While it’s hardly news to many, the reality is that neither Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, nor the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, understand the depth or breadth of the problems at the church. Confirmation of this paradigm can be seen in the current approach to clergy transition, which is fundamentally flawed.
Specifically, in its transition process the church is pursuing a rector, while disregarding a better approach, which is for a priest in charge (PIC).
So what is a priest in charge, and why should Grace consider one?
A priest in charge is a priest retained on contract, typically for a three-year period. As such, she has tenure only during the contractual period, unlike a rector, who is (at least on paper) there for keeps.
Typically, a PIC is chosen when there’s been a long stay by the prior incumbent. Other reasons include:
- A prior ministry ended in conflict
- When misconduct has occurred
- When there is a need for strategic planning
- When there is a need to clarify mission
- When there is a need to build financial capacity
- Other issues as determined by the parish and the diocese.
In such cases, a consultant is retained and helps the PIC enter into a period of prayer, listening, healing, planning, pastoral care, and more.
In Grace’s case, it’s clear to any rational actor that things are a hot mess. Indeed, every one of the criteria above apply. But the diocese takes the approach of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” as it tries to cover up perjuring priest Bob Malm’s misconduct, and by extension that of Kelly Gable, Sugarland Chiow, and others. The parish, on the other hand, has lost perspective due to its narcissistic organizational characteristics.Thus, neither has any clue what it’s doing, nor do they have any interest in the feedback of others.
The problem of course is that ignoring these issues doesn’t make them go away. Indeed, it’s a basic principle of change management that conflict ignored is conflict multiplied. Perjuring priest Bob Malm spent 30 years not only ignoring conflict, but in many cases fomenting it with his childish games, petty maneuvering and self-serving conduct. (Just look at the financial disaster of perjuring priest Bob Malm’s $1.2 million personal residence if you need an example. Truly cringeworthy.) Additionally, he pointed attention within Grace at himself, not God. As a result, Grace is not only toxic, but its values are profoundly skewed.
There’s ample evidence of these effects of these issues. These include:
- Plummeting attendance
- Sharply declining number of pledging units
- Repeated situations in which people have left the parish due to conflict
Indeed, these factors alone should be cause for profound concern.
Yet in almost every case members of the parish either ignore these factors, blame them on others, lie and deny that the issues exist, or shoot the messenger. Yet at its most basic this is a church in which it’s okay to drag a dying woman into court, for the rector to commit perjury, and for college-aged parishioners to urge others to commit suicide. Indeed, one has only to read perjuring priest Bob Malm’s venomous, lying emails, or Sugarland Chiow’s inflammatory rhetoric, to realize just how bad things are at Grace. But parishioners simply don’t want to go there. Or, as Robin Hammeal-Urban puts it, “If it can’t be conceived it can’t be perceived.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that contrary to Lisa Medley and other lying nitwits in the parish, I am far from the only person who’s run into these issues:
- One former church employee described the place as having an “evil spirit.”
- Another college student abruptly walked out and transferred to St. Peter’s in the Woods after a bad experience in the choir.
- Numerous persons in the altar guild have come to tears over behavior there. Anne Caputo and others are aware of the bullying that goes on there.
- John Cunningham left over misconduct.
- Mike, my husband, was forced out by perjuring priest Bob Malm just 16 months after being received into the denomination.
- Kyle Babin experienced bullying and hateful conduct, both by staff and by parishioners.
- Outside Episcopal clergy, who have tactfully described the parish as having “a lot of work to do.”
To his credit, Michael Guy has been willing to bring these issues up, albeit in general terms. But it takes more than a few sermons and articles in Grace Notes to undo 30 years of perjuring priest Bob Malm. Moreover, the diocese’s efforts to ignore Bob’s antics by saying it will only get involved if criminal charges are filed have done a profound disservice to the church, for it has forced our conflict into the courts, most notably those of popular opinion and the Alexandria Circuit Court. In that regard, it likely will be another 2-3 years before the lawsuits wind their way through the courts. And I will continue to share the truth of my experiences with Bob Malm ad infinitum. Thus, things will not be getting better any time soon, and parishioners and diocesan staff alike are just plain dumb if they think I am going to back down when someone goes after my mother and Mike.
Both the church and the diocese are profoundly foolish not to get a PIC, then map out a plan towards healing and wholeness. Without those steps, the parish will remain rudderless, adrift, declining, and clueless about the path to a better future. Moreover, it will continue with the same conflict, ugly rhetoric, and un-Christian conduct that led to its precipitous decline in the first place. In short, the parish is at an inflection point, and it can make the decision to move towards health and wholeness, or it can make the decision to slide ever further into existential crisis.
For more information on the role of a priest-in-charge, visit the Diocese of Connecticut website
. There is also a good document in PDF on the Diocese of Newark’s site
An excellent example of the work of a priest-in-charge can be found here