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