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Colo. Megachurch Pastor Suspended Amid Money Misuse Probe

The leader of an Episcopal church in this city has been suspended while officials investigate whether he misused church money, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.
( [email protected] ) Jan 06, 2007 08:16 PM EST

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - The leader of an Episcopal church in this city has been suspended while officials investigate whether he misused church money, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

The Rev. Donald Armstrong was placed on 90-day paid administrative leave last week. The diocese said during that time, the pastor will not be allowed on the property of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, where he has led the 2,500-member congregation for 19 years.

The diocese, in a news release Wednesday, said Armstrong also "will not exercise any functions or pastoral responsibilities as a priest."

Officials at the church said the suspension followed a nine-month review of its finances by the diocese. Congregants first learned of the news on Sunday.

"He is the chief shepherd, and him not being here you feel the void," said Rev. Michael O'Donnell, Grace's associate rector.

The diocese did not release details of the allegations against the pastor. Armstrong could not be reached for comment by The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

"This confidentiality exists to protect the interests of all involved while an investigation is ongoing," diocesan Chancellor Larry Hitt said in the statement.

Bishop Robert O'Neill, head of the diocese, said Armstrong has been cooperative with the investigation. He said the pastor is presumed to be innocent.

"This is clearly a very difficult time for all who are affected by this investigation," he said.

Armstrong's lawyer, Daniel Sears, said he's conducting his own probe.

"Certainly I have certain questions as to the merit of a number of these allegations," the Denver-based attorney said. "And we will be attempting quite diligently to determine their veracity."

Armstrong's suspension comes two months after another Colorado Springs pastor, Ted Haggard, was fired from the 14,000-member New Life Church after acknowledging he bought drugs from a male prostitute and received massages from the man. Haggard also resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

A month later, another pastor at New Life, Christopher Beard, resigned after admitting sexual misconduct and other mistakes. He had revealed that he had a "sexual encounter" several years ago.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.