The dissident parishioners of the historic Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church on Capitol Hill have won a round in their fight to reclaim the building, which was sold by the minister and church elders last November.

The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled last week that the dismissal of the dissident parishioners' lawsuit by Superior Court Judge William S. Thompson in 1988 was "clearly erroneous" and that he was required to rule on the rightful ownership of the structure. The appeals court sent the case back to him for further review.

"We were really thrilled," said attorney Judith L. Walter, who is representing the group that calls itself Mt. Jezreel Christians Without a Home. "It's a great victory for us."

But the attorney for the minister and church elders said that continuing legal skirmishing is prolonging the situation since the church has been sold and can never be returned to the dissident parishioners.

"We need to find out what the {plaintiffs} seek at this day and hour, now that the building has been sold," said attorney Darrell S. Parker. "Hopefully there is a point at which the parties can reach a resolution."

The Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church, built in 1883 by the freed slaves whoformed its founding congregation, has been entangled in litigation for more than a decade as two groups of disaffected parishioners fought with the Rev. Harold Trammell over control of the church and its finances.

The dispute, which the appeals court called "complicated {and} emotional," intensified when Trammell declared that the old church had become structurally unsound and moved the congregation out. He later purchased a church building at 405 Riggs Rd. NE for $700,000.

Lawsuits and court orders flew back and forth among the various parties. At one point, the Riggs Road church was put into receivership because its financial records were in serious disarray, according to a 1986 ruling by Thompson.

Later, the judge, who is black, was accused of racism by the minister, who also is black, because the church was being represented by a white attorney.

In 1988, Thompson dismissed the suits brought by the disaffected churchgoers, saying that because they had been excommunicated from the church they had no legal standing to bring the suit before the court.

With the suit dismissals in hand, Trammell and church elders sold the old building for $450,000 to inner-city real estate speculator George Basiliko, who bought it and got Ticor Title Insurance to insure the title to the property. An attorney for the title company said the firm will defend Basiliko's right to the property.

Basiliko, who will be sentenced next month in an unrelated case of foreclosure auction bid-rigging, has put the property up for sale for $625,000. At least two interested parties, a Jewish congregation and an African American Catholic Rite group, have expressed interest in buying it.

The appellate court said Thompson was mistaken when he ruled that the dissident parishioners had no legal standing to bring their suit. In fact, the appeals court said, at least six and as many as 11 of the plaintiffs were members of the church. The appeals court, however, left unclear exactly what Thompson should do.

At this point, according to some familiar with the case, the problem cannot be easily rectified. Since Trammell moved the congregation to Northeast Washington, its membership has grown to more than 1,000 people, and the old church on Capitol Hill, vacant for several years, has deteriorated, although an adjacent building is still usable. Basiliko also has a claim to the property now.

Walter said her clients remain convinced that those hurdles will be overcome with God's help, and that they are determined to continue in their efforts to get the church back and hold services there again.