about our religion which we hold to be very traditional, and I can’t imagine that you would want to interfere with their faith and those who love the truth. The canons Bill [Wood] are more important for you than the faith. We have not moved one inch in our ability to make you understand. I can tell you that we are still with the major part of the congregation. Why do you want to have an empty church and get rid of a leadership who actually believes. Most of us are not going to be there.

BENNISON: It is hard for me as a bishop to know what to do. It’s a hard line. As a whole the congregation is not in a helpful place and I take it as a given.