An intense legal battle is heating up between the Episcopal bishop of Washington and a conservative Maryland rector she does not trust, with both sides filing legal motions accusing the other of breaking church or civil law. The case has become a legal ping-pong match that threatens to prolong what is already a theological battle in the 2.5-million-member church.

Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon has asked a federal court to reaffirm her right to prevent the Rev. Samuel Edwards from serving as rector of Christ Church in Accokeek, Maryland. On July 16, Edwards's lawyer asked the judge to dismiss that suit.

A group of clergy and laity filed ecclesial charges against Dixon on July 13, accusing her of "intentional, material and meaningful" violation of church law.

In addition, 12 priests in the diocese recently filed ecclesial charges against Edwards, accusing him of violating the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the church.

Finally, Jack Iker, the Episcopal bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, has claimed pastoral control of the Maryland church. (Edwards was a priest in Fort Worth before moving to Maryland, and remains "canonically resident" in Forth Worth unless Dixon approves his call to Accokeek.) Whether Iker can assume such ecclesial control is being questioned by Dixon's supporters.

"The parish is in a position not unlike that of a spouse who has no intention of ending the marriage," Edwards wrote to his parish in a July 9 letter, "but who because of a disordered and abusive relationship needs to take temporary shelter until the relationship can be restored."

The ecclesial charges filed against both Edwards and Dixon will now be routed through different church channels. If they are found to have merit, they could result in a "presentment"—the ...

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