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Account of Parish Meeting - July 14, 2002


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The 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.



Dear 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 Jesus
     Christ, that ye have in remembrance, in not how high
     a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and Charge
     ye are called: that is to say, to be Messengers,
     Watchmen and Stewards of the Lord;....
     [1928 BCP, p. 539]

and the following interrogatory:

     Bishop. Will you be ready with all faithful diligence,
     to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous
     and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word; to use both
     public and private monitions and exhortations, as well
     to the sick as to the whole, within your Cure, as need
     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!!