Church obtains court order barring former minister from grounds

August 16, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The First Baptist Church of Guilford has obtained a court order barring one of its ministers from entering the church or its grounds.

The Rev. John L. Wright, the church pastor, sought the injunction against the Rev. Elaine Dowell, claiming that he would be in danger if she came to the church, located at 7504 Oakland Mills Road.

The temporary injunction, granted by Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert, Jr., is good for 10 days, although it may be extended.

Ms. Dowell said she hasn't decided if she will request a hearing to oppose the injunction.

Ms. Dowell, who was licensed to preach by Mr. Wright in 1985, was arrested at the church for trespassing on Aug. 9 during Sunday services.

According to court documents, church officials voted on July 17 at a quarterly business meeting to cancel Ms. Dowell's church membership and revoke her license to preach there.

In an Aug. 4 letter, Mr. Wright wrote to Ms. Dowell, "your failure to adhere to the directives of the pastor and disruptions to the service have negatively impacted on the service." The letter also warned Ms. Dowell that if she came on church grounds she would be considered a trespasser.

Ms. Dowell said she believes the injunction is probably the result of complaints to the police department made by Mr. Wright. He told the police on July 22 that Ms. Dowell threatened to cause problems if she was fired, Mr. Dowell said.

On Aug. 3, Mr. Wright filed a complaint saying that he had heard that she had made threats against his life, Rev. Dowell said.

Ms. Dowell denies making such threats.

She claims that her dismissal is an attempt by Mr. Wright to make good on his promise to her in 1989 that he would destroy her ministry. She said that church officials felt she was inappropriately speaking for the church.

"The root cause of all of this is sexism and authoritarian church leadership," Ms. Dowell said.

Mr. Wright's attorney, Charles L. Fuller, dismissed Ms. Dowell's reasoning.

"We have two other associate ministers who happen to be female," he said. He added that pastors are accountable to the entire membership in the Baptist church.

Mr. Fuller said that the decision to exclude Ms. Dowell from the church was made by the church body, not by Mr. Wright.

Mr. Wright, who heads the state chapter of the NAACP, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

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