Saturday, September 10, 2011

Litigation - the Diocese of Colorado

[N.B.: As part of the gradual revision of the "Guide to This Site" pages, I am slowly bringing up to date all of the individual pages dealing with the history of the Episcopal Church (USA)'s litigation in conjunction with its various Dioceses. When completed, I hope that these pages will provide the Web's best collection of articles and links chronicling the Church's $22-million-dollar-campaign of litigation against its former members. Instituted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her personal Chancellor, David Booth Beers, this unprecedented and highly un-Scriptural response to departing parishes and dioceses provides a truly historic lesson of how a great church can go wrong by inverting its priorities, and calls into question the motives of those who are benefitting most from the contest. As I revise them, I will post the new individual pages for each Diocese here, where each can then serve as a new Index page for the current and future links involving litigation in that Diocese.]

There has been only one recent church lawsuit in the Episcopal Church (USA)'s Diocese of Colorado, but it was a substantial one, involving the beautiful and valuable property of Grace Church and St. Stephens Church in Colorado Springs. After the trial court issued its decision awarding the property to the congregation that chose to remain with ECUSA, I put up this post analyzing the ruling.

"One More Such Victory . . .

Notwithstanding the dubious reasoning of the opinion, the congregation decided not to appeal it, and instead to move out of the church and hand it back to the minority which wanted to remain in the Episcopal Church (USA). That remnant was subsequently able to attract a grant to assist it in restoring the historic building.

Meanwhile, on the initiative of a complaint filed by Bishop Rob O'Neill of the Diocese of Colorado, the local district attorney pursued criminal charges against Grace and St. Stephen's former Episcopal rector, the Rev. Don Armstrong. The latter had engaged in a long dispute with Bishop O'Neill which culminated in the bishop's inhibiting Fr. Armstrong and bringing a presentment against him for fraud and embezzlement of parish funds. In 2007, an ecclesiastical court had found him guilty after he refused to appear and defend himself; Bishop O'Neill then deposed him. The Rev. Armstrong and his congregation had meanwhile voted to affiliate with ACNA, a decision which led to the lawsuit over the Church property.

The criminal charges were finally resolved in September 2010, when Fr. Armstrong agreed to plead "no contest" to one of twenty felony counts against him, along with an "Alford plea" to a misdemeanor charge, which resulted in a four-year probation sentence. In an Alford deal, the sentence for the felony charge is suspended pending fulfillment of the terms of probation, and the charges are then dismissed upon successful completion of the sentence. In February 2011, the court ordered Fr. Armstrong to repay the church $99,247 of the $291,000 which the prosecutors had demanded.

The circle finally closed in August 2011, when the ACNA congregation purchased the historic property of the very first church in Colorado Springs. The site had been sold in the 1980's to become the "Village Inn", and was later transformed into the "Club Eden", an upscale nightclub which quickly deteriorated into the "Syn Club". After being shuttered for liquor license violations, the nightclub went on the market, and was purchased by Grace and St. Stephen's. They are rehabilitating it for their use as the historic place of worship which it represents.

1 comment:

  1. This series of lawsuits can only be called depressing and certainly not christian by any standard. And to think it all started in the Diocese of SC....... sigh. Such a sad series of events.