Rememberance of Scuzzyness past.

The news this week in Episcopal-land was that the court case concerning the Church of the Good Shepard, Rosemont, has ended, with the Diocese of Pennsylvania having control of the buildings. The end result is that David Moyer, deposed priest and now, by the miracle of the nonsensical world we live in, bishop in The Traditional Anglican Communion, has to leave the parish, the rectory and the parish remains as part of The Episcopal Church. The parish will no doubt continue to be a "traditional" theologically but it intends to remain part of the Diocese. The whole legal mess is hard to untangle. There are two versions, each with interesting things to say. The Episcopal News Service has THISDavid Virtue has THIS.

ENS reminds us of one of the really strange bits of scuzzy ecclesial politics in the lead up to Moyer's strange journey.  

"...Moyer then sued Bennison for his actions, claiming that the bishop, "motivated by secular animosity," had "wrongfully" sought to "force [Moyer] out of his vocation, his church, his congregation and his home." Moyer asked for damages for loss of employment and mental suffering. A Montgomery County jury rejected Moyer's claims in October 2008. Moyer did not appeal that decision and that aspect of the dispute has been concluded.

The aftermath of Moyer's deposition reached far beyond the diocese. Then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey announced that he did not recognize Moyer's deposition and would license him to officiate in Canterbury. Carey later told ENS that the media had been "simplistic" in their portrayal of his actions.

Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury and then-Archbishop of Wales and Monmouth, said that he would license Moyer in his jurisdiction, except for the fact that "my legal officers would be very reluctant to issue any license to a person not connected in some way with the life of the diocese."

Letters from Carey and Williams about Moyer are available here.

At the same time, the House of Bishops of the Province of Central Africa made Moyer a priest in good standing there. The Central Africa province then transferred Moyer's canonical residency from its Diocese of Upper Shire to the Diocese of Pittsburgh at the request of then-Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who later transferred him back to Upper Shire. Members of Duncan's immediate family were Good Shepherd members."

 Two Archbishops of Canterbury took it upon themselves to say that as far as they were concerned Moyers was not deposed, although Archbishop Williams apparently had some reluctance to actually licensing him.  But at a time when the Churches of the Communion are thinking of just what it means to be in Covenant, this is a less than useful example of how that might go bad. On what possible "mutually responsible and interdependent" model is it permissible for one province to simply ignore the deposition of a priest by a diocese in another province?  In what way was Moyers such an example of Catholic purity of intent as to make this somehow a matter of justice rather than non-interference?

Well we will never know because Moyers then got involved in a rather scuzzy bit of ecclesiastical politics in a shell game that made Moyers a priest in (first) another Province, and then since he was in good standing there, transferred to the Diocese of Pittsburgh where he became a priest in good standing there, and then Bishop Robert Duncan magically placed him again in Rosemont, with Good Shepherd Church having a priest not canonically part of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. This outrageous shell game was meant to make the deposition no longer a "reality" on the ground. 

Anyone who wonders as to the virtuous leadership of The Anglican Church in North America will note that the now deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh has been messing around with ecclesiastical shell games for a long time.  It was practice so that the deposed bishop of Pittsburgh could dance on down to South America where they would recognize him and he could then become a bishop and archbishop in a new church, a church like The Traditional Anglican Communion, that has no standing with the Anglican Communion.

Except of course, given the propensity of Archbishops of Canterbury to ignore deposition elsewhere in the communion, that is not quite true.

Former Bishop Duncan, former priest Moyers, are in the eyes of The Episcopal Church no longer bishop or priest but in deposition also their license to act is revoked and that cannot be reactivated except by the deposing church.  I suppose every Church in the Anglican Communion has measures under which deposition occurs.  I would assume that the assumption is that if the priest is deposed that no other church in the communion will revoke that deposition, and surely not revoke it so that the person can continue to be priest or bishop in the church in which they formerly worked.  

The reminder of this whole scuzzy mess is a reminder that one of the things never talked about in Covenant discussion is honoring the canonical decisions reached in any province by the other provinces. Good luck with that!


  1. Next up for His spiritual ¨confusedness¨ is a President Magabe/Rowan Meeting meet-up in October to ¨clarify¨ the big grab/thieving of Anglican properties at the Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe...oh what webbs we weave...when we deceive (ourselves and others)...nothing like a weak leader playing endless games of ¨well-meaning¨ and pretend with despots and thieves. Somebody´s money table needs to be tipped over--it could be a toss up.

  2. If Moyer is ordained a Catholic priest..the Vatican want their heads examining....

  3. I find it way too funny that the ones most hostile to the authority of TEC bishops and who want to go Rome are going into a very rigid authoritarian system. TEC has put up with their dissent but that will not happen on the other side of the Tiber.

  4. Shell game? What a lovely term for that which is not only preposterous, but borders the immoral.

  5. If memory serves Bp Duncan excused is action by saying that he was defending a priest who had suffered at the hands of a more powerful bishop. I wrote him and asked how he felt about bishops who refused to allow vestries to consider women as candidates for rector. I did not receive a reply.


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