Is Good Shepherd Rosemont going to close?

I took a ride out this afternoon to Rosemont, Pennsylvania, which is along the Main Line. I had never ridden Route 30 out from Lancaster to Philadelphia–even in my years at Penn–so I finally wanted to do it. Rosemont is along the way.

About a month or two ago, Judge Stanley Ott ruled against the pro-Moyer faction in the parish, and the faction left the parish. This is very typical in contemporary Episcopalianism. Dissent doesn’t mean the minority has its say and the majority gets its way. It usually means the minority gets kicked out or has to find a new “pastoral home”.

What has happened is that the pro-Moyer faction meets elsewhere in suburban Philadelphia, and the remaining Good Shepherdites figure out how they are going to pay the bills to keep the parish running.

I was very surprised that there was a money issue at Good Shepherd, because at one time (1990), it was said that the parish had $11 million in endowment. [I was told below that this number was more like $2 million, which would have put it in the St. Clement’s category.] That was over 20 years ago, so you’d figure the number would have gone up. Instead, it appears that it went down, and it was part of a strategy of spending down—or spending away—the assets of the parish. In that way, the Diocese of Pennsylvania wouldn’t get their hands on the dough.

It sounds like a certain amount, of however many millions of dollars there were, found their way to something called the Fellowship Foundation for Anglican Christian Tradition, or “FACT”, a nonprofit that was based in Pottstown, PA. I know about FACT from the May 2008 Good Shepherd newsletter, the “Rod and Staff”. (I’ll have that link or screenshot shortly.)

[Update 11/17/11: Here is what I have from before.]

I looked up FACT in the Guidestar Form 990 records, and Guidestar said that the nonprofit had lost its IRS nonprofit status, because it failed to file a Form 990 with the IRS for three years running. So there is no way to know how much money is, in fact (ehem), in FACT.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania says that the Good Shepherd’s books had not been audited by the diocese for ten years, and it’s a question whether they were audited by anyone else. Usually, this is not a good sign. Especially, in a denomination that had a former treasurer (Ellen Cooke) sit in a federal penitentiary for five years for having embezzled about $2 million.

If FACT received a lot of money from the parish, then we know why the remaining Rosemonters don’t have any money to keep the parish going. It is hard to think it all went out to lawyers in litigation since 2001 . . .

[Update #2 11/17/11: What makes this story unusual is that it may be one of the few times that the “conservative” wing of the intradenominational Episcopal Church battle ends up getting something more than a Pyrrhic victory. If the Moyer-led parish had used up the endowment to run the parish for 17 years, and encouraged current-year contributions to go into FACT, then FACT ended up with all the money. I do not have all the facts, but this sounds like it was legal under Pennsylvania law. A parish can use its money for any missionary or religious purpose that isn’t illegal under civil law. So if a vestry decides to fund an outside group, at intervals, I don’t see where this can be challenged. One of the top arms of the denomination is called the “Domestic and Missionary Society” of the Episcopal Church, and they spend a lot of money overseas.]

10 thoughts on “Is Good Shepherd Rosemont going to close?

  1. So I Googled “Fellowship for Anglican Christian Tradition,” and all I got was here, where I started! Going by “tradition,” I’m guessing that FACT is an IRD-facilitated or IRD-like faction. Is that right?

    1. Oops! It is Foundation for Anglican Christian Tradition. That’s what I get for blogging at the close of the day. My material is up in the updated post, including Guidestar link (registration required).

      Joy, I really don’t know what FACT has as a program. Guidestar said it was established in 1994. It may be that it is well funded, or it may be that it’s just a shell. They need to file 990 if they expect that contributions to it will be tax deductible though.

      1. I Googled around a little more about the church itself and discovered such a mess that I couldn’t find a side to root for. My denomination is congregational in governance, so I also couldn’t grasp the legal aspects of who “owns” a church in Episcopalian governance..

        However, my husband once represented a founding pastor intent on getting his church back from the members who threw him out.

  2. Hello,
    The parish was involved in a decade-long lawsuit which, as you are aware, ended with Judge Stanley Ott’s September 2011 ruling, and former Good Shepherd Rector Bishop David Moyer’s dismissal. Much of the endowment went toward funding the considerable legal expenses incurred (yes, in the seven figure range), along with a decline in active church membership, generally (and therefore, fewer people to fill the coffers). Good Shepherd is not closing – at least, not for the present. Rather, it remains an active parish, albeit now more mainstream Episcopalian than truly Anglo-Catholic. Many former parishioners have followed Bishop Moyer, and are involved in a flourishing fellowship, as they search for a permanent church home. Outreach and support of organizations which further a church’s mission are an integral component of any parish’s work. So, there is nothing unusual about a rector suggesting that certain organizations would be worthwhile recipients of such funding.

    1. Thanks for your post, Mr. Crispin.

      I am working with information that is twenty years old, admittedly. But what was understood in Philadelphia, back in those days, was that Good Shepherd had a low eight-figure endowment. (The number I was told was $11 million, and this was at a time when St. Clement’s reported $2.3 million.)

      You must know about David Virtue’s well-regarded site, Virtue Online. There, he reported that someone representing Good Shepherd said that the parish would face a cash crunch in the later part of this year. The part I am referring to was this:

      Rawson said it is now up to the Accounting Warden George Anderson to explain to the Bishop how new members would be added to review the parish finances and monitor and authorize all expenditures. It is his call as to whether they will sell or mortgage parish investment property to survive anticipated illiquidity problems projected for December.

      So, in late September, people within the parish were saying that the parish would have “illiquidity problems” by this month. If that isn’t so, then great! Right?

      I think my source from 20 years ago was right, and the Rosemont number was $11 million. This was even before the stock and bond runups of the 1990’s. Yes, of course, lawyers cost money, and Rosemont had its share of that–most of which was at Bishop Bennison’s instigation. But how could it all just . . . go like that?

      Thanks for your post, and I am sure both factions out of Rosemont will be able to continue some sort of witness to the Anglican faith.

  3. The endowment was valued at under $2 million, not $11 million and earnings were used for operating expenses on a regular basis with principle used as needed for building repairs, payroll, etc. even before the lawsuits began. Legal expenses and the need to draw even more money as the congregation shrunk depleted much of the endowment over the past 10 years or so. FACT was formed as an alternative for members to give to in order to keep donations out of the hands of the diocese and the movement of those pledges from Good Shepherd to FACT further contributed to the need to draw on the monies in the endowment over that time. Monies donated to FACT were used to support various tax exempt organizations with beliefs similar to those of the members of Good Shepherd. FACT also loaned money to Good Shepherd for capital projects and assist with the purchase of the property adjacent to the church that includes several buildings which provide rental income to Good Shepherd. FACT still holds a mortgage in excess of $400,000 on the Good Shepherd property. Good Shepherd is surviving today in large part due to the income from those rentals. While monies may have not all been accounted for, it is not on as large a scale as your blog indicates.

    1. Curtis, so you are saying the number was about $2 million at the height? I’ll make an adjustment in the main text. What it means is that St. Clement’s actually had a greater endowment in 1990 than the Good Shepherd, which would have surprised a lot of people.

      Back in the day, some parishes used to actually publish this information. People must have concluded that doing that was bad for fundraising? Although, it doesn’t seem to be a problem with universities.

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