Conservative Episcopal priest, accused of preaching without license, faces church charges in Texas

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

LANHAM, Md. (AP) -- An Episcopal priest who has clashed with church leaders over his conservative views will be tried in a church court for preaching at a suburban Washington parish without the approval of his bishop.

The Rev. Samuel Edwards was charged Dec. 19 with breaking church laws when he ignored an order from Jane Holmes Dixon, acting bishop of Washington, to leave Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek in May. He was later forced out of the parish by a federal order.

Edwards is among a group of conservatives who believe the current practice of ordaining women and a growing acceptance of gays is a break with traditional Episcopal teachings.

If found guilty of holding services without a license from the bishop, Edwards could be disciplined or, at worst, defrocked. The trial will be held in Fort Worth, the seat of the diocese that brought the charges and the area where Edwards last served before moving to Maryland. No date has been set.

Edwards' attorney, Charles H. Nalls, said the charge against him has no merit, and ''we're prepared to vigorously defend ourselves.''

The Maryland church hired Edwards, but Dixon rejected his appointment, saying his writings that refer to the 2.2 million-member denomination as ''hell-bound'' and ''the unchurch'' made him unfit to hold the job.

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