Monday, March 30, 2009

Colorado Judge Rules Against Breakaway Church

On Tuesday of this week, El Paso County district judge, Larry E. Schwartz, ruled that the property and assets of Grace Church & St. Stephen's in downtown Colorado Springs were held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Denver-based Diocese of Colorado, and ordered the breakaway group to vacate the $17 million property. The Judge has given the church, now known as St. George's Anglican Church, until 5:00 p.m., April 3 to evacuate the premises.

The congregation had continued to meet in the historic Gothic building after a majority vote in March of 2007 severed ties with the Episcopal Church and led to an affiliation with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Lawsuits which were filed by both sides claiming ownership of the property and assets, led to a month-long trial that was resolved just this week. Rev. Donald Armstrong, who has been Rector at the church for over 21 years, has until May 8 to move out of the parsonage.

According to a statement released by St. George's Anglican Church on Tuesday, "As to the future of our congregation, it's the people and not the building that is at the heart of our life in Christ," Armstrong said. "This decision is one major step out of the ambiguity in which we have lived these past two years and will allow us to more readily refocus on gospel work and service. At the very least, this is an occasion for renewal and recommitment to the essential things of gospel work. Our Plan B is well-developed, exciting and will be announced shortly."

The congregation of about 500 that remained loyal to the Episcopal Church, and had been meeting at First Christian Church in Colorado Springs, will be able to hold services in the building on Palm Sunday, April 5. The new location for services for the Anglican congregation will be announced in the next few days. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the breakaway church has about 1,200 members.

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