Colorado Springs Parish votes to break from Episcopal Church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A majority of voting members at Grace Church and St. Stephens Parish in Colorado Springs have declared their willingness to break away from the Episcopal Church to join a conservative Anglican network more in line with their beliefs, according to spokesman Alan Crippen.
The vote, tallied Saturday, showed 93 percent of 370 voting members approved of the plan to leave the Episcopal Church, Crippen said. It capped an ongoing period of uncertainty that began March 26 when parish rector, The Rev. Don Armstrong, and a majority of the church’s governing board, declared they were each individually leaving the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Colorado.

Because the schismatic act was so unusual, the breakaway parish leaders said they would set up a vote to determine what parishioners wanted to do.

Armstrong has been under an ongoing investigation by the diocese of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in parish funds. He denies the charge and says is an act of revenge by the diocese and Bishop Rob O’Neill because of his conservative beliefs.

In a second ballot question, 78 percent of the voters declared they wanted the breakaway leadership of Grace Church to continue fighting to hold on to the church property at 601 N. Tejon St. The 135-year-old property, which occupies a city block, is now embroiled in a legal dispute with the Episcopal Church in El Paso County District Court.

Crippen said he believed the "no" votes on both ballot questions came from Grace Church members loyal to the diocese and to Bishop Rob O’Neill, even though the Episcopal loyalists had said all along that they would refuse to legitimize Armstrong’s cause by participating in the vote.

Crippen said the will of the voting majority was indisputable, "and showed clearly a very strong mandate to affirm the vestry decision of March 26 (to leave the Episcopal Church)."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Latest NewsCANAEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: ColoradoTEC Departing Parishes

Posted May 27, 2007 at 7:13 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Tom Roberts wrote:

“Crippen said he believed the “no” votes on both ballot questions came from Grace Church members loyal to the diocese and to Bishop Rob O’Neill, even though the Episcopal loyalists had said all along that they would refuse to legitimize Armstrong’s cause by participating in the vote. “

Perhaps this article might not wish to confuse matters with a third group that questions both +O’Neill and Armstrong+? Just guessing.

May 27, 9:42 am | [comment link]
2. jane4re wrote:

I am curious about the disparagy between the numbers tauted before the split of church membership being around 2500 and only 370 votes cast.  When headlines say they voted overwhelmingly to leave, it seems a bit of an exageration to say 93% voted to leave when only about 15% voted.  Although this sounds like the voting for most elections in this country.  What number was eligible to vote and did Grace go to the same pains to get an accurate list of membership that the VA churches did?

May 27, 10:14 am | [comment link]
3. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

93 percent of 370 votes equals 344 votes to break away. What, again, was the registered membership of this parish? And what was the recorded ASA? It sounds as if the vote that was held may have failed to achieve a plurality of the membership for departure from TEC. The diocese says (below) that 200 to 400 people are attending an alternate site for loyalists. If these attenders are actually registered members (which at least some of them are), and especially if the 400 figure is factual, the opposition to the split may have achieved their goal to cast doubt on the outcome of the vote by staying away.

It remains problematic to jump in to support one side or the other in the case of this church and this rector. It may never become clear. The one thing that will always be clear, though, is the saving power of Jesus Christ and his word: If you love me, keep my commandments.

May 27, 10:19 am | [comment link]
4. C.B. wrote:

Yes, this vote is very confusing to say the least. How many were eligible to vote?  It is quite possible that more who were eligible to vote didn’t vote (abstained in protest of the vote) than the number who actually voted to leave. If this is the case, spinning numbers is meaningless.

May 27, 1:36 pm | [comment link]
5. C.B. wrote:

“Crippen said he didn’t consider the 370 votes to necessarily represent a low voter turnout or distinterest, because there may be elderly, younger members and travelers who may not have been able to participate.” 

Well at least he’s willing to acknowledge that that turn out was low. But his reasons for why are questionable.

May 27, 1:41 pm | [comment link]
6. Dave C. wrote:

I assume the ASA of Episcopal churches includes non-members, children, and often perhaps people double counted (who participated in more than one service).  I don’t know what was done at Grace, of course; I don’t even know how the counting is done at my own parish—I just know that it seems to overestimate the actual numbers.  The point is, with 800 ASA, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that those 800 people would all be even eligible to vote.  Also, while there are concrete numbers of those who voted yea or nay, there is no way to know how many eligible voters stayed away for what reason.  I’m sure a good number didn’t participate as a way of protest, but how many more were unable or didn’t care one way or the other?  It seems to me an affirmative vote to move out of TEC by over 300 people and 90+% of the voters is hard to argue with. 

Of course none of this really matters to the bishop or the leadership in TEC anyway.  If 100% of the members voted to leave TEC the bishop’s response would be the same.

May 27, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
7. Hursley wrote:

Sadly, another “truth by majority” vote situation. It all sounds too much like something at GC, just on the “flip side.”

May 27, 5:13 pm | [comment link]
8. PadreWayne wrote:

The numbers are not impressive. Do their bylaws allow such a small attendance (or portion of membership) to even vote? The headlines are truly misleading.

May 27, 5:31 pm | [comment link]
9. Bill Cool wrote:

All this hypothesizing about the numbers of non-voters seems a bit fruitless. I presume that the vestry and the parish’s lawyers know with some exactness what the bylaws / canons / whatever of the parish require for a vote to be valid at a congregational meeting. They would certainly been advised to work the process scrupulously by Bp Minns, although such advice would almost certainly be superfluous, since they are already engaged in defending themselves against courtroom attacks by the bishop and diocese and would be making every effort to arrive at a strong defensible result.

In Virginia, we making the CANA decision went to extraordinary lengths to register eligible voters, sign them in at the meeting using the registration list, and follow both our parish rules and those unanimously recommended in the report by the joint diocesan - multi-parish commission. (This commission was chaired by the diocesan chancellor, its unanimous recommendation was accepted by the bishop, received by the diocesan executive committee, then abruptly disavowed by the bishop and diocese as they and TEC sued the parishes, vestries and clergy).

May 27, 8:12 pm | [comment link]
10. Anselmic wrote:

I’m with #3 above. 2500 was the number touted by the parish early on in the dispute. This was rounded down to 800, and now we have not even half that voting to affiliate with CANA. I wonder if as in so many cases many have just quietly slipped away, not wanting to go against either priest or bishop.

May 27, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
11. PadreWayne wrote:

Anselmic #10:  I wonder if as in so many cases many have
just quietly slipped away, not wanting to go against either priest or
Yes, I wonder that, too. I also wonder, though, how many have not wanted to go with +Akinola.

May 27, 10:28 pm | [comment link]
12. FrPhillips wrote:

If this is a parish with a healthy number of relatively young families, to have 344 out of 800 voting to join CANA, that would seem to be a very strong number.  If only 150 of the votes represented a husband and wife, that would be 75 families.  If each of those families had two or three children in them, it would represent another few hundred non-voting but attending parishioners.

I guess the point is that we shouldn’t try to read too much into numbers.  Those who voted are the ones who get to speak on the issue, and it appears that their voice is loud and clear.

May 28, 12:17 am | [comment link]
13. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

This morning’s Rocky Mountain News has the numbers:,1299,DRMN_15_5558997,00.html
344 votes to split out of 822 eligible voting members is 42%. With a very active counter-revolution under way and a well-attended service noted at the counter-revolutionary church, there is serious doubt as to whether a full vote of the parish would have elected to split. One can project with some confidence that, at the least, a super-majority to split could not be had.

I contrast this with the parish I was in when the hastily-called parich meeting voted on departure from TEC. The voting results were similar—more approachng 98 percent than 93—but after the vote no more than a handful or two of parishioners could be found willing to buck the trend. The diocesan bishop was unable to find enough parishioners to set up a counter-vestry, and was only able to find one lone parishioner willing to join in the lawsuit against the church on behalf of the diocese.
This situation in Colorado is sad indeed.

May 28, 7:41 am | [comment link]
14. C.B. wrote:

Andrew Gerns reports at Episcopal Cafe - “The rules established for the vote require that members of the Episcopal parish must re-register as members of the CANA congregation, contribute to the new congregation and attend its worship.”

May 28, 9:34 am | [comment link]
15. Crazy Horse wrote:

#13—is that the way we run elections in this country—assume that everyone who didn’t vote is on your side—so that the 340 or whatever that voted to leave are outnumbered by the 500 who didn’t vote that you assume would have voted to stay. On what basis would you think that is how they would have voted if they had voted?

Statistically a vote is a sample and the sample suggests that if there was a 100% turnout they would have voted at the rate of 93% to leave for CANA—but in truth, elections are always about a majority of votes casts.

Those who don’t vote, give up their voice.

The number used at church yesterday was that after people notified the church they had gone elsewhere—like to Rome or to New Life or to the golf course—the total number of eligible voters was 773, and that the demographics of the parish are such that this represents 2200 people when you add in children and shut-ins.

May 28, 11:08 am | [comment link]
16. Br_er Rabbit wrote:


The rules established for the vote require that members of the Episcopal parish must re-register as members of the CANA congregation, contribute to the new congregation and attend its worship.

If this is true, then the vote has been railroaded and should not stand. Such tactics would never pass the standards established by international vote inspectors who are called in to observe elections in struggling countries. There is always a danger when a voting system is not administered by a disinterested party, or under exacting regulations.

May 28, 11:45 am | [comment link]
17. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

By contrast, the vote at my former church was conducted with a super-majority of the formerly eligible voters present, and a super-majority of those present voting to depart TEC. No one was struck from the roles. That provided a lot of confidence in the vote. The procedures at Grace Church, if accurately reported above, provide no such confidence.

May 28, 11:51 am | [comment link]
18. laura wrote:

CB—the information you cite is completely inaccurate.  I know this because I voted last Sunday and there were no qualifiers to voting such as pre-registering as a CANA member or contributing to the CANA church.  All parishioners in good standing for the last year (meaning that they participated, contributed in some way and regularly attended) was very inclusive.  Whoever wrote that article should be scolded for using an internet blog as a reference.  The TEC loyalists at Grace have attempted to spread these rumors about the vote to keep people from participating.

May 28, 3:55 pm | [comment link]
19. John B. Chilton wrote:

If #18 is correct, there is no mandate in the congregation in support of leaving.

Recall also that not so long ago in this blog Armstrong was defending his salary on the basis that the size of the congregation put it in line with diocesan suggested lower bounds for large parishes. Shall I believe everything I read in blogs?

May 28, 4:28 pm | [comment link]
20. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

Thank you Laura for bringing the truth out. I am much relieved. I pray healing for all the members of Grace church in this difficult time.

May 28, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
21. FrankV wrote:

I seem to remember in this community that city councils, mayors and ballot issues are often decided, and go into effect, with only 15% or so of eligible voters turning out to vote.  And even there, things are passed with only a 51% majority.  So what else is new?

May 28, 6:09 pm | [comment link]
22. ruidh wrote:

This kind of turnout after the highly publicized “40 days of discernment” can only be viewed as a vote of “no confidence” in the current leadership of the church. Church people who don’t want to make waves tend to withdraw from these kinds of confrontative situations. At this point, it appears that there are more members willing to stand up for the continued association of Grace and St. Stevens with the diocese than there are members willing to vote to leave.

This vote can only be viewed as disastrous though it will, no doubt, be spun as a great victory for realignment.

May 29, 11:09 am | [comment link]
23. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “This kind of turnout after the highly publicized “40 days of discernment” can only be viewed as a vote of “no confidence” in the current leadership of the church.”

Well—from the revisionists, yes, that’s how it can be viewed. ; > )

Otherwise, we don’t have enough information.  We’d need to compare the numbers of those who voted in other parish elections, and we’d need to compare with those other parishes of similar size who voted on CANA affiliation.

I suspect that more likely it merely indicates *indifference* regarding diocesan affiliation.

But again, we don’t know.  We’d have to figure out some way to judge the reasons for the turnout and attempt to discover whether the turnout is fairly typical or an odd thing.

May 29, 1:05 pm | [comment link]
24. C.B. wrote:

While I agree with Sarah that more information would be helpful in understanding the full implications of the low turnout (Grace/CANA, itself, has acknowledged that the turn out was low), given the high profile the vote has had for forty plus days, the level of rhetoric against TEC and Bishop O’Neill that has come out of the mouths of both Armstrong and the CANA vestry, to attribute the low turnout to indifference does not seem either likely or possible. In addition, comparing this vote to other votes by the congregation shows us very little. What other vote on any other matter could have been so important?

May 29, 1:42 pm | [comment link]
25. Ex-Catholic wrote:

Sarah wrote re the low turnout: “I suspect that more likely it merely indicates *indifference* regarding diocesan affiliation. “
This would probably be the case for many of the former TEC congregations (note: I didn’t say parishes smile ) that have left TEC.

My personal take on my church leaving the TEC: we were just plain tired of the debate that went on for 3 long years.  It was sapping the energy of the clergy, the staff and the laity.  The last thing people wanted to hear from the pulpit, or read from the papers is the ongoing controversy with the TEC.  I was getting tired of updating my co-workers about the next episode in this soap opera.

What a relief for all of us when we finally left TEC and joined AmiA.  To see more than 50 confirmed at a recent service was a joy!  To talk about the mission and vision for our future was exciting to hear from the pulpit.

Of course, we know we have left other brothers and sisters behind in the TEC.  Perhaps, we might still be looked at as second-class Anglicans because we’re in the AmiA.  But, you know what, at this point in our journey, we rejoice that we can still do God’s work and move forward in furthering His kingdom.  I’m glad that we were able to amicably settle our departure with our former diocese.  I only wish that other TEC bishops would do the same.

May 30, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
26. Bill Cool wrote:

There is actually only one conclusion that can be drawn from this vote and it is that 93% of those voting in this official parish election chose in favor of the question whether the parish should join CANA. One cannot infer motive, nor can one infer why some did not choose to vote.

One cannot even infer that the 7% who voted against CANA liked what the Diocese of Colorado was doing and voted to stay in order to continue to join in whatever those actions were. During our period of discernment at Truro, one couple told me that they wanted to stay in TEC, but to stay and continue the fight against the apostasy that they saw. I do not know whether they were part of the 8% of Truro that voted not to leave TEC, but I do cite this example to show that one cannot infer the reasons why 7% of Grace St. Stephens voted not to leave TEC.

May 30, 9:52 pm | [comment link]
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