Pittsburgh Bishop Removes Himself from Philadelphia Row

Episcopal News Service. January 8, 2003 [2003-002-8]

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has removed himself from an ongoing feud between Bishop Charles E. Bennison of Pennsylvania and the Rev. David Moyer. Moyer, for 13 years the rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, a Philadelphia suburb, was deposed in September by Bennison after repeatedly refusing to allow Bennison and two of his predecessors to make formal visitations to the church.

Moyer, president of the North American chapter of the traditionalist group Forward in Faith, was nominated by the group at its annual meeting last summer to be consecrated as a bishop outside the Episcopal Church's canonical structures. According to the diocesan standing committee, Moyer had 'abandoned' his ministry in the Episcopal Church, and they voted to have Moyer deposed.

Following notice of the deposition, it was announced that Moyer had been accepted by Archbishop Bernard Malango of the Province of Central Africa as a priest of the diocese of the Upper Shire. One day later, Duncan accepted Moyer as a priest in the Pittsburgh diocese, later saying that he had 'purposely occasioned a constitutional crisis ' to open a discussion about 'limiting episcopal power.' Moyer did not move to Pittsburgh and continues to live in the Rosemont parish rectory.

Bennison then sent Duncan a letter asking him to remove Moyer, according to Ronda Carman, a spokeswoman for the diocese. Duncan didn't want to defy the canons by refusing the request and didn't want to remove Moyer, she said, so in a December 16 letter, Duncan transferred Moyer back to the African diocese.

'Father Moyer is still welcome to function in Pittsburgh,' Duncan said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 'He's just no longer (canonically) under me.' Carman said Duncan transferred Moyer to remove himself from the controversy, which includes a lawsuit by Moyer accusing Bennison of fraud, misrepresentation, collusion and denial of due process. 'To some extent it is more of a battle than Bishop Duncan wants to be in,' Carman said. Members of Duncan's immediate family are part of the Rosemont congregation.