Thinking Anglicans

Colorado Springs: church court verdict

Updated again Monday

From the Colorado Springs Gazette Church court: Armstrong guilty:

An ecclesiastical court on Wednesday convicted the Rev. Donald Armstrong of stealing nearly $400,000 from his Colorado Springs parish, though it cannot legally punish the breakaway pastor.

The court of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado will decide in about a month, however, whether to recommend that Bishop Robert O’Neill defrock Armstrong, a largely symbolic action that would end all ties between the church and him.

From Episcopal News Service Former rector Don Armstrong found guilty of financial misconduct:

The Rev. Don Armstrong, former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, has been found guilty on all counts of financial misconduct presented to an Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Colorado that has been reviewing the evidence since July 31.

The preliminary judgment was made public August 8 by the five members of the Ecclesiastical Court who unanimously found Armstrong guilty of diverting $392,409 from the parish’s operating fund and committing tax fraud by not reporting $548,000 in non-salary income and benefits to state and federal tax authorities.

On other counts of misconduct, Armstrong has been found guilty of receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of Diocesan Canons; unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property; violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong; the improper use of clergy discretionary funds; and failure to maintain proper books of account.

Press release from the Diocese of Colorado here (PDF).

Updates

Associated Press Episcopal Court Issues Tentative Verdict

Rocky Mountain News Episcopal court finds pastor guilty of theft

Living Church Guilty Verdict in Colorado Misconduct Case

Friday
Colorado Springs Gazette Springs police looking into possible embezzlement at Grace Church and, later, Police look into Grace funds.

Monday update
Denver Post Cops investigate theft report (Saturday article)

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NP
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NP

Well….this is sad.

The man should stand down…even if he wants to clear his name.

CANA must not ignore this. Theft and fraud are just as serious as the VGR issue

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

This is just sad. While I have no doubt there will be some who will see summary judgement as some sort of EHBL plot to bring down a Good Christian, the fact that he behaved rather like Charles King and Martyr makes him look guilty as sin. The worst thing, of course, is that he has fled to another jurisdiction, and I fear the politics will result in strident defenses of him. This willl invite statements as to the company kept by CANA, and enable people to cast doubt on them all, but far worse is that it will put… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
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Columba Gilliss

Will the diocese now enter a civil suit against him? I hope so as when someone takes him/herself out of the jurisdiction of the church courts and yet owes money he/she should be still made to pay.
My only question is whether the diocesan leaders are guilty of failure to supervise by really reading parochial reports, demanding outside audits, etc.
Columba Gilliss

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

NP & Ford in perfect harmony! Who could have imagined?

In the Colorado matter the alternatives, other than a civil suit by the church to recover the money, which I would suppose to be a strong possibility at some point, lie beween action by the Bush administration IRS, which has shown partisan leanings in the past in its actions and inactions towards church suits, and action by a local district attorney who resigned from Armstrong’s vestry as these charges were made public. Not holding my breath on either of those.

Curtis
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Curtis

Well, Ford Elms, how long has it been? Armstrong has had more than enough time to evaluate the error of his ways. He’s been at this funds diversion for a rather long time. Not only so but the righteously indignant conservatives, who strain at a gnat, will swallow money sins as if they have been committing them every day with impunity. What especially grates my gizzard about Armstrong is his diversion of seminary trust money for his own uses. Is this is what CANA Christianity does? I think we can already see their character for what it is.

NP
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NP

Yikes…I even agree with Columba…there should be a criminal investigation.

Again, I would still hope he is innocent but if he is not, then real repentance is necessary and certainly at least a time out of leadership for reflection and restoration (but if he is guilty and unrepentant, he should be dismissed – church leaders must have integrity.)

Like Ford, I really hope CANA show wisdom and complete tranparency (an no favouritism) in dealing with this situation.

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

I will be very interested to hear from Martyn Minns on this. Likewise Akinola.

If Armstrong indeed failed to report income to the IRS, I don’t see how they can avoid at least auditing him.

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

I will be interested to read the “forensic audit” that Alan Crippen (any relation? – the celebrated Dr. Crippen was from the US) says that the vestry board of Grace CANA is conducting. The evidence on misuse of Bowton Trust funds seems pretty compelling.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Curtis,
Some of us take a long time. If he is still unrepentant, he clearly needs more time. I just doubt he’ll get that time, or the encouragement to use it wisely, in CANA. I agree with your statement about the swallowing of monetary sins, BTW. It’s far less a sin to “misuse” other people’s money than it is to “misuse” their naughty bits.

John Henry
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John Henry

Fr. Mark Harris over at Preludium aptly sums up the conundrum of the Armstrong case: “The Rev. Donald Armstrong has not participated in this trial and I gather makes the claim that he is no longer a member of The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Colorado and therefore the court has no jurisdiction over him. The Diocese of Colorado to the contrary holds that he has not been released from oversight by the Bishop of Colorado and that the Bishop has inhibited him. So the verdict will be ignored by Fr. Armstrong but will be grounds for possible deposition.… Read more »

IT
Guest
IT

NP wrote:
“Theft and fraud are just as serious as the VGR issue”

Oh, wow, really? Being a thief is just as bad as being a faithfully partnered gay man? Glad you cleared that up, I thought that one was rather worse than the other.

I think there is even a commandment about theft, but I may be wrong about that.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Comments on this thread should refer specifically to the matter of Don Armstrong and the church court case…

cryptogram
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cryptogram

According to Fr Jake’s blog, the Colorado Springs Police are now investigating.

Steven
Guest
Steven

I don’t put much faith in judgments rendered in situations of this type–i.e., without any active defense or even the participation of the defendant. (I’ve been too long in the legal world I guess). Anyhow, I will be better able to decide whether TEC actually thinks it has a good case against him when/if it pursues a civil cause of action or actively seeks a criminal indictment. And, of course, the question of his liability and/or guilt will be decided more definitively by whether either of these come to fruition. Until then, even though I think things look bad (and… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
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Leonardo Ricardo

Here is part of the “moral” deal that upsets me:

what kind of a man is believed to be a trusted religious leader and moral standards “preacher” who also created a staggeringly horrible example of fraudulant behavior and all-around deceit/desrespect for his family (both at Church and at home)…what kind of Priest deals in thievery, manipulation and arrogance, and then, denies any kind of wrong doing or going wrong?

This priest is nobodies spiritual counselor or even a desireable friend.

Don, repent!

Steven
Guest
Steven

For an opposite spin on the situation–and Armstrong’s viewpoint on the proceedings–one can bop over to virtueonline: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=6483 Who’s got the right spin? Beats me at this point, but I doubt either side is completely without merit or completely above criticism. I hate to say it, but I don’t think there is much hope of sorting the whole matter out until it comes to court–as in a “real” court with both sides represented–for a determination. BTW-Does anyone know anything about O’Neill spending an incredible amount of money to bring this case against Armstrong. Armstrong suggests 1 Mill, which seems a… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

Steven, the Diocese of Colorado’s presentment against Fr. Armstrong is at this site:

http://www2.gazette.com/interactives/pdf/Presentment.pdf

Read the allegations that pertain to expenditure of $115,387.37 from the Bowton Trust (pp. 3-5 of the presentment) and the charge immediately following concerning additional expenditures from church funds totaling $146,315.63, and you will see that there is strong evidence for the charges against Armstrong. The Bowton Trust charges are particularly serious. Just read – this in not kangaroo court stuff. And note that CANA, seldom modest in trumpeting its own successes, is currently maintaining dead silence on the whole Armstrong business.

ruidh
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ruidh

“Who’s got the right spin? Beats me at this point, but I doubt either side is completely without merit or completely above criticism.” It’s not about spin — it’s about facts. The accusations regarding the trust are particularly damning. The money was diverted from the trust’s purpose to Armstrong’s children at his direction. That kind of charge doesn’t leave much wiggle room. It shouldn’t matter that they haven’t seen Armstrong’s tax returns if they’ve seen the parish’s filings with the IRS regarding his compensation. If the parish didn’t report the income, the chances that Armstrong did himself are slim. It… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Who’s got the right spin?” Steven, from the beginning, this screamed to be turned into the poor faithful remnant being persecuted by the horrible heathen. That Venomonline has so presented it is not at all surprising. Look at their headline. I thought he was an Anglican, I rather suspect the Orthodox bishops of whatever jurusdiction would be surprised to see him listed as one of theirs:-) I have no doubt there is politics involved, but the man didn’t even try to defend himself, preferring to claim, like Charles I, that the court had no jurisdiction. Why should that matter? In… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ruidh: It all looks bad to me. And, as previously noted, I think this is one of the areas where “mega church” pastors often bite the dust. But, you’ll just have to excuse me if I withhold my own final judgment pending review of the matter in a normal civil/criminal forum. PS-I was just curious about the costs spent in chasing the man down. If it did cost 1 mill, was it worth it? That’s a good question. Not one I asked BTW, but a good question. Ford: I’ve read (and often written) complaints that made the other side sound… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford – I don’t think it is worth reading “Venomonline” – it does not represent many in its tone etc.

Armstrong’s spokesman says they welcome a criminal investigation…..that is interesting. Hope that happens and all evidence and tax returns are examined (not yet done in this case)

Steven
Guest
Steven

NP: I disagree about whether it is worthwhile to read the main articles at virtueonline. They come from a variety of sources, cover a variety of subjects, and are often interesting and informative. In addition, in his own articles, David Virtue often seems to have some insights into what the GS types think and plan to do next (due to long association I suppose). However, I don’t generally delve into the postings following articles. I’m afraid most at TA would find these hard to deal with. For my part, I have to choose where to spend a limited amount of… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Steven, I’m not overly disturbed by the charges. His refusal to defend himself makes me quite suspicious, but that’s all it is. The issue is that his alleged theft is tied to his political position within TEC. Thus, for one side he is proof of the dishonesty of CANA, for the other side he is proof of the oppression of the righteous by the heathens who run TEC. This can only be magnified as the thing runs through the courts. I’m with NP on this kind of thing (I need to have a little sit down!) we are called to… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ford:

A good analysis and good points.

Steven

Pluralist
Guest

_TA is more interesting to me for the moment._ Steven.

Why?

NP
Guest
NP

obvious – more interesting to engage with opposing opinions than just have your views reinforced

Pluralist
Guest

It can’t be as simple as that. Whilst I might enjoy a bit of sport down at the Anglican Mainstream boards, it would be a fruitless exercise. In any case, they would not have me on because I don’t accept the basis on which those boards run. You, NP, in a mirror opposite, benefit from the open nature of comment here – hardly a level playing field. If I was posting there, I’d just be like a prey among a pack of wolves eager for their dinner. Here people apply the conclusive ethic and carry on debating, even with irritation.… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Well….I think TA is doing something useful for dialogue amongst what are now factions in the AC….even if it is showing us how different we are ultimately