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Those seeking to understand the hot mess that is Planet Malm Grace Episcopal Church may want to check out Chuck DeGroat’s upcoming book, “When Narcissism Comes to Church.” The book is available for pre-order, with a release date of March 2020.

DeGroat is a well-known seminary instructor, licensed pastoral counselor, consultant, and coach who has done extensive research into the issue, including counseling narcissistic church leaders and churches hurt by their conduct for more than 20 years.

Like others, he understands that having toxic church leaders is devastating to churches. Or, as author Dr. David Orrison describes it:

“Narcissism” has become a way to describe the disordered personality that depersonalizes and uses others in its quest to think of itself as superior. Dr. Orrison sees this as a defining characteristic that can be found in organizations, including churches. Narcissists mold and use organizations to build their personal image, and the organizations carry the message to others.

DeGroat goes further, discussing faulty theologies of sin and forgiveness:

A shallow view of sin leads to a shallow repentance. Shallow repentance looks like admitting the troubling behavior and committing to not doing it again – case closed. And thus, shallow repentance leads to quick restoration. After all, who wouldn’t believe the sincerity of a pastor who preaches so wonderfully and charismatically, and who has influenced so many? Shallow repentance can look like blame dressed in the garments of personal responsibility – “I’m really sorry that hurt you.”

(Astute readers will note the dramatic similarity of the fauxpology above to Bob Malm’s abortive “apology” to Mike, in which he says, “I’m sorry you were upset…but….”)

Apropos forgiveness, DeGroat says:

All of this (above) leads to an expectation that the narcissist and/or abuser will be forgiven (which also means restored). In this, the burden quickly switches from abuser to victim, as anyone impacted is asked to forgive quickly and fully out of a spiritual duty. Anything less than full forgiveness is narrated as angry, petty, grudge-holding, and un-spiritual. Within this is a pitifully vacuous theology of Grace – again, grace as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

In the meantime, you can read DeGroat’s reflection on the destruction wrought by narcissistic church leaders/systems and their lack of spiritual and personal integrity here.