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Armstrong declares AI/ACI mission "no longer valid"

The Rocky Mountain News reports that Don Armstrong, who until last week was executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute (previously known as the Anglican Institute), has this to say about the organization:

"... essentially ACI's work is done. Their mission is no longer valid as the Episcopal Church enters its last days, and their house of cards comes tumbling down."

April 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3)

ABC to visit U.S.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams announced earlier today that he will meet with "the U.S. church." This brief article -- thus far the only information on the announcement -- doesn't make clear whether that means that he'll meet with lay leaders, deacons, and/or priests; I think, given his patterns of behavior and speech in recent years, it's a given that he will meet with bishops.

Tip o' th' hat to epiScope for the link.

UPDATE 1:31 p.m. -- There's now this brief press release posted on Episcopal Life Online. Not much more information, aside from a brief quote and a note that the ABC will coming with members of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council.

April 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

the "Communion" afterthought

A few months ago, I referred to the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) as a group that "goes to some lengths to establish itself as being something other than six guys with a website and some spare time." Now that a presentment has been issued against the ACI's executive director, Fr. Don Armstrong, with the charges including diversion of funds for "AI/ACI" expenses, Christopher Seitz, the ACI's preseident, is describing his organization in the same way as part of a case that the ACI was never involved with Armstrong's parish or its earlier ministry, "the Anglican Institute."

Seitz says in his first a long series of comments on Kendall Harmon's blog that, "ACI was formed at the January 2004 conference in Charleston, with the dissolving of SEAD, so as to assist several Primates and the work of the AC. Prior to this, there was an ‘Anglican Institute’ at Grace Church."

The Internet Archive (also known as the "Wayback Machine") shows a page retrieved and archived on September 21, 2003 from http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org that lists, among other things, as "upcoming" events a lecture on September 29, 2003 and "in January term" ("term," of course, being a word with the ring of an academic institution) a conference with the title "Communion or Federation?" -- the conference at which Radner says the ACI was formed, and before which it didn't exist. This web page from September of 2003 offers the names of the ACI's president (The Rev'd Professor Christopher Seitz), executive director (The Rev'd Donald Armstrong III) and board of directors (nearly identical to the current board). I'd say that an organization that has a board of directors, officers, an executive director, events, and publications (as the archived page shows) most definitely exists. Indeed, the ACI was already making news in the blogosphere: Kendall Harmon posted a piece from "the Very Rev Dr. Philip Turner, Vice President: The Anglican Communion Institute" on September 21, 2003. Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans posted about it on on September 25, 2003.

Furthermore, this page archived from anglicancommunioninstitute.org on October 8, 2003 allows people to pre-order a forthcoming publication called Claiming Our Anglican Identity: The Case Against the Episcopal Church, USA, claiming that it is "A Paper Commissioned For the Primates of the Anglican Communion by The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, The Most Rev'd Peter Akinola, and The Most Rev. Gregory Venerables," and adding that it is "copyright 2003 The Anglican Communion Institute, All Rights Reserved." The title page of Claiming Our Anglican Identity (conveniently posted in PDF format at the ACI website currently) also shows a copyright date of 2003 and the copyright owners as being "The Anglican Communion Institute," listed at the same address as Grace and St. Stephen's, Fr. Armstrong's parish.

Seitz subsequently posted this:

As this has come up on another web site: ACI was formed by taking the Board Members from SEAD and dissolving SEAD so as to be able to focus on the demands of the present season. Anglican Institute has nothing to do with ACI, in terms of its origins and history; it was a separate reality and if memory serves, had a life prior to moving to Grace Church. SEAD was operating in Charleston (and Dallas, Oxford and Toronto) and running conferences in that context from 1997-2004. Anglican Institute was also running conferences according to its own mission at that time. Others will know better what AI’s mission and history was and can enlighten. C Seitz, ACI

And then he posted a third comment:

C.B. — I appreciate your perspective, but ACI is unrelated to AI and that is true, a fact, etc. That others may perceive the matter differently I accept, but that does not change the reality. The main writers and workers for ACI all were involved in SEAD. SEAD formally dissolved. ACI grew out of that. To be sure, Grace Church had a kind of relationship to AI that they judged to be X or Y — they hosted conferences, etc. ACI has not been a conferencing initiative, in large measure because of the work required. None of us have received any compensation, the work is done pro bono out of conviction regarding the Anglican Communion and due to personal contacts that have nothing whatsoever to do with AI. For all we know, AI still exists. I cannot comment on that. C Seitz

And a fourth:

CB–I am the President of ACI. I was the President of SEAD. I worked there with Philip Turner, Ephraim Radner, Peter Walker, Andrew Goddard, +Drexel Gomez, +Jim Stanton, and others. I simply have no sense of the specific history of AI. We ‘inherited’ nothing from that in our day to day work and I was never involved in AI in any formal sense. I am aware of our actual work at ACI, and 90% at least goes by my eyes, and it is work that happens out of the generosity of those contributing. No stipends are paid, and this costs Grace Church nothing in the strict sense. We have a web site, and that is paid for by Grace Church, as I understand it. AI is unrelated to ACI. I suspect you will appreciate how odd it is for me, as President of ACI, to respond to initials from someone telling me how it is in fact related to AI. And I repeat, I don’t know if AI still exists as I was never involved with it. I DO know that SEAD, which was incorporated, was dissolved in 2004. When I see in a Presentment that the Anglican Communion Institute was involved in book-keeping matters at Grace Church prior to 2004, I am confused. But then, this whole thing is confusing. But I may surmise that what is meant is Anglican Institute; that is for others to sort out. In that strict sense, I repeat, ACI and AI are unrelated. Book keeping related to AI has nothing to do with ACI, nor should it. I hope all of this is resolved to Grace Church’s satisfaction. It is serious business and tragic. Blessings, C Seitz

Seitz says:

  • "Anglican Institute has nothing to do with ACI"
  • "ACI is unrelated to AI and that is true, a fact, etc."
  • "The main writers and workers for ACI all were involved in SEAD. SEAD formally dissolved. ACI grew out of that" (i.e., and NOT out of AI).
  • "I simply have no sense of the specific history of AI. We ‘inherited’ nothing from that in our day to day work"
  • "AI is unrelated to ACI."

There's a lot of evidence supporting a different story, however, in which the relationship between the ACI and the AI is so close as to render them practically indistinguishable.

You can view the home page of the Anglican Institute from April 5, 2004 here. It shows the logo of the AI: a torch with the Latin slogan "IGNIS IN ANIMO," which you can see at the top of the right-hand sidebar. Here it is:

Ai_logo_gtan

Here's the banner of the Anglican Communion Institute as of today (April 14, 2007 -- you can click on the banner for a full-sized version):

Aciheadplate2

Same graphic of a torch with the same Latin slogan.

Or take a look at the mission statement of the Anglican Institute, as recorded in the Internet Archive from April 10, 2003:

It is the mission and purpose of the Anglican Institute to make a biblical and historical articulation of the faith once delivered readily available to the larger church through conferences and printed word. By bringing together the finest theological and biblical scholars in the Church, it has been and will continue to be our goal to offer a forum for significant reflection on core matters of the doctrine and discipline of the church for its clergy and lay members.

In an age of religious confusion, ignorance and tentativeness, both in the church and in the culture, an engagement with and an understanding of the gospel that will generate a sturdy and effective faith needs to be enthusiastically offered and succinctly articulated. It is the goal of the Anglican Institute to accomplish just this task. We ground and focus our work in the formational historic events of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, combined with the tolerance, fair-mindedness, and generosity which distinguish our particular Anglican tradition. It is simply the Apostolic Christian faith--expressed in scripture, interpreted in the creeds, guarded by tradition and experienced in sacrament--that we wish to fortify, proclaim and make accessible.

An ongoing series of conferences and the books which are compiled from them address issues of theological significance from a classical Christian perspective in an age of theological confusion and syncretism.

Compare it to the current ACI website page with its mission statement (archived February 7, 2006 here; link provided in case the ACI changes the page after I post this):

With several hundred members and supporters, the Anglican Communion Institute stands for a clear reawakening of "dynamic orthodoxy" ---an application of creedal faith to the urgent questions of today. As Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written, "I welcome this exciting initiative. At a time when our growing Communion is under strain, we need to undergird our common life with a firm base in Anglican doctrine and devotion and worship."

It is the mission and purpose of the Anglican Communion Institute to make a biblical and historical articulation of the faith once delivered readily available to the larger church through conferences and printed word. By bringing together the finest theological and biblical scholars in the Church, it has been and will continue to be our goal to offer a forum for significant reflection on core matters of the doctrine and discipline of the church for its clergy and lay members.

In an age of religious confusion, ignorance and tentativeness, both in the church and in the culture, an engagement with and an understanding of the gospel that will generate a sturdy and effective faith needs to be enthusiastically offered and succinctly articulated. It is the goal of the Anglican Communion Institute to accomplish just this task. We ground and focus our work in the formational historic events of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, combined with the tolerance, fair-mindedness, and generosity which distinguish our particular Anglican tradition. It is simply the Apostolic Christian faith--expressed in scripture, interpreted in the creeds, guarded by tradition and experienced in sacrament--that we wish to fortify, proclaim and make accessible.

An ongoing series of conferences and the books which are compiled from them address issues of theological significance from a classical Christian perspective in an age of theological confusion and syncretism.

It's practically identical, aside from that the AI statement goes on to list some specific examples of conferences and books, and the ACI statement opens with a quote from retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and a claim to have "several hundred members and supporters."

That mission statement has gotten awkward for the ACI, however. Seitz now says that "ACI has not been a conferencing initiative, in large measure because of the work required," disavowing the "ongoing series of conferences" in the AI/ACI mission statement. And in response to a query about how the ACI could have "members" if it is as he describes, he adds here:

“With several hundred members and supporters, the Anglican Communion Institute stands for …..” —

I am unsure where this came from, and to what ‘members’ refers. Thank you for pointing it out.

ACI has no ‘members’ I am aware of!

It's not a very good sign of an organization's health when its president doesn't know about its mission statement, of course. I'm inclined to believe Seitz's current claim that the ACI never had any members, and disinclined to believe the ACI website's claim of "hundreds of members and supporters." Indeed, Seitz here agrees with my earlier description of them as "six guys and a website."

But now today the ACI has distanced themselves from their former "collegial theologian" and executive director with an announcement that they are dissolving their relationship with his parish, and the ACI is down to five guys making announcements and publishing statements on other people's blogs. It's difficult to see how one can dissolve a relationship that never existed, of course; Seitz's repeated and emphatic denials that there ever was one and the ACI's statement that they wish to dissolve it can't both be true.

In light of this final piece of evidence, I'm inclined to believe the latest statement, and say that the remaining "Collegial Fellows" the ACI quite understandably want to distance themselves from the ACI's earlier incarnation as "The Anglican Institute, a ministry of Grace and St. Stephen's parish." I encourage you to take a look at this Anglican Communion Institute page posted CURRENTLY (as of today, April 14, 2006, it is identical to this page archived February 12, 2006; I'm providing the link to the archive in case the ACI changes their page after I post today) at anglicancommunioninstitute.org for people to order ACI books. The banner at the top of the page looks like this (click it for a full-sized version):

Acibookordertopbanner

The date generated in the header is automatic, but they seem not to have set it up so the year changes (which makes sense, as I don't know how that could be scripted easily with Latin numerals). It's today's banner. The footer at the bottom of the page today looks like this (click on it for a full-sized version):

Acibookpagefooter

That's right: the footer of the Anglican Communion Institute's website says "The Anglican Institute."

The Anglican Communion Institute and the Anglican Institute have the same torch logo, the same address, the same telephone and fax numbers, the same webmaster, and the same executive director. From my perspective, the ACI's book page tells a very clear story: the AI changed its name as they sought to broaden their appeal elsewhere in the Communion by adding "Communion" to their name -- an afterthought, but a very smart one, even if (or perhaps especially because!), as Simon Sarmiento pointed out, it makes a few guys and a website sound like something far larger and more important, perhaps an academic organ of the Anglican Communion Office, only with unanimity one wouldn't normally expect from an academic faculty.

That's falling apart now. The cracks that were appearing when I last blogged about the ACI have now become fissures, with at least one clear break:

Don Armstrong, who was up until now executive director and "Collegial Fellow" of the ACI, is still referring to the AI and the ACI as one group: "AI/ACI." This is the story he was telling, at least as of a few days ago, on his comments on Kendall Harmon's blog:

Maybe I can shed some light on this particular discussion. ...

AI and ACI are both ministries of the parish but are managed with separate accounts that are audited annually with the rest of the parish ministries.

ACI/AI are funded by private donations–and all money raised for these ministries is always spent specifically for the purposes for which it was raised. None of this has been for salaries, but for conferences and publishing, in most recent years for the sort of work Chris Seitz has described.

Since 2003 until just this past Fall, Grace Church has funded the ACI from its own monies to maintain its independence and so that it would be free from political pressures that outside fund raising naturally involves.

No money disappeared into these ministries, but was used for the purposes it was intended.

The ACI/AI has granted scholarships for a number of theological and educational ventures over the years, but those funds are separate from the working money given for ACI. In other words I raised money specifically for the purpose of supporting these other various educational ventures–which included clergy and lay continuing education, seminary education expenses for third world students, writing projects and the like.

Fr. Armstrong is to be presumed innocent unless and until the proceedings of church and courts say otherwise. If he is guilty of fraud, his parish is a victim, and the AI/ACI, to all appearances a ministry of the parish consisting of the efforts of fewer than a dozen people, may be a victim as well. Armstrong and his former "Collegial Fellows" may not agree on everything, but they can probably agree around Seitz's summary:

"This is all very sad and unforeseen."

UPDATE 10:17 p.m., 14 April 2006: Thanks to "No Ambiguity Here" in the comments, I'd like to add that the sole registrant (administrative as well as technical) for the domain name "anglicancommunioninstitute.org" is an entity: The Anglican Institute, at 601 N. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In other words, the Anglican Institute (with whom the ACI supposedly never had any relationship, and from whom the ACI supposedly inherited nothing) registered the domain name for the Anglican Communion Institute. As far as I can tell, this happened in 2003, before the Anglican Communion Institute supposedly existed.

April 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack