Colorado property dispute costly; Armstrong arraignment hearing

Update: The criminal trial of the Rev. Donald Armstrong will begin Feb. 22, a Fourth Judicial District court judge ruled Wednesday during the rector’s arraignment on charges of financial misconduct.

Armstrong pleaded not guilty to the 20 felony counts of theft charges brought against him in May for allegedly funneling about $392,000 from Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church while he was the rector.

Read it the brief report here.

Colorado Gazette:

A few weeks ago, St. George’s Anglican Church — a congregation that started as a breakaway group from the Episcopal church — asked its members for a one-time family donation of $1,500 each to defray about $750,000 in legal costs, as well as tens of thousands in fees that were assessed as part of a settlement.
On the other side, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado spent $2.9 million to defend against the Anglican parish’s lawsuit to take possession of downtown property, diocese financial records show. The legal expenses and a decline in the stock market resulted in a colossal loss in the diocese’s investment income, dropping from $4.9 million in January 2006 to $750,000 in August, records show. It will take years to recover the funds, said Chuck Thompson, assistant treasurer for the diocese.
Leaders at Grace and St. Stephen’s, meanwhile, say their church is financially sound and has increased its weekly attendance to about 300. On Sunday, the church announced the hiring of a new rector from Boca Raton, Fla.: Stephen E. Zimmerman, who will start Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, Armstrong will be arraigned today [Wednesday, Sept 23] at Fourth Judicial District Court on 20 felony counts of financial misconduct while rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s.

Comments (6)

I'm having doubts as to whether TEC should continue to pursue the retention of property in court, even if it rightfully belongs to us. After reading this post and Paul and Matthew in the Lectionary today, I wonder if we mightn't just let it go.

June Butler

That's easy to say, June, if it's not your parish.

If (God forbid!) some putsch tried to unchurch me in my Episcopal parish, I'd be calling the lawyers in 1) the diocese and 2) 815, PDQ!

JC Fisher

JCF, when I say those words, don't you think I keep my church in mind? I don't think only of others' churches. I love my 146 year old church building so, that I worry that it's an idol for me.

I don't speak the definitive word for everyone. I'm speaking what's true for me at this moment. I doubt.

June Butler

Let's do the math;

Investment income declined from $4.9 mm to .75 mm.
At 5% that means that the value of the endowment fell from $98 mm to 3.75 mm

$2.9 mm of the decline in value of the endowment was attributable to the property dispute.

Possible explanations: 1. an innumerate journalist,
2. bizarre investments.

Spencer Ervin, Bass Harbor,Maine

I think TEC is doing the right thing.

We operate under our own rules and our clergy take vows to follow them. Clergy who don't want to belong to TEC have the option to do the honest thing and resign; then form a new congregation, buy property and get on with a new life.

Unfortunately, there are a few -- Armstrong among them -- who would rather make it easy on themselves and steal what they want.

There's enough of that going on right now that we need to put our collective foot down and put a stop to it. Otherwise our rules and vows will become meaningless.

Larry Graham

Nice catch Spencer. I read right over the words "investment income" and interpreted the numbers to be what the reporter surely meant -- "value of the endowment".

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space