Episcopal bishop sues to force out Accokeek rector

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2001

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) -- Jane Holmes Dixon, the acting Episcopal bishop of Washington, has asked a federal judge to remove the conservative Rev. Samuel Edwards as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek.

Dixon filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court, asking the court to declare the contract with Edwards invalid and to affirm Dixon's right to preside at services.

The diocese attorney, David Schnorrenberg, said this was the first time the church had gone to court to contest the appointment of a rector.

The church recently has filed several lawsuits to prevent conservative Episcopal parishes from seceding from the denomination.

''I am deeply saddened that the actions of Father Edwards and the vestry ... have made it necessary to bring this suit to protect the Episcopal Church,'' Dixon said in a statement.

An attorney for the parish, Charles Nalls, said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. Edwards did not return a call to his office.

Edwards, the former head of the conservative group Forward in Faith, opposes the church allowing same-sex unions and ordaining women. The church hired Edwards over Dixon's objections in December.

The legal case will focus in part on whether Edwards' appointment violated the Maryland Vestry Act, which makes appointments of rectors subject to church law.

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