On the first Sunday after being stripped of his priesthood by his bishop, the Reverend David L. Moyer responded with resolve and defiance, telling parishioners at the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Philadelphia suburb of Rosemont that he will not leave them, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
He said that his defrocking Thursday "had lit a bonfire" in the worldwide Anglican community and that the person who needs to resign is his superior, Bishop Charles E. Bennison, who oversees 70,000 Episcopalians in the Philadelphia region.
Under suspension prior to his defrocking, Father Moyer has not been in the Good Shepherd pulpit for six months. He and his family have continued to live in the church rectory, however.
"We were in danger of being hijacked by a left wing that...was trying to turn us into Unitarians," said parishioner James D. McLaughlin of Malvern. "Father Moyer's defrocking is bringing about a much-needed discussion about our church's future."
The dispute, which pits a conservative rector against a liberal bishop, has drawn international attention. The flash point of the controversy is Father Moyer's opposition to the diocesan policy of ordaining women and gays as priests. He believes this is contrary to biblical tenets.
Moyer, 51, who has been the Good Shepherd rector for 13 years, said he has received supportive E-mails from Europe and Australia as well as closer to home. Last week the Reverend George L. Carey, archbishop of Canterbury and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican communion--which includes the Episcopal Church USA--took the unprecedented step of intervening in the dispute by making Moyer a priest in the Church of England.
Bennison, in a telephone interview Saturday, said that the outside support for Moyer does not change the fact that he has been removed as a diocesan priest and must vacate his pulpit. "The reality is that the bishop has supervision, according to church law," Bennison said.