Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Breaking Ranks

Tomorrow's edition of The Gazette will contain a letter from 19 ex-vestry members of Grace who, in essence, are publicly questioning their former rector's honesty.

"(The Rev. Donald) Armstrong is exploiting theological divisions within the Episcopal Church to avoid a canonical investigation about his alleged financial wrongdoing," the letter says. "He has defied church and civil law by occupying and taking property from the church he and his allies left. We cannot keep silent."

I talked with one of these former vestry members a few days ago. Timothy Fuller served on the vestry only a year, and resigned in January after learning, he says, that the vestry was secretly talking with Armstrong (which violated Armstrong's suspension) and was plotting to break away from The Episcopal Church.

Fuller said some members of the vestry were talking with Armstrong by January.

Through an e-mail sent to The Gazette April 11, Armstrong admitted he broke the inhibition early, but only to “answer questions relative to the right running of the parish as well as alerting the clergy to pastoral problems.” He said he broke it through one "channel of communication." I'm not quite sure what he means by that, and when I asked for clarification, he didn't get back with me.

A larger issue, at this point, are church finances. Armstrong's accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church -- money used largely, according to the accusations leveled at Armstrong, to fund his children's college educations. The vestry said it never approved such funds, nor did it authorize the church's senior and junior wardens (leading members of the vestry) to approve the expenditure of such funds.

Fuller says he has no idea what's up with the money, simply because the vestry was kept in the dark. Budget reports contained little detail, he said, adding that most of the vestry wasn’t even aware how much Armstrong was earning.

According to state Episcopal canons, the vestry are a board of directors in a nonprofit corporation (the church itself), and the rector is considered an officer. National canons say that members of the vestry are “agents and legal representatives of the parish,” that handle the church’s property and manages relations between parish members and the clergy.

Fuller believes the vestry should have been consulted with major financial decisions, and the diocesan Standing Committee, which leveled the charges against Armstrong, seemed to agree in its presentment.“All such transactions should have formal approval from the vestry,” Fuller said. “None of that was ever discussed.”

Armstrong says he never kept the vestry in the dark, saying he communicated with it when appropriate.

“The wardens with the rector run the day to day operations of the parish from a budget established by the vestry,” he wrote. “That is how Grace Church has operated since before I ever became its rector.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware the stalking rector ;-)

9:08 PM  
Blogger -frank said...

Could you provide a link to the letter when it becomes available?

Not sure where to navigate to on

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the letter by linking from the above comment, but why can't I find it on the Gazette website? Did it get published?

4:13 PM  

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