Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal. Show all posts

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Looking for Jesus? You Won’t Find Him in the Discourse at Grace Church

As Grace Church prepares for Dysfunctional Bob’s departure and the arrival of an interim rector, one thing is painfully clear: Any interim brave enough (or perhaps foolish enough) to take the position has her work cut out for her. Specifically, after 30 years of Dysfunctional Bob and his sordid example, the way people in the church talk about each other, and to each other, is appalling.

To be sure, it took me a long time to spot this issue myself. Indeed, it was a member of the Grace Episcopal School staff, herself Episcopal, who pointed it out to me in 2014. Her exact words: “I would never belong to your church, and it’s because of the way people talk to each other. And it goes right to the top. And I’ll tell you right now, Bob will never say anything about it. And because he engages in a certain amount of it himself, he shows people that it’s alright.”

At the time, I foolishly came to Bob’s defense; it was more than a year later before I finally realized that she was absolutely correct.

Now, with the advantage of hindsight, and having seen firsthand that Dysfunctional Bob is morally bankrupt and a perjurer as well, I realize that this ugly discourse does indeed permeate every aspect of Grace Church. Whether it’s Alison Campbell and her fun and games with the altar guild; Lisa Medley and her bullying/bitchy behavior; Teresa Preston and her gestures that indicate she believes I’m mentally ill; Eric Waskowiscz, Amy Medrick and others with their one-gun salutes to Jesus, or Bob Malm in his emails to the vestry and the diocese, there is a profoundly un-Christian attitude within the church that comes to the surface when parishioners talk to each other.

Before we go further, I am not the only one to notice it. Kyle Babin, himself the target of bullying by choir members, called it an “evil spirit” at Grace Church.  Former member John Cunningham posted to Facebook, saying he left the parish due to bullying and other abusive conduct (screen cap below).



Additionally, folks at the Wartburg Watch commented on ugly comments from Lisa Medley and Leslie Malm; the former didn’t even have the courage to post under her name. Their comment: “[these parishioners] seem sane to themselves, they seem immature and hateful to outsiders looking at their behavior.” (Screen cap below)


Going right to the top, we have Dysfunctional Bob’s email to the vestry, in which he describes me as a “sad individual...starving for attention.” While this is an interesting bit of projection from Bob Malm, who regularly curries adulation in order to support his shaky sense of self, the fact the he feels comfortable talking about a former parishioner to the vestry in this manner is telling and illustrates the church culture that Bob has promoted during his 30 years with the parish. (Screen cap below.)




Of course, there also is the comment from a college-aged member of Lisa Medley’s family, in which she urges me to commit suicide. (Screen cap below.)


So what can an interim do to address this situation? Establishing written norms would be helpful, but unpacking and fixing 30 years’ of Dysfunctional Bob’s toxic behavior and lessons learned within the parish about conflict resolution will probably take professional intervention. Even then, it’s an uphill battle, and both the diocese and church members like to sweep such issues under the rug and deny that an issue exists. Indeed, toxic parishioners like Lisa Medley not only deny that an issue exists, but also attack anyone who raises these issues. (Screen cap below.)



It should also be noted that Dee Parsons, publisher of the Wartburg Watch, herself experienced Bob Malm’s efforts at bullying and manipulating her. First, Bob tried the noisy bluster approach, which didn’t work at all. Then he tried flattery. Then he tried manipulation, claiming that Dee had promised to take down any posts about me, all the while ignoring Dee’s recommendation to work towards reconciliation.

As one looks at other correspondence from within the parish, including Jean Reed’s speculation that I am mentally ill, as well as former friend Kemp Williams comments, one reaches the same conclusion that user Ishy, a commenter on the Wartburg Watch, came to as she asked church members:

“What kind of Christians are you? I don’t see any love or concern for Eric in your posts. I don’t see that you tried to do anything about it other than make sure Eric couldn’t come back either. (Emphasis added. Original in screen cap above.)

That conclusion holds true for Bishop Susan Goff on down to the Grace Church vestry and membership. Nowhere is there any evidence of any real concerns including for Mike and my other family members hurt by Bob Malm’s conduct, and that of the church. 

So, if you are a prospective interim and you are reading this, just know that if you take the job you are going to have one toxic mess on your hands, and one that requires professional outside intervention.

On the other hand, if you are a church leader reading this and contemplating hiring Bob Malm as supply clergy, you should know that this is part of the baggage that comes with Bob Malm. Caveat emptor.

Lastly, if you are a prospective member, it is important to know that right behind the beautiful, friendly exterior, this is the sort of internal rot that runs rampant at Grace Church. If you join the parish, this is part of the package deal. To quote Proverbs, “in the tongue is the power of life and death.”

Grace Church is just plain bad karma.




Sunday, September 8, 2019

Grace Episcopal Alexandria Lurches Towards Financial Crisis



As I’ve said many times, Grace Episcopal’s existing cost structure is unsustainable. Thanks to the debt incurred for the recently completed HVAC project, as well as the parish’s continuing willingness to live above its means and its refusal to save, things are looking grim for the 2020 budget. This is the result that, in 2014, I warned Bob Malm was looming, possibly as early as 2016 if expenses were not curtailed. I did so in writing and, predictably enough, did not even get the courtesy of a response from Dysfunctional Bob.

Specifically, as of right now, the parish appears poised for 2020 annual income of $975,000, expenses of $1,206,000, and a net deficit (get ready!) of $231,000. 

Variables used to reach these results:
  • $70,000 diocesan pledge
  • $9,000 reduction in pledges over 2019 figures. In light of the length of Bob Malm’s tenure, the decline could prove much greater
  • $80,000 reduction in salaries, primarily attributable to alignment of interim’s salary with local norms, or $130,000 annually
  • $70,000 in debt service
  • $50,000 income from trust
  • $50,000 in maintenance (note that this covers janitorial supplies (paper products, etc) for both the church and school, which then reimburses half the cost to the church. These funds are returned to the operating budget, not line items associated with facilities expenses. Thus, according to the church’s customary financial reporting, nowhere near the full $50,000 actually is available for repairs or maintenance.)
  • $20,000 in search expenses
  • $10,000 invested in management reserve
  • Inclusion of the Alexandria sewer tax
  • A 2% increase in most operating expenses to adjust for inflation
  • Continued zero funding for the school beyond cost sharing, which already benefits the school
  • Limited programmatic, worship, and local outreach funding. Note that these are areas already cut very thin, and typically frozen at end of year. As a result, sooner or later several categories will require additional funding in order to continue.
Not factored in is the increasingly likely possibility of a recession, which would erode both Q4 2019 giving and 2020 pledges, and potentially reduce the allowable draw on the trust fund.

Of course, these figures don’t leave room for contingencies, such as extensive snow removal in the event of a severe winter, or burst pipes. (As I have pointed out ad nauseum, copper pipes do not have an indefinite life span. All the original plumbing in the building is at actuarial end of life. Same for the 20-ton HVAC unit serving the nave, which is well beyond end of life expectancy and already has had one fan motor replaced in an effort to buy time.)

Clearly, church staff recognizes the challenges ahead, and director of music Richard Newman (a delightful person and wonderful musician) has been wise in maintaining visibility by performing concerts in venues around the country. Similarly, it may no longer be possible for the parish to maintain full-time staff for the parish administrator and family ministries positions, or the associate rector position, for that matter.

It may also be time for the church to assess whether the school should continue and, if so, whether it might be spun off as a completely separate entity. The 50/50 cost sharing arrangement, often portrayed by Dysfunctional Bob as a benefit to the church, actually is to the school’s benefit, not the church’s, as the former is responsible for the vast majority of utilities, etc. Another possibility is to require the school to pay its full cost of operation. Such an arrangement could reduce the financial burden on the church and free up money to address issues like hunger in the community, versus devoting such a large portion of the budget to educating children who in most cases come from privileged, affluent backgrounds. It’s also worth noting that very few of the families with children at the school ever become involved in the church, especially since the school eliminated the tuition break for church members. 

In a situation such as this, there are no easy solutions, and it is vital that the parish begin to learn to save for the future. But no matter how things unfold there are some tough decisions and difficult times ahead.

And yes, before folks ask, I will continue to protest the church’s conduct, even after Bob Malm’s departure.

Bob Malm has stated in writing that the vestry and other parish leadership joined with him in its decision to take legal action against me, with the tacit approval of the diocese. So Bob Malm’s perjury, his decision to try to drag a dying woman into court, his decision to include Mike in his vendetta, and the various fabrications and inflammatory rhetoric in Jeff Chiow’s legal pleadings — none of these have been repudiated by the parish or vestry. Thus, it is appropriate that I continue to make public my experiences.

And that is exactly what I will do.


 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Virginia Supreme Court Case Spells Bad News for Parish, Diocese



As things gear up for a possible lawsuit in the coming weeks against Bob Malm, Grace Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, a recent state Supreme Court spells bad news for the potential defendants.

In a nearly unanimous decision, the court overturned a lower court dismissal of a tortious claim of negligence against the the denomination, the Church of God in Christ; and against local church officials for negligence and respondent superior, based on allegations that church officials had a special relationship with the plaintiff and had failed in their duty of care to her. As a result, the case is going forward.

In the case of Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal Church, diocesan officials knew of Bob Malm’s deliberate misuse of funds, but declined to act. Moreover, they have been fully apprised of Malm’s perjury and other tortious acts, but have consistently covered up and ignored Malm’s actions. As a result, should the case go to trial, the diocese likely will be held liable.



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Upcoming Protests and Leafleting

With Shrine Mont coming up, back to school, and perjuring priest Bob Malm’s upcoming retirement, there’s lots to do in the coming weeks. With that in mind, I’ll be leafletting a few remaining homes in Potomac Yards tomorrow, weather permitting, and protesting in several places this week.

Plans also include protests for the first day of classes at Grace Episcopal School, Dysfunctional Bob’s last Sunday and the bishop’s visit, and more.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Oh, and keep in mind it’s not perjury if Bob Malm didn’t know it was a lie. If he can’t tell the difference between truth and a lie, it’s not perjury!




Thursday, August 8, 2019

Grace Church: What Next?



The coming months will be an interesting time for Grace Church, as Bob Malm’s departure leads the church into what, for many members, will be uncharted waters. That raises several questions, including:
  • Near-term financial implications.
  • Strategic planning.
  • Diocesan role in the transition.
  • Most importantly, whether the parish will survive.
This post explores those issues.

Before going further, it’s important to recognize the context in which these issues occur. Not only did Dysfunctional Bob “serve” (and I use the word advisedly) for more than 30 years, but he brought with him a toxic blend: Ostensibly friendly, Bob was highly manipulative, narcissistic, and indolent. As a result, he believed he was an excellent rector, but the reality is that governance was and is a hot mess. Real leadership in the parish is virtually non-existent, and the way members interact with each other is appalling. Consider: This is a church where it’s okay to urge people to commit suicide. In other words, this is a toxic and seriously ill church.

Doubt it?  

Just look at the various emails I’ve posted in which parishioners and clergy discuss me. Lots of Jesus-babble, but no genuine concern at all. Layer Bob Malm’s perjury on top, Chiow’s treatment in court of our conflict as a personal vendetta, and the level of discourse between Bob Malm and the diocese, and this is one ugly, ugly place.

So it’s fair to say both that whoever comes next will have her or his hands full. At the same time, many of the resiliency traits of a healthy church are utterly missing in Grace Church. As a result, transition issues loom large, and there is very little room for error.

Financial Issues

Apropos near-term financial issues, it is common for parishes to see a decline in giving and participation in the midst of a transition. In the case of Holy Comforter in Vienna, for example, finances took a serious hit following the retirement of the rector a few years ago, declining at one point by almost a third. With Grace’s budget now perilously thin, it has little room to absorb a decline. Even a small decrease will necessitate eliminating staff, as most of the remaining costs are structural.

In this regard, the decision to replace the HVAC system in the school is problematic. Entirely tactical in nature, it utterly ignored the larger issue, which is that cost sharing with the school is increasingly untenable and a difficult case to make for parishioners. While it may have made sense in the 1950’s to build a complex now valued at more than $12 million dollars, it imposes huge burdens in a day and age when attending church no longer is normative. The building is huge, spectacularly energy inefficient, and little has been done to reduce energy costs. Even just the HID lights in the parking lot and auditorium are wildly expensive to operate, yet with all the hundreds of thousands being pored into HVAC, no one seems to have to foresight to fund the relatively minor costs to address these matters.

At the same time, asking a parish with fewer than 200 pledging units to share costs with the much larger school is a difficult sell. This is compounded by the Chris Byrne years, with her empire-building and other shenanigans. Chris’ short-sighted approach, and her indifference to the good of the entire organization, has caused lingering issues in some circles within the church.

So, it is likely that there will be a decline in revenue, especially since Dysfunctional Bob’s departure falls only weeks before the annual pledge season. That said, in this area, the parish is lucky, in that the remaining pledging units have proved highly reliable and willing to give sacrificially. And Bob’s compensation package (which also involved demolishing the rectory, a stupid move if there ever was one), was so spectacularly generous that there is some wiggle room, even for a highly qualified interim.

Of course, right behind this is the demographic reality: The Berrys, the Reeds, June Huber and Brad Bergmann, and the other generous long-time donors are all reaching ages where their current levels of giving won’t continue for too many more years. Meanwhile, younger families often find they cannot give at the levels older families can, particularly in light of the high cost of housing in the area and the cost of college for their children.

And, lest we ignore the elephant in the room, the years of conflict in the parish, including my dust-up with Dysfunctional Bob and Sugarland Chiow, are a powerful disincentive to young people joining the church. If nothing else, who wants to give to a church if the rector can unilaterally force you out? No one I know. So membership levels, both near- and long-term, are likely to decline.

No matter how all this plays out, near-term financial issues could quickly get hairy and will surely garner a lot of attention.

Governance and leadership

Another major challenge will be governance and leadership. There are very few real leaders left in the parish, and even those with otherwise good leadership instincts have been co-opted by Bob. Indeed, with Bob having interfered with vestry operations for many years, few even know how a vestry is supposed to work. Additionally, folks Bob has placed in leadership positions often have pursued their own interests and petty jealousies/animosities, versus serving the greater good. 

As a result, folks in the parish will have to learn how to be leaders. At the same time, some who now regard themselves as leaders will have to either change their ways or wind up on the sidelines if the parish is to become healthy. Given 30 years’ of entrenched interests, the latter will take a miracle on the order of the parting of the Red Sea.

It should be particularly interesting to observe the vestry as it gears up for the January annual meeting. A real election of vestry officers, without Dysfunctional Bob making the decisions? Imagine that. And basic requirements of The Episcopal Church, like a finance manual, were still not in place last time I checked, even after 30 years of Bob Malm, so there will plenty to do for upcoming vestries.

Of longer-term importance will be the need for strategic planning. While I urged Bob repeatedly to begin that process, he neither understood what it meant, nor was in any way supportive. But if you don’t know where you plan to be in 20 years, you surely will get there, and Grace Church doesn’t even plan tactically, let alone strategically.

Of course, these changes will prove off-putting for many, so I think there is little doubt that some parishioners will fly the coop.

Diocesan Role

Here’s where things get interesting. Traditionally, Episcopal parishes have an interim, whose job it is to help the transition to a new priest. Many question whether this is sensible, or whether it works, with some, including my fellow Episcopal Cafe contributor George Clifford, urging a more corporate approach.

On the one hand, Grace probably needs a good interim. Given the hot mess that Dysfunctional Bob leaves behind, and the fact that almost no one at the church realizes what a mess it is, someone with excellent change management and transitional skills is needed. Indeed, more than one wag has pointed out that the primary job of an interim at Grace will be to exorcise the baleful specter of Bob Malm. And more than one highly qualified interim has said that s/he wouldn’t touch Grace with a 20-foot pole.

That said, I suspect the only interim who could survive Grace Church would be a retired bishop. In that regard, the church’s endemic clericalism will provide some much-needed armor to members of the Pointy Hats Club. In addition, a bishop with knowledge of Episcopal norms, including governance practices and conflict resolution, could really stabilize things.

On the other hand, the diocese’s ability to screw things up is unparalleled. Even Canon Mary Thorpe, who has handled the diocese’s transition issues in the past, can be spectacularly clueless. Indeed, I well remember when she told one parish, traumatized by clergy misconduct, that no one wanted to apply to be rector because they were “damaged goods.” 

Moreover, I very much doubt that the diocese fully understands just how screwed up Grace Church is. So I think it as likely as not that the diocese will simply make things worse. After all, this is a diocese that thinks it’s okay for clergy to commit criminal offenses so long as they aren’t convicted. Why would anyone conclude that the diocese won’t bollix these transition issues?

Long-Term Issues and Parish Survival

If by now you’ve concluded that I am dubious that the parish will survive, you’re spot on. My belief is that the odds are slightly in favor of survival, but not by much.

The problems and risks are myriad. As I mentioned above, while the diocese has had some real successes in transition, including at the Falls Church and Epiphany Herndon, overall it has shown itself to be both spectacularly incompetent and utterly lacking in ethics when it is challenged. This lack of leadership at the diocesan level creates a high risk of failure at Grace Church.

Additionally, Grace has been wallowing in its beautiful but toxic stained glass cesspool for many years. Whether members have the introspection and the courage to change is doubtful.

Compounding things is the damage of more than 4 years of conflict with yours truly. This has occurred very much in the public sphere, and it’s probably fair to say that the reputation of all involved has been irreparably damaged—an outcome that experts warn is almost a given in a badly handled Title IV clergy disciplinary case. And there were at least five cases involving Bob, and possibly more.

Ironically, things haven’t really changed from our meeting in Fredericksburg. Those angered by Bob’s conduct, that of the parish, and that of the diocese have not changed their views; indeed, Bob’s decision to try to go to court further cemented their hostility. Several are now dead or otherwise out of the picture, including my mother and grandmother, so reconciliation in that sphere is now impossible. And others choose to have nothing further to do with the diocese, including Mike. (BTW, if +Shannon reads this, I’d point out you never did follow-up with a note to Mike, nor with the fall follow-up meeting we discussed. No loss.)

There’s also no way to remove all the negative press that’s out there. I long ago made sure of that, and it’s not unfair. Just as the trauma caused by Bob’s conduct won’t ever entirely go away, neither should the documentation.

The important thing here, though, is to recognize that this sort of conflict is only possible in a toxic parish. Healthy churches don’t sue parishioners, don’t have clergy who engage in perjury, or have church members as attorneys who engage in inflammatory rhetoric or untruthful statements of law and fact in their pleadings. Indeed, the fact that even the church vestry lied to parishioners underscores how spectacularly toxic the parish has become. (I am referring specifically to the “talking points” the vestry prepared that claimed that I left on my own. If that is the case, why then did Bob Malm find it necessary to send us an email telling us we were unwelcome? And why would Bob specifically reference Mike?)

At the end of the day, survival will require a sea change at Grace Church. If the parish tries to cling to the same old, same old, its days indeed are numbered. And given the church’s recent conduct, that would not be a bad thing. Any place where the rector commits perjury with the support of the vestry and subpoenas the dying is hardly a place that reflects the Christian values that it purports to hold.


Sunday, August 4, 2019

Some Free Advice to Grace Church



As members of Grace Church, you have some interesting times ahead of you. During the coming year or so, you’ll begin the search process for a new rector. That’s a daunting proposition, especially given that Dysfunctional Bob managed to settle in for 30 years. So, here is some advice for you, worth exactly what you paid for it.

To begin, it’s important to approach the future without bias. A great many of you think Bob Malm’s wonderful, but if you are able to take a step back from the superficial charm, Bob really has not been a great rector. Whether it’s his costly decision to buy a personal residence, the ludicrously generous compensation package he jammed through the vestry, his interfering with the operation of the vestry, his lack of interest in the administrative side of his job, his sense of entitlement, or his stupid decision to drag the church into litigation, all have been profoundly damaging to the church over time. Yet few within the church recognize this, and it’s going to be hard for parishioners to gain perspective.

It’s also true that the church is damaged goods. Real leaders left the parish long ago, and behavior that you all consider normative is profoundly unhealthy. This includes the belief, seen on many fronts within the church, that if you don’t get your way, or you don’t like something, it’s appropriate to bully others. Both the choir and the altar guild have repeatedly shown this behavior, and the way people talk to and about each other is just ugly. The mere fact that folks at the church think it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide reveals just how toxic Grace has become. And Bob Malm’s courtroom perjury is so over the top that outsiders likely can’t even comprehend how troubled the church really is, let alone believe that a priest behaves like this.

With that in mind, it’s very important that your next priest not be a narcissist. Self-absorbed, with a sense of superiority and entitlement, narcissists often exhibit great charm. They are often very articulate, and great actors, adept at saying just the right thing at the right time. They also invariably lack real empathy for others, and believe that that the ends justify the means.



The problem is that such behavior is profoundly toxic and counter to Christianity.

Instead, your next rector needs to be someone whose primary goal is servant leadership, someone who is focused on healing, reconciliation, health and wholeness. 

Churches being what they are, you’ll be tempted to fall for the so-called shiny new penny—the man or woman who visits the nave and says in a seemingly sincere voice. “This...is a holy place.” That person will deliver a great sermon and come with legions of admirers.

Unfortunately, those also can be hallmarks of a narcissist. So your job will be find the rector who’s articulate, friendly, but also compassionate and service oriented. The right candidate may not be the rock star that the narcissist seems to be, but instead will be solid, steady, hard-working, and loving.

There also will be a tendency to want to draw on those already known to the parish. This would be a mistake. Thus, following Bob’s retirement, folks will be quick to suggest pulling in David Crosby and others in close orbit. But David, of “Bobby Malm, You’re Amazing,” fame is nothing if not a Bob Malm fanboy. As such, drawing on David and similar sorts as supply clergy all but guarantees that you’ll get a heavy dose of what I’ll term “Bob Malm light.” That is the very last thing you need right now.

A final observation: Things have reached the point that if you flub the selection of the next rector, Grace Church will be gone within the next five years. You simply cannot get it wrong. So take your time, pull in lots of data points, and set aside the petty bullying and bickering. And consider actually praying and attempting to listen, versus propounding your own views.

You have a long, hard row in front of you.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Does Your Church Train for a Terrorist Attack?

Here’s a noteworthy item from Grace Church’s 2017 minutes, noted without any additional comment, beyond the fact that this comes from a church that was, for years, indifferent to security. Indeed, the infamous Great Flood of 2013 occurred when the 5:00 PM Sunday officiant didn’t even bother to walk the building. Had he done so, and had he checked the downstairs bathrooms (a very common hiding area for people wishing to spend the night in the building), he would have discovered that one of the toilets was overflowing.

Good old St. Dysfunction: A toxic church if there ever was one.




Sunday, June 9, 2019

Protests Today: Will I Ever Finish My New Video?

Well, protests today on Russell Road were fun. The usual smattering of parishioners pretending not to see me, Mary Stewart rolling through to take photos (which, when you’re 100 feet away, rather puts the lie to Dysfunctional Bob’s claim that people are “terrorized” of me. Just saying.), and one parishioner giving me the One-Gun Salute to Jesus. (He was probably humming, “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love.”) 

But the latter raises an issue: If people at St. Dysfunction are actually learning to act like Christians, what will become of my video, “God’s Grace for All II”? I was really hoping for a few more One-Gun Salutes to Jesus. ;-)

Meanwhile, true to form, Dysfunctional Bob takes center stage, as his little tantrum thus far qualifies as my keynote. Gotta love a priest who jumps out of his car and starts screaming.







Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Looking for an Inclusive Church? A Center for Outreach and Healing? If so, visit Grace Episcopal Alexandria

Looking for a friendly, welcoming church? A center for outreach and healing? If so, here’s a great example of the way people at Grace Episcopal Alexandria talk to others under Bob Malm’s reign.


If this is your idea of the Christian faith, please join Grace Episcopal this Sunday. 

You will be warmly welcomed!


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Papal Law on Reporting of Abuse Underscores Problems in The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia



Earlier today, the pope issued a decree mandating various changes to abuse reporting in the Catholic Church. Among the changes:
  • Anyone in the church, lay or clergy, who believes or suspects that abuse has occurred is required to report it to church officials.
  • Required reporting of coverup, defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid” civil or canonical investigations.
  • Whistleblower protection, albeit limited in scope.
  • An increase in the age of consent from 16 to 18.
  • The inclusion of possession of child pornography in the list of offenses.
  • Reporting to civil authorities per local law.
  • The ability to report to regional metropolitans in situations that may implicate a bishop.
  • The ability to report coverup and other abuse of power directly to Rome.
  • The requirement that victims be treated with respect.
These measures, while well-intended, are likely to be ineffective, and every bit as useless as Title IV as implemented in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

As it stands, the Episcopal Church’s Title IV does not prevent retaliation against whistleblowers. Instead, it provides for anonymity in the complaint process, and ostensibly protects opposition to practices prohibited by Title IV. This protection is almost entirely illusory, however, as it provides no definition of prohibited conduct. Thus, shunning and other retaliation such as Bob Malm’s conduct towards me and my family almost certainly would be ignored. Moreover, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia refuses to see retaliation as within the penumbra of “conduct unbecoming,” so it refuses to address retaliation occurring before the effective date (January 1, 2019) of the recent changes to Title IV. Further, thus far the diocese is ignoring the whistleblower provisions, as evinced by its identifying me to Bob Malm in its most recent correspondence. (In fairness, my opposition to Bob’s conduct is hardly a secret, but some effort to adhere to the requirements of Title IV would have been appreciated. Moreover, it’s laughable that the diocese tried, in its correspondence with me, to insist on confidentiality, even though the letter itself violated confidentiality.)

Another issue with Title IV is that there is no meaningful appeal beyond the diocesan level. As it stands, +Todd Ousley and the rest of the crowd at 815 (church headquarters) may, if pushed, go through the motions of a Title IV case against a bishop, but unless he or she intentionally runs you over in a church parking lot (witnesses required), you can bet your bottom dollar that nothing will come of it.

As to treating victims with respect, that falls within the purview of Title IV’s entirely illusory “pastoral response,” which is required any time a complaint is made to a Title IV intake officer. Thus far, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia consistently refuses to implement that provision, even in cases where a parish is traumatized by a successful Title IV removal of clergy. (Yes, I am thinking of St. Thomas’ McLean. In that case, the diocese did next to nothing to care for the parish. While +Shannon later apologized and said that its refusal to get involved was based on the advice of legal counsel, the damage is done. And this effort at protecting the organization at the expense of laity who support it is damning in the message it sends to those of us in the pews.)

Similarly, reporting to Rome sounds good on paper, right up until you consider that George Pell, the former number 3 at the Vatican, also was an abuser. Does anyone really think that some fat cat in Rome, immersed in the system, is really going to do anything about abuse in some remote corner of the world?

Equally problematic is the requirement that coverups be reported. Great idea, but with no sanctions or penalties set forth in the statute, including for dioceses that fail to implement the new provisions, this one is every bit as toothless at Title IV.

The heart of the problem, both in The Episcopal and Catholic Churches, is neatly summarized in the comments of Cardinal Cupich, who said of the new law, “this past year has taught us that the systematic failures in holding clerics of all rank responsible are due in large measure to flaws in the way we interact and communicate with each other in the college of bishops.” This tendency in all hierarchies to minimize problems and to see criticism of individual conduct as criticism of the organization is alive and well in both churches, and I see no signs that either organization is doing anything to change this phenomena. Indeed, it will only be when churches recognize that this tendency is destroying organized religion from within that they will again find secure footing.

In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the creaking, shuddering constructs that make up the Episcopal and Catholic churches continue their rapid unraveling.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sources Say....

Recently, I had dinner over at VTS. It was fun—although I joined a friend, it was with the understanding that I was going incognito. So, as I chowed down, I had the chance to ask seminarians and others about life in DioVA.

Never being one to miss an opportunity for some fun, I asked several seminarians about the situation over at Grace Church, aka St. Dysfunction. It’s interesting—between the issues with previous office staff, Fanny Belanger’s abrupt departure, and Bob’s vendetta against me, Mike and Mom—word on the street is that Grace Church is bad news. Or, more specifically, Bob Malm is bad news.

To be sure, Bob was never popular within the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies at Mayo House. But while Bob and his sycophants (you know who you are) have been vigorous in promoting the whole, “two sides to every story” line, there’s one bit of irrefutable evidence: Bob’s vendetta and related misconduct have been going on for four years. Or, as one former warden put it, “Bob can hold a grudge longer than anyone else I know.”

Then there’s the issue of trying to drag the dying into court. If nothing else, even a cursory review of state law would have told Sugarland Chiow that Mom can’t be dragged into court absent leave of court. Having devoted what he claims is more than $100,000 to the litigation, you’d think Sugarland would have taken the time to do a little research on that topic. I guess that’s part of the whole $49.99 optional annual protection plan.

Of course, that segues neatly into the notion, expressed by multiple third parties, that, “This attorney is coming at you with a personal vendetta.” How a personal vendetta fits in with being a Christian escapes me, but apparently for Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow, and the Diocese of Virginia, it does.

The cherry on the top is, of course, Bob’s multiple lies to the court. While he may claim that he was mistaken, nothing in his pleadings suggests to the court that his statements to the court were conjecture or speculation. They are presented as facts, when in fact they were fabrications.

It will be interesting to see who the poor slob is who eventually takes the assistant rector position. All I can to is to quote Judge Smails from Caddy Shack, “Remember, the world needs ditch diggers, too.” Which is not to express disrespect for that person — just to say they’d  have to be pretty damn desperate, or foolish, to land on Planet Malm.







Friday, March 1, 2019

David Crosby Misses Mark With Recent Sermon

David Crosby preached last Sunday, offering a sermon on loving your enemy. Since many denizens of Planet Malm now consider me an enemy, I feel somewhat qualified to comment on the sermon. 

I call BS.

To be sure, it wasn’t a badly written sermon. But it suffered one flaw. A big one. The flaw is that it’s hard to preach on this topic with a straight face when you have Bob Malm as a role model. Or, if you can deliver the sermon with a straight face, then you fall down the rabbit hole of hypocrisy.

I mean, who’s going to take you seriously when you have Dysfunctional Bob repeatedly lying, committing perjury, going after Mike, engaging in smear campaigns, and more? If nothing else, people are going to inevitably conclude that it’s okay just to give lip service to these ideals when they see Dysfunctional Bob in action.

And of course there’s Leslie Malm with her lies, Lindsey Malm with her hateful homophobia, the Medleys with their urging me to commit suicide, and Alison Campbell with her petty bitch games. And there are plenty of others who could join the list.

Of course, you then get Lisa Medley’s comeback, which is to brush these issues off by saying that she’s a sinner. Of course, that’s no excuse; claiming that you’re immune from criticism on the basis that you’re inclined to behave badly is a facially obvious logical fallacy. But then, Lisa was never known for being bright.

At the end of the day, the only way Grace Church ceases to be a toxic church is by making a conscious decision to be healthy—all day, every day. No exceptions, no excuses, no explanations. There’s simply no legitimate role for the bullying, the gossip, the lies and more that go on at Grace.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Grace Episcopal: More on the HVAC Project

One of the earliest lessons I learned was the benefit of saving. By digently putting money aside, I was able to comfortably retire more than a decade before most people, with more than enough to meet any conceivable future financial need. How did I do it? By minimizing expenses, living beneath my means, avoiding luxuries like vacations and fancy clothes, by doing without, and by working two jobs for most of my career. Yes, it was tough, especially those first few years post-law school, but very much worth it.

Today, Grace Episcopal confronts a different reality, which is that for years it has refused to save. As a result, the church plans to borrow $540,000 to pay for its half of the replacement cost of the HVAC systems in the building. The other $135,000 will come from reserves. 

The first issue, of course, is that most of the money goes to subsidize the school, which far and away uses the lion’s share of the building. At a time when the church is rapidly shedding pledging units, and the average age of church members is much older that of the surrounding population, taking on this expense is foolish, and doubly so when most of the money is borrowed.

The second issue, previously discussed on this blog, is that this day has been coming since 1994. Did the church make any meaningful effort to save? No, it didn’t, and indeed in 2014 gave Bob Malm $100,000 of church resources as a bonus, as a reward for staying too long.

Third, the church remains perilously short of reserves, even without this expenditure. To be safe, it should have 3-6 months operating expenses in reserves, or roughly $500,000. This leaves the church perilously short of cash in the event of a major expense or decline in giving. And as discussed previously, restricted funds don’t count, as repurposing them without donor permission is illegal.

Fourth, this expense is being treated from a purely reactive, tactical perspective. There is easily an additional $500K in work that needs to be done, ranging from replacing the parking lot, to replacing the new narthex roof, to dealing with rotting wood trim and the need to refurbish both elevators. (Replacing the original elevator would, however, be stupid. A metal box is a metal box.  No need to buy it twice.) To date, the church has no meaningful game plan to address these issues, and lacks the financial means to address anything beyond minor needs.

Fifth, there is the issue of this being an old building. Old buildings, regardless of architectural style or age, share one thing in common: They throw you curve balls. As a result, costs inevitably go up, and it is a safe bet that the church will discover surprises along the way. (Just wait until folks discover the leak inside one of the exterior walls of Merrow Hall. It’s plumbing-related, has been there for years, is slowly causing extensive damage, and is going to be a bear to fix. $100 says there’s not a person in the parish who knows what I am talking about.)

Sixth, assuming a five-year amortization, the church will be paying on the loan when Dysfunctional Bob retires, which he must do by age 72 by canon. Retirements can throw a monkey wrench into even the healthiest churches, and Grace is far from healthy. Just ask Holy Comforter in Vienna what happened to the numbers when Rick Lord retired. (He at least had the common sense to know when it was time to go.) Thus, I can safely say there are shoals in the waters ahead, and a real risk that the church will be unable to repay the loan.

Seventh, the observant will notice that costs already have escalated. Not that long ago, vestry members were predicting that the total project cost would come down once the project was bid out, the cost of which was then forecast at $1.2 million. Today, that forecast is $1.35 million, and knowing the extent to which existing systems are cobbled together, and the vagaries of the building, it’s a safe bet things won’t come in under budget. And this isn’t like the 1994 building project—you can’t downgrade the ceiling panels or go for cheaper light fixtures to reduce costs. Nor is it wise to cheap out on hardware—less expensive compressors, for example, typically operate less efficiently, meaning that what you save upfront, you lose over time as the utility bills come in.

Eighth, if this is anything like the 1994 project, folks will conclude nothing more needs to be done for the next 10 years, and preventive maintenance will be ignored. That both increases total costs, and leads to debacles like the mold problems in the parish office record closet, which were ignored for many years and was a hell of a mess to resolve. Ditto for the HVAC-related mold in the vesting rooms, the bird filth in the attic over the sacristy, and more.



Ninth, Bob Malm, true to form, will try to wash his hands of these issues, but he appoints the executive committee, and nowhere do we see the sort of full-court press that occurred when Bob wanted the church to buy him a house. In short, Bob talks out both sides of his mouth on these issues, but it is the church that pays the price.

In short, it’s time for Grace Church to quit following the Bob Malm live-life-large model, and start taking a prudent approach to it’s long-term financial health. Yes, the trust fund is a start, but there is much, much more to it than that.

It’s time for Grace to get its financial and governance acts together.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Will Grace Episcopal Close? It’s Looking More and More Likely

Estimates suggest that 60 percent of church buildings constructed after WWII will close in the next decade. Currently, 100-200 churches close every week, with most of those closing focused primarily on the needs of their members, versus reaching out into the community. Indeed, less than 20 percent of Americans attend church regularly—yet Bob Malm’s response when members leave is, “Why should I give a fuck?” (Yes, his exact words. There were witnesses.)

Will Grace be a church that closes?

Events of the past few years, the church’s refusal to confront the economic and other realities facing it, and the conduct of both clergy and some members suggest Grace will be among those closing.

As one long-time parish employee once said to me (herself an Episcopalian);

“I would never belong to your church, and it’s because of the way people talk to each other, and it goes right to the top. And I’ll tell you right now, Bob will never say anything about it. And because he engages in a certain amount of it himself, he shows it’s okay”

At the time, I foolishly took Bob’s side. I have since admitted to that person that she was right; I was wrong.

Abandoned Episcopal Church

One thing is clear to me: If Grace is going to survive, drastic changes need to happen. Otherwise, it does not have long to go. Simply doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out will result in more of the same—a rapidly declining church. No surprise there.

Some good articles on church closings:








https://www.episcopalcafe.com/top-ten-things-to-remember-when-closing-a-church/




(Check out my naive comments at the end!)


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

See for Yourself: Grace Parishioners Continue Their Efforts to Destroy Their Church

It is comments like this that underscore my point: Grace Episcopal Church is a toxic church.

And if you send your child to Grace Episcopal School, keep in mind that this is the caliber of conversation that goes on behind the scenes.

Lastly, if you are contemplating pledging for 2019, this is the sort of discourse you are supporting.




Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Grace Episcopal: Photos of Thanksgivings Past

In yet another sign that St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Episcopal Alexandria, is coming unraveled thanks to Bob Malm’s weird claims of being threatened by “domestic terrorism,” the church has announced that there will be no Thanksgiving meal this year. Dinner at the church, for anyone who wanted to come, was a tradition Mike and I started and for which we paid all basic expenses. Sadly, the tradition survived our departure by only a few years.

Here are some photos.




















Sunday, November 18, 2018

See for Yourself: Grace Episcopal Now Claims Armed Guards are Needed at School Due to “Domestic Terrorism”

One of the downsides of Bob Malm’s efforts to shut down criticism by use of inflammatory rhetoric is that someone might actually believe him. That appears to be the case in recent comments by a Grace parishioner, who claims that a family at the school (she calls it a “day school,” which is ironic, as the school has repeatedly said it does not wish to be referred to as such) has asked for armed security guards at the school. This would appear to mesh with Bob Malm’s fabricated claim in court documents that Grace is threatened by “domestic terrorism.”

More narcissistic games on Bob Malm’s part.