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.]