Recently, I noted that diocese of Virginia bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson is sitting on the Title IV hearing panel for Bishop Love, the ironically named bishop of Albany who opposes same-sex marriage.
Below is the email I sent to Jennifer, which I copied to Todd Ousley and Bishop Susan Goff.
For his privacy, the name of the former priest in the one example has been redacted.
I read with interest of your role in the Title IV matter concerning +Love. As one of the first same-sex couples married in the diocese, and the first to have my relationship blessed at Grace Church in Alexandria, I would like to comment on this issue.
As you know, I am in the midst of litigation involving Bob Malm, my former rector. Among the issues are his efforts to use the Virginia protective order system as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, his perjury during litigation, and his defamation per se, in which he claimed that I embezzled from a. previous employer. The latter is absolutely, categorically untrue, and the fact that Bob lied to Shannon Johnston about the timeline of the alleged events is profoundly troubling. Bob claimed that the events in question happened before I came to Grace Church, despite knowing full well that they occurred while I served on the vestry. Indeed, he and I spoke about them several times, and there is no possibility of a faulty recollection on his part. Instead, I surmise that Bob lied about the timeline to avoid questions about his own judgment, as my serving on the vestry would have been problematic indeed were these accusations true.
Even more troubling is that you now sit in on a Title IV hearing panel when you and the diocese have yourselves ignored the express provisions of Title IV. Specifically, the diocese has repeatedly refused to provide the pastoral response mandated by Title IV whenever a complaint is made to the intake officer. Moreover, intake officer Caroline Parkinson falsely stated that the matter of Malm’s retaliation for our complaint by removing our names from the parish directory, which occurred in fall 2015, was previously considered by the reference panel during the summer of 2015. As I sarcastically stated at the time, I was not aware that the ability to time travel is one of the benefits of ordination. And Shannon Johnston has falsely claimed that the matter was “investigated and resolved long ago,” despite the fact that it was dismissed out of hand and NOT investigated.
Moreover, the diocese doubled down on dumb by accusing me and my family, in writing, of being duplicitous and more. Even were that the case, Title IV is only about clergy conduct, and it is not unknown for those who have faced abuse in the church to make poor decisions in response. And abuse need not be sexual in nature.
Most troubling is the fact that the diocese has even gone so far as to say, in writing, that it will only deal with Bob Malm’s perjury if he is convicted. As you well know, perjury is a difficult crime to charge, and all the more so when clergy are involved. Yet in other cases the diocese has not required a criminal conviction in order for Title IV to apply. For example, at the time adultery was still a crime in Virginia, yet the diocese did not invoke the requirement of a criminal conviction to address the issues with XXXXXXXXXXX. (Speaking of, the diocese largely turned its back on XXXXXXXXXXX, on the grounds that Shannon Johnston had been told by counsel not to get too involved. Thus, no meaningful pastoral response was provided.) I can only hope that this is not the standard that applies for child abuse.
When I first contacted the diocese, I asked it to mediate the dispute with Bob. It refused, on the grounds that Bob’s conduct, including my concerns about possible gender-based harassment and violations of the ADEA, were not “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” I can only say that only in The Episcopal Church would allegations of gender-based harassment be regarded as irrelevant.
At this point, the damage is done, and I believe it is irreparable. Mike and I have left organized Christianity, with no plans to return. Many are aware of our experiences, and I believe it is important for people to know that The Episcopal Church does not follow Title IV when it does not wish to do so. People should also know that, to this day, the diocese continues to defend Bob’s inexcusable and outrageous conduct, even though it is easy indeed to confirm that Bob committed perjury. And tens of thousands of dollars will be spent by the church and its insurance carrier to avoid telling the truth, which is that Bob Malm has behaved in a manner that discredits the church. And until full disclosure is made, Grace Church cannot begin the healing process with any hope of success.
In the meantime, I urge you to recuse yourself from the hearing panel. While I do not condone +Love’s actions, neither can I support a process in which you and the diocese ignore the express provisions of Title IV, yet purport to judge another bishop over the very same issue.