The Colorado Springs Gazette on Friday published this letter from nineteen former vestry members from Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church, under the headline Pastor must answer important questions. It begins:
We are 19 former vestry members from Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Between us, we served almost every year when Father Don Armstrong was rector. Though we represent a variety of views on the moral issues facing our church, those issues are not in question here.
At issue is the commandment: Thou shalt not steal. Armstrong is exploiting theological divisions within the Episcopal Church to avoid a canonical investigation about his alleged financial wrongdoing. He has defied church and civil law by occupying and taking property from the church he and his allies left. We cannot keep silent.
Armstrong dismisses inquiries into his financial activities. He cries “religious persecution.” Consider the facts and ask: Is Armstrong trustworthy? Is he guilty of financial wrongdoing? Do he and his followers have a lawful basis for taking church property?
The background to this was explained Thursday by Paul Asay on his blog in Breaking Ranks:
Tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette will contain a letter from 19 ex-vestry members of Grace who, in essence, are publicly questioning their former rector’s honesty.
“(The Rev. Donald) Armstrong is exploiting theological divisions within the Episcopal Church to avoid a canonical investigation about his alleged financial wrongdoing,” the letter says. “He has defied church and civil law by occupying and taking property from the church he and his allies left. We cannot keep silent.”
I talked with one of these former vestry members a few days ago. Timothy Fuller served on the vestry only a year, and resigned in January after learning, he says, that the vestry was secretly talking with Armstrong (which violated Armstrong’s suspension) and was plotting to break away from The Episcopal Church…
In another Thursday blog entry More Grace Info … Paul Asay writes:
This Saturday, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, longtime rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen’s Parish, will try to explain away allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his church.
One of the main issues he’ll likely address is how he allegedly used the Anglican Communion Institute, a conservative theological think-tank operated as a ministry of Grace. Armstrong is still listed on its Web site as its executive director.
Timothy Fuller, a former vestry member of Grace, said he served on the ACI’s board for three years. Not once in those three years, Fuller said, did the board formally meet.
In October 2006, according to Fuller, Armstrong told the vestry that the ACI had borrowed about $170,000 from Grace over several years, and the vestry resolved the Institute would pay it back in $10,000 yearly installments, beginning this year.The vestry meeting was the first time Fuller had heard of the $170,000 the ACI allegedly borrowed. He resigned from the Institute’s board two months later.
According to the Rev. Christopher Seitz, president of the ACI and a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the ACI shouldn’t have been very expensive.
“The only cost of running the Institute is our time, which we give away, and a Web site, which involves nominal costs,” Seitz said in an e-mail. “Travel reimbursements were handled by the executive director, or we paid for these costs ourselves. There are no employees, no overhead in a formal sense, no hard-copy publications and no programs to fund.”
The presentment alleges that Armstrong caused the church to pay $146,316 beginning in March 2003 as “outreach expenses” to the Institute — money it never received. According to the presentment, the checks in question were made payable to “Donald Armstrong College Fund” or “College Fund.”
Armstrong says the ACI actually funded several projects, and acknowledged his children’s education was one of them…