Missouri judge returns Good Shepherd to the fold

October 17, 2004

[ENS, Source: Diocese of Missouri, St. Louis, October 18] -- A St. Louis County Associate Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri in its suit against the former rector and wardens of the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish of the Episcopal Church located in Town & Country, Missouri, and against an entity purporting to be a parish of the Anglican Diocese of Rwanda. The Circuit Court also ruled in favor of the national church's Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the entity through which the national church holds property.

Judge Mary B. Schroeder ruled in a decision dated October 12 that Paul Walter, the deposed rector, and members of the vestry at Good Shepherd acted outside the scope of their corporate authority when they petitioned the court in February to amend the parish's charter to so as to allow dissidents at the parish to remove the parish and its property from the diocese. The Court also ruled that the property of Good Shepherd was subject to a trust in favor of the diocese and the national Episcopal Church which prevented any attempt to use the property for purposes other than those approved by the diocese.

Judge Schroeder ordered Walter and his followers to vacate the church property, but did not set a deadline.

Walter and those calling themselves the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd continued to use the church on Mason Road and to occupy its offices and rectory while the Court weighed the arguments from both sides. Meanwhile, members of Good Shepherd who had disassociated themselves from Walter have been meeting in members' homes.

"I am glad that Judge Schroeder's decision is so clear and succinct," said Bishop George Wayne Smith. "I am even gladder that the people of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd get to go back home."

In February, Walter and the vestry of Good Shepherd tried to amend the parish's charter to change the name of the parish to include the word Anglican and to remove all claims of the Diocese of Missouri to the parish's property. Upon learning of the attempt, the diocese filed suit to prevent the misappropriation of the parish's property and obtained a temporary restraining order against Walter and the wardens.

The diocese argued that Walter and the former wardens misled the court by not disclosing that any changes in the charter required the consent of the bishop and Standing Committee of the diocese.

Meanwhile, Walter announced in February he was leaving the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Mission in America and its overseeing Province of Rwanda. Bishop Smith immediately inhibited Walter from his priestly functions, giving Walter six months to recant. When Walter refused, Bishop Smith deposed him as a priest on August 24.