Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Episcopal Church vs. Armstrong

Ed Sealover, The Gazette's gov't reporter in Denver, has been covering this. He'll have a full story for the paper and our web site soon.

Here's a condensed version from the AP wire:

DENVER — An Episcopal church court issued a preliminary ruling that the leader of a breakaway church is guilty of financial misconduct, officials said today.

The Rev. Donald Armstrong of Colorado Springs faces internal allegations including theft and tax fraud. The ruling was made Aug. 2 and released today.

Both Armstrong and Colorado bishop Robert O’Neill have 30 days to respond to the preliminary ruling. The court will then issue a final judgment along with recommendations for a sentence.

Diocese spokeswoman Beckett Stokes declined comment.

Armstrong has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Dennis Hartley, has called the process a “witch hunt.”

Armstrong, the rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen’s parish in Colorado Springs and now a member of a conservative Anglican diocese, is accused of having the church pay him $392,409 between 1999 and 2006 without authorization of the church vestry.

Church lawyers allege the money was used for personal expenses for his wife and family and were covered up by “false and misleading” entries that Armstrong told the church’s bookkeeper to use.

Armstrong and his lawyer boycotted a church court hearing last week, saying that Armstrong is no longer under O’Neill’s authority.

There's lightweight sportswear and then there's THIS

It's so weird, I have to share:

From the AP: FREDERICK, Colo. — A Catholic priest faces an indecent exposure charge after police said he went jogging in the nude about an hour before sunrise.

The Rev. Robert Whipkey told officers he had been running naked at a high school track and didn’t think anyone would be around at that time of day, a police report said.

He told officers he sweats profusely if he wears clothing while jogging. “I know what I did was wrong,” he said in the report.

Whipkey did not return phone messages. His attorney, Doug Tisdale, told the Longmont Times-Call that Whipkey had no comment.

Whipkey, 53, was arrested June 22 in this small town about 20 miles north of Denver. An officer said he saw a naked man walking down the street at 4:35 a.m. The U.S. Naval Observatory Web site said sunrise that day in Frederick was 5:31 a.m.

The officer said when he shined his flashlight at the man, he covered himself with a piece of clothing he was carrying.

The Archdiocese of Denver said it takes the incident seriously but is awaiting the outcome of the case. Whipkey, who also officiates at parishes in the nearby towns of Mead and Erie, remains an active priest.

If convicted of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, he would have to register as a sex offender, prosecutors said.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

New pastor in Widefield

The Widefield Community Bible Church Elder Board has announced the Rev John “Randy” Scott of Springer, Okla., is the new pastor of the church (702 Quebec St.), effective July 1. This according to a notice in the Fountain Valley News.

Randy Scott and his wife, Roxanne, along with their daughters, Hannah, 3, and Kaelyn, 1 have moved to the area. Roxanne is a graduate of Doherty High.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Evangelical Press chief named

From the Christian Examiner:

COLORADO SPRINGS — Lamar Keener, president of Keener Communications Group and co-publisher of the Christian Examiner newspapers, has been elected president of the Evangelical Press Association. His two-year term began May 4. He previously served as president-elect.

The EPA is a professional association for the Christian periodical publishing industry. Its members produce more than 300 titles with a combined circulation of some 22 million. Several hundred members attended the annual convention, this year in Colorado Springs.

Keener’s wife and co-publisher, Theresa Keener, previously served on the EPA board as treasurer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Holy Trinity closing?

A teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School e-mailed today to say the school is closing.

A Gazette education reporter will look into this later today. Anyone heard anything about it? I'll update when I can and, if it's true, we'll get a story in the paper asap.

Comment here or e-mail me at with any news.

Bible labeled indecent

More than 800 Hong Kong residents have called on authorities to reclassify the Bible as "indecent" due to its sexual and violent content, following an uproar over a sex column in a university student journal, according to Reuters.

The complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site that says the holy book "made one tremble" given its sexual and violent content.

The Web site also said the Bible's sexual content "far exceeds" that of a recent sex column published in the Chinese University's "Student Press" magazine. That column was later deemed indecent by the Obscene Articles Tribunal, sparking a storm of debate about social morality and freedom of speech.

Publicity stunt? I'm thinking yes. Anyone here in the Springs agree with the students?

(Paul's off today. Thought I'd post something for y'all to ponder.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on Falwell

Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby that, in 1999, Falwell accused of being gay, has not released an official statement on Falwell's death. Not that Winky speaks much anyway.

Falwell Dead

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority and, really, the grandfather of the religious right, is dead. The 73-year-old pastor was found unconscious in his Liberty University office earlier this morning. At this point, no-one is sure what Falwell died of, but he had a history of heart troubles.

In evangelical circles, Falwell was often characterized as one of conservative evangelicalism's "big four," the others being televangelist Pat Robertson, prison ministry guru (and former Nixon aide) Chuck Colson and, of course, Focus on the Family's James Dobson. In many ways, Falwell was instrumental in shaping the evangelical movement -- or at least the perception of that movement -- from a massive group of believers who didn't even vote all that much to the political force they are today. It's probably not a coincidence that the Moral Majority was at the height of its power during Ronald Reagan's two-term run as president.

Now, at least in part to Falwell's influence, conservative Christians are a massive force within the Republican party. Falwell's own influence, though, has waned the last several years. Dobson's the guy these days.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brazilian Justice

A Brazilian rancher accused of paying about $25,000 to have a 73-year-old nun assassinated goes on trial in Brazil today. The nun's brother, Palmer Lake resident David Stang, is there -- watching to make sure justice is done.

"I feel Brazil will do Dorothy (Stang) justice," David told the Associated Press. "This is not about revenge. This is about justice for the poor."

The Gazette published a story about Dorothy Stang and her brother, David, last June: How Dorothy was gunned down in a muddy road and, through her death, became a powerful catalyst for change in what many say is a corrupt region of Brazil.

Struggles between Brazil's wealthy landowners and rural poor are nothing new. According to AP, 1,237 rural workers, union leaders and activists like Stang have been killed in the last 30 years there. More than half took place in Para, the region in which Stang worked and lived. The nun worked with Brazil's working poor and, according to her brother, was something of a folk hero.

Stang was killed the morning after she had a confrontation with her killers -- triggermen called "pistoleros." She was left for hours in the road.

Her killers were arrested and implicated two wealthy landowners who allegedly paid to have Stang killed. It's a rare thing for these landowners to go to trial -- it's said that police and judges are in cahoots with them -- and the case has drawn international attention.

Movin' On Up

Douglas Carver, a former pastor at Colorado Springs' Skyway Baptist Church (now Fellowship of the Rockies), has been nominated to lead the U.S. Army's chaplains. He was made a major general May 10 in anticipation of the move. Carver still has to go through a confirmation process, according to a release from the Baptist Press, but assuming all goes well for him he'll officially receive his promotion July 12.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bits and Pieces

One occasional bummer about newspaper work is, sometimes, we run out of space.

The story about Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish in this morning's paper was 25 inches -- hefty by newspaper standards. The thing is, I have nearly 100 pages of court documents sitting on my desk from yesterday's District 4 court filing.

So, for those of you who are interested, here are some other little tidbits gleaned from these documents.

The biggest issue addressed within these documents, of course, is who owns the church. Grace CANA -- the group worshipping at the 601 N. Tejon St. building now -- says the parish was created before there was ever an Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, and the congregation has made around $6 million in improvements.

Diocesan sources say, essentially, so what? The church is legally held in trust of the diocese, they argue, no matter when the parish was founded or how much money its pumped into the place. Plus, according to the filings yesterday, there actually WAS a diocese here before the parish was founded: In 1865, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church created the Missionary Diocese of Colorado from a larger missionary diocese, seven years before Grace was founded in 1872.

The Missionary Diocese of Colorado recognized Grace as a mission church a year later, meaning the two apparently operated autonomously for a while. But the diocese says that, really, you can't be an Episcopal Parish without diocesan oversight, and that means the parish bought into the Episcopal Canons and bylaws and such -- including that "in trust" clause.

Both sides tell me they're confident they're in the right, and it'll be up to the courts to say for sure.

Another interesting revelation was that, at least according to the presentment, Grace's longtime chancellor Derry Adams advised Grace's vestry back on Dec. 8, 2006, that the parish and its vestry was under the authority of the diocese and the Episcopal Church and that the property was the diocese's.

"All real and personal property held by the Parish is held in trust for the national Church and for the Diocese in which the Parish is located," the 2006 memo allegedly read.

According to the filings, she advised the vestry in early 2007 that the church, under its 1923 articles, wouldn't allow the parish to leave the Episcopal Church. She resigned shortly thereafter. When The Gazette contacted her after her resignation to ask why, she had no comment.

The filings offered a host of alleged detail that hadn't been made public before. For instance, the filings alleged:

* That after the investigation of Armstrong began in March, 2006, Armstrong and others began shredding documents at such a rate that, when one shredder conked out, they bought two to replace it.

* Financial statements made on Grace's Quickbooks computer program from 2001-05 didn't line up with the financial statements given to parishioners or the audited financial statements of the time.

* Grace leaders apparently changed locks on the church's administration building March 9, giving keys (according to the filings) to only those people who were sympathetic to "the cause of secession."

It should be noted that Alan Crippen, spokesman for Grace CANA, said the locks were switched simply because security was lax.

* That the church backed away from a promise it made to the diocese March 17 to "fully comply" with the investigation.

* On March 23, two vestry members told Bishop Rob O'Neill, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, that while the parish had discussed leaving the Episcopal church, "such an action was not imminent." According to the presentment, both of these members (Junior Warden Chad Friese and vestry member Dr. Michael Barber) said they didn't believe Armstrong could return as the church's rector.

Three days later, the vestry voted to leave the Episcopal Church and brought Armstrong back as its leader.

Crippen said he was a little mystified as to why all these details were in the filings at all.

“What does all this have to do with the property argument?” he asked. “The diocese response is full of irrelevant facts that are not germane to the fundamental question at hand: Does the congregation have the right to determine whether it will remain in the Anglican Communion or not? Does it have a right to self-determination? That’s what’s at issue here.”

It looks as though Grace Episcopal Church -- the group not worshipping with Armstrong -- has posted at least one of the official documents on its Web site.