Werner Says Dixon "Personalized" Accokeek Dispute
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Sat May 5 01:38:42 EDT 2001
Werner Says Dixon "Personalized" Accokeek Dispute
By Robert Stowe England
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- George G. L. Werner, President of the Episcopal
Church's House of Deputies, told a gathering of clergy in the Diocese
of Central Florida yesterday that Washington, D.C.'s Suffragan Bishop
Jane Dixon may have made the mistake of personalizing the dispute in
her diocese involving the call of Fr. Samuel Edwards to be rector of
Christ Church, Accokeek, Maryland.
Dixon refused to accept the parish's call of Fr. Edwards to be their
rector in March, but made her decision after the 30-day limit allowed
bishops to review the call.
Speaking of Dixon, Werner said, "[T]he conversations I have been part
of seem to feel that Jane personalized this, which is always a mistake,
as I have learned from my own history."
Werner does not name the parties to the "conversations" he is
describing, but notes that his views "reflect the discussions I've
heard in several quarters."
Werner's comments were made during a day-long clergy meeting at the
Canterbury Retreat Center in Oviedo, Fla., just outside Orlando.
Werner's view echoes comments made last month by Fort Worth Bishop Jack
L. Iker, who suggested Dixon should turn the dispute over to her own
Assisting Bishop Allen Bartlett to resolve. Bishop Iker has
ecclesiastical authority over Fr. Edwards, who he has described as a
duly qualified priest in good standing.
Such comments from a top official of the Episcopal Church suggest that
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is distancing himself from Dixon, whom
he previously had given "complete support." A call to Griswold's
spokesperson, Barbara Braver, was not immediately returned.
Indeed, according to Werner, Central Florida Bishop John L. Howe told
to the clergy in his diocese that Griswold had, in fact, backed away a
little from his former position of complete support of Dixon's decision
to one of qualified support. Bishop Howe was not in his office today
and could not be reached for a comment.
Bishop Howe has written to Dixon to protest her rejection of the call
of Fr. Edwards, as have five other bishops in the Episcopal Church.
Additionally, an unknown number of overseas bishops have privately
objected to Dixon's decision.
According to a priest present at the clergy meeting in Oviedo, Fla.,
Bishop Howe discussed a conversation he had with Griswold over the
matter in Accokeek. Howe reported the Griswold had said he would not
allow someone with Fr. Edward's views and criticisms into his diocese
if he were in Dixon's position. Bishop Howe recalled telling Griswold
that it was the canons and not a priest's opinions that governed the
issue, according to the source.
The dispute in the Diocese of Washington has turned Accokeek into a
focal point for divisions within the entire Anglican Communion. It
appears to violate the recent agreement by both Primates of other
provinces and the U.S. House of Bishops to assure that traditionalists
in revisionist dioceses would be provided pastoral care.
According to Werner, who was reached in Denver, Colorado, where he is
traveling, both sides in the dispute have made mistakes and should try
to reach a compromise. He says that his view on this matter is not
based on speaking to any of the parties, which he has not done, but
based on the conversations he heard "in several quarters," which he
does not name.
It is not clear from Werner's comments whether Presiding Bishop
Griswold now endorses the view that both parties should negotiate a
mutually acceptable agreement, but it does raise that possibility.
Last week Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury visited first Griswold
in New York on Monday, then Dixon in Washington on Tuesday, and said
afterwards in an interview that both sides in the Accokeek dispute
should sit down and talk and try to find a "Christian solution."
Werner also told the clergy that the dispute in Accokeek has caused
Griswold "anguish." Commenting from Denver, Werner said, "Of course
Frank is in anguish. He cares and works from the Benedictine Abbot's
model of collegial discussion."
Bishop Howe also told the clergy about two of Dixon's reasons for
rejecting Fr. Edwards, Werner recalls. In one case, Dixon is claiming
that she was supposed to have an interview with Fr. Edwards before the
30 days was over, but Fr. Edwards was unable to make that meeting.
Dixon then assumed she had the authority to extend the deadline until
such time as she could have that meeting.
There is no provision in the canon that allows such extensions to a
bishop, who must act on what information he has within the 30 days.
Bishop Howe also said that Dixon claims that she is not the initiator
of the crisis but is responding to parishioners who called her to
complain about the way Fr. Edwards was selected.
If this is what Dixon has told Howe, then it contradicts what she has
publicly said, which is that parishioners had complained by Fr. Edwards
last fall when they first reportedly knew he was a candidate. If this
is true, the Dixon would have had time to familiarize herself with Fr.
Edwards's background and be prepared to make a decision within 30 days.
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