Rector Holds Services Despite Bar

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Mon May 28 00:28:33 EDT 2001


Rector Holds Services Despite Bar

by STEPHEN MANNING
Associated Press Writer

ACCOKEEK, Md. (AP) -- A conservative Episcopal rector, ordered by his
acting bishop to resign because of what she called ''schismatic''
teachings, led services at his
suburban Washington parish Sunday while the bishop, barred from
preaching, held a makeshift service outside.

Acting bishop of Washington Jane Holmes Dixon, dressed in a red robe
and carrying a staff, made a dramatic attempt to enter the church to
replace the Rev. Samuel Edwards at the altar.

She was met at the doors by senior warden Barbara Sturman. Dixon asked
whether she could enter the building, and Sturman responded that she
was welcome to come in, but could not take the altar.

Without arguing, Dixon and her entourage swept down church stairs to an
outdoor basketball court, set up a makeshift altar and held their own
service. A white cloth was thrown over a folding table while music was
played on a synthesizer.

The conflict highlights the growing struggle between the mainstream
Episcopal church and a conservative movement that threatens to break
away from the denomination because of the church's tolerance of same-
sex unions and the ordination of women.

Several members of the vestry followed Dixon, saying the bishop had no
right to hold services on church grounds. A police officer stood next
to Dixon as she spoke.

Despite being turned away, Dixon said she accomplished her goal.

''We celebrated the Lord's feast, the gospel was read, the word was
preached, the prayers were prayed,'' she said. ''That's what Christians
do on the Lord's day.''

Edwards said Dixon's attempt to oust him, as well as her dueling
service, would not change his resolve to stay at Christ Church.

''I'm sorry she did that,'' he said. ''What is being demanded is
something that we just can't accede to.''

The showdown between the two clerics exposed deep rifts within the 300-
year-old church's congregation as roughly 40 people joined Dixon, while
40 others remained
inside for a service led by Edwards. Some church members repeatedly
confronted Dixon as she read prayers and gave communion, trying to
drown her out with their own hymns.

The vestry said it will file trespassing charges against Dixon for
stepping on church property. The spectacle was the culmination of a
long struggle between Dixon and
Christ Church leaders over their selection of Edwards last December.

Dixon sees Edwards' writings, which call the Episcopal Church ''hell-
bound'' because of its tacit acceptance of the ordination of women and
performing marriage ceremonies for homosexuals, as a sign that he will
break Christ Church away from the diocese. She gave him a deadline of
Friday to leave -- an ultimatum he did not obey.

The Christ Church struggle is the latest clash between conservative
clerics and the hierarchy of the 2.5 million-member Episcopal Church
USA.

A parish in Huntingdon, Pa., split last week to join the splinter
Anglican Mission in America. Six churches in Colorado also have
recently left the church.

Conservative Anglicans also tried to crack down on the U.S. Episcopal
Church for its liberal practices during a recent meeting of church
leaders in North Carolina. The effort failed when bishops chose not to
act.

The vestry, or board, of Christ Church has asked the conservative
bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, Jack Leo Iker, to oversee the church and
replace Dixon as their leader.

''Bishop Dixon no longer has authority over us, and she cannot perform
these services,'' said Frank McDonough, the junior warden and a 44-year
church member.

Christ Church members who joined the acting bishop outdoors said their
fellow members indoors were out of touch with the congregation as a
whole.

Dixon said she will wait until a June 4 meeting with leaders of the
Washington diocese before she makes her next move. She also plans to
send a representative to Christ Church to try to hold services every
Sunday until the dispute is resolved.

Edwards said again Sunday that he doesn't plan to take Christ Church
out of the diocese, a claim that Dixon does not believe.

Still, many church members said any resolution won't eliminate deep
divisions.

''You have half out here and half in the church,'' said Christ Church
member Kenneth Thorne. ''If that's not divided I don't know what is.''

END




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