I recently read Chuck DeGroat’s excellent book, “When Narcissism Comes to Church.” A worthy read, it will help even the casual person-in-the-pew understand the toxic paradigm that is Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish. (Candidates for rector: Read this post. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
As Chuck says in his book, one of the keys to spotting church narcissism is recognizing the larger psychological construct known as splitting. This does not involve King Solomon’s baby, but rather is the situation in which people — and organizations — compartmentalize and fail to integrate contradictory aspects of their behavior.
For example, someone who engages in splitting may be kind and friendly one minute, yet belligerent and hostile moments later if you express a view different from his. Yet he likely views himself as just kind and friendly, conveniently omitting any reference to his hostile behavior.
Similarly, an organization that engages in splitting may consider itself friendly, inclusive and welcoming, yet engage in relational aggression if, for example, someone orders the wrong flowers for a particular Sunday. Or changes the locks on a door. Or criticizes the rector.
And so it is with Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish. Folks observe bullying by the rector, the altar guild, and the choir, yet fail to integrate these behaviors with the notion that Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, is friendly, welcoming, and inclusive. In the case of the rector, folks either deny Bob’s perjury and other misconduct, or simply refuse to deal with it. “Well, he’s a friendly guy, and he married us,” is a familiar refrain. Similarly, Jean Reed and others can babble on about being “servants of Christ,” while turning a blind eye to profoundly un-Christian behavior in the parish. In short, splitting is not only endemic at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish. It’s the key to understanding the whole toxic crock of goo.
So how might you spot organizational narcissism at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish? It’s actually easy to see, with the advantage of some distance. Appearing in myriad contexts, it ranges from comments like, “We do everything big,” (referring to the choir loft project), to the whole concept of Grace being the only full-time Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, to the fawning over the building. (Of course, even there, one can see splitting. People fawn over the building, while severely under-funding maintenance and repair.) And it is splitting that allows the empty triumphalism you see at Grace, including perjuring priest Bob Malm saying (with no trace of irony), “At Grace, we practice true religion.”
Even when perjuring priest Bob Malm was interviewing for the position of rector, there were signs of organizational narcissism. For example, upon touring the building, Bob allegedly said, “This. This is a sacred place.”
Nice concept, but any place where bullying is okay, clergy engage in perjury with the blessing of the bishop, and try to drag the dying into court in violation of state law is anything but holy, no matter how many Sunday services it holds. In other words, we are seeing splitting, and its equally evil twin, denial.
Perjuring priest Bob Malm’s purported comment also underscores narcissism in action. Narcissists invariably seek praise and adoration, and they obtain it via their behavior and conduct. Thus, Bob may praise your church building, tell you that you’re a great vestry member, hug you, or tell you how much he appreciates your help. But none of these mean anything, and perjuring priest Bob Malm is very willing to turn right around and throw you, your church, and everything you have done for him under the bus.
Consider: If perjuring priest Bob Malm really is a holy person, and really thinks Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, is a holy place, why the tear-down of the rectory? Why the month away every summer? Why the indifference to the church’s temporal affairs? Surely a holy person would want his purportedly beloved holy place/employer to be well cared-for. In normal thinking, that would be the case, but drop narcissism and splitting into the mix, and perjuring priest Bob Malm can tell people with no sense of irony that he is a great supervisor, even while objective criteria suggest a different conclusion. Yes, I have heard him say that.
Similarly, an narcissistic organization like Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, is friendly. People are outgoing. To use Leslie Steffensen’s phrase, the church welcomes you with open arms. But because it engages in splitting, it doesn’t have an issue with Bob Malm forcing Mike out of the denomination he joined 16 months earlier. Or Kirk Steffensent threatening Mike’s job. Or the altar guild engaging in bullying/mobbing. Or John Cunningham leaving due to his perceptions of bullying and bad behavior in the church. Myriad additional examples exist.
Relatedly, perjuring priest Bob Malm had an amazing ability to identify others who could engage in narcissistic splitting. For example, Sugarland Chiow was quick to challenge what he said was my impugning his integrity. Yet one has only to read his ugly, inflammatory pleadings, his invention of fictional places and events, or his willingness to violate state law in order to try to depose a dying woman to conclude that one does not need to impugn Sugarland’s ethics — his conduct speaks for itself. Yet Jeff claims to be a Christian, and evinces no understanding of why his conduct might make others question his ethics.
Of course, Kelly Gable’s conduct is similar. She does not consider it laughably ironic to claim that someone who helped her out with a job is an embezzler, based on her purported first-hand experience, all the while claiming that she has “forgiven” him.
There’s even splitting evident in Sugarland’s attempted solution to the problem, which was trying to use perjuring priest Bob Malm’s facially obvious fabrications claiming I threatened him to shut down criticism. Nice try, Sugarland, but the real problem is much closer to home. The problem is conduct within the parish, and while you might want to try to suppress voices that call out this misconduct, you’ll never succeed. Even if you had, you would have only managed to push these issues underground, versus fixing them. Nor would you have ended misconduct within the parish, for true to form, perjuring priest Bob Malm would have simply reverted to his usual behind-the-scenes manipulation, lying, and smear campaigns.
In fact, Sugarland Chiow, perjuring priest Bob Malm, and Kelly Motormouth Gable have done an admirable job of damaging Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish. So much so that it is not clear to me that the church will survive their collective misconduct. Congrats folks—you’ve gone above and beyond in your efforts to close a church that predates the civil war, and absent professional intervention, the damage that you done will continue for years to come. But thanks to the wonders of narcissistic splitting, you don’t see any issue with your conduct.
But the consummate example of splitting is the young parishioner who posted on Fairfax Undergorund, urging me to commit suicide. Why? Because she wanted to come to the defense of her mother, who had posted what she thought was details of my giving to the parish online. (True to form, she got the details wrong.) And she wanted to come to the defense of her church, Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish.
True to form, she does not see any inconsistency between her professed faith and her conduct.
In closing, in his book, Chuck DeGroat notes that narcissistic organizations often continue their narcissistic, toxic conduct after a narcissistic leader leaves, although they may languish. Such clearly is the case with Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish, for it steadfastly refuses to engage in self-examination.
So if you want to understand Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, and the truly ugly state it is in, be sure to read Chuck’s book. It is available on Amazon here.