By Diane Brown
© 1992 Patuxent Publishing Company
Before the Rev. Elaine Dowell entered the courtroom last Friday, she sat among a small group of supporters who felt she hadn't gotten a fair shake.
In a letter dated Aug. 3, Dowell was informed that her membership at First Baptist Church of Guilford had been dissolved by a quorum of members during the quarterly business meeting on July 17. and that her license to preach there had been revoked. The letter further stated that she would be treated as a trespasser if she entered the church.
On Aug. 9, Dowell entered during morning services, police were called and she was charged with trespassing.
On Friday, the church was seeking a permanent injunction to bar her from entering the church, following the expiration of its temporary injunction on Aug. 21.
"I just want the exoneration of my name and reputation," Dowell said in the midst of her supporters. "I just hope to have the Christian community, especially Baptists, take a look at the situation of abuse against women clergy and begin a grievance process in which people in the church have redress."
By her own admission, Dowell has had problems at First Baptist for years, calling her relationship with the Rev. John L. Wright, the church pastor, "antagonistic."
She told Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr., "(Wright) wants me out of the church, out of the Baptist denomination. They (the pastors) can make or break you. That is the shame of the Baptist church."
But Charles Fuller, Wright's lawyer, who is also a trustee at First Baptist, noted that the issue was "a simple matter of trespass," and did not concern church doctrine.
Dowell claimed that she had done nothing to warrant exclusion, but Wright charged that Dowell had been insubordinate to him, disobeying his order not to enter the pulpit, and that she had written at least one "threatening" letter to him, saying "my daughter would see me lying in the casket." Dowell did not deny she sent the letter to Wright.
Dowell further claimed that the church did not follow proper procedure for barring her. She noted that the letter she received barring her was signed only by Wright, and not by other officials of the church, and the corporate seal was lacking.
"I have Maintain(ed) that Baptist church business should not be conducted like secular business, but but based on the Bible," said Dowell. "It should be conducted spiritually." That lack of spirituality, she contended, results in confusion and chaos (at First Baptist)."
Countered Fuller, "The chaos is partly because of Mrs. Dowell and her letter-writing." Claiming that the church is a corporation, "This is the corporation's business," said Fuller, "and it's not about the doctrine of the church. This is not Rev. Wright's decision, This is the decision of the church. The property belongs to the corporation, and the corporation decided we don't want you here," he said, looking at Dowell.
Judge Sybert should make his decision on a permanent injunction by tomorrow.
Source: Patuxent Publishing 8/13/92 Howard County Times (MD)
DOWELL - MINISTER ARRESTED IN CHURCH
DOWELL BY LES KINSOLVING