Demands for accountability in the Episcopal Church grow, as my online petition approaches 10,000 signatures. That’s more than the membership of more than 50 church dioceses, and as many signatures as members in the newly re-admittted Diocese of Cuba. The petition demands the the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia conduct a full, fair, and impartial investigation into perjuring priest Bob Malm’s conduct, then act on the results.
The petition is located on change.org and can be found here.
Ironically, addressing Bob’s misconduct, which has brought disrepute on the entire Episcopal Church, is in the best interest of diocese and the larger church. But, as Rhett Butler said to Scarlett O’Hara, “How tightly we clutch the chains that bind us.” Indeed, the diocese and parish continue to try to defend their conduct in court, proving beyond a doubt that both are morally bankrupt.
The efforts to justify and defend their conduct come, even as parishioners increasingly recognize that Grace Church is in dire trouble, having shed one-third of its pledging units in recent years. Indeed, loss of any further members will require that staff positions — some of the very few controllable costs still left to the parish — be eliminated. Moreover, the church is fast approaching the point where it’s simply no longer able to carrying its existing cost structure, and it must close its doors, offload the physical plant, or merge.
Simply put, time is running out.
Meanwhile, clergy at the church continue to mislead people about the reality, which is that by and large we are already in the new normal. In other words, this isn’t a storm to be weathered:
The recession isn’t going away any time soon.
Job loss will continue for the foreseeable future.
A COVID-19 vaccine isn’t going to be available for at least a year.
So yes, at some point in-person services may resume. But many, especially those at elevated risk due to age and other factors, will continue to avoid attending services on a regular basis. It is also difficult to see how use of the common cup will continue. And changes in giving patterns are unlikely to change for the better.
It’s also worth noting that recent Grace Church publications are sloppy in their references to the current situation. Worship is NOT suspended. Repeat: Worship is NOT suspended. In-person worship is suspended, as was often the days of the early church when it faced persecution. Yet vague references to the suspension of worship in the diocese could well lead someone unfamiliar with the situation to conclude that worship is cancelled until June. Certainly not helpful, and clergy, staff, and volunteers alike need to edit carefully to avoid being sloppy in discussing this issue.
Perhaps when all is said and done, folks at the clergy perjury parish will learn to appreciate the church’s members, instead of concluding that they sit at the right hand of God the father to judge both the quick and the dead, and they can choose who is a member of the parish, and who is not. (Yup, I am talking about Lisa Medley, Alison Campbell, Jan Spence, several others, and the altar guild.)
But then, given the prevailing organizational narcissism, somehow I doubt it.
In fact, members of Grace Church likely will continue to believe that it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide, to try to drag the dying into court, and for clergy like Bob Malm to commit perjury. After all, the diocese says all of these things are okay, so why should members not follow Susan Goff’s lead?