We're lifting up an update made to an item posted yesterday. Those who've read or commented upon "Armstrong pleads no contest" will recall that The Rev. Don Armstrong, who's been fighting charges of felony theft arising from his tenure as rector at Grace & St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs, recently pleaded "no contest" in exchange for a deferred judgment and sentence.
Representatives from St. George's Anglican Church - the current name of Armstrong's congregation in Colorado Springs - write:
... Father Armstrong made an Alford plea, which is a special plea used when there is no admission of guilt or basis of fact for the charge, but the charge, in this case a misdemeanor, is accepted to take advantage of an offer, in this case to reduce the original 20 Felony counts to a single misdemeanor. We are grateful to Don and Jessie for their courage, strength, and witness during this time of personal persecution. ...
In preparation for the now canceled trial we have become convinced even more strongly that controversies within the larger denominational church were the catalyst for the Diocese’s investigation and complaint, for the purpose of silencing our bold and successful defense of orthodoxy through our parish’s life, discipline, and teaching ministry.
We believe that the courts are not the place to deal with theological differences, and that to have allowed this dispute to continue to be played out in the news by going to trial would have served only to diminish all Christian witness. ...
We further believe the disparity between the magnitude of charges made against Father Armstrong by the Episcopal Diocese and the final content of the plea agreement vindicates not only Father Armstrong, but also clearly affirms our confidence that we ran an effective and well managed church in our days at the helm of Grace & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and continue to do so at St. George’s Anglican Church.
With only a restitution hearing to be held in the distant future, this essentially concludes this long and expensive attempt to silence orthodox resistance to theological innovations in the Episcopal Church. We are thankful we can now move forward under our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, into a future productive for the Kingdom of God.
Given that the case is not yet fully closed, we'd like to gently suggest that far-reaching talk of exoneration in the face of persecution sounds vaguely like self-delusion at this time; and that furthermore, talk potentially obfuscating cold facts (e.g., the fuller definition of an Alford plea) is equally, bewilderingly unhelpful.
Then there's the question of throwing it back to the church's institutional trial system. How, for example, might Armstrong respond to an ACNA canonical provision listing a "conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction for felony or other serious offenses" as acceptable grounds for presentment? We're not sure how he'd respond, but we've asked ACNA.