- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

There's little peace at Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek this season, despite the departure last month of the Rev. Samuel Edwards under a federal court order.
Church members are still deeply divided and battling for control of the historic parish. At a meeting Thursday night, Mr. Edwards' supporters approved a change in church bylaws that would allow the parish to pick its own bishop, or possibly split with the Episcopal Church.
The changes included an extension of the tenure of the vestry, or governing body, of the congregation. The panel supported Mr. Edwards in his fight to stay on despite an order from Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, acting bishop of the Diocese of Washington, that he leave.
Vestry member Frank McDonough said the current vestry wanted to retain control while the court order is appealed.
"We felt it was better to have the continuity of the vestry during the court fight," he said.
The changes are the latest salvo in an ongoing fight over the appointment of the conservative minister, a dispute that has split the roughly 120-member congregation.
Bishop Dixon objected to the vestry's decision to appoint Mr. Edwards, who has called the Episcopal Church "hell-bound" in part because it accepts women as priests. He was forced out of the congregation this fall after Bishop Dixon won a federal lawsuit against him.
Bishop Dixon's supporters worshipped at a nearby community center until Mr. Edwards left. Many in the group also stopped paying their dues to Christ Church. Mr. Edwards' supporters maintain those who haven't paid dues are no longer church members and were not allowed to vote on Thursday.
Under the newly approved bylaws, the vestry said it owns the 300-year-old church and the surrounding property and claimed the right to pick a replacement for Bishop Dixon as their leader.
The new guidelines also would enable the parish to split from the Episcopal Church, a move some Christ Church members strongly support, Mr. McDonough said.

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