Friday, February 21, 2020
Ethics, Grace Episcopal, and Life Inside the Beltway
One of the profoundly troubling things about Grace Episcopal Church is the juxtaposition of the blind trust that members place in Bob Malm and his fabrications with the fact that many parishioners work for the federal government and organizations covered by the ethics provisions of Gramm-Rudman and Sarbanes-Oxley. And that’s all the more the case following the appalling retaliation recently experienced by military and other government officials who have expressed concerns about conduct within the executive branch of government.
Consider: Many parish leaders are retired military. If someone came forward with allegations that a military leader had engaged in perjury and other potentially criminal conduct, would they turn a blind eye? Would they refuse to take any action at all? Or would they insist on a full and fair investigation into the allegations? One hopes that the answer would be the latter.
Similarly, the parish is replete with former Senior Executive Service officials. If they received such allegations, would they simply say, “Well, I know him. That can’t be.”?
Same goes for Fortune 500 employees. In almost every instance, such employees are covered by whistleblower protections, including mandatory reporting if an employee becomes aware of possible misconduct.
In the context of the Episcopal church, the canons state that all who serve the church do so as fiduciaries. That begs the question: When was a fiduciary permitted under the law to turn a blind eye to misconduct affecting the larger organization?
Consider these questions, too, if the matter didn’t involve perjury, but instead sexual harassment. Would parishioners refuse to listen or look into the matter?
Ironically, my conflict with Bob does involve allegations of possible gender-based harassment, including Bob Malm’s repeated failure to address these issues. And the accuracy of church financial reporting and adequacy of cash handling internal controls remain serious concerns of mine. Yet in every instance, both the diocese and the parish have brushed off these issues.
How Susan Goff and the diocese can say that potential gender-based harassment and known misuse of church funds is not of “weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church,” is beyond me. Just ask Brad Bergman about the stale checks and unaccounted-for cash found in church offices following Charlotte Payne Wright’s departure.
And if you are a woman or other person affected by gender-based harassment, why are you supporting a church and diocese that says these issues, as well as bullying and perjury by clergy, are inconsequential?
Only you can answer that question.