Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Grace Info ...

This Saturday, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, longtime rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish, will try to explain away allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his church.

One of the main issues he'll likely address is how he allegedly used the Anglican Communion Institute, a conservative theological think-tank operated as a ministry of Grace. Armstrong is still listed on its Web site as its executive director.

Timothy Fuller, a former vestry member of Grace, said he served on the ACI's board for three years. Not once in those three years, Fuller said, did the board formally meet.

In October 2006, according to Fuller, Armstrong told the vestry that the ACI had borrowed about $170,000 from Grace over several years, and the vestry resolved the Institute would pay it back in $10,000 yearly installments, beginning this year.The vestry meeting was the first time Fuller had heard of the $170,000 the ACI allegedly borrowed. He resigned from the Institute’s board two months later.

According to the Rev. Christopher Seitz, president of the ACI and a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the ACI shouldn’t have been very expensive.

“The only cost of running the Institute is our time, which we give away, and a Web site, which involves nominal costs,” Seitz said in an e-mail. “Travel reimbursements were handled by the executive director, or we paid for these costs ourselves. There are no employees, no overhead in a formal sense, no hard-copy publications and no programs to fund.”

The presentment alleges that Armstrong caused the church to pay $146,316 beginning in March 2003 as “outreach expenses” to the Institute — money it never received. According to the presentment, the checks in question were made payable to “Donald Armstrong College Fund” or “College Fund.”

Armstrong says the ACI actually funded several projects, and acknowledged his children’s education was one of them.

“The institute has funded students going to seminary, clergy sabbatical writing projects, awarding study and continuing education grants, and also was the vehicle through which the parish gave my children scholarship assistance while they were in college,” he said. “Funds given for specific purposes to the Institute were always used for the purposes intended.”

Seitz said he’d need to hear more facts before coming to any conclusions about Armstrong's alleged use of church and ACI funds.

“At several points the document (the presentment that details the charges against Armstrong) would appear to mean ‘The Anglican Institute,’ which was an earlier ministry of Grace Church with which I am unfamiliar,” he wrote. “I suspect we will all need to learn in greater detail what the presentment alleges. Reading things off the Internet is a very limited and potentially misleading way to form judgements.”

The presentment states the Anglican Institute was an earlier incarnation of the Anglican Communion Institute.

4 Comments:

Anonymous GB said...

I'm curious about the ACI board of directors. If ACI is a non-profit corporation in CO, then the board should have fiduciary responsibility. The fact that they did not meet for 3 years tells me that they were not providing any fiduciary oversight. The board is responsible for holding the Exec. Dir. accountable for spending corporate money. If Armstrong is found at fault, then the board must be at fault too. I'm just speaking in general terms since I do not know the actual details of the case at hand.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ACI is not a registered non-profit corporation in CO; it is an affiliated ministry of Grace Church.

3:12 PM  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

anonymous,

Seitz has written that he was surprised ACI was listed as an affiliated ministry of Grace.

Are you basing your statement on statements on Grace's website?

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Candice Hall said...

Neither the Anglican Institute nor the Anglican Communion Institute is a non-profit registered with the state of Colorado. [See: http://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/BusinessEntityCriteriaExt.do ]It should be noted, however, that Fr. Michael O'Donnell, Grace Episcopal Church, did register the International Grace Foundation, at business address 601 N. Tejon, as a non-profit organization with no voting members on May 22, 2006. Grace CANA has signaled its disaffiliation with the International Grace Foundation by removing the IGF from the Grace CANA website.

7:56 AM  

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