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.