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HOLLYWOOD,CA: ACA Priest inhibited. Financial improprieties alleged

HOLLYWOOD,CA: ACA Priest inhibited. Financial improprieties alleged. IRS threatens to seize St. Mary's of the Angels Property

By David W. Virtue
April 11, 2012

The priest of St. Mary of the Angels church in Hollywood, Fr. Christopher Kelley has been inhibited by Bishop Stephen D. Strawn of the Anglican Church of America (ACA) Diocese of the West on multiple charges of financial mismanagement and "conduct unbecoming a priest."

A source has told VOL that Fr. Kelley would not comply with the inhibition "because God told me" and because he does not recognize Bishop Strawn as his bishop.

Kelley told VOL that Bishop Louis Falk is his bishop. Falk is the former Primate of the Anglican Church in America and is Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley.

St Mary of the Angels has had no budget for the past 2-3 years and a several church checks have bounced leading to the charges of financial mismanagement. Allegedly, there are also unpaid taxes to the IRS.

The unpaid tax matter is now in the hands of the Civil Courts who will determine in the coming days the final outcome of the parish and Fr. Kelley's position. (St. Mary of the Angels Los Angeles was one of the first continuing Anglican parishes of the 1970s).

Notice of Inhibition documents were delivered Tuesday to Fr. Kelley by the Canon to the Ordinary and signed by The Rt. Rev. Stephen D. Strawn, Bishop of the Missouri Valley, Episcopal Visitor to the Diocese of the West.

"WE, Stephen Duane Strawn, by Divine Permission Episcopal Visitor of the See of the West within the Anglican Church in American did on the 2nd Day of April, in the Year of Our Lord 2012, with the Counsel and Advice of the Standing Committee did INHIBIT the Rev. Fr. Christopher Kelley ...".

The document says that Fr. Kelley must vacate the premises within 48 hours after receiving the letter and may not contact members of St. Mary's of the Angels ACA in Hollywood in person, by mail, or by electronic means.

"This order is in violation of California civil codes, as the LAPD officers who responded to my call, explained. It is also a clear violation of my First Amendment Rights," Kelley told VOL.

The parish has also sought and applied to join the Ordinariate. but all parties say this has nothing to do with the present state of affairs that now exists in the parish with the rector. The Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of the West said that the Patrimony of the Primate was dissolved on January 1, 2012 with the establishment of the Ordinariate. Those parishes like St. Mary's that did not vote to leave the ACA and the Traditional Anglican Communion have gone back under the authority of their geographical dioceses until they are received into the Ordinariate.

(Then Archbishop Louis Falk reported at the meeting of the ACA bishops in Tucson -- over which he presided -- that the bishops passed a resolution on the Patrimony stating that it would continue to exist until its function had been fulfilled, and all who wished to to make the transition to the Ordinariate had had opportunity to do so.)

Kelley branded as "false and lies" that he refused to allow anybody to see the letters from the IRS or the Treasurer and that he misappropriated funds, and refused to share auditing information. "What grounds do they have for charging me with 'conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy'?" Kelley added he has been in the parish for five years.

A source said ACA leaders have received complaints from parishioners one of which was that Kelley would go around telling people that there are devils in the eyes of a painting worth $35,000 because the eyes were devils. Kelley described this as "total rubbish." Fr. Kelley is a staunch Anglo-Catholic.

Fr. Kelley said charges that the IRS was going to seize the property for unpaid taxes are not true. "The opposition group had been taking some of the mail from the church. Some IRS correspondence on the terms of seizure was taken by people who seemed to have known and plotted a stratagem to bring me down. The IRS issue was from the previous Treasurer who a year ago had only made a partial payment on quarterly payments. There were a series of letters, none of which were brought to my attention. The IRS is satisfied with our explanation and and we will make the necessary (catch-up) payments with the matter now resolved."

Kelley said he was never apprized of the IRS concerns. "We got one certified letter on March 30 and we acted on that and the IRS is satisfied."

Asked if a court injunction is served, will he go, Kelley said that no judge would act peremptorily as Bishop Falk explained to the LAPD.

Kelley said the primary problem is that Citibank sends $20,800 a month to the church for property the church owns and it went missing for four days causing church checks to bounce. "By examining the date on the check, we believe it was delivered to the church. We have an auditor looking at our books. The check reappeared on Tuesday and all the bills were paid.

"Allegations by a former financial assistant that bank rental checks were missing turned out, on examination of the account by two banks, to be that man's own fault, not isolating the rent deposit as a separate entry.

"A charge against me that I used church accounts to purchase groceries is false. I purchased items I wanted to give to the Vestry. I later wrote a check to reimburse that particular account. There is a rump group on the Vestry opposing me not knowing that it was their Christmas present."

He denies that $20,000 was unaccounted for and that money was not moved from a general fund to his Discretionary Fund where it was used for personal reasons.

Asked why there had been no budget for last 2-3 years, Kelley said that was the Treasurer's fault, not his. "Whenever we requested a budget, she would go into a panic and would not cooperate. She finally left making unfounded allegations."

Asked why he had been inhibited, Kelley said that a former Vestryman, Patrick Omeirs had submitted to Bishop Strawn a 40-page document -- which he has never seen-- full of allegations. Kelley states the bishop has refused to let them know what these are . Questioned about appointing non-members of the 65 voting members of the church to the Vestry, Kelley said the parish had a lawful election and it was done above board. "I have no such power." He said that when the vestry read the nine points of his inhibition, many were "in stitches". At the time the Lord said to me, "Stand firm."

Kelley said his opposition comes mainly from two old vestry members who don't have authority and were making a power grab.

On the issue of the Ordinariate, the parish voted over 80% to join the Ordinariate.

Addendum to this story. We have just received word from the Canon to the Ordinary who received a letter from Bishop Falk stating that he was not asked nor did he offer Episcopal oversight to Fr. Kelley or St. Mary of the Angels.

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