4/20/2007

Not Their Finest Hour(s)

It has not been the finest hour for the Anglican Communion Institute, Fr. Don Armstrong or Bishop Minns.

Over on "Sarah Laughed" Sarah Dylan Breuer explores the relation between the Anglican Communion Institute and its Executive Director, Fr. Don Armstrong. It is an excellent bit of detective work. Read it
HERE.

Everyone agrees that Fr. Armstrong is innocent until proven guilty. We need to stay clear of prejudgment on the case brought against him by the Diocese of Colorado and on the possible criminal charges that could ensue. At the same time there are a variety of interconnecting issues that are appropriately worth further exploration:

(i) Dylan's questions concerning the relationship between Grace and St. Stephens, Fr. Armstrong and the Anglican Communion Institute. The ACI efforts to distance themselves from Fr. Armstrong raises concerns about the Institute itself and its mode of operation. Dylan is on the case.

(ii) Fr. Armstrong claims to have joined CANA and thus is no longer subject to sanctions by leadership in The Episcopal Church. The counter assertion by the Bishop of Colorado that he is still a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Colorado and subject to such sanctions have raised a question of pastoral oversight.

There is no doubt that the Bishop of Colorado is prepared to exercise authority in this case. The question is, is the Bishop of CANA? If they both were to require accountability of Fr. Armstrong or if the two were willing to covenant (there's that word again) together on the matter of accountability, then Fr. Armstrong would understand that he is indeed accountable. It would also settle the question as to the reasons for his leaving The Episcopal Church.


(iii) Bishop Minns has visited with members of Grace and St. Stephens. If Grace and St. Stephens is still part of the Diocese of Colorado, then he is in some way recruiting. If they are not, then the 40 Days of Discernment are a sham. Which is it? Is Bishop Minns there to convince or confirm?

(iv) Fr. Armstrong has made a spirited defense of his actions, shortcomings and struggles against The Episcopal Church's supposed persecution of him and his parish. He did so as rector of the parish.

If he is a priest in The Episcopal Church he is still inhibited from activities at the Parish. If so, then he stands further convicted of noncompliance with the orders of his bishop. If he is not a priest of the Episcopal Church, and the parish is not yet part of CANA, then he is not licensed to be there.

His only ratinale for being rector of that parish lies in both the parish and him being of the same ecclesial community. For this reason the vestry decision that the parish would join CANA and his own decision to do so are intimately related.

This makes a sham of the "40 Days of Discernment," a process that at its outset assumes TEC to be no longer a church for convinced Christians. The decision has already been made. What the conversation is about now is the matter of how many will go with Fr. Armstrong into the arms of CANA. So of course Bishop Minns is recruiting and Fr. Armstrong is speaking in defense of himself as rector, the vestry as leadership and against TEC as a persecuting body.

These things point to an element of what at best is questionable process, at worse an element of sleaze. The ACI, Bishop Minnns and Fr. Armstrong are all, in their best moments, able to contribute a great deal to the work of the faith and of the church. But this is not their finest hour.

4 comments:

  1. Mark - Two points. Minns is going to rely on a report from the vestry to determine Armstrong's culpability in this matter.

    And second - He is handing out a pamphlet to congregants written by and for the people at Truro and Falls Church which was used in their discernment process which basically says leaving can be hard, but God has great things in store if you do.

    My question is if only the 3000 whi showed up to hear Armstrong talk vote - do they still get to claim that the congregation has chosen to leave?

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  2. Sorry for the typo - It should read:

    If on the 300 who showed for Armstrong's talk do they still get to claim the congregation has chosen to leave.

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  3. As a side point...Does anyone know if Grace is still paing into the CPG for Armstrong+ Does anyone know if the CPG can receive such payments for a priest under inhibition? On the CANA website it states that full medical insurance will be provided by the churches of its clergy. Is Armstrong+ still being insured under any diocesan plan? +Minns indicated his dissapointment that Dio VA did not provide "Cobra like" access to continuing insurance when Truro and Falls Church voted to join CANA. Is Armstrong + covered under a CANA umbrella policy? As a clergymember in good standing under CANA, is CANA in some manner civily or criminally liable for any acts of Armstrong? What is the diocese's liability for Armstrong's acts both before and after inhibition? EPfizH

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  4. These are Don Armstrong's words psted on TitusOnenine April 20. He attributes the 170,000 to airfares of the ACI team. (2003-2006) Chris Seitz has noted that such expenses were minimal (6 guys with a website). Here is Armstrong+'s comment in todo:
    Don Armstrong Says:
    April 20th, 2007 at 4:03 pm
    Not that this is particularly relevant to this thread, but I do want to make clear a couple of matters concerning ACI.
    The confusion concerning ACI’s own funding by my parish is born out of an single action taken by a vestry trying to fight a full frontal attack by the Diocese of Colorado (that included my own inhibition and absence from the system) and people writing on blogs whose major source of information is bad newspaper reporting.
    The goal of the Diocese of Colorado has been and continues to be my own ruin as a human being, the destruction of my family, and the end of the ACI. Collateral damage is Grace Church–but what is that to an already dying institution. This is obvious on every level to anyone with half their brain tied behind their head.
    In the midst of this, the vestry did not want to leave dangling $170,000 that had been spent by ACI since 2003 and thus categorized it as a loan–when in fact by resolution in 2003 the vestry had previously decided to fund ACI with money restricted from the diocese by parishioners–and by the Diocese’s own determination had to be used beyond the parish.
    So ACI owes the parish nothing. All ACI funds were spent for flying the ACI team literally around the world–and the individual members of the team received no personal pay for their time, which was considerable.
    The original Anglican Institute did continue some of its ongoing work under ACI, but that was an extension of parish ministry and not part of the brief of the ACI Fellows–whose work we funded so it could be free of the worries of administration and not influenced by the fund raising politics surrounding the current debates in the church.
    ACI funds were never given to my children as scholarships–the full explanation of the scholarship assistance I received, about which inquiring minds need to know, will just have to wait until the vestry has completed their report. It is interesting to know that one of my biggest critics on this website has three children who themselves have received significant scholarships from Grace Church.
    Folks are making far more out of a simple parish in a small town trying to do good things for the sake of Christ’s Church. If more people put their shoulders to the plow and wrote checks to the alphabet soup organizations instead of worrying about things that are none of their concern, we might as conservatives have not become marginalized to the fringe.
    I commend everyone involved with ACI for their courage and effort. I can tell you these are selfless and good men sacrificing much for the kingdom.
    Because I no longer share the hope of those involved in the ACI project–I have removed myself from that fellowship so that my own actions won’t confuse people about ACI’s work. Certainly I wish them well as we have been good friends and shared in the theological wars literally all over the world. I will also continue to read what they write as valuable input to a much longer discernment in which we will all be involved.
    EPfizH

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