Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Facts in the Case of Grace Church, Colorado Springs

Allow me to attempt a summation of the situation at Grace Church, Colorado Springs.

Don Armstrong was the former rector of Grace Church. He was also the former Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute. He was inhibited by his bishop last December for alleged financial irregularities. Last March, Armstrong and the leadership of Grace and St. Stephens decided to leave TEC and jump to the Church of Nigeria. This jump to CANA was made the very same day that the charges in the presentment against Armstrong for misuse of funds were revealed by the diocese.

Since then, the Diocese of Colorado has taken action to recover Grace Church. The court documents make a solid case for the diocese.

There continues to be about 500 members of Grace that remain loyal to TEC, but have been forced to worship elsewhere.

Last week, the Colorado Springs Gazette interviewed an attorney for Grace Church and one representing the diocese of Colorado. The specific topic was the influence the recent decision in California might have on their case:

...L. Martin Nussbaum, attorney for the Colorado diocese and local parish, says the ruling reinforces a similar one — Diocese of Colorado v. Mote — upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1986. In that case, a breakaway parish tried to keep church property, but the court ruled the property belonged to the diocese.

“It (the California decision) is a very scholarly explanation of the law that affirms the freedom of a national church to determine its own rules and governance, and in the case of the Episcopal church, prevents a portion of a local congregation to leave the church and take the property,” Nussbaum says.

But Grace CANA’s attorney, Greg Walta, says Colorado v. Mote isn’t as clear-cut when it comes to the local case. The 1986 ruling turned on the fact that the parish had been a mission church under control of the diocese for 20 years, and its organizing document ceded control over its property to the diocese, he says. In contrast, Walta contends that Grace’s articles of incorporation do not mention the diocese, it has title to the local church property and a long history of acting independently from the diocese and at times in defiance of the diocese.

“Our case is more like Dickey v. Snodgrass, a Colorado case that ruled for a local church,” Walta said. “So the outcome will depend on the facts in the case”...
So, it is the "facts of the case" that will decide the outcome?

Grace Concerns, a blog serving the members of Grace Episcopal Church in exile, provides us with a very interesting document: The Article of Dedication and Consecration for Grace Church and St. Stephens, Colorado Springs, dated November 15, 1929 and affixed with the signatures of the Rector, Wardens and members of the Vestry.

Note the final clause of this document:

...And we do moreover hereby relinquish all claim to any right of disposing of the said building, without due consent given by the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese, according to the Canons of the said Diocese, or allowing use of it in any way inconsistent with the terms and true meaning of this Instrument of Donation, and with the Form of Consecration hereby requested of the Bishop.
That seems to make the "facts of the case" rather clear to me.


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