Episcopal court issues tentative verdict against breakaway priest | PostIndependent.com

Episcopal court issues tentative verdict against breakaway priest

DENVER (AP) ” An Episcopal church court issued a preliminary ruling that the leader of a breakaway church is guilty of financial misconduct, officials said Wednesday.

The Rev. Donald Armstrong of Colorado Springs faces internal allegations including theft and tax fraud. The ruling was made Aug. 2 and released Wednesday.

Both Armstrong and Colorado bishop Robert O’Neill have 30 days to respond to the preliminary ruling. The court will then issue a final judgment along with recommendations for a sentence.

Diocese spokeswoman Beckett Stokes declined comment.

Armstrong has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Dennis Hartley, has called the process a “witch hunt.”

Armstrong, the rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen’s parish in Colorado Springs and now a member of a conservative Anglican diocese, is accused of having the church pay him $392,409 between 1999 and 2006 without authorization of the church vestry.

Church lawyers allege the money was used for personal expenses for his wife and family and were covered up by “false and misleading” entries that Armstrong told the church’s bookkeeper to use.

Armstrong and his lawyer boycotted a church court hearing last week, saying that Armstrong is no longer under O’Neill’s authority.

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