Sunday, 15 April 2007

Colorado Springs: another update

It’s all a bit confusing, but here are several further articles relating to this story.

Colorado Gazette Paul Asay Anglican group cuts ties with Armstrong which reports on the meeting yesterday at which Fr Armstrong spoke.

Denver Post Virginia Culver Episcopal priest denies funds misused

Sarah Dylan Breuer the “Communion” afterthought which examines the history of the ACI website in great detail.

A letter to the editor of the Gazette (apparently as yet unpublished) from Fr Armstrong’s senior warden (scroll down)

Diocese of Colorado letter from the bishop, and press release dated 14 April: full text below the fold.

From: Bishop O’Neill
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2007 5:37 PM
To: Coloclergy
Subject: Update and Media Statement re. Grace Church

Dear Friends,

You will undoubtedly read various accounts in tomorrow morning’s papers regarding a meeting held this morning at Grace Church in Colorado Springs in which Don Armstrong offered a public response to the charges of financial misconduct that he is currently facing.

I am attaching to this email the media statement that my office released this afternoon in response to that meeting. I hope that you will find it helpful in the event that you have any questions from any members of your congregations.

I am indeed sorry that Father Armstrong has chosen this course of action. As you will see in the media statement, Father Armstrong has been offered a number of formal and informal opportunities to provide either me, the Chancellor, or the Church Attorney any evidence or explanation that would mitigate the allegations against him. Sadly, he has consistently declined to do so and has not been willing to respond to any reasonable questioning by those who are informed about the facts of the case against him.

With regard to both Father Armstrong’s conduct and the seizing of the property of Grace and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church, I will certainly continue to pursue every legal course of action available—ecclesiastical, criminal, and civil—that I deem appropriate.

If there is any specific information that you would find helpful, or if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me. It is important to me to do all that I can to keep you informed, particularly to the degree that it will support your pastoral leadership in your congregation. Again, please don’t hesitate to ask.

In the meantime, please know that I am grateful to you for your patience with this very sad and unfortunate situation. I continue to ask your prayers for Don and his family and for all the people of Grace Church.

God’s peace and blessing be with you all. Yours faithfully in Christ,
Bishop O’Neill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2007
Contact: Beckett Stokes, bstokes@coloradodiocese.org
(303) 748-9835 mobile
(303) 837-1173 office

The public meeting conducted by the Rev. Donald Armstrong today does not constitute a legitimate response to the serious charges of financial misconduct pending against him.

The Canons of the Church provide a clear and reasonable process by which allegations of wrongdoing against any member of the clergy can be investigated and resolved. This process – which is based on the United States Military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice – is designed to protect the interests of all involved, and provides those accused of wrongdoing with particular protections and avenues of appeal. The bishop and diocese have followed this process faithfully. In the course of the investigation, Rev. Armstrong has been formally and informally invited by the bishop, the diocesan chancellor and the Church Attorney on several occasions to offer information and evidence that would mitigate or provide reasonable explanations for the allegations against him. He has not availed himself of these opportunities.

Rev. Armstrong has chosen instead to violate the terms of his inhibition (or temporary administrative leave), make many misleading and false public statements, and work actively – along with former members of the parish’s vestry - to illegally take the real property of the Episcopal parish of Grace and St. Stephen’s from its rightful occupants and put it under the control of a Nigerian bishop.

Rev. Armstrong remains an Episcopal priest, under inhibition by his bishop, facing trial on several charges of financial and other misconduct in Ecclesiastical Court.

The Presentment prepared by the Church Attorney and the Diocesan Review Committee, which outlines these charges and the evidence supporting them, is a public document and available from the diocese upon request.

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Comments

"Armstrong told people in the nearly three-hour meeting that O'Neill has set up a "kangaroo court" to go after him, and that what O'Neill really wants is to sell the church building to developers."

This is his latest story?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 2:48pm BST

This is the same story - almost the exact same words - that were heard from those in Pennsylvania in describing Bp Bennison with respect to parishes that were closing.

If it gets repeated often enough it comes to be believed - just as those in Virginia who accused Bp Lee of denying access to continued health benefits - not true, but it does play well to the uninformed when it is in print.

Posted by: Newlin on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 4:34pm BST

But it’s a corker of a story!

The bishop is persecuting your loving and successful parish priest, wants to grind your spiritual values into the ground and then sell of your beautiful church for a mess of pottage.

You can feel the hairs rise up on the back of your neck as you run to the barricades!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 4:35pm BST

"Armstrong told people in the nearly three-hour meeting that O'Neill has set up a "kangaroo court" to go after him, and that what O'Neill really wants is to sell the church building to developers."

'Those whom the gods wish to destroy, first they send mad.'

How very, very sad this has become. Unless we actually believe this nonsense, we are seeing the wreckage of someone who once had a deep vocation.....

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 5:42pm BST

The Senior Warden's letter is here

http://www.graceandststephens.org/news/News.html

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 6:20pm BST

"He said while salaries are never made public, he was revealing that he had gone seven years without a
raise, but since 2003 made about $140,000 a year including about $40,000 a year for his children’s
scholarships.
"I’ve done a good job as your rector and I feel warranted to receive the income," Armstrong said, to a standing ovation."

Now I've no idea how this compares in real terms with my $40,000 plus house over in the socialist republic of Lincolnshire, but I can't imagine myself ever coming out with such self-congratulatory rot.

'I am an unprofitable servant....'

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 7:32pm BST

“On Saturday, Armstrong shot back that if the signers were so in the dark about how the parish’s finances were handled, then they also have to admit they failed their fiduciary responsibility as vestry members”. What can one say about the man's chutzpah?

http://www.graceandststephens.org/news/articles/0414-%20Colorado%20Springs%20rector%20faces%20supporters,%20critics.pdf

Incidentally, be wary of reports posted at http://www.graceandststephens.org. News items posted here are transcribed, rather than linked to the original page. In the case of at least one recent Rocky Mountain News item, collation of the version on the Mountain News' page with the Grace Church transcription, indicated textual emendations, apparently made without the knowledge of the author of the news report, with whom I briefly corresponded on the matter. I have been unable to locate the original of this report at the Rocky Mountain News page, but assume that it will appear in due time.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 7:52pm BST

Pardon me if i ask questions that have already been answered, but I don't think that the folks from CANA have had anything to say about this.

Has +Armstrong been "accepted" into CANA? If so, I assume they are giving him some support.

What will happen if the parish does decide to affiliate with them? How does that affect the presentment? I am assuming it does not affect the civil matters.

Enquiring minds want to know ...

Posted by: the Reverend boy on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 8:33pm BST

At the end of the Colorado Springs Gazette article, Armstrong says something very disturbing:

"The [May 20] vote, Armstrong said, will determine who gets the church building — at least in the short term.

"If Armstrong’s supporters win, the diocese will likely try to take the property back through the courts. If congregants loyal to the Episcopal Church win, Armstrong hinted a vestry member — whose Nebraska bank loaned the church nearly $2.5 million — might call the loan."

Craig Goodrich on Stand Firm! has hailed this as a smart, "poison pill" strategy ensuring that a breakaway congregation will retain control of the church building and assets.

As far as I can tell, encumbering disputed assets with liens in this fashion constitutes criminal fraud in all 50 states of the US -- if the loan was made in order to prevent the Diocese of Colorado from retaining control of Grace Church, that is.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 12:25am BST

Mynsterpreost - I too have had these thoughts lately. Reading Rev. Armstrong's statements have given me pause in this regard.

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 1:33am BST

The Denver Post reports that there 300 in attendance at the church meeting to hear Armstrong out and not all of them were his supporters. This seems like a very low number in light of the fact that it was well publicized, and no doubt it is their best chance to hear him out. The church has approx 2000 members, where were the other 1700 members, or did only the extreme loyalists and dissidents show up?

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 1:38am BST

$140k a year is acceptable for the rector of a large parish of several hundred people. keep in mind pastoring is like herding cats, and several hundred people is a lot of cats. it does take significant organizational skill, and I gather that $140k is par for the course.

also, as I understand it, $140k includes his health and hopefully dental insurance. and in the US, insurance is very expensive. he's probably taking home $90 - 100k. yes, that's a handsome salary. but for someone with that many responsibilities, it's acceptable, and I gather that CEOs of large non-profits will make around that much.

Canterbury House, the Episcopal student foundation @ the Univ of Michigan as well as the church I go to, spent $92k on its chaplain. it's a student ministry, with about 30 people coming a week - a lot of irregular attenders. now, our chaplain's take-home pay is more like $60k. I mention this because we've always considered our financial statements to be public record. it's not fair that the vicar of a small, very social justice-oriented parish takes home about $30k, but that's life. Canterbury House has a large endowment, and Incarnation is not yet an independent church.

in short, Don Armstrong's declared pay isn't out of line for an American rector of a relatively large parish. now, the allegations are that he's been skimming a lot of money off the top, so he's supposed to have been earning a lot more than what he said. but that's yet to be proven in court.

Posted by: Weiwen on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 5:17am BST

Don Armstrong came about 20 years ago to a small parish sleeping in a large and beautiful church. In an amazingy small time, under his leadership, it had become a large and vital parish, which continued to grow in size and strength. And now this.

Posted by: Euphorbia on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 8:06am BST

Mynster - agree with you 100% in your criticism of this man's attitude to his large wage i.e. that he deserves it - does not sound too servant-hearted here......but maybe we are being a bit English about money?

Posted by: NP on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 8:57am BST

The issue here is not his salary. The issues are the charges within the presentment.

Posted by: Frank on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 12:17pm BST

"Blessed are you poor."

When I read all this about the money it makes me wonder about motivation,Easter and the Kingdom. Better not to obsess too much about one priest. What of ourselves at Easter ?

We know what Jesus says about motivation, ministry and money in the gospels. It is largely ignored by Churches along with some other elements of his message.

What does it mean if churches, members and ministers behave as if Easter never happened-- as if the Kingdom of G-d is not among us and within us ?

It seems to leave a vacuum for worldly values and aims to come in, taking hold of hearts and minds. But conspicuous wealth, spending and lifestyle based on them tend to the denial, rather than the promotion of Jesus gospel, Jesus message as given in the gospels. I know I write this living in a very rich country(Britain) , and must bear the responsibility myself for my own wealth--- unlike so many of the world's people I have food, a roof and an income.

I remember how shocked I was (& remain) when I first discovered ministers who spent hours at the crematorium, 'doing' funeral after funeral, without any pastoral visiting or after care; pocketting the fees, against C of E rules. (I do not begrudge them their latest car, and foreign holidays --but ....). What of Christ's option for the poor? Do we share it ?

The historic witness of the Society of Friends in Britain may seem hopelessly idealistic to Churches. Yet it may be worth meditation on the witness against 'hireling priests' from 17th century to today. In Britian there is no pay for ministry and indeed there is no separate ministry--- all members being seen as ministers. Pastoral care is given by groups of 'overseers' and spiritual care of meeting by a group of 'elders'. None are paid and all such roles are time limited and revolve around members of meeting over time. Not perfact but an attempt to be true to the spirit of Jesus' message.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 12:54pm BST

According to the latest figures from the Swedish Parish Association the average pay per month for clergy is (Swedish Crowns):

Deacons SEK 23.300:- which equals 279.600:- a year,

Priests SEK 27.000:- which equals 324.000:- a year,

Rectors SEK 35.000:- which equals 420.000:- a year,

Bishops SEK 58.000:- which equals 696.000:- a year.


A Rector’s salary represents £ 30.966 a year at 13:55 Crowns per Pound, which is $ 60.869 a year at 6:90 Crowns to the Dollar.

Which is to be compared to the school fee ($ 40.000) for Mr Armstrong’s kids ;=)

If there is still a rectory to live in, a Swedish priest will pay the rent (average) for a 100 square meters – I suppose it’s the same for the Bishops’ Houses – but they tell me that Mr Armstrong’s house comes on top of the $ 141 kilo he receives as salary from Grace church…

Conclusion: Mr Armstrong has $ 40 kilo above the salary of a Swedish bishop + the house + the scholarships + the cell phones + the loans + … + … + …

Greed ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 1:13pm BST

I don't think it is just about it being an 'English' thing about money (NP), and I'm not sure that it isn't partly tied up with the charges (Frank). There's something theological/Kingdom here which unsettles me.

CofE clergy may remember a report a few years ago called 'generosity and sacrifice' about clergy stipends. Now most folk I know wish that it had been honest and said 'you're worth this much but we can't afford it', but it did some rather odd calculations instead, starting with a comparable public-sector job and then making deductions for this, that and the other. But a £6000/€9000/$12000 deduction was made simply on the principle of 'sacrifice'.

I'm not judging the consciences of others, but I do wonder whether clergy OUGHT to be able to afford everything which everyone else does. Isn't a slight relative poverty an important witness about where one's values lie (before anyone asks, no, I don't have a working spouse, except for the £1000 she earns per year doing OT lecturing). I am blissfully happy, can afford everything I want and am a bit uncomfortable with my life of ease anyway.

There is a non-Anglican minister not too far from here who always has a new BMW. I wonder what that says to people? Pay rises for 'successful' clergy, enabling them to move in the 'right' social circles....? The Church as corporation?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 2:29pm BST

I have no opinion on the matter of misappropriated funds, that's for the courts to decide, whether secular or ecclesiastical. But am I the only one amused by the whole ACI thing? I'm referring to the way it was formed, the way it "operated" (what did it actually DO, exactly?) the way it claimed for itself an image of dignified authority when it suited ACI's purposes (see the way it's described in the Gazette piece) and was "just six guys and a website" when THAT was a more suitable image. I mean, it's really funny, a bunch of guys with no sense of PR and how things are going to play in the media, so inept as to not have their noses squeaky clean when they, of necessity, went into the public eye. I'm not talking money here, but the very silly way their whole thing looks like a sniffy little group of puffed up God botherers, old church wood smell and moth balls and watercress sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Even though they are largely American, it seems, they still resemble the faded trapping of Empire. I mean, quite apart from any alleged wrongdoing, what a bunch of idiots! I hope to have further cause for laughter in the coming days and weeks.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 2:37pm BST

In the US, had the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) been organized as a 501c3 organization, instead of somehow existing as an unincorporated "ministry" of Grace church and presumably taking contributions under its "tax exempt" status, this mess would not have happened. The organization would have to file a 990 informational tax return annually and information about it would be available to the public. In appears, instead, that this organization with a grandiose name "Anglican Communion Institute, an important list of officers, directors and "fellows", was, in fact "6 guys with a website". Although they seemed to have received benefit from the organization, both in credibility in the wider Anglican community through the website, and possibly some monetary compensation (although possibly not designated as such..(partial subsidizing of sabbatical leave...maybe with the funds transferred to another organization), the officers and directors have assumed no accountability for it. This hurts EVERYBODY who works with charitable organizations. In impacts the trust we build in the donor/recipient relationship. If one Episcopalian/Anglican whatever recipient cause is found to a bandit, ALL will be questioned. Again, the 501c3 is the way to go if you want to be transparent.

In the US, a family foundation, say the Carthage Foundation, must file a 990AR showing where the money comes from and where it goes. Is there something similar in England? In the US, one can track for example where the IRD gets its money, (and charity watchdog organizations do), would that also be true for Anglican Mainstream or Fulcrum or whatever their corresponding left-leaning coefficents would be in Britain?

Posted by: EPfizH on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 2:46pm BST

Give me a break.

A musician, with a Master's Degree will be lucky to get a full time organist's/choir director job for $40-50K/year. That's the same Master's Degree in Performance (Organ or Conducting) that a priest gets (Master's of Divinity). And that is for a full time position, a rarity in itself.

Then there are us singers. If you are very good, and live in a place that paying singers is acceptable (and it is not in many places, especially the U. S. midwest and west), we are lucky to make $100/gig, including rehearsals, and salivate at the occasional wedding/funeral. And we have Master's Degrees in Vocal Performance as well. As for the English system, I know well what Lay/Choral Vicars make at most of the cathedrals (ah yes, how romantic to live in the close; then there's that paltry wage that you have to double as a civic choral conductor and/or vocal coach).

And yes, we practice (especially the organists) like hell during the week. I know for a fact that most of my bretheren spent more hours in their respect houses of worship a fortnight ago than the clerics did.

Mind you, I sound like I'm whinning, but when I hear a guy complaining about not making enough in the religion business, it falls on deaf ears, a neat trick for this musician.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 2:46pm BST

Someone has posted what has to be a crude and malicious parody of Fr. Armstrong's Easter sermon on the internet.

http://www.graceandststephens.org/Sermons/2007/Easter_Sermon.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 3:13pm BST

Re my warning above that press reports transcribed on the Grace Church website are edited, the Rocky Mountain News piece to which I referred is now accesible on the newspaper's website. I cannot detect obvious bias in the editing, but the church website publishes only about 50% of the original and does not note that the piece has been edited.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/news/article/0,1299,DRMN_3_5484859,00.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 3:49pm BST

In many of the network parishes in Pittsburgh, the rector stacks the deck. At my old parish, old Episcopalians are no longer sought out to run for the vestry but converts. Many of the converts in my old parish are Baptists, Assembly of God, Roman Catholics and even a Mormon. I have no idea how some govern but Roman Catholics don't govern at all. They pray, pay and obey. Parish Councils are a joke and as several rectors have said, "you keep one book for the officials and another for you."

Many of these converts have no idea about Episcopal Church governance. Many were only slightly active in their former denominations. Think of the joy a convert feels when the rector ask to forward their name to the vestry nominating committee. The people in many instances turn into yes votes, a rubber stamp.

Clergy, learn to empower your sheep. Mindless isn't acceptable anymore.

Posted by: BobinWashPA on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 4:02pm BST

Dear Goran,

How interesting with all these comparisons to the Swedish situation..? The bottom line is that most of the established (no matter if they are officially or socially 'established') protestant 'mainline' denominations are 'middle class clubs', where a career as a pastor pays for a pretty 'nice' life style. Not much of sacrifice for Our Lord there and what a difference to the upholders of truth and orthodoxy, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern and Oriental Churches!

Posted by: Anthony on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 4:26pm BST

Re (the necessity of?) sacrificially low remuniration for clergy: two generations of clergy ago, a Methodist minister in my husband's family served for no pay. He gave what little he received back to the church. His wife had to make do, for daily bread, on what the women of the congregation left on the back doorstep. The children all wore clothes handed down from the parish. No one seems to remember him asking his wife and his children if this was okay with them. To this day, his surviving children resent the life they were forced to live.

In the Episcopal Church, one generation of clergy ago, a priest I know, while serving in Texas, was given no choice - he was paid so little that his family were entirely beholden to the charity of the women of the congregation. It was a shaming situation.

Ruth Gledhill, in a long-past post described the execrable conditions of one of the rectories in which her family lived. My brother-in-law was given a manse (Methodist for rectory) in Vermont (bloody freezing in winter) through the slats in the walls of which you could see the outside. Is this really the way to treat your minister or priest? I once served a middle-Atlantic U.S. diocese in which many of the clergy were living in forced poverty, unable to pay for health care for their children. It's shameful. My own mother-in-law believed clergy should not be paid at all. This whole conversation makes me sad.

Did Paul not say, the laborer is worthy of his hire? (1 Timothy 5:18) Having said that, I receive nowhere near what the Rev. Mr. Armstrong receives. I don't serve the kind of parishes that afford that. Nor do I want to. But all of what I receive is a matter of public record, voted on by the vestry and within published guidelines of my diocese. Months ago I began weaning the parish off the private "Clergy Discretionary Fund" and moving to a more accountable manner of aiding those in need in a confidential manner, for the very reasons which have called the Rev. Mr. Armstrong's handling of discretionary monies into question. My problem is not with the amount of money the Rev. Mr. Armstrong has received; my problem is with the manner in which it has been handled.
Lois Keen

Posted by: Lois Keen on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 8:03pm BST

Interesting it is, but it seems you only read half.

Middle class clubs is indeed what most churches have become since they no longer provide bread and butter for younger sons and unmarriable daughters.

"The Parson knows enough who knows a Duke"...

When I was young, every family still had their Oncle l'Abbé, but they seem to be dead now - only one out of 120 Cardinals is an Erlaucht!

These days giving one's sons to the Church is no honour for the yeomanry, even...

As to the Colorado situation I indicated that Fr Armstrong got 3 times the salary of a Swedish Bishop - everything seems to be a bit bigger over there... but my point was that a Swedish Rector (quite a few Parishes have more than 20.000 members, and a cople of the dioceses number around a million) gets proportionally less, that is quite a bit less, than Fr Armstrong did...

But the Swedish salaries are medium, not very high. Nor do Swedish priests have housekeepers as the Romans do ;=) But what strikes me is the proportions.

In the 1950ies sararies were tied to some state salary "level" or other, but this was abandoned later on, as in Mynste's British example.

Come the 1970ies, priests families were over-represented among recipients of social welfare...

But then, we don't do "megachurch".

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 8:13pm BST

I've been the senior warden of a "corporate" parish in TEC whose rector is paid well more than $160,000/year. I don't think it is defensible for wealthy parishes to deny appropriate compensation to priests, especially if the median income of parish families is well above that of the rector's.I don't believe our priests take a vow of poverty, and most have children to educate.The abomination occurs when ALL financial arrangements are not perfectly transparent, which, IMHO, Grace Church and Fr. Armstrong are way guilty.

Posted by: John D on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 2:06am BST

Lois highlights scandalous treatment of clergy and also a concept of sacrificial which transmutes into masochism. Both are to be deplored.

But the unease I feel remains about wealthy clergy (and Christians generally). How is it that conforming oneself to the ways of the world in the wallet depaertment is OK (so long as it's legal) but doing so in the bedroom (even with serious moral arguments) is condemned?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 8:56am BST

The 'Armstrong' situation is not as rare in TEC as one might imagine. Last year or so, my sister's church in a large Texas city lost its rector - after a diocesan suspension over his misuse of church funds - to a recently formed 'Orthodox' body. On their web site his new church described his personal sacrifice in joining them as even extended to 'selling his yacht.'

Granted that in his new job they no longer pay for his monthly subscription and charges at a famous club founded for those with more oleaginous fortunes, or for his children's school tuitions, still (and I suspect that it was his old yacht, not his new one)it does kind of give you a different perspective on "the laborer is worthy of his hire," doesn't it.

Posted by: Jay Wilson on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 10:42am BST

Each year my diocese publishes suggested minimum raises for clergy, keyed to time in office. They also publish suggested minimum salaries for clergy. Certainly some wealthy large parishes pay more than the diocesan standard, but many small churches pay considerably less.

As someone pointed out, clergy families have the same needs as other families.

Several clergy I know - and by no means are they paid at the rate that Armstrong was - tithe. That is a standard of giving that I am still striving to reach.

The issue with the situation in Colorado is not how much he was paid, but how financial decisions were made and if what was supposed to be public was public, and if the vestry was properly involved in decisions canonically required of it. And then there is the issue of whether the proper taxes - state and national - were paid. I await with interest the disposition of the issues raised in the presentment.

If Fr. Armstrong thinks he has been stripped naked before [see his amazing technicolor Easter sermon], he will really know about that if the IRS goes after him.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 12:55pm BST

John D's comment about median salaries is an important one (remember Rowntree saying that poverty was about financial exclusion from the normal practices of society), but when does 'rich' become 'too rich'?

I know someone whose parish includes a lot of royalty-visited grouse moor: should he be paid enough to drive a Chelsea tractor and carry a 12 bore (he already has the Barbour jacket, but then again, so do I!). The median salary of his particular place of residence would justify it, he's by far and away the poorest person in the village!

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 1:16pm BST

Mynster - I would agree with you that greed, just like any other sin, is not acceptable, based on scripture, in the Christian

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 5:11pm BST

The labourer is worthy of his hire, of course. But I do find the idea of a clerical stipend at those levels a bit much.

Of curse, my time has been spent in a diocese where no priest is making anything more than a relatively low level civil servant.

The issue of clergy remuneration is complex, and needs to extend a bit beyond the old saw of the vestry's comment to the bishop, "You keep him honest, My Lord. We'll keep him poor."

In my diocese, we historically worked from a scale of minimums. Parishes could pay whatever they chose, provided it was no less than the minimum.

In practice, that meant that all (but one) of the clergy in rural parishes were paid the minimum, while all (but one) of the clergy in urban parishes were paid above the minimum (As a non-stipendiary priest with secular employment now, I don't know if the same situation applies.)

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 5:47pm BST

In the midst of new knowledge about one of the most erastian denominations, i.e. the 'church' of Sweden, I do notice that pastor Swahne didn't challenge my understanding of ecclesiology. Which isthe reason why I take off my hat!

Posted by: Anthony on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 9:31pm BST

Anthony, I'm not sure that a comparison with quasi-monastic churches is awfully informative. If you want a go at middle class lifestyle look at Salvation Army officers, whose pay is way, way down. But, of course, if your central tenet is that protestantism is essentially erastian, it would undermine your case!

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 8:53am BST

"Mynster - I would agree with you that greed, just like any other sin, is not acceptable, based on scripture, in the Christian"

NP,
Neither is false witness.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 12:56pm BST

Obviously Ford - I am the guy who wants us to stick to the standards of scripture in belief and action....so I am not quite sure why you say this.

Who are you accusing of false witness, if anyone?

If Armstrong, I don't know the guy but I don't think he has yet been proven guilty.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 12:47pm BST

NP,
Your continued accusations of faithlessness on the part of those who disagree with you, your implication that there is some cabal of Liberals bent on taking over the Church, these consititue false witness as far as I can see. Since it is well known who is funding the right in all this, to a large extent, your turning a blind eye to it while accusing others of some attempt at usurpation of power looks like something "not acceptable in the Christian" either. Follow the money, NP, follow the money.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 5:17pm BST

Funnily enough, in all this scripture-hurling, no one (especially in groups like CANA) seems to have stumbled on 'you cannot serve both God and money'.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 9:12am BST

Nice straw man, Ford. Our CofE church in London is funded by its members - doesn't quite fit with your conspiracy theory, sorry!

So, you don't think there has been a long history of people taking advantage of "don't ask, don't tell policies" to take leadership positions in the church despite disobeying its teaching in their private lives and actively undermining its teaching in public?

You seem to think we are never to doubt anyone's self-proclaimed faith and holiness?
1 Cor 5:12

(Oh no, a single verse - the opposite to what it says must therefore be true - please don't come back with that response. There are many examples in scripture of judgments having to be made - the idea that all must be accepted as having integrity is not biblical, as you know)

Posted by: NP on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 9:26am BST

Hello mynster - are you just not reading the posts when I say greed is just as unacceptable as any other sin if the person is unrepentant?
Nobody is saying "greed is good" on the conservative side - this is another straw man.

I will be amused if Armstrong is exonerated since there are so many on TA who clearly want him to be guilty and to see him disgraced....this is sad but it is evident in some posts. All I say is let's see if he is guilty before condemning him. It does not matter to me if he is innocent or not but I hope he is innocent for the sake of the gospel since he is a minister and it will be yet another public disgrace - we do not need more.

If he is guilty, I would want him removed - it is very important, according to ST Paul and ST James that leaders have integrity and uphold the teaching of the church, as I am sure you agree.

Posted by: NP on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 3:13pm BST

There has been little said about the $390,000.00 Rev. Armstrong claims went for scholarships to his children. I could understand if these were scholarships for THE children of the parish. In fact, $390,000 could start a scholarship fund for the parish. A modest scholarship for the Rector's children is acceptable. Otherwise, the Rector needs to budget for college expenses just like any other family.

I am also concerned that Rev. Armstrong is using homophobic rhetoric to incite fear in his followers. Would this cloud their judgement when it comes to the vote whether to stay or go? Is this what is causing so many influential community leaders to say they don't think he has done anything wrong? If so, we are looking at a great problem indeed, particularly when many local government and business leaders are involved in the governing body of the church. How does that influence translate between spiritual and secular arenas?

Posted by: Robert Francisco on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 6:30pm BST

No, NP, I do read your posts, and have no doubt that you regard greed as a serious sin. My point's a bit
different, and not aimed at you: why is it that Christians in general place a far wider band of 'personal conscience' defence around money/wealth than they do around sexuality?

The NT in particular is highly critical of wealth, yet we come up with neat little side steps - 'cupidity', 'greed' which separate the thing from the morality. 'Radix malorum est cupiditas', as Chaucer quotes in the Pardoner's Tale.

It seems to me that a similar separation of sex and 'lust' is far more reluctantly offered within the faith: less than 50 years ago an Anglo-Catholic society refused financial support to married ordinands if they thought they might be using contraception! And yet 'Bad Money' is probably responsible for far more oppression and suffering that 'bad sex' (by which I mean morally corrosive, not, "Was that good?" "Was WHAT good?").

You say your economics background leaves you left of centre (and therefore probably another reader of the Manchester Guardian, irritated beyond measure by its often infantile religious coverage). How do you handle such an apparent imbalance in Christian ethical teaching?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 11:12pm BST

Dear Mynster - I agree with you completely - there is hypocrisy in the teaching of some who condemn only some sins but leave greed as acceptable somehow. I hate to see that. It is hypocrisy. Thankfully, it is less evident in Anglican circles than in others - we are blessed not to have many who are greedy for money in our leadership.

It just makes me sad to see false teaching on greed because it is leading people astray and stopping them from growing. It makes me even sadder to see actions which bring the gospel into disgrace and the Armstrong case is looking nothing less than a self-inflicted tragedy (although the case is still open, I know, and I still hope not to see a man fall)

Posted by: NP on Monday, 23 April 2007 at 7:27am BST

NP,
I'm not talking about your parish! Who funds the Network? Who funds the AAC? Who paid for that nasty little bit hypocrisy "Equipping the Saints"? Lobbying costs a lot of money, who pays for all the lobbying and behind the scenes scheming the "conservatives" are doing? Who pays for the Essentials people to fly all over God's farm? It's not about individual parishes, NP, they, as you say, are supported by their members, or, in the case of missions, by the diocese. It's about lobby groups, which in and of themselves are, as far as I am concerned, inimical to the Gospel anyway. We should be seeking for agreement, not putting our energy into making sure our case is louder than everyone else's in public and have control over the right powerful person behind the scenes, and both sides are guilty of that. It's just that the fuel for the "right" seems to be coming from some very unsavoury places. I know of no equivalent on the "left" of Ahminson et al. Perhaps others could enlighten me.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 23 April 2007 at 3:16pm BST

Ford - you say "I know of no equivalent on the "left" of Ahminson et al. " ..... maybe that is because they have got control over TEC assets?

The good people who left TEC money and property would turn in their graves if they could see the political agenda being funded by their money now......so I don't think there is any moral high ground on funding.

Posted by: NP on Monday, 23 April 2007 at 4:54pm BST

"maybe that is because they have got control over TEC assets"

You seriously believe this? You know, NP, I have tried to avoid buying into the idea that there is a concerted attack on basic Christian values by a strong, wealthy, well connected right wing American cabal. This despite the information in things like "Follow the Money". I do this, not out of any real belief that there is no such attack, but because to fall into that is to fall into fear, and, ultimately, to lose faith that God is leading us somewhere, albeit through a very painful place. To sit around all day worrying about conspiracies is to put more faith in the political machinations of human beings who really don't get it than in the power of God. Join me. Don't fall for it. We will both have our misgivings, we will both not trust that the other side is on the up and up, and there will be times when we do fall into the trap, but God is more powerful than any human plot, and He's not going to let His Gospel be done away by some scheming sinners, so chill. I spent three days in deep dispair after Dromantine, till the psalm for that Sunday's Mattins was Psalm 46.
Be still and know that He is God, old man.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 23 April 2007 at 8:12pm BST

I agree with your solution for paranoia, Ford.....but it is just a fact that TEC's assets are controlled by the PB and HOB which is largely a body that would have been unrecognisable in its views to the majority of major donors to TEC in the past. This is not a conspiracy theory - TEC's assets are controlled by an "extreme left" group (in terms of the AC) - are they not?

And those assets are being used to drag vicars through the courts....because they want to stick to the teaching of the Bible and the AC! You will know that this is not a good sign in terms of the spiritual health of the leadership of TEC.

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 7:34am BST

Are these the same assets that TEC was willing to keep on giving, no strings attached, to Global South Churches who were actively scheming to kick TEC out of the Communion, but which they turned down because of the taint of homosexuality? And do you have any idea of the work TEC does in areas of social justice, poverty relief, you know, the work of the Kingdom? To suggest they are a bunch of fat apostates using their money to oppress the poor beleaguered "orthodox" comes close to slanderous.
And disciplining someone for breaches of canon law is perfectly reasonable. See, the thing is, I can express my disagreement using the usual, long established Church structures, or I can demand some simplistic statement of supposed "orthodoxy" from my bishop and then refuse him access to the parish church if he doesn't comply and charge him, not only with heterodoxy, but with oppressing me when he disciplines me, and make a great big public show to boot. Gee. People give a church building to God, the Church holds it in trust. Do I really have the right 100 or more years later to take back back from God what someone gave Him all those years ago, on the grounds that my faith is closer to that of the giver?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 11:21am BST

church discpiline - bishops taking vicars to civil courts?

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 2:30pm BST

NP,
Yet another point on which we agree! Twice in one day! Bishops ought not to be doing this. I'm not sure how they can defend God's property against those who would steal it, but Scripture is quite clear this is not the way Christians treat each other. Get back to the point, however. You have made the claim that the assets of TEC are in the control of some "liberal" cabal that doles them out in order to "oppress" conservatives. How?

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0419/p07s02-woaf.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/us/20episcopal.html?ex=1332043200&en=b7d5662a7ff482c3&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Both of these are a trifle stale, I fear, but I think they make the point that TEC is doing a little bit more with its money than oppressing the poor beleaguered "orthodox".

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 4:57pm BST

Ford - it is a matter of fact that TEC likes to fund social projects.

It is also a matter of the fact the TEC HOB is "far left" in AC terms and that means in terms of all major Christian groups globally....so, it is also a matter of fact that control of TEC and its assets (given by others in the past) is in the hands of an "extreme" group in this sense....I don't see your big objection.

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 8:50am BST

My big objection is to your assertion that TEC's money is being used to persecute wealthy American conservatives, many of whom aren't even Anglican, when in actuality they are behaving in a manner that can only loosely be called Christian, let alone Anglican. You ignore all the good TEC does, your ignore the strength of its faith, you ignore the fact that the very people you support are connected with some very suspicious right wing people and groups, my God, Radner is on the board of IRD, I believe! You ignore the fact that it was GS bishops who publically rejected any funding TEC was willing to give with no strings attached, though AFAIK, only Uganda has actually done anythging other than fume about the homosexual taint of TEC money. Yet you accuse TEC of using it's resources to oppress the pure conservatives! This is practically slander, certainly not the way one talks about one's fellow Christians, and is the direct result of your buying in to the myth of the persecuted cconservative. My problem with the funding of the right is that the people providing the money are shady and there is solid evidence that their motives are to be mistrusted. It's all suspicion. I don't think you can present anything close to similar evidence about the "nefarious" motives of TEC's HOB. that said, God is God, and He won't let even Ahminson distort the Gospel for ever.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 1:44pm BST

Well, Ford - I agree with your ending in that the gospel and its protection are indeed God's responsibility.

This is why I am so excited by the rapid growth we are seeing in Anglican churches in London - He is doing something great here

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 5:23pm BST

"He is doing something great here"
Maybe, but you'll have to excuse me if I am little less than enthusiastic about the prospect of the Anglican Church becoming Evangelical. If it is to happen, then please God send an Orthodox Church here!

Posted by: Ford ELms on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:15am BST

I’ve been a member of Grace for 17 years, and know Father Armstrong personally. His theology is sound but that’s not the issue; it’s the church’s finances. My family and I have always had issues with the way he does business; from co-mingling accounts during the building of the parish hall in 1990, to his building of his 750,000 dollar rectory (paid for by the church). I’ve seen the presentment and it is seriously damaging to Father Armstrong, and I doubt that the bishop would make an accusation without the evidence to back this up. All of this got started last November or December when our long time organist left amid rumors that Don had promised him a pension, but put no money into the pension plan. He hired another organist to take his place, promising him a salary that he could not provide once he came to Grace. Someone told the bishop about these and other problems, and that is when he inhibited Father Armstrong and looked into the church finances.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 4:26am BST

I am glad to see the new 'ACi' website so more modest,relistic and shorn of it Coat of Arms, alumni and other BS

http://anglicancommunioninstitute.com/

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:57pm BST

PayPal friendly, too.

Posted by: lapinbizarre on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 2:54pm BST

LR: Don't speak too soon. Look at those listed on the page 'Contributing Theologians'

Posted by: Anglicanus on Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 10:51am BST
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