The Irony of Life at St. Dysfunction

By |

In all of this, there’s a great irony, which is that Bob has thus far gotten everything he wanted.

Bob wanted Mike and me out of Grace Church. We have both left the Christian faith, so that goal was accomplished.

Bob wanted a protective order and the court awarded him that. No problem there—there’s no sum of money large enough to induce me to go anywhere near Dirtbag Bob.

So what is he kvetching about?

Surely Bob didn’t think that there would be no implications for his reputation and that of Grace Church.

Now, of course, Bob wants those two outcomes, and silence as well. But it doesn’t work that way. It won’t work that way.

One thing Bob still hasn’t learned is that everything in life comes at a price. Sometimes small choices have big implications. For instance, not having a nightlight — a five dollar item available in any supermarket — resulted in Bob’s 2014 accident in which he broke his neck. (With falls being the number one cause of accidental death in the home, it’s also fair to point out that the decision not to take safety seriously was remarkably stupid on Bob’s part, but not inconsistent with his stated proclivity for believing himself to be invincible.)

Other times, it’s more readily obvious that our actions will have consequences. For example, by not acting as a Christian and by directing parish staff to shun and exclude us, and by falsely claiming that things like the name of a Richmond classic rock frighten him, and thus he needs a protective order, it should have been pretty obvious that people would conclude, at best, Bob’s a priest in name only. No surprise there. And it should have been obvious that this would impact the church’s reputation.

So, I am very happy to give Bob both of the original outcomes that he wanted. But having chosen a specific path forward that includes:

  • Confrontation,
  • Exclusion,
  • Dishonesty, including claiming that Mike and I left on our own, references to a fake church shooting in the equally fake city of “Sugarland Texas,” referring to me as “unbalanced,” “dysfunctional,” and a “sad individual,” lying about my previously having been an attorney and having served as a police officer, and
  • Bullying, like trying to drag my mother, dying of COPD, into court,

it’s perfectly fair and reasonable to tell the world that these things are all okay and part of life on Planet Malm.

Moreover, by pulling the vestry into things, including through dissemination of talking points that falsely claim we left on our own, Bob has damaged the church’s reputation at every level. These outcomes are part and parcel of Bob’s so-called ministry, and they are a damning reflection of the kind of priest and person that Bob is. Or, as Jesus puts it, “By their fruits you shall know them.” And by aiding and abetting Bob in his follies, Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow is every bit as culpable — and clueless — as Bob.

So, if you’re okay with these things, Grace Episcopal Church may be a good place for you, and Bob Malm may be an equally acceptable priest for you.

If you’re not good with these things, you may want to consider finding a different church, or no church at all.

And if you are presently an inhabitant of Planet Malm, you may want to consider whether these are behaviors you want to support. Personally, I would not choose to invest time, talent or treasure in any church or ministry in which these things are okay. The gospel of Jesus is about radical inclusion, love and acceptance, not about shunning, bullying, and lying. Moreover, Bob’s claims that he didn’t bully me are disproved by his very actions in this conflict. Oh, and remind me again: What did Mike, who had joined The Episcopal Church 16 months earlier, do to deserve to be included in Dysfunctional Bob’s Edict of Shunning? Folks can deploy the Jesus-babble about being “servants of Christ” all they want, but that’s just lipstick on a pig. Bob’s actions speak for themselves.

Finally, if you are clergy and thinking about the assistant position at Grace Church, just know that right behind the ostensibly friendly people and the pretty nave, these things are an acceptable part of life at Grace Episcopal Church, aka St. Dysfunction aka Planet Malm.