Thinking Anglicans

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A letter to the editor of the Gazette (apparently as yet unpublished) from Fr Armstrong’s senior warden (scroll down)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

“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?

Newlin
Guest
Newlin

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.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

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!

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

“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…..

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

The Senior Warden’s letter is here

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

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

“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….’

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

“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… Read more »

the Reverend boy
Guest

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 …

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

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… Read more »

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

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

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

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?

Weiwen
Guest

$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… Read more »

Euphorbia
Guest
Euphorbia

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.

NP
Guest
NP

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?

Frank
Guest
Frank

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

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

“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… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

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… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

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… Read more »

EPfizH
Guest
EPfizH

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… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

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.… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

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

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

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

BobinWashPA
Guest
BobinWashPA

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… Read more »

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

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!

Lois Keen
Guest
Lois Keen

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… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

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… Read more »

John D
Guest
John D

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.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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?

Jay Wilson
Guest
Jay Wilson

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,… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

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… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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!

NP
Guest
NP

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

Malcolm French+
Guest
Malcolm French+

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,… Read more »

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

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!

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“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.

NP
Guest
NP

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.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

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.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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’.

NP
Guest
NP

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… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

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… Read more »

Robert Francisco
Guest
Robert Francisco

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… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

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… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

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… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

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.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“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.… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

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… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

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.… Read more »