Diocese seeks court action to regain Good Shepherd

by Jerry Hames

March 20, 2009

The Orphans’ Court Division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas has issued a citation to the wardens of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, and its deposed rector asking them to show why the court should not declare that the parish has violated the terms of its original charter and why the Diocese of Pennsylvania should not be named the legal owner of the church’s property and buildings. Representatives from Good Shepherd have until April 24 to respond.

The diocese’s legal counsel initiated the court action in January, charging that the persons who control Good Shepherd have announced that they no longer consider the parish to be a constituent part of the Diocese of Pennsylvania or the Episcopal Church and are not required to comply with the constitution and canons of either body. As a result, the assets of Good Shepherd are no longer being used for the benefit of the Episcopal Church, the petition states.

For years the parish has refused to support the diocese and its programs financially or to send representatives to the annual diocesan convention. It has refused to give permission to the bishop for official visits to inspect the parish register, preach or conduct confirmations.

Michael Rehill, diocesan chancellor, said he believes the Standing Committee intends to reestablish an Episcopal church on the site rather than sell the property and buildings. He said he sees the issue as clear-cut. "What does it mean to be Episcopalian if you don’t pay and don’t acknowledge the leadership?" he asked. "It means you’ve left the church."

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