Today, I’m attending a course on clergy boundaries. It’s a great course, as it goes well beyond the standard Episcopal emphasis on sexual misconduct prevention and abuse of the elderly. It also illustrates the major issues Bob Malm has when it comes to pastoral boundaries.
Note that I am not suggesting that Bob has engaged in sexual misconduct.
What I am saying is that Bob’s role with the parish is based on boundary violations. Rather than being a missional partner, Bob tries to be in control. Whether it’s choosing the vestry’s executive committee, refusing to address vestry concerns about parish business operations and staffing, refusing to have candid conversations about governance concerns, taking leave in apparent excess of what is allowed under his letter of agreement, Bob misuses the authority of his position.
What does all that mean?
It means that Bob ultimately pursues his own perceived self interest—avoiding criticism, avoiding accountability. At the same time, Bob appears very focused on obtaining recognition and adulation, often in a very calculating way. Conversely, Bob is Machiavellian in his efforts to suppress perceived criticism, often via petty slights or power games.
This is, of course, contrary to a healthy pastoral relationship, in which the needs of the parishioner comes first. Or, as we teach in the sexual misconduct prevention course, if the answer to the question, “Whose needs are being met?”, is the clergyperson’s, the relationship is abusive.
This paradigm extends to Bob’s conflict with me and my family. Rather than engaging with us and asking the question, “how can we work together to resolve this?”, Bob continues to treat the situation as a battle to be won. As a result, extensive harm has been caused to the parish, its members, Bob and his family, and my family.
Put in other words, Bob has never tried on his own to resolve this conflict, instead trying to triangulate his way through Dee Parsons, the vestry, the diocese, his wife, and others. That underscores just how inappropriate his relationship with his parish.
Consider Bob’s bogus report to the police. Did Bob ever raise his alleged concerns directly with me or my family members? No, he didn’t.
Apropos Bob’s false claims that I may be mentally ill, has he ever brought his alleged concerns to my attention? No, he has not.
Has the Grace Church vestry ever tried to reach out to me or my family to see what might be done to resolve this conflict? No, it has not.
Bottom line, boundary issues are a hot mess at Grace Church. As a result, interpersonal dynamics within the parish are all too often unhealthy.
Bottom line, Bob Malm’s relationship with the parish and its members is profoundly unhealthy. It should not ba all about Bob.
Let us hope that The Episcopal Church expands misconduct prevention training to include non-sexual misconduct.