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Accokeek Links

Since this page was written, some of the material to which it links has disappeared from its original location. Insofar as I have been able, I have edited out-of-date links to point to copies of the same material in various archives. This is a work in progress, however.

— LED, 1/2/2017

Episcopal Church shieldI really had not intended to create this page, which provides links to material on the World Wide Web related to a controversy involving the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (represented by its bishop pro tempore Jane Dixon) and an old parish in rural Maryland over the calling of a controversial rector, Fr. Samuel Edwards. This page exists because I was asked for a document I could not find on the Web, an amicus brief filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by Bishop Iker of Fort Worth and Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh. As I had been unable to convince anyone else to make this document available on the Web, I decided to do it myself.

The Fourth Circuit has now decided the case (on May 22, 2002). We can hope that this is the end of the line for this affair, as the court rejected all arguments of the defendants (although it remanded the injunction to the lower court for clarification on some minor issues). I cannot imagine the Supreme Court’s accepting any appeal of this decision, should the defendants request one. (Nonetheless, see the story on Edwards’ attorney’s reaction.) The Diocese of Washington has issued a press release, and a story has been published quoting Fr. Edwards’ reaction. The Episcopal News Service (ENS) story provides a brief summary of the affair.

On June 27, 2002, Fr. Edwards announced that he was resigning his orders in the Episcopal Church and joining the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK). (Read the ENS story, as well as the story from the APCK Web site.) This means that he will not be tried in the Diocese of Fort Worth for preaching without a license at Christ Church, Accokeek, beyond the allowed 60 days. (The trial had been scheduled for late July.) Fr. Edwards has remained in Maryland with his family and formed a new APCK congregation in Waldorf, which is less than 10 miles from Accokeek. (The APCK lists its churches on its Web site. Look for Saint Mary the Virgin, listed under LaPlata, Maryland.)

I will not attempt to describe the controversy, but I will provide additional links for the visitor wanting to investigate the story on his own. Some basic facts and a description of the dramatic events that took place at Christ Church, Accokeek, Maryland, on May 27, 2001, can be found in the explanation of my poem “Accokeek.”

As events have unfolded, many stories have appeared on the Web sites of The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Episcopal News Service (ENS). Unfortunately, non-current stories on these sites eventually disappear into difficult-to-search or fee-based archives. Many of the past ENS stories can be found on the World Faith News site, which has a reasonable search capability lacking on ENS’s own site. One background article that both describes the origin of the controversy and attempts to put it in a larger context is available, curiously, on the site of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Apparently, this newspaper is a less aggressive archiver than most.) Recently, Institute for Democracy Studies issued a report called “A Church at Risk: The Episcopal ‘Renewal Movement’,” that briefly discusses the conflict, again, in a larger context. This report has been viewed as either a devastating exposé of a right-wing conspiracy within the Anglican Communion or a damnable piece of liberal paranoia. (The American Anglican Council (AAC) site, for example, reproduces the original ENS release about the report, along with criticism of it. The Living Church, in its January 20, 2002, issue editorialized about the report in a piece called “Conspiracy Unfounded,” but the editorial is apparently not available on the Web.)

Many source documents, most of them from the diocese, are available on the site of the Diocese of Washington. (Scan the press releases releases for 2001 and 2002.) The diocese is not a disinterested party, of course, but the documents on its site are what they are. In a sense, the Iker/Duncan brief belongs on this site, which includes a brief supporting the opposing side, but the diocese has decided (more or less) to post only documents supporting its own position. One of the documents available on the site is a partial chronology that is helpful in understanding events. An interesting commentary by a Christ Church parishioner, describing the origin of the affair from a perspective within the embattled parish, can be found on Louie Crew’s Anglican Pages.

Another site that provides useful chronological information about the conflict and links to relevant news reports is that of Integrity/Virginia, though material about Accokeek is interspersed with information about other affairs. The Canon Law Institute, whose Executive Director, Charles Nall (e-mail), has been the lead counsel for Fr. Edwards and the Christ Church Vestry on a pro bono basis, has a Web page containing a summary of events from the Edwards/Christ Church point of view. Some of the legal filings from that camp are described on this page, but Mr. Nalls has chosen not to share copies of the pleadings themselves, describing them as “quite large, and ... a bit complicated for the regular reader ... .” His arguments are largely jurisdictional, which I suspect Mr. Nalls assumes makes them soporific. There is some likelihood that, eventually, they will be posted on The Canon Law Institute site. Should they become available, I will post a link here. 

An extensive collection of stories on the Accokeek controversy are collected on the site of the Washington Chapter of the American Anglican Council. Most of these stories were written by Robert Stowe England, a journalist whose sympathy for Fr. Edwards is not well disguised. Other sites supporting Fr. Edwards include that of the AAC, Forward in Faith North America, and the Diocese of Fort Worth. AAC has a story on the Iker/Duncan brief. The Diocese of Fort Worth has a page of news and documents related to Accokeek, which includes the letter that Bishop Jack Iker sent to Christ Church on May 26, 2001, agreeing to take that church under his “Episcopal oversight and protection.”

Whatever larger issues may be at stake, the Accokeek dispute concerns the power of a bishop, in particular, the role a bishop plays in the calling of a Rector. The rules governing this process can be found in the Canons of the Episcopal Church (Title III, Canons 16 and 17). 

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Happy reading!

— LED, 1/25/2002, last revised 3/10/2004

If the Accokeek story has not reached an end, it surely has reached the end of a chapter.  I will revise this page if I learn of new developments, however.

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