Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Court Says Property of Break-Away Parish Remains With Colorado Episcopal Diocese

In Grace Church and St. Stephen's v. Bishop and Diocese of Colorado, (CO Dist. Ct., March 24, 2009), a Colorado state trial court held that all the property of a break-away Colorado Springs parish belongs to the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Diocese of the State of Colorado. The parish, now aligned with the more conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, was ordered to cease using the parish property immediately and to turn over financial records and other documents within 30 days. In reaching its decision, the court concluded that:
the founding documents, various bylaws, relevant canons of the general church and consistent parish loyalty to the Diocese over most of its 135 year existence ... reflects the intent that all property held by the parish would be dedicated to an utilized for the advancement of the work of ECUSA.
Virtue Online says that the building at issue is a majestic Gothic style church that is an historic landmark valued at $17 million. It reports on the reaction of Father Donald Armstrong, rector of Grace Church & St. Stephen's. Episcopal Life reports on the reaction of Diocese of Colorado Bishop Robert J. O'Neill and other officials of the continuing congregation. It also says that "Armstrong, who became rector of the congregation in 1987, is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations he misappropriated parish funds." Today's Washington Times also reports on Tuesday's court decision. (See prior related posting.)