As you can imagine, I was deeply saddened to learn this morning that the vestry of Grace and Saint Stephen’s Church voted to affiliate themselves with the Province of Nigeria under the auspices of CANA, and I want to share with you what information I can at this time.
You will undoubtedly read various accounts of this decision in the morning’s papers and on various websites. Such a decision in the best of circumstances has many significant ramifications—canonically, legally, financially, pastorally, and personally—both for members of the vestry and for members of the congregation. In the current situation at Grace and Saint Stephen’s—one in which serious allegations of possible long-term and significant financial defalcation have been made against Father Armstrong—the implications are not only more complictated but potentially more injurious to all involved. In spite of the claims that they have made publicly, my office has provided the vestry with as much information as possible regarding the allegations against Father Armstrong given the canonical restrictions calling for confidentiality while an investigation is ongoing. The vestry of Grace and Saint Stephen’s Church is well informed about those allegations. That they have chosen in consultation with Father Armstrong to “leave” The Episcopal Church knowing that on the same day that our Standing Committee, acting as the Diocesan Review Committee, received the report of the Church Attorney containing the results of the investigation, only calls into question the motivation of the vestry and Father Armstrong in making such a decision.
Having received the report of the Church Attorney today, I have been informed that the Standing Committee, acting as the Diocesan Review Committee, has voted unanimously to issue a Presentment containing six counts of wrongdoing against Father Armstrong. You can expect to hear more from me regarding the details of thisPresentment just as soon it has been formally conveyed to Father Armstrong.
Regarding the decision made by the vestry, I can only say that the decision has no canonical or constitutional grounding or effect. I take the position that people may leave The Episcopal Church but parishes cannot. Grace and Saint Stephen’s Church remains a parish of The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and will continue to be so for any and all who desire to be members of it. To that end, I have removed the members of the vestry and all officers from office under the provisions of our Canons—not the least of which is Title I, Canon 17.8 which states that “any person accepting any office in this Church shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised.” As such, the vestry is now declared vacant.
As I have said to many today, my primary pastoral concern is for all those who remain loyal to Grace and Saint Stephen’s. Certainly I will be working with them to make provisions for Sunday worship and for new pastoral leadership for the parish in the short-term and until such time as the parish is restored to its property. I will communicate as much of that as I can just as soon as those details are worked out.
Be assured that I will keep you informed as events unfold. For now, I ask as always that you keep the people of Grace and Saint Stephen’s Church, Father Armstrong and his family, and our Diocese in your prayers. As always, be assured of mine.
God’s peace and blessing be with you. Faithfully,