Observant members of Grace Church may have noticed something about the upcoming gala farewell reception for perjuring priest Bob Malm: It’s pay-to-pay. That stands in marked contrast to Chris Byrne’s farewell, in which both the church and the school ponied up several thousand dollars for a catered reception, with the church funds drawn from management reserves. The change highlights both the shoddy management of Dysfunctional Bob’s reign, as well as the new financial realities facing the church.
To be clear, the decision to draw on savings to pay for a farewell party for Chris was stupid on multiple fronts. First, Chris was not a particularly effective head of school. Her approach to management alienated staff, parents, and parishioners alike, and her empire building led many to question the wisdom of having a school. Second, a catered party for Chris featuring barbecue from an outside vendor sends an unfortunate message to church staff, who typically get a sheet cake during coffee hour when they left. Why Chris would warrant a $6,000 reception when church staff got a $35 sheet cake is beyond me. Third, entertainment appropriately is paid for out of free cash flow, not savings, nor from borrowing. In other words, any church with money to pay $100,000 bonuses to Dysfunctional Bob, and pay for $6,000 farewell parties, all while cutting health insurance benefits to church staff and their dependents is both seriously screwed up, and surely needs neither my money, nor yours.
Of course, the underlying point about health insurance for church employees, many of whom are underpaid to begin with and cannot afford to live in Northern VA absent a second income, continues to hold true. Church members can pony up to get smashed at Shrine Mont, and to attend a gala reception for Dysfunctional Bob, but they can’t find money to pay for full health insurance for the human beings who make their little stained glass paradise run? That is truly sad and unethical.
Meanwhile, pay-to-play underscores the new rules of the road. Grace Church needs to get its act together, its priorities straight, and start behaving like a church. That includes not wasting money on self-indulgent, unnecessary luxuries like parties.