Saturday, March 23, 2019

HBC and Grace Church: When a Collapsing Mega-Church has More Integrity Than The Episcopal Church

Those who follow church abuse stories, particularly in evangelical churches, may be all too familiar with the collapse of Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC). The latter is a Chicago-based mega-church that not that long ago was considered one of the fastest growing in the world. Recently, however, founder James MacDonald was ousted amidst a series of complaints about bullying, abusive behavior, and lack of financial transparency, with the final straw being the collapse of a defamation lawsuit against critics of the church’s operations.

Before we go further, let me say that MacDonald sounds very much like Bob Malm. Charismatic, manipulative, intelligent, sometimes bullying, and apparently at times of questionable veracity, the two could be cut from the same cloth. Indeed, when called on the carpet, both claim to be victims, and both try to keep key financial and operational data close to the cuff. Both surround themselves with admirers and sycophants who serve to protect them, and both exercise largely unilateral control over their churches, having gutted mechanisms that otherwise ensure accountability.

But the real point of this post is about the HBC lawsuit, which collapsed when the church declined to subpoena unwilling participants in the lawsuit against their will. Some of this, to be fair, appears to have been because MacDonald and allies feared that more would come out than they were ready to deal with — an issue that would have occurred in my litigation with Bob Malm, thanks to his multiple fabrications and perjury.

Regardless of the reasons that HBC decided to drop its lawsuit, however, its conduct stands in marked contrast to that of Grace Episcopal Church, Dysfunctional Bob Malm, Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In its litigation with me, Grace Church attempted to drag my mother, dying of COPD, into court in another state, despite the fact that this is not permitted in Pennsylvania in such cases absent leave of court. Indeed, when the Pennsylvania courts quashed Grace’s subpoena, Grace fought vociferously, arguing in its written pleadings that it was dealing with a case of “domestic terrorism.”

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the bit about MacDonald’s allegedly inappropriate comments. Guess that referring to your parishioners as “sick” “twisted,” and “domestic terrorists” would fall within the ambit of “inappropriate.”

So progressive Episcopalians may look down their WASPy noses at evangelical churches, but when it comes to ethics, even failing evangelical churches have better moral compasses than the Episcopal diocese of Virginia, its bishops, and the folks over at Grace Church, aka St. Dysfunction.

Finally, as I’ve pointed out many times, vestry members, family members (yeah that would be Leslie Malm), clergy (yup, David Crosby), parishioners, and diocesan staff who support Bob’s efforts are just as culpable.

Truly, a sorry lot.