Colorado: Bishop Deposes Former Rector Don Armstrong

Episcopal Life
November 1, 2007

Episcopal Diocese of Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill has deposed the Rev. Don Armstrong from his ministry as an Episcopal priest.

Armstrong was serving as rector of Grace and St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs when the diocese began an investigation into allegations against him of financial wrongdoing.

In accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church, O'Neill's verdict was issued 30 days after the Ecclesiastical Court handed down its final judgment and sentence to depose Armstrong. O'Neill could have, at his discretion, lessen the court's sentence but not increase it. It was O'Neill's responsibility to impose a sentence. Armstrong learned of the bishop's sentence late on October 31.

The court's unanimous judgment and sentence, which came following a 30-day comment period, initiated by its preliminary judgment in August, reiterated that Armstrong is guilty of:

committing crimes, including theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church, and causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and underreport Armstrong's income and benefits by $548,097.27;

receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of diocesan canons;

encumbering and alienating Grace Church's real property without authorization;

violating a temporary inhibition placed on him;

using clergy discretionary funds improperly; and

failing to maintain proper books of account.

"We are satisfied with the Bishop's verdict, based on the evidence and the Diocese's adherence to the procedures established in the Church Canon Law to protect the rights of the accused and to insure a fair and proper trial," said Clelia deMoraes, senior warden of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

The nearly 500 members of the congregation that have chosen to remain in the Episcopal Church have been worshipping at the First Christian Church in Colorado Springs since Armstrong and the vestry took over the church property and joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

"We have taken much-needed measures to ensure that this kind of fraud never occurs again and that parish monies are used for the purposes for which they are intended," deMoraes said.

Armstrong and some 340 members of the 2,500-member congregation voted to join the Nigeria-based CANA in May and continue to occupy the parish's property. Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church continues to meet at nearby First Christian Church until a civil lawsuit filed with the El Paso County District Court is decided.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.