A Episcopal priest defrocked by the local diocese must step down as rector of his Rosemont parish and vacate the premises after 21 years there, a Montgomery County Court judge has ruled.
The Rev. David Moyer, 60, said Wednesday that he was saddened by Judge Stanley Ott's decision but would abide by his order to leave the Church of the Good Shepherd. He said he hoped to become a Roman Catholic priest.
An outspoken critic of liberal trends in the Episcopal Church, Moyer was defrocked in 2002 by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania after he agreed to become a bishop in a small, conservative Anglican denomination.
Bishop Charles E. Bennison, head of the 55,000-member local diocese, ruled that Moyer had "broken communion" with the diocese and the Episcopal Church by that decision.
Moyer had for years denounced Bennison's acceptance of same-sex marriage and gay clergy, and barred the bishop from preaching or conducting confirmations at his parish. Moyer also rejects the ordination of women.
With the support of his vestry, or church board, Moyer refused to step down as rector after his deposition and continued to preach, say Mass, administer the affairs of the parish, and reside in its rectory with his wife, Rita.
In 2008, he unsuccessfully sued Bennison in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court over firing him under what he alleged were false pretenses.
In February 2009, the diocese filed a motion in Montgomery County Court asking it to remove Moyer and the members of the vestry who refused to recognize the authority of the Episcopal Church as rightful owner of the property.
Ott, a judge of Orphans' Court, ruled Aug. 25 that under the laws of the church, parishes are the property of their dioceses and the national church.
Moyer said Wednesday that he was relieved to have the matter ended, but would ask the diocese to allow him and his wife to reside in the rectory until they can find a new home. The diocese did not respond to requests for comment.
Moyer said he hoped to remain in the Philadelphia area should he become a Catholic priest.
He is seeking to become part of a new, semi-autonomous structure within the Catholic Church that permits disaffected Anglicans to become Catholics while retaining some of their Anglican prayers and liturgies.
Anglican clergy, including married priests, must petition Rome if they wish to serve as Catholic clergy.
Good Shepherd has for decades been identified as a member of the Anglo-Catholic spectrum of the Episcopal Church, and its liturgies are very similar to those found in Roman Catholic churches.