Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Crippen answers his own question, "What does all this have to do with the property argument?” in the Grace CANA tradition of posing a second diversionary question: "Does the congregation have the right to determine whether it will remain in the Anglican Communion or not?" Mr. Crippen, you and liked minded secessionists may join the Church of Nigeria (CANA), the Church of Rwanda (AMiA), Archbishop Venables and the Southern Cone in South America, or any Anglican splinter group (the REC, the APA, etc.) you wish. The property suit which you and yours filed on Good Friday is about a building that does not belong to you, in which you squat, not about the purple fever of priests and bishops jockeying for position. The diocesan response is appropriately not full of facts germane to primatial ambition. Contra spoliatorem omnia praesumuntur derives from English ecclesiastical law, would that be Anglican too?

4:49 PM  
Blogger C.B. said...

I think that Mr. Crippen is worried that all the facts surrounding this case might lead Grace congregants to pause and consider not voting in the upcoming vote. That said, perhaps that is why so much detail was included as well.

It seems that Grace/CANA is hanging its hat on the fact that it pre existed the diocese, but even that argument does not bar up under the facts. Further, there is already case law in Colorado stipulating that TEC has the right to the property. Whether they can win on summary jugdement will depend on if Grace/CANA can throw either the facts or the law into question. I'm sure the dioceses wanted congregants to at least be aware that their walking away with the property is a long shot.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous George said...

When reading the document on the Grace Episcopal web page this morning,,

Answer and Counterclaims on pages 22 and 23, I, as a Grace Church member was shocked and dismayed to read the following:

On March 17, 2007, Vestry Member Robert Balink drafted a letter to be sent from the Vestry to the congregation. The proposed letter reaffirmed the Vestry’s commitments to the Diocese of Colorado. He then forwarded the draft letter to the other Vestry members for comments,

Even though he had initialed Attorney Adams’ March 16 letter making this commitment, Senior Warden Jon Wroblewski insisted that Mr. Balink, first, delete reference to the Vestry’s commitment that it would seek, in consultation with the Diocese of Colorado, appointment of a priest in charge of Grace Episcopal Church, and, second, delete the statement that the Vestry agreed to “fully comply with” the Diocese of Colorado’s request.

Mr. Balink then reminded Senior Warden Wroblewski and the other Vestry members how they had voted on March 15, 2007, and that they had already sent a March 16, 2007, letter to the Diocese of Colorado confirming this. He then, concluded, in an e-mail to Mr. Wroblewski dated March 17, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.:

“Jon, didn’t we agree to comply? And now you are saying we don’t intend to?

“Our letter said…’Pursuant to the Diocese’s request, I am authorized by the Vestry of Grace Church to commit that Grace Church will comply with the Requested Actions of the Vestry as set forth on Page 13 of your report AND THAT INCLUDES SECTION III (THE COMMITMENT REGARDING SEEKING A PRIEST IN CHARGE).

“If we don’t intend to comply we have lied. What am I missing? In your own words , ‘we are screwed’ if we don’t comply after voting to do so.”

This email was copied to the other Vestry members.

Regarding the above, when does the lying stop? When will the Vestry allow us to know and hear the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God?

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are not my vestry anymore. Not very fiduciary actions, were they?

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Mr. Crippen thinks he knows what is germane to the argument and what should be in the filing? The last I heard he is not an attorney. He should let court decided if relevant information is in the filing. More than likely, Mr. Crippen just doesn't like seeing in print all the ugly things that have occurred at the hands of Don Armstrong and the Wroblewski Vestry.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so easy to commit wrongs when you know you are right(eous).

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Bishop Ramsey's ghost said...

I suppose that Armstrong having a bishop (Martyn Minn's) who's a friend of his would be a great help.

You could ask Bishop Minn's if CANA would continue the diocese of Colorado's investigation of the charges?

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During his visit, when asked if he would engage in an independent investigation of Armstrong, Bishop Minns stated that it was a vestry issue and he trusted in the vestry to proceed responsibily.

More foxes in the henhouse...

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Bishop Ramsey's ghost said...

Anon said:
"During his visit, when asked if he would engage in an independent investigation of Armstrong, Bishop Minns stated that it was a vestry issue and he trusted in the vestry to proceed responsibily.

More foxes in the henhouse..."

Really!! Its like having Gordon Liddy heading the investigation of Watergate!!

9:17 AM  
Blogger C.B. said...

Paul - Where is the vestry report anyway. Wasn't it supposed to be released before the vote. It's kinda late in the game to release it now and have people read it before Sunday.

I would think that it less than half the members actually voted on Sunday, it would make the whole enterprise more of a debacle than it already is.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see if I have this straight. Grace Church supposedly had 2500 parishioners back when the Rev. Mr. Armstrong was justifying his salary. Now Crippen and Co. say the membership is more like 1500. Judging from the phone calls being made to turn out the "vote to secede" this weekend, the squatters may not have the support they have been claiming.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Jere Joiner said...

The locks on Grace Church doors were changed immediately after several choir members removed robes from the choir house. They removed them because one of the choir members bought and paid for them and therefore had a property interest in them. She did not want them confiscated by a sessionist church and vestry.

This choir member also paid to have the choir house reroofed and the inside remodeled. Yet, when she attempted to get other personal effects out of the choir house, she was denied entrance. How do I know? I was there when she asked permission.

Further, I left a coat in the choir house during a Lenton rehearsal. I spoke with Jack Gloriod, who said he would see if it was still there. I never heard back from Jack so I went to the choir house myself and saw my coat inside hanging from a hook. I called the church office and they sent someone over to unlock the door. Unfortunately, none of this person's keys worked either.

I remembered that the window beside where the coat was hanging was unlocked and I was able to reach inside the building and retrieve it. Did I do this alone? Not on your life. I made sure the person from the office was standing right there.

I wanted readers to know the truth about how the choir house door locks came to be changed. It's not the same story that's being advanced by the CANAnites.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous episcopalian said...

Jere, thank you for speaking the truth. Unfortunately there aren't enough people who read this blog to see it. Hopefully things like this will come out if and when this case gets to court.

The CANA vote is tomorrow. No matter how it comes out, Don Armstrong will 'spin' it to his advantage. Since many of us will choose not to attent this illegal vote for something that has already occurred, he can easily say the vote was well over the majority needed. What he will never say was how many faithful and loyal parishioners who had attended Grace Episcopal Church for years prior to March 2007 were not there for the vote.

10:46 PM  

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