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Lacking Grace

Exiled parish members oppose upcoming vote; Armstrong avoids pie-thrower


Grace Church isnt being called Episcopal for now. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Grace Church isnt being called Episcopal for now.

Grace Church, now existing as two separate and diametrically opposed congregations, continues to make the most unusual headlines.

Even frivolous.

Few other adjectives could have better characterized the events of Sunday morning, when a teenager suddenly barged into the Grace sanctuary at 601 N. Tejon St.

As the Rev. Don Armstrong delivered his 9 a.m. sermon to a congregation poised to break from the Episcopal Church of the United States, Marcus Hyde entered a side door nearest the pulpit and threw a pie at Armstrong.

Armstrong ducked and the pie landed on the floor.

As Armstrong resumed, some parishioners chased Hyde outside. They caught him and returned with him to the church. Police came and took him away, booking him on "several misdemeanor charges," according to the police blotter.

Contacted on Wednesday, Hyde said, "I'm not talking to anybody about it."

The blotter said Hyde "said that he was passing judgment on Father Armstrong for his fellow parishioners."

Meanwhile, the lay leaders for Grace and St. Stephen's Parish who are staying with the Episcopal Church of the United States say an upcoming May 20 vote at their embattled church will be "unlawful," and have advised parishioners to "abstain" from the "charade."

Parishioners are being asked to ratify a vote by the church's breakaway vestry, its board. The vestry has split from the Diocese of Colorado and affiliated with an Anglican diocese in Nigeria led by an outspoken critic of gays and lesbians.

The vote push comes at the same time allegations swirl that Armstrong stole or defrauded the church out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Armstrong, reinstated by the breakaway vestry in March, says church finances were in order because the vestry approved transactions.

"[Armstrong] is not a priest in good standing and they are not a vestry and so, they have no authority to convene the congregation, to call a vote, or to occupy the property," the lay leaders wrote.

Their letter also says the "secessionist" congregation has already announced the outcome of this vote on its Web site.

Grace Church and St. Stephen's is named there as ""a parish of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America,' and the banner in the church sanctuary is no longer the Episcopal flag but the flag of CANA."

The divided congregation is mired in a legal battle for the church property and Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopalians worship in exile at a church on the Colorado College campus.

Armstrong, in the most recent issue of a newsletter called "Grace Tidings" sent to the church's membership, addressed several of the ongoing issues.

Concerning the charges of misusing church finances, he wrote, "Each item ... can be easily refuted when all the information is available. ... The allegations against me are simply false, slanderous and libel. I will prove this to be so and would hope that in the meantime, my 20 years of ministry among you would warrant your granting me the space and trust to do that before you form your verdict."

Armstrong added that similar questions arose in the spring of 2003, and after a "thorough and probing discussion" with the diocese treasurer and comptroller, "we were commended on the way we were handling our financial responsibilities." He suggested the 2007 charges are politically motivated.

In regard to splitting the church, Armstrong wrote, "I believe that a real pruning of our parish had become necessary."

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