Following the links.
Let’s look at the documentation:
The H & R Block Tax Preparer Letter:
..,Reverend Armstrong seemed to me to be an honmest taxpayer and a good record-keeper…I only saw someone who was trying to comply with a complex tax situation.
No vehicle expenses were ever taken on Form 2106.
I did not remember to do the amendment for 2003 until June 7, 2007??????????????????????????
The personal pronoun “I” here would indicate Mary VanDersal, EA who confesses guilt for forgetting to amend the 2003 form from the spring of 2007 unto June 7, 2007.
I not sure what Brian has against H&R;Block, but he really seems to be critical of this lady.
The letter states that the corrected W-2s were brought to the tax preparer by Armstrong in the spring of 2007 and she made the amendment in June (after her vacation).
The report itself exonerates the rector of wrong doing, but it is very critical of accounting practices at Grace and St. Stephen’s, with the vestry, staff and auditors all coming in for criticism. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for all those of us involved in parish governance; don’t just avoid impropriety but the appearance of same. How many times have I accepted what the finance committee told me because I trust them to be rigorous? It has me thinking, anyway.
The Bishop and his apologists are people falling off a legal, moral and spiritual cliff, looking for even the thinnest of twigs protruding from the precipice’s face upon which to cling. They need something, anything to stick to Armstrong+ to justify their multi-year campaign of smear and plunder. We’re down to breathless charges of [b]failing to fill out a Form 2106!!!!![/b] Soulless bureaucrats, all.
Less we forget, the clerical error would not be easy for Armstrong+ to spot, it would be lumped into line 1.
Outcome be damn! The Bishop and Diocesan officials got exactly what they wanted; they used questionable allegations and the procedural mechanisms at their disposal to brutally bludgeon a priest and his parish. What does vindication mean if you’ve been flattened by an onerous attack waged against you? It’s the old, “you might win, but we’ll destroy you using the very process that will get you that win.
For those who haven’t figured this all out yet, this Bishop and his gang have merely taken a page from 815’s “we’ll litigate the pants off you” approach to Christian governance. The track record is abysmal when you look at it. Those with nearly unlimited resources (read “TEC”) almost always prevail in the courts. And if they lose, ironically, they still have a voctory having morally and financially beaten down their foe. Unfortunately, the most esteemed (yawn) Chancellor of TEC and his boss, ++KJS, are both keenly aware of this fact.
All of this shows why we should not have an income tax to beging with. There are too many pitfalls and unknowns that a person can fall into. I suggest that we scrap the current federal tax system and change it so that the federal government is funded by a portion of state revenue. e.g. however a state chooses to collect its revenue, it then send a percentage of that (say 15% or 20%, I haven’t run the numbers) to the federal government. This means that instead of the government processing hundreds of millions of tax returns, it has to process 50 (albeit 50 complicated ones). A state’s return should be significantly less complicated than a major corporation’s return and since the “tax” is not on income (a nebulous concept), but on revenue (did someone give you money), there are no issues of expenses or other items). Being an upaid accountant for the federal government is fun, but does everyone have to play?
I agree with Phil. The income tax is an abomination and needs to go. The Government should tax to raise revenue, not encourage or discourage behavior. If they want to manage behavior let them do it through other laws.
Good catch! Let’s damn Armstrong because his accountant submitted in June what could have been done in April 07; all while we give moral support to those who lead others to Satan. Sounds good to me. /sardonicism
Income tax will be simplified (flat tax, fair tax, etc) when Schori and +Iker agree on WO.
Reading some of the documents makes clear the perfidy of O’Neill. His “forensic” auditor had only parts of the information, most strikingly never talked to the Church auditors, and proclaimed guilt. She never talked to any of the vestry or Wardens.
Kind of makes one lose faith in the honesty of TEC leadership.
Faith in TEC leadership?!? That’s an idol I would never worship. Seriously, I long ago lost any respect for the National Church. I have only some respect for my Bishop and he is a conservative. I just keep trying to invite people to know the Love of Christ.
Outcome be damn! The Bishop and Diocesan officials got exactly what they wanted; they used questionable allegations and the procedural mechanisms at their disposal to brutally bludgeon a priest and his parish. What does vindication mean if youâ€™ve been flattened by an onerous attack waged against you? Itâ€™s the old, â€œyou might win, but weâ€™ll destroy you using the very process that will get you that win.
This is my issue with this whole case. What does +O’Neill gain from making false accusations? The argument from the supporters of Armstrong is that he has some sort of vendetta. What for? Why spend so much money on so many professional and well-respected firms/individuals to carry out a “witch hunt” when he can basically depose him for some other canonical issue. We know the issue isn’t CANA because Armstrong ran to that the day the report came out. In addition, if the accusations are false, then why are the authorities considering this an “ongoing investigation?” It’s one thing to defend someone on the merits (which has not been succesfully done here), it is another to defend the person because you don’t like the accuser. This is just nonsensical.
BfT19 – [i]”…when he can basically depose him for some other canonical issue.”[/i] And what might that be? Being too orthodox? I have not heard that is in the canons of the the TEC (yet!). You have convicted Father Armstrong in your own heart and no amount of evidence will sway you. Sad.
A friend of mine had a disgruntled employee call the IRS and claimed my friend was cheating on taxes, after an exhusting audit over several days the IRS auditor could find no errors in the business records so he went to the personnel tax records, found a small error and fined them $350. They payed rather than appeal. Look at the Duke lacross case. On going investigations mean nothing and if +O’Neill could discredit Armstrong+ +O’Neill might have been able to derail the move to CANA and kept the Church property.
[blockquote]What does +Oâ€™Neill gain from making false accusations?[/blockquote]
O’Neill gets what every tyrant gets, intimidation. All the other rectors know that if they do not toe the line that they can expect the same treatment.
I’m not convinced by all this. First, in Colorado, it is illegal for a non-profit corporation to give any loans to officers. Doesn’t matter if they are paid back or not.
More importantly, discretionary accounts are for the needy. Bibles, choir robes, etc shouldn’t be a part of them.
Finally, the vehemence people on this blog have toward Bishop O’Neill (and others with whom they disagree) is truly astounding. I would state that it is not biblical, nor does it reflect well on anyone here.
O’Neill’s kangaroo court, based upon a “forensic” auditor who did not even talk to the normal church auditors does not reflect well on him, nor TEC. Massive fraud was alleged, now disproved, with the report published for all to see and comment. This does not mean that mistakes were not made, and admitted, it just means that there was no fraud.
Will O’neill likewise publish his reports? If not? why not?
Phil writes, “I would state that it is not biblical, nor does it reflect well on anyone here.” Nor does bearing false witness, nor conducting trial by press release, nor does presumption of guilt with defiance of evidence to the contrary.
BillS is absolutely correct. O’Neill gets major intimidation factor points. There are other churches thinking about realigning. (It is clear that O’Neill is for repeal of B033 and “full inclusion” in 2009.) Bp O’Neill is telling other churches, who don’t have near the financial resources, we will come out with “shock and awe” force.
We already know +O’neill will not publish his documents. That is what got him in trouble with the trial judge!
So two wrongs make a right in this case? What about loving our enemies?
I, for one, want to stand with honor and trying to live most fully into the call to love even those I disagree with. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you are so jaded that living faithfully into Jesus’ call to love is impossible for you right now.
As I stated, I am not satisfied with this report from the auditors since it doesn’t answer all of the questions. I don’t know Fr. Armstrong, so this is not about anything against him.
Pere Phil wrote:
[blockquote]More importantly, discretionary accounts are for the needy. Bibles, choir robes, etc shouldnâ€™t be a part of them.[/blockquote]
Interesting you should mention that – perhaps you should read TEC’s own handbook on discretionary funds, which states that they are [i]not[/i] only for the poor.
The trap you have fallen into is the common misconception that has arisen recently out of the liberal, revisionist, equal-outcome school of thought that says the foremost missive of the church is social.
That is not the case. It can easily argued that buying Bibles does more for the Kingdom of God then donating a couple hundred dollars to a soup kitchen.
Soldier of Christ,
#19: The website for Grace Episcopal Church & St. Stephen’s Parish has links to Colorado Diocesan documents in this case: http://www.graceepiscopalcolosprings.org
As a follow up to #22, I am trying to find a link for the Diocese of Colorado’s Motion for Summary Judgment of Offense brought in the ecclesiastical trial court. I know that its out there!
I don’t have a dog in this fight but what would you do if the authorities decline to press charges?
(I suppose I could ask the same to folks on the other side: what will you di if the authorities do press charged…)
The fact that there is an “ongoing” investigation is, in and of itself, meaningless until the investigation is concluded and charges are tendered.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27. Is this social?
TEC’s policy states “The appropriate and traditional use of clergy discretionary funds is to address needs among congregation and community members. Payments for food, rent, utilities, medical bills and the like for persons in need are typical uses of these funds.” (Ch 5, Sec E.1)
It also says that it is inappropriate to use it “to meet expenses which normally should be covered by the operating budget.” Allowances are made, “if funds are not provided by a budgeted line item.”
So, sure, Bibles given to those who don’t have them would qualify. Bibles for the pew, probably not.
I have not fallen into any traps, as far as I can tell, but the Bible does say an awful lot about taking care of others, and if that’s defined as social so be it. Jesus reached out to those in need — both physically and spiritually — and had more to say about money than anything else. And in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats giving food to the hungry was mentioned, so there is no certainty that the $200 for a soup kitchen isn’t furthering God’s kingdom.
Please do not put words in my mouth. I said that the [i]foremost[/i] missive of the Church is not social. If you don’t believe me, look at John 18:37 and see why Jesus Christ came into the world. (Hint: it wasn’t a social mission.) One of the missions of the Church is social, but this should never take precedence over the Gospel. [i]That[/i] is the liberal trap.
Back to Grace Church. You admit that the TEC policy states that discretionary funds can be used for congregational needs as well. If you see the purchase of Bibles for graduating seniors as a violation of this, then yes, you have fallen prey to the liberal social lie.
Zechariah, I wouldn’t worry about the arguing with Phil about discretionary funds. This has become a weapon of choice to bring down orthodox clergy. They can and will disagree with any item to advance their cause (which, in this case, is the attempted demise of Father Armstrong). It is almost ludicrous. Father Armstrong has some money at the end of the month in his discretionary fund, and he uses to buy the church some bibles, and these people object.
Our church implemented an overly restrictive policy on discretionary fund to protect clergy against these darts. It is sad but that is reality.
Gospel as defined by Jesus is this: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lordâ€™s favor.” We can do this all day if you like.
Yes, discretionary funds can be used for congregational needs as well, if there is not a regular line item for them. Bibles as gifts for students, choir robes, and the like should fall under a regular line item. It isn’t like someone says in May, “Let’s get Bibles for our students” without thinking of it before then.
Obviously you disagree. For a place as wealthy as Grace Church, this shouldn’t be an oversight in my estimation. Having done youth ministry for a long time, I always made both Bible and BCP gifts for students as a regular line in my budgetting.
But thanks for twice calling me dupped by the “liberal social lie,” whatever you mean by that. If your idea of the Gospel doesn’t include reaching out to those around us with listening to Jesus’ voice about the truth, I think you have seriously misread scripture. If you disagree, I’ll be happy for you to show me I am wrong.
First, in Colorado, it is illegal for a non-profit corporation to give any loans to officers. Doesnâ€™t matter if they are paid back or not.
I do not know Colorado law, I do know CPA should know it and should have referenced it, but I did not see it. However an objective source is looking into this currently and if the authorities do not prosecute than you would be error.
More importantly, discretionary accounts are for the needy. Bibles, choir robes, etc shouldnâ€™t be a part of them.
Discretionary is just what it means, however I tend to agree with you. I’d be hoping mad if I donated money to find out this is what went on, but nothing illegal just I’d probably find a vestry I could trust if I found this out.
Finally, the vehemence people on this blog have toward Bishop Oâ€™Neill (and others with whom they disagree) is truly astounding.
First off, I said nothing about +O’Neill, until now, so your blanket statement says a lot more about you.
The bishop held his own little pow-wow first then went to the State, none are qualified to judge Armstrong+ guilt on matters of civil law. I also found it odd that Grace voted to leave then enters the Forty Days of Discernment. Both are exactly reverse of what should happen, the difference is the bishop entered territory of an illegal act for if a civil court does not declare Armstrong+ guilty of a crime than the bishop will have slandered an innocent man. The only realm the DioCO has any right is to judge that a load violated cannon law and in that area, I’m sure their qualified to declare Armstrong+ guilty (which they have).
“Show me the man, and I’ll find the crime.” – Lavrenty Beria (now possibly on retainer in DioCO)
“If the authorities do not prosecute than you would be error” —#29
Incorrect. Not all illegal acts are crimes. Not all crimes are prosecuted.
_ _ _ _ _ _
“I…found it odd that Grace voted to leave then enters the Forty Days of Discernment. Both are exactly reverse of what should happen” —#29
True. But if the official discernment period had preceded the departure, Grace would have had no opportunity to depart: the bishop would have deposed the clergy and vestry and installed leaders more amenable to his will.
Yet it’s troubling, in any event, to have Grace’s departure seem so intertwined with the investigation of Fr. Armstrong—as though Grace had left not purely on principle but also to avoid potential embarassment.
What makes you think I’m not an orthodox clergy person?
#31 Yet we who are such limited/fallen creatures, we must presume innocence until proven guilty in the US jurisprudence. Thus it would be wrong to continue to claim a crime if the case is dropped (no worries, we’re promised even every loose or stupid word I’ve spoken on a blog will be held to account thus will those crimes never prosecuted in the courts of men).
You are correct that you said nothing against the Bishop. Others have and I’ve seen it as a pattern on this blog. I simply ask why do we have to resort to name calling? Are the beliefs we hold so tenuous that we need to do this?
BfT19 – â€œ…when he can basically depose him for some other canonical issue.â€ And what might that be? Being too orthodox? I have not heard that is in the canons of the the TEC (yet!). You have convicted Father Armstrong in your own heart and no amount of evidence will sway you. Sad.
I wasn’t suggesting that he be deposed, I was saying that if the bishop wanted to target him unfairly, there are much cheaper ways
Oâ€™Neill gets what every tyrant gets, intimidation. All the other rectors know that if they do not toe the line that they can expect the same treatment.
If that is the case, then +O’Niell would be a sociopath and megalomaniac. My experience of him does not suggest that he is either.
We already know +Oâ€™neill will not publish his documents. That is what got him in trouble with the trial judge!
I think you are talking about +Skip, not +O’Neill
What makes you think Iâ€™m not an orthodox clergy person?
Phil, the reason is that robroy can not believe that love is part of the Gospel. His god is a god of battles, hatred, fire and brimstone. Anything is fair in the ‘holy war’ for his warrior god. Sadly, love and grace have to be experienced to be believed in.
Pere Phil might want to chat with folks in Dio Rio Grande regarding Bp O’ Neill’s key role in the 815-directed bullying of Bp Steenson.
Brian is right on 37, wrong on 38. Reappraisers “love” to talk about love (of neighbor) while forgetting that love of God is “the first and greatest commandment” and only from it flows love of neighbor. It is oxymoronic to claim that love of neighbor allows disobedience of God.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
I do take exception with, [i]Anything is fair in the â€˜holy warâ€™ for his warrior god.[/i] One of the “frustrating” aspects of being on the good side is that one can’t resort to public slander, one can’t lie (e.g., your bishop Bruno or your presiding bishop “nobody signed nothing”), one can’t ignore scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
As to the the social gospel, I am blessed with a profession that allows me to practice it every day.
They really need to do something about handling the Discretionary Fund accounting better. After reading +Armstrong’s list of disbursements, purposes, explanations, charge-backs, etc., all I can say is: No wonder the bookkeepers had problems. Clearly, the chaos wasn’t all their doing.
Advice to Mr. Armstrong: Remove your name from the list of those authorized to sign checks! Let somebody else handle financial details. You stick to the pulpit and parishioners’ needs.
I agree with w.w. Father Armstrong created a big part of this mess it seems, and I stand by initial comments that these audit documents don’t seem to address all of the concerns.
Second, I cannot account for anyone’s actions nor do I justify them (response to #39). I merely suggested in my initial comments that we not lower ourselves to name-calling on those with whom we might disagree.
I would add to Bill Matz’s comment #39 that if one loves God first and foremost then a love of neighbor should flow out of this. James 3 gives us something to really think about in this matter in relation to our words.
If those gathered here are the “good side” as mentioned above, shouldn’t our words reflect that? Or do we think that we are superior to others and therefore don’t need to live into that standard with them? Do we think that those with whom we disagree aren’t made in God’s image?
May our words today be sweet because tonight we might be eating them. But then again we have:
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
“”You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?”
Clearly deceitfulness in religious leaders (and I am thinking of Andrus and perhaps O’Neill) is to be condemned in the harshest language.
I think I have identified the source of TEC’s problems reading the Bible. They seem to have an institutional practice of using language like Humpty Dumpty. Diocesan “asking” for contributions from the parishes is “asking” like Vinnie and Guido ask for the vig — with baseball bats in hand. And the rector’s “discretionary” fund isn’t very discretionary at all. And publicly making charges of dishonesty and tax evasion on the basis of selective, partial and incomplete evidence isn’t libel.
Even more interesting is that no one seems to think that Fr. Armstrong could get a fair hearing in the church. For that, he would need to go to the secular courts. That’s a telling lack of confidence in the integrity of supposed men of God.
Clergy need to be totally scrupulous about discretionary funds. In the ‘old days’, several priests have told me, they were usually viewed as a sort of slush fund for clergy to supplement their usually poor pay. “It was the unspoken agreement that my very wealthy parishioners gave to the discretionary fund because they were embarrassed that I was paid so little,” one told me. This distinguished priest (long retired) used the fund for everything from buying lunches for himself and parishioners at elegant restaurants, to purchasing new carpet for the parish hall, to paying for his continuing education expenses. He never felt good about it, and was relieved to never face an IRS audit. “Everyone did it, and said it was fine,” he explained, “but as I look back, I’m ashamed of all of us. It certainly made it nearly impossible to ask the Vestry for a proper wage.”
Donations to discretionary funds have also been used to avoid the diocesan asking. It works this way: Rich vestry member A simply gives to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund, result: Member A gets the tax deduction, Rector gets full control of the money (sometimes using it on items the congregation should pay for, such as choir robes, continuing education, or even heating bills). Since the funds are NOT reported on the Parochial Report, they are effectively hidden from both parishioners and the bishop.
This scenario is very, very tempting to clergy (who generally are paid far below the average income of their parish households, especially if forced to live in a rectory), and to laity who resent the diocesan asking. The correct use of discretionary funds is spelled out; it is way past time for both clergy and laity to obey the rules.
Some motives behind ONeill’s actions:
1. L.A. Bishop Jon Bruno wants to be Presiding Bishop some day.
2. He and Armstrong were classmates at Virginia Theological
3. Armstrong has stated on this blog that ” Bruno was a fraud then
and still is today”.
4. TEC likes Bruno [ he’s big and intimidating, though not that
spiritually enlightened ].
5. O’Neill is assigned to help TEC get Armstrong out of Bruno’s way.