Canon Lawyer Responds to the Diocese of Washington

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Sun May 13 20:46:04 EDT 2001


By David W. Virtue

Canon lawyer Charles Nalls bitterly accused Washington Suffragan Bishop
Jane Dixon of being "irresponsible" when a letter from her lawyers said
he "misrepresented" the facts in the call of Fr. Samuel Edwards to
Christ Church, Accokeek.

In a letter to Diocesan lawyer JoAnn Macbeth, Nalls cited Title III,
Canon 17, Section 2
showing that Dixon exceeded the 30-day period given to the bishop to
communicate with the vestry and "nothing-absolutely nothing-in the
canon allows for extension of that period."

"There has been no 'misrepresentation' of the canon only an obdurate
refusal by the Suffragan Bishop to recognize its plain language and
abide by it," wrote Nalls.

"Bishop Dixon did not communicate a concern over Fr. Edwards' call in
the time specified. The sole communication form the Bishop's
administrative assistant involved a rescheduling of a personal
interview with Fr. Edwards. Such an interview is not a canonical
requirement, nor is it, based on the remarks of the now retired
diocesan bishop, 'customary' in the Diocese."

Dixon rejected the parish's call of Fr. Edwards on March 8, nearly 90
days after the time limit given bishops to review the call of a rector
in the church canons.

Nalls says that Dixon is on record-in print and on videotape of a
public meeting-stating her concerns over Fr. Edwards after hearing from
certain members of the congregation LAST FALL. Accordingly she had
ample time to review the publicly available writings of Fr. Edwards.
"She did not so much as telephone Fr. Edwards to discuss her concerns."

Fr. Edwards has been serving in the parish since March 25 after moving
from Texas where he was the Executive Director of Forward in Faith.

Nalls says in his letter that it was only on March 6, 2001, nearly 90
days after the notice of the call did Bishop Dixon telephone Edwards to
advise him that she "would not call him." She offered him one day to
"withdraw" from his call, despite the existence of an enforceable
contract with the parish. Edwards refused.

Nalls launched into a catalogue of omissions by the bishop. "It is your
client who has chosen to flagrantly disregard that canon, to ignore the
pleas of the parish, and to reject the earnest admonitions of seven of
her peers."

Nalls criticizes MacBeth for her "rancor" and repeated accusations that
he had somehow deliberately misquoted or mischaracterize legal
authority. "They are without merit and distasteful."

Nalls says that MacBeth and Dixon are engaged in an insidious campaign
to "demonify" Fr. Edwards.

A seventh bishop, the Rt. Rev. Paul Marshall, Diocese of Bethlehem has
written a letter to Barbara Sturman, senior warden saying that he
believed that Bishop Dixon and Bishop Griswold made an unwise decision.

"I have written to the Presiding Bishop as strongly as I dare, urging
him to put an end to this matter, for your parish's sake and for the
sake of our Church. Inclusivity is meant to work both ways, and I hope
that you and your rector-elect can soon be allowed to go about your

Bishop Marshall cited the Bishop of Rhode Island Geralyn Wolf who "has
a very good working relationship with parishes and clergy who do not
support the ordination of women, and that she might be a bishop for
them to consult about alternatives to their present course of action."

The letter was copied to the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Primate of
ECUSA and the Bishop Suffragan of Washington.

Nalls says that the actions of the Wardens and Vestry of Christ Church
Accokeek have comported with canon and civil law.


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