This week, however, new matters have come to light. On October 23rd, Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish posted the result of a "forensic audit" which basically exonerates him of the charges against him and places the primary blame on the former treasurer of the parish. Nothing is said of the charges of the violation of temporary inhibition (a church matter) and of Armstrong's rather creative connection to the Anglican Communion Institute.
The Audit was requested by Bishop Minns and the parish engaged Robert Johnson, CPA, to do the investigation.
So now we have three strands of material: The record of the trial court of the Diocese of Colorado, the investigation (not yet reported out) of the State, and the audit conducted by Mr. Johnson on behalf of the Congregation.
All of these concern the matters of thief and fraud. The Audit may or may not set the matter to rest but does underline the fact that his innocence in these matters is still a live question. I have said on several occasions that Fr. Armstrong's guilt or innocence is a matter best determined by the State, not by the congregation or the diocese.
But what is also clear is that Fr. Armstrong claims to have left the Episcopal Church for the Province of Nigeria, by way of CANA in the middle of the ecclesiastical proceedings, claiming thereby that the ecclesiastical court had no jurisdiction over him. He also claimed, and it was said on his behalf, that he was being hounded and persecuted for his theological beliefs and his considerable influence in the struggles of the day.
All of that is again raised by Fr. Armstrong. He said, among other things, the following:
“I am grateful for this report, for its clarity and completeness in addressing the false accusations against me and our vestry by the Diocese of Colorado, its Bishop, and their representatives.
“I am sorry that this theological conflict in the larger Episcopal Church has reached its hand down into our own parish and played itself out to such a destructive and divisive end.
“As far as my own commitment to collegial decision-making within the whole of the Worldwide Anglican Communion on matters of faith and practice has been a cause for this, I am sorry for its effect, but I do not regret nor deny the principles for which we as a congregation have stood, and the life in Christ which we will always, God being our strength, uphold.
“For the suffering, embarrassment, and division my own missteps and faulty decisions have caused those committed to my own priestly pastoral care, I humbly apologize.
“But I also join with others who have been publicly ridiculed and humiliated to witness to God’s most sustaining presence and power in difficult times. ... To my adversaries, I also continue my prayers to God for each of you.”
The charge of public ridicule, humiliation, adversarial relations to the diocese and Episcopal Church, and the destructive and divisive hand of the wider church remains part of the Armstrong version of the story.
We should all be pleased when information is brought forward that supports the innocence of any person. Fr. Armstrong deserves the very best efforts available on his behalf. It remains for the State to work its investigation into these allegations.
Meanwhile, Fr. Armstrong is off to CANA without any effort to transfer from one Province to another and claiming that he is no longer in the jurisdiction of this church. So, whatever else is going on he has abandoned the communion of this church and for that is on the verge of being deposed.
Nothing in the report released by the congregation of Grace and St. Stephen's noted that the Diocese of Colorado on September 28th issued a final report on the trial in which they gave a two week response period for information to moderate the recommendations of the court. This audit would seem to relate to the matters before the court.
It comes, however, after the two week period, indeed only shortly before the month waiting period is over. It does not apparently have anything to do with the Court's charges or concerns.
What now will the Diocese of Colorado do? If the information is not given to the court they cannot respond. On the other hand Fr. Armstrong has refused to have anything to do with the Diocese or the Court in this process and claims to no longer be a part of the Episcopal Church.
No matter the other reasons for deposition, the final count remains: Fr. Armstrong has abandoned the communion of this church, including any acknowledgment that the trial court has jurisdiction.
His deposition, which I believe will indeed be made final, is not finally about the other issues, but about going to CANA.