Comments: Colorado Springs: church court verdict

Well....this is sad.

The man should stand down...even if he wants to clear his name.

CANA must not ignore this. Theft and fraud are just as serious as the VGR issue

Posted by NP at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 10:29am BST

This is just sad. While I have no doubt there will be some who will see summary judgement as some sort of EHBL plot to bring down a Good Christian, the fact that he behaved rather like Charles King and Martyr makes him look guilty as sin. The worst thing, of course, is that he has fled to another jurisdiction, and I fear the politics will result in strident defenses of him. This willl invite statements as to the company kept by CANA, and enable people to cast doubt on them all, but far worse is that it will put him in a place where repentance is effectively impossible. Here, we refer to this as "huldering him into it." How can he begin to understand the wrong he has done if he he is a) painted out the martyr so much he comes to believe it, or b) summarily cast out of the fellowship of his new friends? The way CANA deals with him will say a lot about them, they can defend him, punish him, or help him find the way to repentance and wholeness. I doubt the latter option will even occur to most of them. Then again, he may well be one of those spiritual masochists who need punishment in order to feel either the need for repentance or the assurance of forgiveness.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 1:07pm BST

Will the diocese now enter a civil suit against him? I hope so as when someone takes him/herself out of the jurisdiction of the church courts and yet owes money he/she should be still made to pay.
My only question is whether the diocesan leaders are guilty of failure to supervise by really reading parochial reports, demanding outside audits, etc.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 1:38pm BST

NP & Ford in perfect harmony! Who could have imagined?

In the Colorado matter the alternatives, other than a civil suit by the church to recover the money, which I would suppose to be a strong possibility at some point, lie beween action by the Bush administration IRS, which has shown partisan leanings in the past in its actions and inactions towards church suits, and action by a local district attorney who resigned from Armstrong's vestry as these charges were made public. Not holding my breath on either of those.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 1:52pm BST

Well, Ford Elms, how long has it been? Armstrong has had more than enough time to evaluate the error of his ways. He's been at this funds diversion for a rather long time.

Not only so but the righteously indignant conservatives, who strain at a gnat, will swallow money sins as if they have been committing them every day with impunity.

What especially grates my gizzard about Armstrong is his diversion of seminary trust money for his own uses. Is this is what CANA Christianity does? I think we can already see their character for what it is.

Posted by Curtis at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 2:14pm BST

Yikes...I even agree with Columba...there should be a criminal investigation.

Again, I would still hope he is innocent but if he is not, then real repentance is necessary and certainly at least a time out of leadership for reflection and restoration (but if he is guilty and unrepentant, he should be dismissed - church leaders must have integrity.)

Like Ford, I really hope CANA show wisdom and complete tranparency (an no favouritism) in dealing with this situation.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 2:18pm BST

I will be very interested to hear from Martyn Minns on this. Likewise Akinola.

If Armstrong indeed failed to report income to the IRS, I don't see how they can avoid at least auditing him.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 2:24pm BST

I will be interested to read the "forensic audit" that Alan Crippen (any relation? - the celebrated Dr. Crippen was from the US) says that the vestry board of Grace CANA is conducting. The evidence on misuse of Bowton Trust funds seems pretty compelling.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 2:53pm BST

Some of us take a long time. If he is still unrepentant, he clearly needs more time. I just doubt he'll get that time, or the encouragement to use it wisely, in CANA. I agree with your statement about the swallowing of monetary sins, BTW. It's far less a sin to "misuse" other people's money than it is to "misuse" their naughty bits.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 3:41pm BST

Fr. Mark Harris over at Preludium aptly sums up the conundrum of the Armstrong case:

"The Rev. Donald Armstrong has not participated in this trial and I gather makes the claim that he is no longer a member of The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Colorado and therefore the court has no jurisdiction over him. The Diocese of Colorado to the contrary holds that he has not been released from oversight by the Bishop of Colorado and that the Bishop has inhibited him. So the verdict will be ignored by Fr. Armstrong but will be grounds for possible deposition. Perhaps Fr. Armstrong believes he is beyond the reach of the laws of this Church. Perhaps he is.

It will be harder for him to escape the reach of the civil authorities.

Fr. Armstrong has claimed he has been hounded and harassed. The ecclesiastical court proceedings suggest otherwise. What now?"

Posted by John Henry at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 4:09pm BST

NP wrote:
"Theft and fraud are just as serious as the VGR issue"

Oh, wow, really? Being a thief is just as bad as being a faithfully partnered gay man? Glad you cleared that up, I thought that one was rather worse than the other.

I think there is even a commandment about theft, but I may be wrong about that.

Posted by IT at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 5:13pm BST

Comments on this thread should refer specifically to the matter of Don Armstrong and the church court case...

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 10:16pm BST

According to Fr Jake's blog, the Colorado Springs Police are now investigating.

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 11:41am BST

I don't put much faith in judgments rendered in situations of this type--i.e., without any active defense or even the participation of the defendant. (I've been too long in the legal world I guess).

Anyhow, I will be better able to decide whether TEC actually thinks it has a good case against him when/if it pursues a civil cause of action or actively seeks a criminal indictment. And, of course, the question of his liability and/or guilt will be decided more definitively by whether either of these come to fruition.

Until then, even though I think things look bad (and Armstrong -- at the least -- has some very serious explaining to do), I'm hesitant to join in any rush to judgment.


PS-If found guilty in a court of law, the circumstances might well weigh very heavily against him--fraud and misappropriation by someone in a position of trust is, and should be considered to be, a very serious species of malfeasance/crime.

PPS-This is one of those areas (money and a high-priced lifestyle) where I tend to think pastors in "mega-church" environments seem to have special problems (or temptations?). That's no excuse, of course--it's merely one of the reasons why I tend to avoid that type of environment as a permanent church home.

Posted by Steven at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 6:00pm BST

Here is part of the "moral" deal that upsets me:

what kind of a man is believed to be a trusted religious leader and moral standards "preacher" who also created a staggeringly horrible example of fraudulant behavior and all-around deceit/desrespect for his family (both at Church and at home)...what kind of Priest deals in thievery, manipulation and arrogance, and then, denies any kind of wrong doing or going wrong?

This priest is nobodies spiritual counselor or even a desireable friend.

Don, repent!

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 8:48pm BST

For an opposite spin on the situation--and Armstrong's viewpoint on the proceedings--one can bop over to virtueonline:

Who's got the right spin? Beats me at this point, but I doubt either side is completely without merit or completely above criticism. I hate to say it, but I don't think there is much hope of sorting the whole matter out until it comes to court--as in a "real" court with both sides represented--for a determination.

BTW-Does anyone know anything about O'Neill spending an incredible amount of money to bring this case against Armstrong. Armstrong suggests 1 Mill, which seems a bit rich even for TEC. "Enquiring minds want to know!"


Posted by Steven at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 9:09pm BST

Steven, the Diocese of Colorado's presentment against Fr. Armstrong is at this site:

Read the allegations that pertain to expenditure of $115,387.37 from the Bowton Trust (pp. 3-5 of the presentment) and the charge immediately following concerning additional expenditures from church funds totaling $146,315.63, and you will see that there is strong evidence for the charges against Armstrong. The Bowton Trust charges are particularly serious. Just read - this in not kangaroo court stuff. And note that CANA, seldom modest in trumpeting its own successes, is currently maintaining dead silence on the whole Armstrong business.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Saturday, 11 August 2007 at 2:54am BST

"Who's got the right spin? Beats me at this point, but I doubt either side is completely without merit or completely above criticism."

It's not about spin -- it's about facts. The accusations regarding the trust are particularly damning. The money was diverted from the trust's purpose to Armstrong's children at his direction. That kind of charge doesn't leave much wiggle room.

It shouldn't matter that they haven't seen Armstrong's tax returns if they've seen the parish's filings with the IRS regarding his compensation. If the parish didn't report the income, the chances that Armstrong did himself are slim.

It looks to me that David Virtue has the spin, but the diocese has the facts.

"I hate to say it, but I don't think there is much hope of sorting the whole matter out until it comes to court--as in a "real" court with both sides represented--for a determination."

I don't think so. The evidence that has been presented is extremely hard to wiggle out of. I haven't seen anything from Armstrong even remotely approaching an explanation. From here, he looks as guilty as sin.

Armstrong resorts to diverting attention from the main charges. He brings up a $250 reimbursement for Bibles and ignores the much larger cellphone bills for his children that have been paid for years. That's not a good sign.

"BTW-Does anyone know anything about O'Neill spending an incredible amount of money to bring this case against Armstrong. Armstrong suggests 1 Mill, which seems a bit rich even for TEC."

I'm sure forensic accountants doing a 10 year study are extremely expensive. So, we should let the really big embezzlers off the hook because it's expensive to investigate their crimes?

Posted by ruidh at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 12:00pm BST

"Who's got the right spin?"

Steven, from the beginning, this screamed to be turned into the poor faithful remnant being persecuted by the horrible heathen. That Venomonline has so presented it is not at all surprising. Look at their headline. I thought he was an Anglican, I rather suspect the Orthodox bishops of whatever jurusdiction would be surprised to see him listed as one of theirs:-) I have no doubt there is politics involved, but the man didn't even try to defend himself, preferring to claim, like Charles I, that the court had no jurisdiction. Why should that matter? In these circumstances, I would think he'd be eager to prove his innocence, or at least prove TEC for the oppressor he wants to paint it out to be. I'm not eager to rush to judgement either, but can you really say that the evidence, and the behaviour of the parties involved, justify coming down so squarely in the centre as you seem to be doing?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 1:35pm BST


It all looks bad to me. And, as previously noted, I think this is one of the areas where "mega church" pastors often bite the dust. But, you'll just have to excuse me if I withhold my own final judgment pending review of the matter in a normal civil/criminal forum.

PS-I was just curious about the costs spent in chasing the man down. If it did cost 1 mill, was it worth it? That's a good question. Not one I asked BTW, but a good question.


I've read (and often written) complaints that made the other side sound like Atilla the Hun. Consequently, though I find the charges disturbing, I'm probably not as disturbed as you might be. And, I freely admit the possibility of guilt--I think we've all seen religious leaders who have failed in the trust that was reposed in them. However, at this point, I'm mostly curious to see what TEC does next. If TEC does not press criminal or civil charges the whole thing is going to look like a sham, as if they are afraid to take the matter to a "real" court (especially after spending megabucks). If they do, I'm very likely to agree with whatever the outcome is. If they find him guilty, well then (with all due charity) these are the kind of charges where we should expect the court to "throw the book at him". And, I don't think I'll spend a lot of time worrying about the fairness of his punishment if the court does so. Still, as the old adage goes--It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. I want to see what a "real" court has to say.


Posted by Steven at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:33pm BST

Ford - I don't think it is worth reading "Venomonline" - it does not represent many in its tone etc.

Armstrong's spokesman says they welcome a criminal investigation.....that is interesting. Hope that happens and all evidence and tax returns are examined (not yet done in this case)

Posted by NP at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:45pm BST


I disagree about whether it is worthwhile to read the main articles at virtueonline. They come from a variety of sources, cover a variety of subjects, and are often interesting and informative. In addition, in his own articles, David Virtue often seems to have some insights into what the GS types think and plan to do next (due to long association I suppose). However, I don't generally delve into the postings following articles. I'm afraid most at TA would find these hard to deal with. For my part, I have to choose where to spend a limited amount of time--TA is more interesting to me for the moment.


Posted by Steven at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 6:40pm BST

I'm not overly disturbed by the charges. His refusal to defend himself makes me quite suspicious, but that's all it is. The issue is that his alleged theft is tied to his political position within TEC. Thus, for one side he is proof of the dishonesty of CANA, for the other side he is proof of the oppression of the righteous by the heathens who run TEC. This can only be magnified as the thing runs through the courts. I'm with NP on this kind of thing (I need to have a little sit down!) we are called to something better than this kind of behaviour, and surely our concern should not be with his punishment in the event of his guilt, but with his redemption.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 6:55pm BST


A good analysis and good points.


Posted by Steven at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 9:59pm BST

_TA is more interesting to me for the moment._ Steven.


Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 3:43pm BST

obvious - more interesting to engage with opposing opinions than just have your views reinforced

Posted by NP at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 8:56am BST

It can't be as simple as that. Whilst I might enjoy a bit of sport down at the Anglican Mainstream boards, it would be a fruitless exercise. In any case, they would not have me on because I don't accept the basis on which those boards run. You, NP, in a mirror opposite, benefit from the open nature of comment here - hardly a level playing field. If I was posting there, I'd just be like a prey among a pack of wolves eager for their dinner. Here people apply the conclusive ethic and carry on debating, even with irritation.

Actually, what I want to do is develop my views, and this I do among people within a reasonable distance from my own, where there is overlap and so dialogue. I know this news derived blog is not quite a place for developing viewpoints, but at least it gives some sense of the landscape of people who comment and have a more open view of where the Anglican Church should be developing.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 12:28pm BST

Well....I think TA is doing something useful for dialogue amongst what are now factions in the AC....even if it is showing us how different we are ultimately

Posted by NP at Friday, 17 August 2007 at 9:13am BST
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