Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Clear and Presentment Danger?

The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado recently released its official outline of charges against Grace Church's longtime rector the Rev. Donald Armstrong. I wrote a brief story about the charges -- which are called a presentment -- for Saturday's paper. But The Gazette also posted the full presentment online. I'd encourage those who are following the story to take a look. It's pretty interesting.

It's important to note that Armstrong says he has answers for everything the presentment contains, and will reveal all at a meeting at Grace this Saturday, April 14. The most alarming charges are found at the beginning of the presentment -- accusations of stealing from church funds and taking out illegal loans and such -- but the stuff toward the back is pretty interesting, too.

I was particularly interested in Armstrong's alleged use of the church's discretionary funds. According to Episcopal Canon, these funds are to be used only to help the poor and needy -- not to pay for parking tickets or tip the cable guy. Armstrong admits he used discretionary funds for a variety of things, but in a letter to parishioners in March, he said the diocese's definition of discretionary funds accounts have changed -- that at one time, these funds were indeed spent at the discretion of the rector.

The diocese hasn't gotten back to me to verify if that's true or not. But even if Armstrong didn't illegally spend discretionary funding, it's still interesting to see what he allegedly spent the money on.

According to the presentment, discretionary funds went to pay for repairs for his Jeep ($362.59), parking tickets ($55 for three of them, all paid Sept. 27) and a tip for the cable guy ($200). He spent $1,347.94 at Best Buy for an unknown purchase, and a whopping $18,869.97 to Norwest Bank, which the check labeled as "Proceeds for bank rewrite loan." Some of the checks appear to cover church expenses, and a few don't say what they're for at all.

Again, let me stress that we don't know, at this point, whether this discretionary fund was available for broader use. Nor have we heard Armstrong's full explanation. I'll update you as I get more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Diocese's charges against the Rev. Armstrong are VERY serious. The educational trust fund holds money for a very specific and limited use; it cannot be used as a discretionary fund for general education purposes. The false accounting and tax issues are serious concerns for both Grace Church and the Diocese, and hold the potential to impact federal nonprofit tax status. At a minimum, it appears that Rev. Armstrong lacks personal and professional money management skills, and at worse it appears that he may have breached his fiduciary duties to his congregation and the Diocese and unjustly enriched himself and his family in the process.

St. John's Cathedral congregant with a law degree

2:29 PM  
Blogger Paul Asay said...

Anonymous, could you contact me via e-mail? My understanding is St. John's and Grace are about the same size, and I'd like to hear more about St. John's financial practices, for comparison's sake. For instance, how detailed are the budgets parishioners see?

11:39 AM  
Blogger LouieCrew said...

Yesterday Armstrong pledi 'no contest' to one felony indictment. The sentencing was expected as early as today (2/25/2011). Has that happened?

Have the other leaders at the Anglican Communion Institute weighed in on his gulty plea?

3:42 PM  

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