Saturday, March 23, 2019
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.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
As many who follow abusive churches know, things have been ugly lately at Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF), an evangelical church that, like Bob Malm, tried to use bogus accusations in the courts to silence criticism. That case recently was thrown out of court.
It’s beyond the purview of this post to rehash the details of this debacle, but our evangelical sisters and brothers have done an excellent job of parsing what needs to come next. In HBF’s case, that is repentance, which is not the same as peacemaking or reconciliation. HBF goes on to state, quite rightly, that this will only happen if the going-forward plan is “completely devoid of manipulation and avoidance.”
In my experience, these are the two words that best describe Bob Malm’s “leadership,” — manipulation and avoidance. Yet the diocese has never recognized the distinction between reconciliation and repentance when it comes to Bob’s actions, and it manifests a warped theology of repentance. “Just say you’re sorry and everything’s good,” is the approach. And Bob goes even further; in his ill-fated settlement proposal, he basically suggests the status quo, with a layer of “Jesus-babble” slapped on top.
Sorry kids, that dog ain’t gonna hunt.
Friday, December 21, 2018
In recent news, it turns out Bob Malm is not the only dirtbag clergyperson to sue his members in an effort to suppress free speech.
James MacDonald, the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, recently filed suit against the bloggers behind The Elephants Debt, a publication that criticizes MacDonald for allegedly misgoverning the church, inflating his salary, and all the usual antics you’d expect. (Sound familiar?)
In my review of the materials on The Elephants Debt, I don’t see anything defamatory, but then I am retired as an attorney, and never practiced law in Illinois, the relevant jurisdiction. But some sounds strikingly familiar, including the efforts by the plaintiff’s attorney to run up the bill, including via claims that his motion is an emergency. Sounds like he comes from the Sugarland Chiow school of legal ethics.
Details of the situation are at https://theelephantsdebt.com/the-authors/, with great coverage on The Wartburg Watch and other major publications. Until I have time to write more, I’ll point those interested to those sources.
Note too that the defendants are facing extraordinary expenses as they defend against the lawsuit. If you wish to contribute — and I encourage you to do so — you can find the relevant GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/the-elephant039s-debt-legal-defense.