A Pennsylvania Episcopal church which joyously greeted the announcement of a provision to assist Anglicans who wish to become Catholic could be among the first to take advantage of the church structure put forward by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopalian parish in the Philadelphia Maine Line suburbs, is an “Anglo-Catholic” parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. According to the Rosemont Journal, its liturgy is celebrated in the “high church” style reminiscent of traditional Catholic churches: with incense, elaborate vestments, and a choir that may sing in Latin.
The parish has objected to recent changes in the denomination, such as its allowing women and homosexuals to become priests and bishops.
Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, said that for two years the parish had been praying daily for the Pope’s action towards Anglicans.
“When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears,” he told the Rosemont Journal.
Following a Mass devoted to church unity, Rev. Aaron R. Bayles, the assistant pastor, reported that the majority of parishioners would be “on board” with the development.
He said he himself was exultant when he heard the news because he had always hoped for the unification of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. The new provision for Anglicans may be “a step in that direction,” he commented.
For 17 years the parish has refused to allow the local Episcopal bishop to come for a pastoral visit or confirmation. It also stopped paying its annual financial assessment to the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The diocese sued to take over the Church of the Good Shepherd’s building in 2009. It is a replica of a 14th-century English country parish that was built in 1894. The property is estimated at $7 million in value.
Bishop Moyer was made a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion and was one of its 38 bishops to sign an October 2007 petition asking Pope Benedict XVI for an arrangement that would unite Anglicans with the Catholic Church.
He explained that he had been defrocked for disobedience to Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison, but he remained in place.
The Church of the Good Shepherd never formally left the Episcopal Church, in part because it did not want to be evicted from its property. Bishop Moyer, who lives in a rectory on the church’s property, said he hoped to resolve the “legal quagmire” over the property before the church decides to join the Catholic Church.
While the Anglican provision will allow married Anglican priests, it would not allow married bishops. Bishop Moyers is the father of three and is waiting to hear what his status could be under the proposal.
He told the Rosemont Journal that some of his parish’s 400 members would choose to leave rather than become Catholic. Some are former Catholics who may not want to go back, while others remain loyal to the Episcopal Church.