Saturday, August 30, 2008
Minister arrested in church
Dowell removed in cuffs
© 1992 Patuxent Publishing Company
Police arrested a defrocked minister of the First Baptist Church of Guilford during services Sunday, removing her from the church grounds in handcuffs and charging her with trespassing.
The Rev. Elaine Dowell, licensed by the church in 1985 as a minister said she spent about three hours at Howard County Police headquarters before being released on personal recognizance.
The Rev. John Wright, who in addition to being the church's pastor is head of the state chapter of the National Asociation for the Advancement of Colored People, told Dowell in a letter dated Aug. 3 that Church members had voted to revoke her membership in the church and her license to preach the gospel.
The move, according to Wright's letter, came in response to Dowell's "failure to adhere to the directives of the pastor and disruptions to the service."
Wright's letter also warned Dowell to stay off church property, and told her she would be treated as a trespasser if she ignored that warning.
Dowell Monday acknowledged receiving the letter and said she had intended to stay away from the Sunday service, but "the Lord led me to go. I went there about 11:30. If I had planned to go, I'd have gone around 10:30."
Dowell said Monday that her expulsion from the church was the culmination of Wright's personal vendetta against her. She contends that the method by which Wright achieved her ouster was in direct violation of the church constitution and bylaws, and that Wright's contention that the church body voted her out is "a lie."
"The church body was not notified. A lot of them didn't know, anything" about the move to excommunicate her, including Dowell herself, she said. Dowell added that, according to church rules, removing a Minister requires a special meeting for which the congregation and the minister in question must be notified five days in advance.
The meeting during which Dowell was voted out was a regularly scheduled quarterly meeting on July 17. Dowell said such meetings generally are not well attended by church members, but that "I was told by a good source, a first-hand source, that (Wright's) men came prepared to vote me out it."
Dowell said her feud with Wright has been brewing for years because she resists what she sees as his dictatorial rule over the church. "Reverend Wright said in 1989 he would destroy my ministry unless I did what he said. He wanted me to shut up and do what I was told."
She said he has tried to intimidate her and others in the church. "There's a thing in the black church called 'preaching on' people, where you say things about a person from the pulpit without saying their name, Dowell said. Through this method, she claims, Wright impugned her character without having to defend his accusations.
Dowell cited as one example of Wright's heavy-handedness his directive that she stop sending "prophetic letters" to church members. "I'm a prophetess," Dowell said. "I've predicted everything, including (the expulsion)."
Dowell said Wright's rule has created a severe rift in the church. "I was threatened," she said. "One member threatened to hit me in the face."
Dowell said she chose not to move on to another church because "there's no relief in any of these (black Baptist) churches" from sexist, authoritarian church leadership. "Somebody has to hold them accountable."
In 1988, Dowell began a newsletter for black Baptist women clergy called Zion's Gate News Digest. She said this week that the task force she formed the following year has elicited many stories of patriarchal despotism.
A woman who answered the church's telephone Tuesday and identified herself as Wright's temporary secretary said Wright instructed her to tell a reporter he would have no comment on the matter.
Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gardner said Tuesday that police responded to a call from the church about noon Sunday. James Mott, chairman of the church's deacon board, and attorney Charles Fuller told the officers at the scene they had repeatedly asked Dowell to leave, Gardner said.
When the officers again told Dowell she had to leave the church, she again refused. The officers then escorted her from the building and arrested her for trespassing. She offered no physical resistance, Gardner said.
An officer drove Dowell back to the church parking lot after her release and waited while she retrieved her car, Gardner added.
Mott, reached by telephone Monday, declined comment, referring calls to Wright.
Fuller, who said Wednesday the church has retained him to deal with the Dowell matter, declined to comment on the specifics of the dispute, citing pending litigation.
Fuller said he currently is seeking a court injunction to keep Dowell away from the church.
He called "erroneous" Dowell's contention that the method of her removal broke church law. He said the church constitution has no provision for special meetings for votes on revocation of a minister's license, and that Dowell was removed in accordance with applicable rules.
"The constitution clearly was not violated, Fuller said.
Fuller said Dowell has tried to undermine Wright's authority as pastor, "Her freedom of speech was certainly recognized," he said. However, "the church is a corporation, and the pastor is the president of the corporation, He is the person who speaks for the church."
Source: Patuxent Publishing 8/13/92 Howard County Times, MD
Note by the Site owner: The Howard County Police who came to the church did not handcuff Rev. Dowell. There is a "Letter to the Editor", which she sent to the publisher and they also published it. Copy is available upon request. Secondly, Rev. Dowell was never "defrocked"- not by the church nor the court, as erroneously reported. But Rev. Dowell is still a Minister. /revld
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