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MARYLAND: Accokeek Parish Story of Injustice Revisited with a New Settlement

MARYLAND: Accokeek Parish Story of Injustice Revisited with a New Settlement
The American Anglican Fellowship was a Firsthand Witness to an unbelievable knock on the door at Christ Church in 2000.

By Brad Hutt,
American Anglican Fellowship
November 11, 2021

As I turned the corner on Farmington Road that Sunday morning in 2000, I was startled to see several Prince Georges County police cars in the parking lot in front of the church. I pulled in and noticed a small bunch of parishioners gathered at the front door. "We are expecting Bishop Dixon" Wes Courtney said, "we told her please not come but she is coming anyway" Holy Mackerel! I replied.

I entered and stood in the Nave of the Church as the service was about to begin. "They're here, they just pulled up in the parking lot" someone whispered. Perfectly timed, Bishop Dixon and her entourage of 20 or more including retired Bishop Ron Haines was knocking at the front door. The door opened and Dixon attempted to enter, but the passageway was blocked by Church Warden Frank McDonough and other Vestry members. The County Police approached as a caution.

Words were exchanged, "You are welcome to attend the service, but you will not officiate, our Rector is the Celebrant." A scuffle began, Bishop Dixon's husband was trying to force his way through the doorway, physically pushing McDonough, but the vestryman held, Dixon turned away and the church door closed.

Bishop Dixon then processed down the brick walkway past the church windows to the outdoor pavilion basketball court near the parish hall to conduct their own service on parish grounds escorted by the county police. They then proceeded to set up a makeshift altar with a portable table and chairs and conducted their own service on the concrete basketball court.

Father Sam Edwards took the pulpit inside the church, and the service began. Bishops Jane Dixon and Ron Haines had attempted Marxist tactics to disrupt Accokeek's religious service knowing full well she was welcome to attend the service, but not to officiate as the celebrant. The scene was ugly becoming a total embarrassment for the Episcopal Church. The event made news around the world the next day.

The AAF, organized in 1984, then named the Save the Church Group (SOC) had been involved in this church fight from the beginning over the highly controversial issues of irregular women's ordination and LGBT Ordinations by renegade dioceses.

The invasion from within the Episcopal Church by the LBGT Organization INTEGRITY divided not only the small Accokeek Parish, it had divided all Dioceses and all 7,000 Parishes that made up the Episcopal Church USA from mainstream Christian practice.

SOC was called by the Accokeek vestry to inform them what was going on in the church and what to do. How to help Accokeek out? These were good people, we knew them as good Christian people, good friends. Somehow, we were going to find a way. Somehow, but how? The memory I had of Accokeek Senior Warden Barbara Sturman publicly pleading with Jane Dixon to leave her congregation alone stayed with me as I drove home. We would find a way, somehow.

AAF has recovered the following letters largely ignored and unreported by the liberal media, two are from Bishop Iker of Ft. Worth and one is A Statement of the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia by Maurice Sinclair, Primate Southern Cone of their grave concerns of the Accokeek Situation in the Washington Diocese and their recommendations, solution and actions to resolve the issue.

To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

May 29, 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In light of the events of this past Sunday at Christ Church in Accokeek, Maryland, I am writing to explain to you my own position in this situation and to ask for your prayers. For your additional information, I have attached the letter I sent to the Vestry and Rector of the congregation, in which I grant their request for "Episcopal oversight and protection."

1. If we are one Church, then the standards for serving in one diocese should be the same in all dioceses. As a priest in good standing in the Episcopal Church and in this diocese, Fr. Sam Edwards has the right to accept a call to a parish in any diocese of this Church, and I believe I must defend that right just as I would for any of you. He has assured Bishop Jane Dixon in writing that he and his parish have no intentions of leaving the Episcopal Church and that should they ever consider doing so, he would resign first. Yet she refuses to accept this assurance.
2. The ministry that I have agreed to extend to this congregation is not a canonical or juridical one, but a pastoral and spiritual one. Though there are canonical provisions to deal with the breakdown of the pastoral relationship between a vestry and their rector, no such provision is provided for the breakdown of the relationship between a vestry and their bishop. It is because such a breakdown has occurred between the vestry at Accokeek and the acting bishop of the Diocese of Washington that I have agreed, at the request of the vestry, to give the parish my episcopal care and support. By doing so, I hope to create a holding ground that will keep both the congregation and their priest within the Episcopal Church. My only desire is to find a creative solution to the present impasse, which will stop all persecution and heal the divisions between the parish and their canonical diocesan authority. If, as I sincerely hope, Bishop Dixon invites me to function there on her behalf, this will do much to unify the congregation and present a workable way for all of us to move forward. I am working with other bishops and church leaders, including our Presiding Bishop, to find a way through this controversy, and I am hopeful that we will succeed.
3. Accokeek is a microcosm of the problems facing our communion. We must get it right here, because it symbolizes so much of the tensions that are present throughout the Church. We must not allow a woman bishop to refuse to accept a traditionalist priest into her diocese, because of his convictions. We cannot silently stand by as a revisionist bishop, who has endorsed the gay agenda for our Church, attempts to prevent an orthodox priest, who rejects this agenda, from having his rightful place in the diocese where he has been duly called to ministry.
4. The 1998 Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings of 2000 and 2001, and our own House of Bishops have expressed support for the concept of "sustained pastoral care," including appropriate episcopal ministry, for congregations that are alienated by changes in the life of the Church. My decision is in pursuit of this aim. We are breaking new ground, and this requires courtesy, sensitivity, and patience on all sides. I am hopeful that in the days ahead, my new relationship to the parish in Accokeek will provide a helpful example to the whole church as to how we can continue to live together with the highest degree of communion possible, in spite of theological differences.
I know that this new situation may raise many other concerns for you. Please feel free to contact me if I can assist you in addressing any of them.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth


May 26. 2001

The Rector, Wardens and Vestry
Christ Church, Saint John's Parish
600 Farmington Road West
Accokeek, MD 20607

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings to each of you, in the name Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May His grace and peace be with you always.

I am writing in response to your letter of May 22, 2001, in which you request that St. John's Parish be placed under my "Episcopal oversight and protection." After a great deal of prayer and reflection, I have decided to agree to your request, effective immediately. The Rev. Samuel Edwards, who has served as a priest in good standing under my oversight for the past eight years, will continue to serve as your duly called Rector. This arrangement will continue for as long as the current circumstances make it necessary.

I am taking this step because the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, acting as Bishop pro tempore, in refusing to accept your Vestry's call of Fr. Edwards as your Rector, is denying you that "sustained pastoral care" which, in their Pastoral Letter of 2001 from Kanuga, the Anglican primates committed themselves to secure.

Bishop Jane Dixon's actions appear to be contrary to the canons of the Episcopal Church, and also violate the spirit of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution III. 2, on "The unity of the Anglican Communion," which reads in part: "[This Conference] calls upon the provinces of the Communion to affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans; and therefore calls upon the Provinces of the Communion to make provision, including appropriate episcopal ministry, as will enable them to live in the highest degree of Communion possible."

The failure in the Diocese of Washington to find a way to respect recognized theological positions shared by many throughout the Anglican Communion is in danger of breaking the peace and unity of the Church and is depriving you of necessary pastoral care. This I pray may now be rectified by my intervention.

I also pray that this new pastoral arrangement between us may only be temporary and that in due course a graceful accommodation may be made by the Diocese of Washington whereby your call to Fr. Edwards may be ratified canonically.

As together we look forward to a resolution of the controversies afflicting you, please know that in addition to my oversight and protection, you have my deep felt love and prayers. God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
cc: Archbishop George Carey
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
Bishop Jane Dixon


A Statement from the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia

By Maurice Sinclair, Primate Southern Cone
July 3, 2001

As Chair of the seven member Primates' and Archbishops' Council guiding Ekkesia, I distribute this letter to make known our support for Bishop Jack Iker's initiative.

We greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are writing because we are concerned with the lack of evidence of provision for "sustained pastoral care" in ECUSA as expected in the Pastoral Letter issued from the Primates meeting at Kanuga.

As an immediate consequence we are writing to offer our strong support for Bishop Jack Iker in providing "Episcopal oversight and protection" for Christ Church/St. John's Parish, Accokeek, Md. Our support for his action is based first on our understanding that the canonical requirements of a valid call of the rector have been met. We are informed that The Rev. Samuel Edwards is a priest in good standing of the Diocese of Ft. Worth. In addition, we are given to understand that Bishop Dixon, who has been responsible for the oversight of Christ Church, did not publicly or officially indicate any canonically justifiable reason for not issuing him with a license to serve in the parish to which he was duly called, within the period required for such action to be taken.

We also understand that Fr. Edwards, though unable in conscience to accept women as priests or bishops, has declared that he is willing to acknowledge the institutional responsibilities and authority of Bishop Dixon within the life of the Diocese and in respect of himself and Christ Church. In addition, he has promised that should he at some future time find himself no longer able to fulfill that undertaking he would inform the Bishop and tender his resignation.

In light of the above we, the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia, urge that Rev. Samuel Edwards be accepted as Rector and licensed forthwith as such. The absence of other evidence of "sustained pastoral care" and oversight, has made Bishop Iker's action particularly appropriate.

In conclusion we would point out that time is running out for the restoration of conditions in which traditional Anglicans can in good conscience remain within dioceses led by bishops committed to the unauthorized experiment of an alternative sexual ethic and the imposition of women's ordination. ECUSA's failure in these areas has directly resulted in marginalizing traditional people, and it has created an environment in which extraordinary alternatives for care and oversight will occur at an increasing rate. In this difficult environment, our support for Bishop Iker, and those who seek to maintain the traditional practice of the faith, is resolute.

+++Primates and Archbishops Council Guiding Ekklesia:

The Most Rev. Maurice Sinclair (Southern Cone), Chairman
The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez (West Indies)
The Most Rev. Peter Akinola (Nigeria)
The Most Rev. David Gitari (Kenya)
The Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung (SE Asia)
The Most Rev. K.J. Samuel (South India)
The Most Rev. Harry Goodhew (Sydney-Retired)


Bishop Dixon became acting Diocesan Bishop pro tempore Jan. 1, 2000 following the retirement of Bishop Haines. In late February, Dixon and her Chancelor met with Edwards.

"The majority of the congregation expressed to Bishop Dixon that they were not happy with the election of Edwards," said Carter Echols, Canon for Congregational Development and Clergy Development for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. "Bishop Dixon had two concerns rooted in Father Edwards' history and writings. One, is that he would assure her that he would not take Christ Church property out of the diocese, and secondly, that he would obey his ordination vows to obey the bishop. To date, she has not received unqualified assurances to that effect." [1] Tim Drake | news | Aug 12, 2001| National Catholic Register

Echols statement was a made-up fantasy, an overwhelming 80% majority of the congregation approved of Edwards election, the Vestry vote was a unanimous vote. The concerns Echols gave were also not the real reason of Dixon's rejection of Sam Edwards, Edwards had the misfortune of being a white heterosexual male.

White, heterosexual males were not welcome in the Washington Diocese, and equally as important he was a Orthodox Priest and the Executive Director of the Forward in Faith Organization. An organization that adheres to the Faith Delivered and mainstream teachings of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church USA was a renegade member.

Diocesan Bishop Ron Haines, once a conservative priest, had initiated a policy of excluding white heterosexual males for ordinations and rectorships in the Washington Diocese, and it was continued by Jane Dixon in 2000-2002 during her tenure. 12 years excluding white, straight males who were well qualified for ordination. They had to go elsewhere to be ordained. including now Bishop Ted Lyons who was denied ordination in the Washington Diocese.

A closer examination and research of the tragedy revealed a catastrophic wrong had been done to Fr. Edwards and the Accokeek Vestry in 2000.

First, let's turn the calendar back to the beginning in I984 and the founding of the then Save Our Church (SOC), now the American Anglican Fellowship(AAF)

Three Washington D.C. Episcopalians, members of Cursillo, a Church organization of laymen, James Brown, George Hooper and David Bickel, invited members of other Episcopal Parishes in the Diocese, Mike Hathaway, Stuart Broad, Janet Arpee, Hal Goolsby, Bruce Freund, Emily Volz, Nancy Virts, and others including Fathers Earle Fox and Stephen Arpee, and the wife of Bishop Ron Haines Mary Haines. The SOC Group, led by their President George Hooper, a member of St. Albans Church, began to hold monthly meetings at St. Alban's Church on the Washington Cathedral grounds. They called their group, "Save Our Church Inc." out of concern for the misdirection of the leadership the Diocese of Washington was taking regarding highly controversial LBGT sexuality issues, irregular ordinations of women, and the ordinations of homosexual persons that threatened the unity and the tenants of the Christian Faith itself in unchartered waters without consensus of Christian Churches.

At the 1994 Washington Diocesan Convention, the Rev. Michael Hopkins, Priest and Vicar of St. Georges Parish in Glendale, Maryland, also the President of Integrity, the LBGT organization in the Episcopal Church' was the presenter of the Koinonia Statement resolution, a highly controversial LBGT sexuality statement by Bishop John Shelby Spong of Delaware.

Hopkins was allowed to speak from the Canterbury Pulpit by Bishop Haines to address the convention "because it was important to the Gay Community". This was an unprecedented move for all speakers to Convention are required to address the bishop from the floor with the Delegates microphone facing the President of the Convention to this very day. Other speakers were denied speaking from the Canterbury pulpit by Haines.

Despite the strong objections of many delegates the convention defeated a substitute motion to allow the general membership of the diocese time to study the sexuality issues within their own parishes by a narrow margin of 111-93 and then affirmed the Koinonia Statement by a margin of 134-52. When questioned during convention as to the effect of the adoption of the resolution, Bishop Haines and Chancellor Cooney stated that the affirmation was only "the mind of the 1994 Convention" but it proved to be the instrument of change to accommodate the homosexual movement in the church and the Nation.

One priest, the President of the Standing Committee and the Rector of Christ Church, Accokeek, the Rev. Pegram Johnson, elected to press the sexuality issues upon his parishioners following the Diocesan Convention, admonishing dissenters from the pulpit as being "unloving, homophobic fundamentalists." This caused great dissention and division among the parishioners of Accokeek. Lifelong friends started debating and quarreling with one another as they took sides on the issues and it split the Church.

A group of orthodox members of Accokeek began to hold weekly meetings in the home of Wes Courtney in a desperate attempt to determine a solution to the issues that were causing schism in their parish family. They called Save Our Church members David Bickel, Brad Hutt and Robert England to advise them on what was actually going on in the diocese and what they could possibly do to stop it from destroying their parish.

Ten (10) Resolutions on Sexuality were submitted in response to the Affirmation of the Koinonia Statement at the Washington Diocesan Convention in 1995. Seven of the Ten resolutions were submitted by delegates who were members of SOC. A little-known fact is that the Diocesan Convention approved Resolution #2-on A Statement in Koinonia which states:

"RESOLVED that the 101st Convention recognizes Bishop Spong's Koinonia Statement as a document to study but does not affirm that statement as approved church doctrine" and further
RESOLVED that the Diocese of Washington recognizes the need for a there to be respect for the theological process of the General Convention and our church to determine matters of official church teaching and be it further
RESOLVED that the Diocese of Washington shall continue to follow church doctrine and teaching on sexuality"

After the convention, Delegates David Bickel and Brad Hutt were asked by Haines to serve on the Diocesan Committee to continue the dialogue on sexuality. Bickel and Hutt were the only conservatives named to the 7- member group but were not allowed to include Scripture in the dialogue or bring their bibles because "participants would take it personal and possibly have their feelings hurt". Nevertheless, it was a good start for honest, open conversation but it turned out to be the last dialogue we had. They had no intention of compromising; they were hell bent to shove it down the throats of dissenters.

The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, then Diocesan Bishop Pro Tempore [temporary] was a known LBGT biased supporter who explicitly stated before the entire 2000 Diocesan Convention she "wanted to put Gay clergy in every Pulpit in the Diocese" and then proceeded to go about doing it with her Clergy Development Officer, the Reverend Ted Karpf, pressuring all vestries to call LBGT Clergy as their Rector much to the shock of the mainstream Parishes throughout the Diocese.

The American Anglican Fellowship, hearing about the pressure tactics of Bishop Dixon and Development Officer Karpf from the Wardens and Search Committees of Christ Church Clinton, St. Barnabas Leeland, All Faith Charlotte Hall, Christ Church Chaptico and St. Thomas Croom contacted and obtained written testimony from five Senior Wardens of their experience of Ted Karpf's pressure and intimidation and his mandate to call his selection of a Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Gay, Transexual (LBGT) Rector and No White Male Heterosexuals (NWMH) need apply. Hutt emailed Dixon and said if the pressure did not stop immediately he would make the letters public. Karpf was transferred out of the Washington Diocese to a similar missionary position in South Africa.

Fr. Samuel Edwards, the Vestry and Congregation of Christ Church Accokeek were actually denied their Church rights and their Civil rights to call a Rector of their choosing because Edwards was not only a White Heterosexual Male, Edwards was a strong Voice of the Mainstream Christians upholding their Faith delivered by Christ Jesus throughout the World.

This was not a trivial matter of requiring Edwards to meet with the Bishop Dixon to recognize her authority and provide explanation of his hardline oratory before he was accepted in the diocese by the bishop, it was clearly a reverse discrimination of his civil right by Jane Dixon because he was a white heterosexual male.

Only one (1) White Heterosexual Male was ordained in the twelve (12) year tenures of Bishops Haines and Dixon. All others were either Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Gay, Transexual, Black, and /or Female.

Sam Edwards and the Accokeek Vestry never had a chance of becoming licensed by Bishop Dixon who rejected him publicly before she met him

(ENS) On May 22, 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed an earlier decision by the U.S. District Court recognizing the authority of Washington bishop pro tempore Jane Holmes Dixon to refuse the election of the Rev. Samuel Edwards as rector of Christ Church and St. John's Parish in Accokeek, Maryland.
The decision stated, in part:
"Our examination of this record, and our study of the organization and operation of the Episcopal Church, compels the determination that the court was correct in both its analysis and in its conclusion: The Episcopal Church is hierarchical."
"In the Episcopal Church, the priests and the laity of a diocese are subject to the authority of their bishop"

That's it, '"The Episcopal Church (TEC) is hierarchical and the priests and the laity of a diocese are subject to the authority of their bishop" no news there, and nothing about unjust discrimination of white heterosexual males being excluded from a rectorship in the Diocese of Washington by two bishops, Dixon and Haines for over a 12 year period, especially Edwards, who was a voice objecting to the TEC actions without consensus of the Anglican Communion, whose bishop was Jack Leo Iker of Ft. Worth not Dixon.

In October 2001, Judge Peter J. Messitte had declared the contract between the vestry of the parish and Edwards "invalid, null and void, unenforceable and without effect" and that under the Maryland Vestry Act, Edwards is "unlawfully using and occupying buildings and property" of the parish. He ordered Edwards and the vestry to "take no actions, directly or indirectly" to hinder Dixon "or her delegate" in officiating at services and presiding at meetings of the vestry and parish. Edwards was prohibited from officiating "on or near" the grounds of the church and from taking any action in the capacity of rector of the parish.

Judge Peter J. Messitte did not mention he was a neighbor and friend of Dixon in Charles County Maryland.

Fr. Sam Edwards, his wife and two children were forced to leave the Accokeek Church property and vacate their newly decorated Rectory under court order and police enforcement.

Immediately after the new Diocesan Bishop John Bryson Chane was elected in 2002, AAF Officers David Bickel, Jim Brown and Bradley Hutt asked Paul Cooney, Chancellor of the Diocese, to arrange a meeting with the new Diocesan Bishop John Chane, and they made a connection with each other almost immediately. We became good friends over time and met on a regular basis in his office after that with Paul on a quarterly basis during his nine (9) tenure

AAF meetings with John and Paul led to their meeting with Wes Courtney and the Accokeek Vestry.

They also established an excellent relationship and had several meetings at Mama Stella's Italian Restaurant near Andrews Ai Force Joint Base. John Chane was instrumental in procuring a settlement between Accokeek and the Diocese. John grew to love the vestry members that proved to be everything the AAF said of them, I said to him that "these are good faithful Christian people, they want nothing more than peace, justice and a settlement of the issues that divide us and if you had witnessed their Senior Wardens pleading to Jane Dixon as I had, it would have broken your heart as it did mine."


It wasn't until 20 years later in 2021, that the Accokeek Church negotiated a settlement of the dispute and obtained their release from The Episcopal Church. The current Diocesan Bishop of Washington Maryanne Budde continued the negotiations for settlement that was recently concluded.

This is but one story of Christian actions in a negotiated settlement of a church dispute through friendship, Christian friendship of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

But the story is not over, Accokeek is but one of 84 Episcopal Churches that were sued and more than 700 clergy were persecuted for their beliefs by the Episcopal Church. The AAF intends to tell their stories and request a re-opening of Christian negotiations using the pattern before us of Accokeek and the Washington Diocese reaching a settlement in Christian Friendship; and deletion of the Dennis Canon by the next Episcopal Church Convention to give all 7,000 parishes back to their original and rightful owners, the Vestry, the governing body of the Parish, as cited among the Land Records of the County and State.

Because it is the right thing to do.

Brad Hutt is co-founder of the American Anglican Fellowship

CORRECTION: I placed the parish in Va when it is Md. My apologies for the confusion

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