Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pastor charged in parish theft

The conservative Colorado Springs pastor who broke away from the Episcopal Church to form a new Anglican congregation in May 2007 now is accused of stealing $291,000 from Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish.

The Rev. Don Armstrong was indicted on 20 counts of felony theft by an El Paso County grand jury Wednesday. He surrendered to authorities Thursday but was soon free on bond, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Armstrong's spokesman did not return calls Friday.

Police and a special prosecutor conducted a two-year investigation into allegations of Armstrong's financial wrongdoings at the church.

In the indictment, Armstrong, 60, is accused of using the Clarice Bowton Trust, a scholarship fund for new ministers, to pay his own children's college expenses, including rent and tuition bills.

The trust was activated after Bowton's death in the late 1970s, and its terms were never amended.

The indictment further states that Armstrong's use of the trust was eventually questioned by a trust officer, who terminated its distribution to the church as of December 2001.

Once Armstrong's access to the trust was cut off, the indictment said, the pastor began using the general funds of the church to pay for his son's and daughter's educations. Court records say Armstrong siphoned $291,000 from the church and the trust over a 7 1/2-year period.

When Armstrong left the Episcopal Church, he said the split was over theological differences, such as his opposition to gay marriage and the church's ordination of openly gay clergy.

The rest is here-

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