following is a letter from Dr. Vincent Eareckson giving an account of
the parish meeting on July 14, 2002 called to discuss the current
dispute between the parish and Charles Bennison, Bishop of the Diocese
of Pennsylvania. This letter was originally published in the
Episcopate newsgroup moderated by Dr. Eareckson. We thank Dr.
Eareckson for his permission to republish the letter here.
Brothers and Sisters,
Let me first of all thank all of you who upheld our parish this
afternoon as we gathered for a parish meeting. It was a wonderful
expression of solidarity! Especially since the meeting was called on the
shortest of notice, following Bishop Bennison's presence in the
congregation last Sunday, July 7. He followed up this surprise visit
with a letter sent from Church House to all members of Good Shepherd,
six page letter that went from disingenuous to deceptive along with
pages of documentation all skewed and spun toward the Diocese and
Bishop. Given the kind of disinformation that was being spread---for
example, it was said that +Charles told parishioners who spoke to him
that a majority of Good Shepherd parishioners agreed with him and the
Diocese ---there had
to be an opportunity for the Rector and parish leaders to set the record
straight, as well as provide an opportunity for parishioners to both ask
questions and make comments, limited to 3 minutes each.
We began with Hymn #320 from the Hymnal 1940, William Cowper's "God
Moves In a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform". The Rector then
stepped into the pulpit of Good Shepherd for the first time in over four
months, clad in his white summer cassock with the red SSC piping.
I can not tell you how moving it was to see him there once again, where
he belongs. He
then proceeded to make it clear that as far as he was concerned his
current situation was simply the result of his own faithfulness to his
ordination vows 25 years ago. He was ordained in Newfoundland in the
Anglican Church of Canada using the traditional 162 Ordinal. There, as
in 1928, we have the following exhortation by the Bishop:
....we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord
Christ, that ye have in remembrance, in not how
a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and
ye are called: that is to say, to be
Watchmen and Stewards of the Lord;....
[1928 BCP, p. 539]
and the following interrogatory:
Bishop. Will you be ready with all faithful
to banish and drive away from the Church all
and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word;
to use both
public and private monitions and exhortations,
to the sick as to the whole, within your Cure,
shall require, and occasion be given?
Answer: I will, the Lord being my helper.
[1928 BCP, p. 542]
He pointed out that neither of these were in the 1979 Ordinal but he had
made these vows to God and he was, and would be, faithfully fulfilling
them as a priest in the Church of God. He expressed his gratitude for
all of the support received, especially by the members of Good Shepherd
going more deeply into the spiritual life, and asked us to continue to
stand firm with him.
Mr. John Lewis, the Rector's attorney in the civil suit being brought
against the Bishop, spoke next from the lectern. He described the
perversity in the use of Title IV. Canon 10 to inhibit the Rector so
that he would have no trial and no appeal, neither of which would be
appropriate for those about whom the canon properly speaks, namely those
who have left the Episcopal Church for another church home. He then
spoke as freely as he could about the legal action, being limited as he
said by the fact that what
was said would not be kept confidential but taken back to Bishop
Bennison. He told us of his intent to subpoena the Presiding Bishop and
the members of the Standing Committee, as well as the Bishop, to testify
under oath, testimony that would then become public. On the basis of the
truth thus ferretted out he expected to win the suit.
Finally, Mr. Stanley Bright, the Rector's Warden, spoke for the Vestry
about the further consequences of the action against Fr. Moyer. With his
deposition on September 4, it was clear that the Bishop would then move
against the parish itself. Stanley made it clear that the Vestry was
united and would continue to oppose Bishop Bennnison. All three men were
paragons of faithfulness.
The floor was then opened for comments and questions. For the next hour
one person after another expressed their support for the Rector, the
Vestry and the parish. Many relevant Scriptures were shared. One
laywoman quoted the Council of Constantinople calling for the rejection
of the actions of heretical bishops. Questions were raised about the
projected course of the legal action and about the making more widely
known the state of affairs here in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. I
observed that what was happening here was of worldwide and churchwide
importance, not just to Good Shepherd, the Diocese, or even ECUSA. I
reminded them that a certain Augustinian hermit monk who nailed academic
theses on the church door in 1517 could have
no idea of the importance of his act of faithfulness for he whole Church
and for history. Similarly for us.
The questions and comments were all given in a supportive way. Full
opportunity was provided for those who would want to be critical of our
stand but such was not forthcoming, even though a number of us had had
fears about that with an "open mike". The whole experience
following our regular parish Mass with a very large attendance, the vast
majority of whom remained for the parish meeting, I would say about 200
for the meeting, was very
edifying. A clear word is being spoken and being supported by consistent
action, against great opposition and at great cost. We expect to see the
Lord vindicate his Word and that quickly. Thank you again for your
prayers and keep them coming!!