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Top bishop opposed removal of a priest

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PHILADELPHIA — The national leader of the Episcopal Church privately appealed to Bishop Charles Bennison Jr. against removing a priest who opposed recognition of same-sex couples, court documents show.

An ongoing court case involves the Philadelphia bishop's removal last year of the Rev. David Moyer, a suburban rector who is president of Forward in Faith North America, a group with member parishes in 24 states that opposes gay sex and women in the priesthood.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold wrote Bennison several times, warning that defrocking would be "monumentally unpastoral" and lacks public support, insisting that the bishop find other ways to deal with the outspoken priest.

At one point Griswold demanded: "Are you looking to prevail at all costs?"

But Bennison rejected that advice and also Griswold's request to permit an outside bishop to provide "supplemental care" to six conservative congregations, including Moyer's.

Moyer had branded Bennison a "false prophet" for his liberal views. Bennison initially suspended Moyer because he refused to let the bishop make official visits to the congregation.