Church under Investigation

November 26, 2008

[with video]

A historic church in downtown Colorado Springs is now part of a criminal investigation. Springs Police removed financial documents from Grace Church and Saint Stevens, a church that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese a year and a half ago.

"This investigation is predicated from the diocese. The investigation was prompted by that," said Springs Police Lt. David Whitlock.

The investigation began in 2007 when the Episcopal Diocese accused the priest of improperly using church funds. Those accusations included fraud and embezzlement. "He misappropriated funds and used the money for education for his kids. We were kept in the dark," said David Watts.

Watts said half of the church members and the diocese believed Father Donald Armstrong mishandled funds. The other half of the church, along with the priest, broke away from the diocese. Father Armstrong and his followers say he was wrongly accused.

"To have police surround you like we're criminals is a misappropriation of power. The cops owe us an apology, a public apology," said Jack Gloriod, who sits on the board of directors.

He said the church willingly gave all the financial papers to police last year. He said he wonders what new information police were searching for.

"I know officers are diligent about the investigation. This is just another step."

Springs Police said now, they'll sort through all the financial statements from the church to determine if anything illegal was going on.

Un-related to this criminal case, there is also a civil suit pending. The Episcopal Diocese said the $17 million property is their church. The Anglicans, who broke away from the diocese, said the place belongs to them. The trial is scheduled for February.


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