Bishop sues under canon law
Stuart_Buck at CA6.USCOURTS.GOV
Wed Jun 27 12:08:04 PDT 2001
As I read the following story, I kept wondering, "What conceivable
grounds could she have for coming into federal court in the first
place? Is there some federal cause of action for reining in dissident
priests?" Then, the last sentence of the article says that the issue
is a violation of canon law. Well. I'm going to hazard a guess that
Rule 12(b)(6) is about to rear its head.
Episcopal bishop sues to regain control of parish
Dispute in Accokeek illustrates growing rift within denomination
By John Rivera
Originally published June 27, 2001
Unable to resolve a dispute with a dissident conservative priest
through church channels, the acting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of
Washington has gone to federal court seeking an injunction to regain
control of a Prince George's County parish.
Bishop Jane H. Dixon filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in
Greenbelt, asking that a federal judge prohibit the Rev. Samuel L.
Edwards from officiating at Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek. Dixon
also is asking the court to order the vestry, the lay body that runs
the 120-member church, to allow her to visit and minister at the
* * *
* * *
The vestry is standing fast in its belief that it has the right to
hire the pastor it wishes and that Dixon failed to object within the
30-day window mandated by canon law. Dixon countered that she merely
had to begin her review within a month of Edwards' arrival and as
bishop retains the right to confirm or deny his appointment as rector.
Dixon has the support of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church,
as well as 63 Episcopal bishops and more than 100 members of the
diocesan clergy. Edwards has received the backing of at least seven
The dispute between Dixon and Edwards came to a head last month when
the bishop went to Christ Church to preside over Sunday services. She
was turned away at the door and parish officials threatened to charge
her with trespassing.
Dixon conducted a service on an outdoor basketball court. Since then,
Edwards has conducted the Sunday service at Christ Church, while a
priest loyal to Dixon has presided at another service at a nearby
Dixon said Edwards and the vestry of Christ Church left her no
alternative but to sue. The issue, diocesan officials said, is that
Edwards, by not obeying Dixon's directives, is violating canon law.
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