Bishop Weighs in on Accokeek Controversy

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Wed May 2 00:21:28 EDT 2001


Bishop weighs in on Accokeek controversy

Bishop Lipscomb urges D.C. bishop suffragan to allow conservative
priest to serve

By Jim DeLa Director of Communications,
Diocese of Southwest Florida

Bishop John B. Lipscomb has joined five other bishops in asking that a
conservative priest be allowed to serve as rector of a parish in
southern Maryland.

The call by Christ Church, Accokeek, of the Rev. Samuel Lee Edwards has
caused a bitter feud between the vestry and Bishop Suffragan Jane Dixon
of the Diocese of Washington.

Edwards, former executive director of the organization Forward in
Faith/North America (FIF/NA), is opposed to the ordination of women to
the priesthood and episcopate. He has written editorials in the FIF/NA
magazine, calling the Episcopal church 'The Unchurch," and urging
clergy and congregations to "sever their connections" with ECUSA.

Bishop Dixon has steadfastly refused to approve Edwards' call to
Accokeek, citing his "unwillingness to guarantee his obedience to
Bishop Dixon," and his "lack of commitment" to keep Christ Church in
the Diocese of Washington.

"Her reasons are very clear," said Daphne Figuerero Gerig,
communications officer for the diocese. Gerig also stressed that Dixon
had unanimous support from the standing committee and diocesan council.
"She did not make this decision on her own," Gerig said.

Christ Church, however, says Dixon has no authority to block Edwards
from serving there. According to church Canons, a bishop has 30 days to
notify a congregation of objections to a call. In a letter to the
diocese, the vestry points out that Dixon's decision to block Edwards'
call came on March 8, more than 60 days after the call was originally
issued, on Dec. 13, 2000.

Bishop Dixon and diocesan lawyers argue they had scheduled a meeting
with Edwards in January, within the required 30-day window, but the
meeting was pushed back to Feb. 26 at Edwards' request. The diocese
also contends the vestry was informed that the diocese would not
approve Edwards before the meeting was held.

Christ Church rejects Bishop Dixon's position; Edwards has already
moved his family into the rectory and began his duties April 1.

Meetings between Dixon and the congregation have been contentious, with
the church's senior warden, Barbara Sturman, at one point telling
Bishop Dixon to "leave us alone."

Both sides have retained lawyers. A court battle seems likely.

Dixon has received support from Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. "I
cannot imagine a bishop, as chief pastor of a diocese, approving the
election of a priest to serve a congregation when that priest has a
marked and publicly stated antipathy-far beyond comment and critique-
toward the church in which he was ordained," Griswold wrote March 16.

Dixon has heard from other bishops on the issue. "We have gotten
support from other bishops as well," Gerig said, but she declined to
name them.

However, six bishops-the Rt. Revs. Jack Iker of Fort Worth, John Howe
of Central Florida, Stephen Jecko of Florida, Robert Duncan of
Pittsburgh, retired Bishop William Wantland of Eau Claire, and now
Bishop Lipscomb-have gone on record supporting Edwards and calling on
Dixon to change her mind.

Bishop Jecko asks Dixon to "find another way to engage a 'generous
orthodoxy' in the handling of this matter."

Bishop Iker's public statement was more blunt: "It is blatant
discrimination against a traditionalist priest," he wrote.

In a recent interview, Bishop Dixon says it's not about gender.
"There's no bar, in this diocese, to calling a rector who's opposed to
women's ordination ... But respecting the ecclesiastical authority is a
different thing, and that's what is at issue here," she said.

END




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