COLORADO: Priest inhibited during financial investigation

January 4, 2007

Episcopal Diocese of Colorado Bishop Robert J. O'Neill confirmed January 3 that the diocese is investigating allegations against the Rev. Donald Armstrong, rector of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, involving the possible misapplication of church funds.

 

O'Neill has temporarily inhibited Armstrong, 57, while the diocese continues the ongoing investigation, according to a media statement issued by the diocese.

O'Neill said in the statement he took the action based on the preliminary report of the investigation. Armstrong has cooperated with the investigation, he said.

Armstrong must temporarily step aside from his duties as rector of Grace and St.
Stephen's Church and will not exercise any functions or pastoral responsibilities as a priest.

Armstrong has been with Grace and St. Stephen’s for 19 years. The parish has about 2,500 members who pledged approximately $1.4 million in 2005.

"Bishop O'Neill has met with the wardens and vestry of Grace Church, and also with the
parish's clergy and is working with them to provide appropriate pastoral leadership to the parish during this period," the statement said.

"This is clearly a very difficult time for all who are affected by this investigation," said O'Neill. "My immediate concerns are for the welfare of the vestry, staff and congregation at Grace and St. Stephen's, for Father Armstrong and his family, and for the appropriate and timely conclusion of the investigation."

Diocesan Chancellor Larry Hitt said that, in accordance with the canons of the Church, the details of the matter are confidential.

"This confidentiality exists to protect the interests of all involved while an investigation is ongoing," Hitt said in the statement.

Armstrong has been an outspoken opponent of some of the actions taken -- or not taken -- by the Episcopal Church. He is listed on the website of the Anglican Communion Institute as its executive director and one of its "collegial theologians." The organization has been critical of the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her predecessor Frank Griswold.

Following the 75th General Convention in June 2006, the Grace and St. Stephen's vestry issued a statement, which Armstrong backed, saying that the Convention had "inadequately addressed the Windsor Report's recommendations and requests, threatening to further strain, and perhaps dissolve, the bonds of affection among the provinces of the Anglican Communion." It also said the election of Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop was "cause for great concern."

The investigation began nine months ago, according to articles published in the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post (http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_4945980).

Armstrong was traveling January 5 and could not be reached for comment. A person answering his telephone said Armstrong would not be able to talk about the case. The Denver Post article reported January 4 that Armstrong, reached by cell phone "at a meeting of conservative Anglicans in Houston," said he could not comment. (A meeting of self-styled "Windsor Bishops" at Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center, northwest of Houston, Texas, was due to wrap up January 5.)

Armstrong's lawyer, Daniel Sears of Denver, told the Denver Post that Armstrong denies the allegations and looks forward to "a fair and speedy resolution." Sears said a "single complainant" triggered the inquiry.

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