Church seeks to bar ex-minister permanently from its property


The First Baptist Church of Guilford is seeking a permanent injunction barring a former church pastor from entering the church or its grounds.

At a hearing before Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert, Jr. on Friday, the church's attorney, Charles L. Fuller, argued that the Rev. Elaine Dowell's presence at the church would not be in the best interest of the congregation.

The request for an injunction stemmed from an incident on Aug. 9 when Ms. Dowell, a former associate pastor at First Baptist, was arrested for trespassing at the church during Sunday services.

The Rev. John L. Wright, pastor, said that church officials voted on July 17 at a quarterly business meeting to dissolve Ms. Dowell's church membership and revoke her license to preach there.

The church's temporary injunction against Ms. Dowell expired on Aug. 21.

Mr. Wright testified that church officials voted to revoke Ms. Dowell's membership because she had disobeyed his orders not to enter the pulpit and had caused disruptions in the church.

In an Aug. 3 letter, Mr. Wright informed Ms. Dowell of the church's decision and warned her that if she entered the church she would be considered a trespasser.

Ms. Dowell testified that the decision to exclude her was not in accordance with procedures outlined in the church bylaws.

"The action has been excessive and extremely harsh, and out of lTC character for this church and any Baptist church within the nation," Ms. Dowell said.

Judge Sybert said he will rule on the injunction within a week.

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