4/03/2008

Remember Don Armstrong and Grace and St. Stephens'?

Not much is heard from the Rev. Donald Amrstrong, deposed priest in the Episcopal Church, active priest in CANA (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America.) His deposition was announced on November 1st, 2007. The Ecclesiastical Court in its preliminary judgment in August, determined that Armstrong was guilty of:
  • committing crimes, including theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church, and causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and under report Armstrong's income and benefits by $548,097.27;
  • receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of diocesan canons;
  • encumbering and alienating Grace Church's real property without authorization;
  • violating a temporary inhibition placed on him;
  • using clergy discretionary funds improperly; and
  • failing to maintain proper books of account.
Those judgments formed the basis for the deposition.

Fr. Armstrong maintained his innocence and a audit by the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), into whose jurisdiction he moved, supported his position.

Meanwhile as I understand it, a large part of the former Grace and St. Stephens has left the building and Fr. Armstrong and worships elsewhere; Fr. Armstrong continues to use the facilities and; matters are pending in secular court regarding that use.

The website for Grace and St. Stephens carries on its banner a variety of organizations working out of or intimately connected to Fr. Armstrong's work. The symbols for St. Stephens Classical Academy, The Anglican Institute, the John Jay Institute, Mosttrust, USA, and Titus Youth Ministries, all sit under the main banner with the symbols of CANA and the Anglican Compass Rose.

The Anglican Institute now exists in two forms: Fr. Armstrong's AI and the Anglican Communion Institute Incorporated, which is now the context in which the AI writers seem to be working. The John Jay Instituter's director, Deacon Alan Crippen, will be ordained priest by Bishop Minns on April 13th.

On the left of the main section of the Website is the posting of a link titled, "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth: the joint response of Grace Church and individual defendants to pending motions." These would be the pending motions in the case before the District Court in El Paso County, Colorado. They were submitted March 10, 2008.

Among the odds and ends of the responses is the contention that Grace Church reconstituted itself as a new entity in 1973 without any reference to the Episcopal Church. They contend that they believed then that the Episcopal Church might not be the church for them after all. All of this will bear watching. The so called "Dennis Canon" regarding holding property in trust for the Episcopal Church was not instituted until 1979, but since Grace and St. Stephens continued to operate as a member church of the Episcopal Church until very recently, and members of that church served on Diocesan and National church levels, and the church carried the banner of being a parish in the Episcopal Church, I am not sure any contention that they are not covered by canons enacted after their incorporation will hold.

The matter before the court in this instance concerns Fr. Armstrong's continued use of the church. We will want to watch this case as it unfolds.

21 comments:

  1. Was he ever charged by the legal system?
    Anyone can say a person did anything, but until an investigation leads to charges, it is meaningless slander or libel.
    I believe Rev. Armstrong answered the church's allegations and so far as I've heard, no prosecutor has thought they had merit.
    OCICBW.

    Jim

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  2. Mark- I'm glad there are people out there watching. There are over 500 of us who wouldn't follow Armstrong into CANA and are worshiping a couple of blocks away from our home- God Bless First Christian Church for their generosity. We watch in horror as raw lumber is used to support the 100 year old roof of the parish house, Armstrong demands more and more money for the lawyers, and preaches militant sermons about his enemies. Please don't stop watching.

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  3. good to see the complaints against Armstrong held to the legal issues. He tries so hard to make it a homosexual thing, in a very conservative community, while there was no mention of that issue by the Diocese

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  4. Jim- whenever asked, most recently a couple of days before Palm Sunday, the police say that an "investigation is ongoing". We'll see. Armstrong refused to participate in the Diocese's proceeding, and has never denied the allegations, only their interpretation.

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  5. bluemoonalto4/4/08 11:58 AM

    Jim, according to a March 15 article in the Colorado Spring Gazette, a police detective says that the criminal investigation into the allegations against Fr. Armstrong is ongoing.

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  6. (Dan)
    Must be a slow news day, Mark, to be trotting out this old news -- Oh wait, there is real news (Va)out there. Perhaps this is like the Roman circus. Give the crowd something to cheer about so they can facing what is really happening around them.

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  7. When I read about Armstrong and the "alternative universe" institutes he has operating out of a church, why do I suddenly remember that photo taken at the White House of George Bush and the Network bishops? Could there be some connections?

    Kahu Aloha

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  8. Someone forwarded this to me. I am unaware of the existence of an Anglican Institute, Inc. The Anglican Institute was an organisation founded in St Louis, and it was taken over by Grace Church, as I understand it, some decades back. The Anglican Communion Institute was never related to it, and is not now. ACI, Inc is the legal name of the Anglican Communion Institute and it is a not-for-profit registered in Texas. Its URL is anglicancommunioninstitute.com

    Thanks -- C Seitz

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  9. anon #4, anon #1-3 here. Perhaps the big news is in Virginia, but please remember that in all the wheeling and dealing nationally and internationally we're talking about real people with real lives here. In Colorado Springs we're grateful to Mark Harris for reminding people that things are local also.

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  10. One of the things I recall about this entire travesty was the dishonest way in which the voting was managed (not conducted, managed) at Grace & St. Stephen's. In essence, on was not permitted to register for the meeting unless one was prepared to all but endorse the actions of the coup plotters.

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  11. Jim of Lapeer4/4/08 9:22 PM

    Malcolm+

    Hard to believe a church would require a loyalty oath to take part in an activity isn't it?
    Oh wait, that was last week in San Joaquin. Sorry, got confused about how and who sets out to manage things.
    All this could end amicably if there was an opportunity for those who want to leave to negotiate a fair settlement for their property, etc.
    But TEC is intent on drawing blood and spending millions in court on useless lawsuits.
    As one who already left and worships in an AMiA church the secular court fights (I'm blaming both sides here) are unseemly and unChristian.
    Time to sheath the swords and find a peaceful way out of this.
    I picture a day (probably far in the future) where continuing Anglican churches and Episcopal churches might even work together on projects of mutual interest and demostrate God's love.
    But with all the blood letting, it won't be soon. Too bad, it could have been a wonderful witness.

    Jim of Lapeer

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  12. Malcolm+, you are not quite correct calling the vote dishonest. I'm sure they would have loved to have me, for instance, show up and cast a ballot. The vote was already "in-the-bag". It took place some 6 weeks after the lay and clerical hierarchy split for CANA, and all those who didn't want to follow were already elsewhere. The vote wasn't rigged, the participation was. I could have shown up on Tuesday, voted, and left my ballot with Armstrong's personal secretary. I'm sure nothing untoward would have happened then.......

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  13. Fr. Mark: Thanks for your remarks about the Grace Church situation. There are two legal matters to consider. One is the ecclesiastical trial verdict from the Diocese of Colorado, which was forwarded along with supporting documentation to the Colorado Springs Police Department for consideration as a criminal filing against Rev. Armstrong. This is the one which is "now under investigation."
    The other is a civil suit pertaining to the Grace Church property, filed by Armstrong's people against the Diocese of Colorado. This one is now before the Colorado Fourth Judicial District Court and was set to be considered for summary judgment. There have been many, many delays in this case because the CANA group (plaintiff) has filed many dozens of motions. I used to think they had discovered the mythical cornucopia, out of which a plenitude of documents could flow, but it now seems more like Sarumen's infinite production of Orcs. The tactic, as Armstrong has cheerfully admitted, is to keep the court action going as long as possible--and keep his faction in the church property. Many of the motions are frivolous, and all appear to be designed simply to stave off any decision.

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  14. troublemaker5/4/08 10:53 AM

    Jim of lapeer...
    an amicable settlement would have been a strange outcome in this case since there were hundreds of us who were locked out by Armstrong and are now meeting elsewhere. (Yes, he changed the locks on the church.) We believe ourselves to be the rightful worshipers in this property as we have remained true to the Episcopal faith. You can say or believe what you want about TEC, that isn't what this fight is about-it is about theft.
    And as Don said in a recent sermon, those of us who are now meeting elsewhere were insignificant to their worship and a group of unhappy troublemakers. I now wear that title proudly.

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  15. Wolfstan- add to the volumes of frivolous motions filed by CANA a judge who seems to be afraid of his shadow. Armstrong will likely get to stay in the buildings for a lot longer than he should

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  16. Jim:

    Armstrong never answered any of the charges made by the Diocese of Colorado, refusing to participate in the eclesiastical hearings which resulted in his defrocking. The Civil filings by the parish, diocese and TEC combined are ongling. The criminal investigation is ongoing. We would not be aware of an IRS proceeding, but it is likely that that is underway. That leaves plenty of room for civil suits by individuals, which have yet to be filed (we also have photos implicating him of parking violations outside a local Starbucks, but that might be picking nits).

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  17. Jim of Lanpeer:

    To participate in the San Joaquin meeting, one merely had to indicate thaat one wished to be a member of the Episcopal Church. Not an onerous requirement to participate in a deliberative meeting about the Episcopal Church.

    Anonymous 10:45 - My comments on the Grace and St. Stephen was not to suggest that the vote was "rigged" by way of electoral fraud, but that the vote was "rigged," as you say, by manipulating participation. Not only was it conducted after significant numbers of the faithful had been driven out of the parish, participants in the meeting were required to affirm that they agreed with the illegal and uncanonical actions of the vestry. Thus, anyone who dissented from Mr. Armstrong's act of theft was precluded for participating.

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  18. Just a quick inquiry on the state of Armstrong+, the affidavit of Detective Flynn and the promised response of Armstrong. David Virtue on Jan 9:
    "Father Armstrong told VOL that police took a folder from his desk that contained checks signed by Loosely and Simons to Tuition management Systems proving their approval of the benefit...
    Armstrong said he will shortly post documents to the parish's web site "to counter the diocesan PR campaign against us."
    I have been unable to locate the posting promised and wondered if he did, in fact, make such a posting anywhere and if, it did indeed respond to the statements made by affiant Flynn. I do have a copy of Flynn's affidavit. EmilyH

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  19. 10 criminal charges have been filed against Father Armstrong as of this date. Information relating to this can be found at thegazette.com. The court has awarded the property and trust funds to the Diocese of Colorado as of the week before Palm Sunday, 2009. Damages as a result of the legal suit to regain the property have been settled out of court as of June, 2009. Father Armstrong's criminal trial is pending, for an August date if possible.

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  20. When is the trial - is it still August, 2009?

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  21. Criminal Trial has been postponed again, likely not until October at the earliest. Father Armstrong's attorney is defending a murder case supposedly, which precludes him from giving the criminal matters of Father Armstrong his full attention.

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