Showing posts with label toxic churches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toxic churches. Show all posts

Monday, October 14, 2019

Word on the Street: Grace is Toxic



I recently had lunch with several clergy friends of mine. It was a good time and I was careful not to bring up the matter of Grace Church, for fear of putting friends in an awkward place. 

That said, it was not long before the topic came up. I played fair and tried to remain non-committal, instead listening carefully, acknowledging what was said, and hoping not to incentivize further conversation on the topic. Yet the topic quickly grew legs and took over most of our time together.

The upshot was that the more experienced and knowledgable the speaker, the less willing they were to even consider an interim call with the parish. “The place needs a whole lot of work,” said one retired priest. “But those of us who know how to do that sort of work have been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it. At this point, I don’t feel like dealing with the legacy of Bob Malm.”

Ouch.

Younger clergy took a more nuanced approach. “I think it could be a good place to cut your teeth,” said one priest, a former mental health professional. “But it could go south quickly and it would take years to recover,” she quickly added. “You’d probably have to transfer to a diocese on the west coast to rebuild your reputation.”

An older priest, one with ties to Grace Church, quickly shot the notion down: “Bob’s never been popular with the Mayo House crowd, and he’s been getting away with murder for years. Your situation was inevitable, in that we all knew sooner or later Bob would go too far and self-destruct. But I’d be crazy to wade into that mess. No thanks! And you’d be crazy too. I’m just surprised it took so long for Bob to get to that point, and that he was so effective in pulling Mayo House in on his side.”

Later, she added, “It’s interesting. The diocese views [Eric] in many ways as public enemy number one, but in many ways you did them a big favor. The challenge is that the diocese now has to sort things out and so far it remains pretty damned clueless. I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Several thousand calories per person later, as we made our way to the door, one very introspective priest said, “It’s just so sad. Such a beautiful church, friendly people. And so thoroughly messed up. I don’t imagine the coming few years will be pretty.”

I finally responded, “Yes, the building is beautiful. The church, not so much. But yeah, people are friendly. At least, right up until you disagree with them.”

And that in a nutshell is Grace Church.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Look Before You Leap: 12 Questions Prospective Interims Should Ask



If you’re a prospective interim rector at Grace Church and reading this, good for you. 

I mean it—the fact that you’re doing your homework is a good sign. 

A key observation from my years at Grace Church is that, like many toxic organizations, words don’t mean what you think they do. For example, you and I may think that “pastoral care” has one meaning, but look behind the curtain and it has come to mean something very different at Grace Church. That’s not surprising, as problematic clergy typically shift the narrative over time.

So, since my conflict with Bob Malm and the parish in many ways both illustrates and underscores the problems at the church, here are some questions you might ask of diocesan officials and vestry members before you take the plunge. And while the answers to some are damning indeed, and you may thus be tempted to discount the answers, I encourage you to really dig in and understand this information. My belief is that, if you do, you will have a fighting chance of fixing the mess that is Grace Church.

Here we go:
  1. Did Bob Malm or the vestry ever discuss these issues one-on-one with Eric and his family? If so, what happened?
  2. In the church’s legal pleadings, Bob Malm and the church assert that Eric is mentally ill. How did they reach this conclusion? Did they ever discuss it with Eric? If they believed that Eric was mentally ill, did they ever attempt to arrange care for Eric?
  3. In the court documents that Malm filed, one of the reasons he cited under oath for his belief that her blog is really Eric’s work is that Eric’s mother, Sigrid Yahner, or someone claiming to be her, repeatedly made appointments with Malm and no-showed. Eric claims this is a lie/perjury. Can I see records that show this really happened?
  4. The diocese stated that it would not investigate Eric’s claim that Malm committed perjury unless the latter faced criminal charges. Is that normal policy for allegations of misconduct involving potentially criminal behavior? If not, why did the diocese take this approach?
  5. Early in the conflict, Eric asked the diocese to mediate the conflict. The diocese dismissed this request outright. Why?
  6. Eric claims that Bob Malm instructed church staff to exclude him and his husband from the parish and has an email that appears to show that this is the case. Yet the vestry’s talking points say Eric left on his own. Which is true and how do we know?
  7. Some of Jeffery Chiow’s language in his court documents is over the top, like referring to the conflict as a case of “domestic terrorism,” calling Eric a “serial liar,” and more. Why did the church take this approach? Do you think it was helpful? Similarly, Malm refers to Eric in email to the diocese as “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional.” Did anyone at the diocese ever object to this? If not, why not?
  8. Vestry minutes show that the vestry knew and approved of Bob’s efforts to take Eric to court. What was the vestry’s role in this matter? How did it effect oversight?
  9. At one point, Eric alleged that the church had illegally misused memorial donations, yet the diocese refused to get involved. Is this normal practice when allegations of misuse of funds come to the attention of the diocese?
  10. The diocese states in writing that these matters were investigated and resolved long ago and that the diocese fully supports Bob Malm. Who was the investigator? Is that person professionally trained as an investigator? Were the allegations of misuse of funds ever addressed by an auditor or law enforcement? Why does the diocese say the matter was resolved when the conflict clearly continues?
  11. In light of the tremendous damage this conflict has caused the parish and the larger church, is it still the diocese’s position that it fully supports Bob Malm? Has bishop Goff ever sat down with Eric to try to understand this conflict?
  12. From your perspective, can this conflict be resolved? What would it take to do so? Are there lessons learned from this conflict? How do you see this conflict affecting the parish a year from now? Ten years from now?

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.




Thursday, September 12, 2019

My Advice to Potential Interims: Run!





Analysis of the recent surge in traffic to this website reveals that a great many visitors to the site are clergy and others interested both in issues at Grace church and the possibility of serving as the interim rector. With that in mind, here is my advice to anyone considering serving as interim: Run. Like. Hell.

Let’s start with the lay of the land.

Problems in the Parish

Dysfunctional Bob “served” for more than 30 years. That in itself is an issue, because you’re not coming in after someone has made a hash of things for a few years, then moved on. Instead, you’ve got three decades of dysfunction, misfeasance and nonfeasance. As a result, only a handful of parishioners have known anything other than the so-called Planet Malm paradigm.

Why do I refer to the church as Planet Malm? The other handle sometimes used for the place, “Bobby Malm’s Playground,” speaks to that issue. Simply put, Grace Church is all about Bob Malm. He decides who serves on the Executive Committee, thus ensuring a rubber-stamp vestry. As a result, there’s zero accountability for Bob or church staff. No annual performance review, no annual mutual ministry review. Or, as one former assistant rector of the parish says, “Bob’s been getting away with murder for years.” And while Bob’s friendly, there is zero genuine concern for others. Instead, the church is all about meeting Bob’s needs

Bob’s also been very clever in playing to the whole “lay-driven church” thing. Bob claims, and rightly so, that laity at the church are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the church. What this means is that things like church administration, facilities issues, and programmatic activities all fall to laity. In other words, Bob simply doesn’t get involved in the food pantry, Carpenter’s Shelter, planning Shrine Mont, or much of anything else. His role is liturgy, answering emails, and very limited pastoral care—as in Bob will show up for a few minutes, smile, chat, give you a hug and dash off.  But with a vestry that reports to Bob, and where Bob can bypass or overrule the vestry at any time, the result is that even basics, like ensuring that cash is handled appropriately, were ignored by Bob for much of his tenure. Consider: thousands of dollars in cash and stale checks were found in the office of a previous parish administrator following her departure. Are we really to assume that no one ever called to ask why these checks were never cashed? What does this tell people about the church, its clergy/staff, and its “stewardship?”

Moreover, Dysfunctional Bob uses this paradigm to dismiss anyone who claims he’s abusive, arguing that laity would not put up with things like gross mismanagement. But the reality is that laity has done exactly that for many years, lacking any meaningful recourse.

Predictably enough, Bob exploits this paradigm to his personal advantage. His annual compensation exceeds that of even top denominational officials, despite a demonstrably mediocre track record.  His insistence that the church tear down the rectory and help him buy a personal residence was a financially disastrous move for the parish, and one that he bullied through a reluctant vestry. And Bob pretty much comes and goes as he pleases.

It is in the matter of Bob’s 2014 bonus of $100,000 in the form of debt he owed the church that one really begins to understand this situation. “Negotiated” by two members of the executive committee directly with Bob (one’s husband is a regular golfing buddy of Bob’s), this was an outrageously large bonus for a feckless rector, particularly in light of the looming massive expenses facing the church. Yet members of the vestry supported the measure, with vestry member Lisa Medley even suggesting that the bonus be $200,000.

Why did vestry members make such an ill-advised decision? The answer is that, like many narcissists, Bob is good at turning on the superficial flattery and charm. He’s also very good at manipulating people and playing them against each other, with the result that conflict is rife in the parish.

Nor should one be misled by Bob’s claim that he doesn’t like conflict, which he trots out when faced with demands to address conflict within the parish. The reality is that his claim is true in part, in that he doesn’t like to do anything that will engender criticism. Yet the larger truth is that Bob often foments conflict among parishioners. His favorite tactic is to make himself out to be the friend, ally, and supporter, while claiming that others are hostile. As a result, people glob on to Bob, never realizing that he actually is the source of the underlying conflict. Much like Donald Trump, Bob exploits this paradigm to meet his own perceived needs, both oblivious and indifferent to the underlying harm he is causing the larger organization.

By now, astute readers will have concluded that, like Trump, Bob may be a narcissist. I believe that conclusion is spot on, and that Dysfunctional Bob exhibits other signs of possible narcissism and psychological maladjustment, including a propensity for lying. Whether it’s his claim that church office employees will be “retiring this year” (a lie he told repeatedly over the years), or his claims in writing, under oath, made with the advice of legal counsel that my mom or someone claiming to be her repeatedly made appointments with him and no-showed, Bob demonstrates a shocking lack of integrity, particularly for a priest.

In short. Bob’s tenure with the parish has produced a church that, not surprisingly, is much like him: Outwardly friendly and welcoming, while lacking inward faith and integrity, with a strong bias towards real or perceived self-interest, and willing to engage in virtually any behavior to meet its own needs.

Dysfunction at the Diocese

Things are no better at the diocese. Over the past few years, the diocese has repeatedly refused to deal with Bob Malm’s misconduct, even in the face of clear evidence that Bob has engaged in illegal activity. The latter includes perjury and deliberate misuse of restricted solicitations. Indeed, I am told by one church official that Bishop Shannon expressly understood that Bob’s misuse of funds was illegal, but still did not want to get involved.

The diocese also has ignored both church canons and the recommendations of its own officials. For instance, Title IV intake officer Rev. Randall Prior recommended that the church engage in conciliation of my conflict with Bob, only to be ignored by Bishop Shannon. In fact, when it did so, the diocese ignored the canonical requirement of providing written notice of its decision, instead simply falling silent. Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a diocese that had just spent seven years caterwauling to the courts about the canons and their applicability to dissidents who had left the organization.

Even more disturbingly, the diocese has said that there’s no point in its getting involved, as reconciliation is not possible. But reconciliation is not the only goal of church disciplinary canons; justice is also an objective. Nor did the diocese ever ask if I wanted to be reconciled with Bob. I don’t, as reconcilation is neither possible nor desirable when dealing with someone with Bob’s level of dysfunction.

In short, the diocese is part and parcel of the problem, for it is dysfunction at the diocese that has allowed the mess at Grace Church to take on a life of its own.

Trouble at Grace, a Stained Glass Slice of Paradise

So what does all this mean for an interim and the stained glass slice of paradise that is Grace Church?

Primarily, it means that problems within the parish will not not easily fixed. Part of the problem is that the issues that loom largest for the church are actually symptoms of bigger problems. For example, plummeting revenue and attendance at the church are seen by members of the church as themselves being challenges, while the real issues are the causes of these declines. These causes include organizational narcissism, troubled interpersonal relationships, and a lack of understanding what it means to be the Body of Christ. In other words, the parish has become much like Dysfunctional Bob: outwardly friendly, but in a narcissistic way, with all sorts of meanness right behind the scenes and a lack of self-awareness. Church members simply do not see that the place is toxic.

Predictably enough, people are very used to Bob’s way of doing things, and change will be met with resistance, a lack of understanding, and a lack of charity. (Keep in mind this is a church and diocese in which Bob Malm writes to diocesan officials, calling me “sick” and “twisted.”) Yet at the same time the challenge is to become a church, versus a religion club. This is a sea change akin to the challenges that faced The Falls Church and the Church of the Epiphany following the property recovery litigation, and it’s a massive effort, complicated by the fact that there is no external enemy akin to the “Orthodox Anglicans.”

In the case of my conflict with Bob, which in many ways is the least of the church’s problems, Bob’s all-out effort to pull members of the church in to the conflict and to create fear among parishioners, complete with his ridiculous BS about mental illness and “single-button emergency transmitters,” etc., will make it very hard for folks to reverse course and approach the issue with clarity. Even otherwise intelligent, reasonable people have fallen prey to Bob’s manipulation, and few appear to see how laughable it is to claim to be “servants of Christ,” while failing to show any love or compassion for those who are the subjects of their gossip and speculation. It’s also worth noting that I am allegedly neither the first nor the second person that Bob has tried to push out of the church; long-time members say this is a pattern of behavior on Bob’s part.

Even more laughable are people like David Crosby, who see fit to lecture me on being hateful, yet turn a blind eye to Bob Malm’s perjury. But I can say with certainty that neither David, nor anyone else at Grace, has ever seen evidence of those alleged appointments that Mom — or someone claiming to be her — made with Bob Malm. Yet David and many others continue to support a priest who commits perjury and bullies the dying. In other words, Bob may not literally be getting away with murder, but he is literally getting away with perjury.

At the same time, any potential interim faces a grim reality, which is that the diocese, which should be leading the charge to fix things at Grace, is worse than no help at all. Diocesan officials are fine with Bob’s perjury and bullying of a dying woman, and have refused to address Bob’s forcing Mike out of the Christian faith. So the diocese is not going to provide air cover and lacks the ethical underpinnings to act as an honest broker going forward. Moreover, given the track record of diocesan officials, it would be difficult for anyone to take the diocese seriously at this point, even if it attempts that role. Indeed, the role of the diocese seems best confined to lamenting slavery and reflecting on reproductive rights, versus actually addressing real-world conflict. And the diocese lacks the self-awareness and Christian ethics needed to examine its own extensive role, both in my conflict with Bob and with the larger mess that is Grace Church, to wade in, accept responsibility, and fix things. Nor does the diocese have a great track record in that regard, for it made a hash of things over at St. Thomas’ McLean and managed to violate virtually every best practice out there regarding care for a church injured by allegations of misconduct, while conveniently ignoring church canons as well.

Of course, as Bob likes to say, “Charity starts at home.” While this is an ironic statement for a priest whose noisy fights with his wife are legendary, it underscores the reality that a denomination that cannot fix problems in its own house is unlikely to be able to do much to fix the issues in the world around it.

In closing

In closing, problems at Grace church far exceed the scope of a single post. These problems start with a lack of introspection, and are threaded through every aspect of church life, up to and including the diocese itself. Moreover, they go back many years, meaning that no interim, no matter how skilled or diligent, can fully resolve all or even most of these issues. Much like an alcoholic, who can only get better when he or she hits bottom and decides it’s time to change, so too can Grace Church only become healthy once it has hit rock bottom and decides something has to give. And for this to be successful, the diocese must also embrace a healthy approach, both to the parish and to its relationship with the parish. 

The analogy to an alcoholic goes even further. Much like the drunk who lashes out at those who try to intervene, potential interims need to understand that members of the parish will have no compunction against trying to obstruct their efforts, or throwing them under the bus. One has only to look at the ugly comments coming from within the church, including the college-aged parishioner who urged me to commit suicide, to realize just how sick Grace Church really is. And the Jean Reeds of the place can bloviate all they want to about defamation, etc., but Bob Malm’s perjury, his manipulative behavior, his bullying, and even the comments from the parishioner about suicide are all documented in writing.

Fixing the mess at Grace Church is a Herculean task, and I have yet to meet the interim who is up to the challenge. But if you are a prospective interim and considering taking on the job, I urge you to do your homework before signing on the dotted line. You are in for a rough and rocky road.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Grace Episcopal Alexandria: Lessons from a Toxic Church

Growing up, I had preconceived notions about toxic churches. But after my experiences with Grace Episcopal church in Alexandria, I now know that many of my ideas were nothing but stereotypes. As such, these ideas had a kernel of truth, but they missed the larger point. Indeed, I had so little understanding of what really goes on in a toxic church that I was a member of one and never knew it.

So, what did I think constituted a toxic church? My answer probably would be consistent with that of most liberal Episcopalians. Conservative, fundamentalist churches that excluded people, that held to complementarianism, that had rigid doctrinal positions, and had theologies of cheap grace, in which you uttered a magic phrase about turning your life over to Jesus, and bingo! Everything suddenly is right in the world.

Factoring into this was the notion that abusive churches often claim to have all the answers.

But during my time at Grace, I came to understand that liberal, ostensibly inclusive churches often claim to have all the answers too. The packaging may be nicer, but they can be every bit as bad as the most vigorous Pentecostal church, and then some.

Often, this tilt toward abuse is marked by a charismatic, but narcissistic, leader.  This person may appear charming and hyper-confident, but the focus is on them, versus God. Yes, their sermons may be wonderful and cogent, but if you listen closely, they almost always include some reference to themselves. Oftentimes this will take the form of subtle references to something they think makes them special, like the sports they played in school or some leadership position they have held.

Another clue: A rector or other leader who avoids dealing with conflict. This allow them to duck criticism, which narcissists avoid at all costs. And it allows ample opportunity for the narcissist to play people against each other—a favorite pastime of narcissists everywhere. But it is the whims of this “leader” that become the answer set in stone—the hallmark of abusive churches.

Having explored the relationship between narcissism and abuse, let’s explore a few other myths before we go further:
  • Abusive churches are not necessarily unwelcoming. Indeed, many are extraordinarily friendly.
  • Being in an abusive church isn’t necessarily an unhappy experience; it certainly is possible to be happy in an abusive church. In fact, most members enjoy their experiences with an abusive church. So they often are happy places—just unhealthy.
  • Abusive churches often are not collapsing, but may be holding their own or even thriving.
So how do you spot an abusive church? Look for one where boundaries are not clear, or have been eroded.  For example, most psychologically healthy people would not urge another person to commit suicide. Yet, that is exactly what one teenager at Grace Church did to me, with zero recognition of the underlying irony. Same goes for calling people “sickos,” “sick,” “twisted,” and all the other verbal BS that pours forth at Grace Church. (For the record, one of the worst offenders is Bob Malm, with a close second being immediate members of his family.

Also, if there is a sense of betrayal if people criticize church leadership, that is a sign of trouble. In my case, members of Grace Church will actually flip me off as they roll past, oblivious to the irony, especially when I am protesting the church’s behavior toward my terminally ill mother.

Another sign: Conditional friendships. If your church loves you when you are patching the leaky basement, but defriends you on Facebook when you leave the church and criticize it, you’re not dealing with a church—you’ve got a religious fraternity/sorority on your hands.

Yet another symptom: Lack of accountability. If your clergy person is “out of town” any time he or she feels like it, there’s an issue. Same for lack of servant leadership. If you’ve never heard your priest ask, “What can I do to help?,” be wary. Better yet, run.

Still another warning that a church is abusive is members who feel it is their place to discipline other members. Altar guild not talking to you because you ordered the wrong flowers or made a change it didn’t like? If so, that’s hardly the stuff of Christ, and if members are honest, they know it. This sort of emphasis on power and control tells you this is a church that has lost its way. Hopefully you won’t lose your way as you run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

Financial reporting also is a warning sign. If, for example, even vestry members don’t see line item details, particularly for church payroll, you should be very, very suspicious. Why can’t you see that information? It’s your donations that pay those salaries.

Another clue: Look for people who instinctively know that things will come unglued when an abusive leader leaves. The observer may not recognize that the situation is abusive, but any church whose health hinges on a single person is not healthy.

Finally, abusive churches, which are masters of double-speak, often hide behind empty claims of exceptionalism and triumphalism. If you hear about how your church practices “true religion,” or is a “special place,” be wary. And if attendance is dwindling but your church claims to be a slice of paradise, ask why people are leaving such a wonderful place.

And yes, I have observed all these behaviors and phenomena at Grace Church under Bob Malm. So yes, Grace Church is abusive.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Church Member Urges Me to Commit Suicide

Here’s an important reminder of just how toxic Grace Episcopal has become under Dysfunctional Bob Malm.

In this screen cap,,we see a post, believed to be from a member of Lisa Medley’s family. Lisa is a former senior warden, and has repeatedly lied about my experiences with the church.

Needless to say, anyone who thinks urging another human being to commit suicide is one sad individual indeed. Even more sad is that this individual runs in circles, and attends a church, that thinks this sort of conduct is okay.

Proof that Grace Church under Bob Malm is toxic, and in no way a reflection of actual Christian values.




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.




Friday, December 7, 2018

See for Yourself: Grace Episcopal Parishioner Mocks Dying Woman, Drags Family Members Into Dispute, Makes Accusations of Domestic Violence

Need further proof that Grace Episcopal Church and Bob Malm are toxic? Here’s a screen cap of comments believed to come from a member of Bob Malm’s family. I’d add that mom’s “shiner” is a growth on her right eye.

Grace Episcopal and Bob Malm are so ethically skewed they think it’s okay to mock the dying.




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Leslie Malm Again Underscores the Fact that Grace Episcopal is Toxic

In a recent posting on Fairfax Underground, Leslie Malm again demonstrated that Grace Episcopal Church is both toxic and paranoid.

In her posts, Leslie makes a number of assertions, including that:
  1. The “Grace Episcopal Philosoraptor” post and meme are mine.
  2. That this is all about the fact I wasn’t asked to be senior warden.
  3. That she hasn’t written to me.
  4. That I am a compulsive liar.
  5. That God will punish me in heaven for sharing my experiences with Grace Church.




To set the record straight:
  1. The original post and meme are not mine. That said, if Leslie had half the common sense God gave a goat (or half the intellect), it would be pretty obvious who did develop and publish these items. Thus, we see firsthand the paranoia that is rampant in the place — like referring to me as a “domestic terrorist.”
  2. Actually, Bob did ask me to serve as senior warden, although that was not the position in which I was hoping to serve. My preference, had anyone bothered to ask, would have been to continue as junior warden. That said, after asking, Bob reversed course and asked Lisa, no doubt as tit-for-tat for having insisted that he address the lunacy in the church office. A rude way to handle things, and some would say inappropriate on multiple fronts, given my labors following the flood at the church just prior to Bob’s accident, but what else can you expect from a “priest” like Bob Malm? And Lisa, who was never particularly popular in the church and was originally elected to the vestry as an alternate (meaning she was at the bottom of the heap in terms of votes), in my opinion proved to be exactly the senior warden that Bob deserved. That is all I have to say on that matter.
  3. No one said Leslie has written to me. Ever. She did, however, repeatedly contact me via the webform on my former website; I didn’t include a form on my new site so I wouldn’t have to listen to nonsense of this sort.
  4. Defamatory and untrue. But were that the case, members of the parish have heard things like, “Don’t worry about it, they’ll be retiring this year,” often enough that I would be in not-so-good company. And if it were the case, Leslie’s response hardly mirrors what should be normative for Christians. And speaking of lying, Leslie has yet to respond to my friend Dee Parsons’ email asking why Leslie told the former that I had admitted in open court that Mom’s blog is really mine. Nor is this the first time that Leslie has lied about this matter.
  5. If God and heaven in any way reflect Bob or Leslie Malm’s conduct or that of Grace Episcopal Church, no thanks. You can keep all of the above. And having left the Christian faith, I turned my back on all that nonsense long ago. No desire to waste time and money on a super-annuated geriatric fraternity boy who thinks he’s special, or his family, or his church, or any of the tomfoolery that goes along. So I am not worried about those issues, not in the least.
Bottom line, this is one messed up church. Good bye and good riddance; I hope others can learn from my experiences and devote their time and talent to something useful, like animal welfare, homelessness, or building a more just society. 

PS To the person who did post—thanks for weighing in. Just be careful; if people figure out who you are, you’ll be treated every bit as badly as Mike and I have been,












Saturday, August 25, 2018

How (Real) Christians Respond in Times of Trouble

There’s been a very troubling story in the news over the past several months, and that has been the repeated vandalism at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Annandale. A welcoming, inclusive, small but vibrant congregation, the church has been vandalized seven times over the past few months. Most recently, someone destroyed many of the pew cushions in the church, which are affixed to the pews and thus difficult to replace or repair. Additionally, on one occasion a young volunteer allegedly was assaulted by the intruder. See http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/annandale-church-vandalized-for-the-7th-time-since-may for details.

Before we go further, Bob Malm might well consider folks at this church to be a threat. Given that he claims protesting is somehow a threat to him, the church’s recent outdoor protests, objecting to vandalism at the Jewish Community Center and nearby UCC church, no doubt caused Bob Malm tremendous alarm; see the photos below of the church’s efforts.






But to fully see how Bethlehem Lutheran really is Christian, versus the #fakechristian nonsense that comes from Bob Malm, see what the church’s interim pastor said about the recent vandalism and the person behind it:


That’s a far cry from Bob Malm’s efforts to obtain a restraining order based on his paranoid assumptions/conclusions based on a few words in someone’s blog. 

Of course, that is not to say that I condone vandalism. Indeed, I abhor violence of every sort, including the emotional and relational violence, and shunning, that is part and parcel of Bob Malm’s “ministry” at Grace Episcopal Church. 

And like members of Bethlehem Lutheran church, I am prepared to call out Bob Malm, Jeff Chiow, and all who seek to oppress, intimidate, and harm others. The First Amendment still guarantees the right to peaceful protest, even under Donald Trump and Bob Malm.








Friday, July 27, 2018

Comment from Fairfax Underground

Just saw the following posting, clearly from someone connected with Grace Church.

Why do I get the feeling that Bob Malm’s daughter Lindsey is the poster?

This  sort of invective further proves my point: If you’re looking for Christianity, you won’t find it with Bob Malm or St. Dysfunction Episcopal Church, aka Grace Church.






Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Statement by Bishop Adams Underscores Bob Malm’s Hypocrisy

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina recently made an interesting statement apropos the Lawrencian dissidents. The statement underscores the fact that there is absolutely nothing Christian in Bob Malm’s current smear campaign and effort to avoid accountability by falsely claiming that he’s been threatened.

Here’s what loyalist bishop Skip Adams said:
The break in fellowship within The Episcopal Church that occurred in 2012 must certainly grieve the heart of God. Ever since the break, reconciliation has been our constant prayer. We of The Episcopal Church want to be able to explore every possibility for making reconciliation a reality. 
We have no desire for any member of a congregation to leave his or her church building. Our aim is restoration and unity. We want to work together in mutual respect for the benefit of all, so that we can continue to be about the Good News of Jesus.
That contrasts sharply with Bob’s false police reports and his efforts to force a dying woman, my mother, to testify on his behalf. You’d think that, having lost his own mother (sorry Bob, not a proper noun. It’s lower-case.) only a little over three years ago, he’d have some respect for the dying.

My opinion: Bob Malm is a priest in name only. And like Jesus’ description of the Scribes and Pharisees, Grace is pretty on the outside. But inside it’s rotten and full of decay—like Bob M<alm’s conduct. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

More Sick Comments From Grace Parishioners

Want to see still further proof that Grace Episcopal Church has become toxic? Check out the comments below, which judging from context, come from a parishioner. 

Typical crap from the church—any approach except actually addressing misconduct within the parish.

It’s telling, too, that members of the church go right to sex when they want to try to discredit someone. Needless to say, the parish has an unhealthy obsession with sex. 

At the same time, it has little recognition of the importance of telling the truth: My blow-up with Bob Malm didn’t happen until 2015.

Grace is one sad and dysfunctional church.




Sunday, April 29, 2018

Amusing Encounter

Ever wonder just how dysfunctional Grace Church is? Today’s amusing encounter with a clueless parishioner (who will, for now remain nameless), provides insight.

The individual in question rolled through one of the intersections where I was protesting, yelling, “Get a life, Eric!”

Subsequently, he parked his vehicle and took several photos of me, adding, “Move your sign down. I want to make sure it’s you.”

Given that I maintain this blog, and maintain paid advertising nationwide, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m not looking for anonymity. So, for the record, if you see a protester calling out Grace Church, it is me, or someone connected with me. 

Yeah, taking my pic—top-flight scary stuff, that.

With Christ-like responses like that, I have four words for you: Dysfunctional priest. Dysfunctional church.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Will this End?

A friend of mine recently asked me how this will end. The answer could be one of several outcomes, but none of them are likely to be good for Grace Church.

In the best case scenario, the diocese or vestry decide to provide Bob Malm with a little adult supervision. In that case, we return to the agreement forged in Fredericksburg, which essentially was that we leave each other alone, and recognize the fact that none of us have the ability to control third parties, including my mom. Perhaps we could even work on seeing her concerns (and those of others) addressed, but there is no guarantee after more than two years of conflict that this can be accomplished.

In that case, I’m happy to again shutter my website, as I have better things to do with my life, including looking out for my mother. That said, I have never agreed to non-disclosure, and I will continue to reserve my right to share my experience with others.

In the worst case scenario, things continue as they are. In that case, I will continue to blog, and to protest on a regular basis for at least the next two years. There will be additional coverage in the media and on major blogs, and family members will continue to support my efforts, even after mom is gone. As a result, Grace Church and the diocese of Virginia will face continued reputational  harm, and church budgets and attendance will continue to be negatively affected. In this case, time is on my side, for new parish members are relatively few and far between these days, and typically give at lower levels than long-time members. Thus, as people pass away, retire, or leave the area, Grace Church will continue to decline. In a good year, attrition is normally about 30 people, but in recent years it’s been much higher.

The same friend asked me if I feel badly about the declining fortunes of Grace Church. The answer is no. While I feel no malice towards members of the parish, the reality is someone should have called out Bob Malm’s bad behavior long ago. Recall: A former assistant rector of Bob’s has said, “Bob has been getting away with murder for years.” (Geez, maybe I should be afraid for my life. Could it be that she means that literally?) So, sup with the devil, do dishes with the devil.

Did you notice what is not mentioned in this post? Yes, you got it: No mention of reconciliation. There’s no requirement of reconciliation when someone abuses you, and I’ve seen enough of Bob Malm to know how vile, vicious and vindictive he is at his very heart. So I am taking a pass there. With some people, it’s just best to go no contact and leave it at that.

Do I miss Grace Church? Not really. I knew some wonderful people while I was there, and the worship indeed is beautiful. But I’ve come to understand that all that glitters is not gold, and right beneath the bright shiny exterior (whitewashed, as Jesus would say), the place is rotten to the core. Yeah, things like Shrine Mont were fun, but I still go to Shrine Mont, only now in an environment where bullying is not okay.

Or, as one commentator at The Wartburg Watch, put it: “That’s one toxic church you have there, Eric.”

How right she was!