INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 29 -- President Clinton, who shocked a few preachers with his Oval Office indiscretions, may be the last hope for the arch-conservative Indianapolis Baptist Temple.

But the Rev. Gregory A. Dixon isn't holding his breath. Dixon expects to see flak-jacketed federal marshals coming through the front door any time to enforce a court order seizing the property for back taxes.

The church stopped withholding federal income and Social Security taxes from its employees' paychecks in 1984, saying its duty to obey God supersedes manmade laws. It now owes the government more than $6 million.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind in U.S. tax annals.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker set an eviction deadline of Nov. 14.

The fact that the marshals didn't take the church right away made some folks think they were waiting to check the attitude of the new Republican president.

Don't count on it, U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson says:

"The new administration has nothing to do with this. The same court is still in session no matter who's in office. We will enforce that court order."

Anderson and Dixon have met several times. The talks have been cordial, but Dixon thinks federal agents will be there eventually if he can't get a pardon from Clinton.

"We hope that as he leaves office, as he pardons dozens of other people -- convicts, drug lords -- that he would want to do this."

Dixon also has asked for help from President-elect George W. Bush but hasn't heard anything.

In the meantime, the church is functioning as normally as it can, though its day care and Christian school, major sources of revenue, have moved off-site and are only about half the size they were.

"The finances have been basically cut in half," Dixon said.

The Southside church held a candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

Besides normal services Sunday, they'll hold a New Year's Eve party with a catered dinner.

About 30 people stay in the church each night to be sure somebody's there when the marshals come for the building.

Dixon says almost all of them are pastors from other churches and that they're pledged to nonviolence.

He's resigned himself to accept whatever happens. After all, it's not this life but eternity that matters, he says. "We've read the last chapter of the book, and we know who's going to win," said Dixon"

Founded in 1950, the 1,000-member congregation owns 22 acres and has a half-dozen pastors on staff. The church Web site describes the congregation as "an Unregistered Baptist congregation whose head is not the state, but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Indianapolis Baptist Temple does not participate in government programs."

The Web site adds: "The Indianapolis Baptist Temple is a New Testament congregation made up of scripturally baptized believers. We exist to exalt Jesus Christ, edify the saints through the Word of God and evangelize our world. We must not veer from our God-given mandate.

"The Indianapolis Baptist Temple is congregational in practice which simply means the people under the leadership of the Pastor are responsible for all decisions, activity and service.

"A New Testament congregation should be militant, which simply means believers should aggressively 'contend for the faith' as they exalt Christ, edify saints and evangelize the world."

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