Showing posts with label Episcopal diocese of Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Episcopal diocese of Virginia. Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2020

Breaking News: Grace Episcopal Alexandria Again Sued

Grace Episcopal Church Claims its Threatened by Domestic Terrorism
Grace Church’s Filing Calling Mom a “Domestic Terrorist”


It’s been a long time coming, but earlier today Mom’s estate filed suit against Grace Church, the diocese, and several named individuals. Due to the state of emergency in Pennsylvania and the closure of the relevant courts, it may be several more days before things are official. But barring the unforeseen, I expect that everything will be complete by May 10.

One of the interesting things in all of this will be seeing how the church explains its claims that Mom defamed it, and why it tried to drag a dying woman into court in violation of state law. Needless to say, I have alerted the news media, and I expect that we’ll see a great deal of additional publicity emerge. 

It should also be interesting to hear explanations from the church as to how Mom’s collective pseudonym, “The Killer B’s,” which she borrowed from Pittsburgh sports teams and her favorite classic rock band, is an act of “domestic terrorism” as claimed by the church in the Pennsylvania courts. In fact, in talking with the clerk of courts in the relevant jurisdiction, it is fair to say that she howled with laughter. 

Hearing folks explain how Mom or someone claiming to be her allegedly repeatedly set up appointments with Bob Malm, only to no-show, should also prove interesting. I fully intend to make the transcripts available to the media.

So, the Episcopal Church has now been sued by a dead woman. Nice.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

See What A Priest and Attorney Says About Perjuring Priest Bob Malm and Susan Don’t-Get-Arrested Goff

I recently have been in extended discussions with a priest and attorney about the state of affairs at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, and the wreck that is the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia under Susan Goff. While I cannot share specifics, one exchange is worth reporting, and reinforces that the Episcopal Church is morally bankrupt.

Read the attached from bottom to top. The photo I included, of Mom in advanced congestive heart failure — at a time when Sugarland Chiow and Bob Malm falsely told the Virginia courts that Mom was up and about and doing fine. Recall that this was in conjunction with their effort to drag Mom into court—an effort that the Pennsylvania courts immediately quashed as illegal, since Sugarland had not, as required by law, obtained advance leave of court.

Sugarland Chiow and perjuring priest Bob Malm — true examples of Jesus’ message of love and compassion. Fully supported by Susan “Don’t Get Arrested” Goff.










Thursday, March 12, 2020

Bishop Goff and COVID-19: A New Wrinkle in the Pandemic


Bishop Susan Goff’s Brand of Christianity: No thanks, you can keep it.

There’s a new wrinkle in the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to largely shutter churches in The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia for the new two weeks. That is that Bishop Goff is at high risk for the virus, and soon will be at even greater risk.

This issue, of course, is that Goff’s age places her at higher risk of infection.

Even worse, the news that she soon will begin chemotherapy for breast cancer exacerbates the risk. Chemotherapy is, by definition, immunosuppressive, thus compounding her risk profile.

Still worse, much of what Goff does involves crowds. Whether it’s ecclesiastical visits, meetings, or public events, self-isolation will be difficult.

While worrisome, the news may not be all bad. As Goff learns to adapt to a more limited in-person presence, we may see the diocese finally start to take social media seriously. For far too long, the diocese has maintained next to no online presence. Yes, it has a website and Facebook page, but it never engages with external audiences, and it has been years since Goff used her Twitter account. And forget Instagram or other emerging platforms.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Diocesan Response to Bob Malm’s Perjury, Misconduct Encourages Abuse, Discourages Reporting




Recently, one of the members of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors spoke to media via Skype as she trains church members in Australia to implement more robust measures to protect children from abuse. Her sobering comments hold damning implications for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Susan Goff, and the way that diocesan officials respond to allegations of clergy misconduct.

“If we would expect that with all the guidelines we have in place we can prevent abuse 100 percent, we would be naïve,” said Dr. Myriam Wijlens of the Netherlands. “We cannot prevent it in the Church in as much as we cannot prevent it in the Scouts or sports. No system will ever be perfect.”

However, she [said], “we can, and I believe we do, learn to be more attentive, listen and see the signals better and thus improve our reaction. This goes for those in leadership as well as parents and other faithful in the church: we are indeed all more attentive. There is also a better culture that encourages victims to speak and report. The preventive measures will hopefully mean that abusers are not moved and that thus repetitive abuse may be prevented.” (Emphasis added.)

That raises the question: Would any person in his or her right mind go to the diocese with concerns about potential clergy misconduct when the diocese allows retaliation, up to and including perjury on Bob Malm’s part? Would you be comfortable sharing your story with a diocese that is prepared to say that perjury by a priest is only actionable if criminal charges are brought? How do you feel about a church that tries to drag the dying into court?

The answer, of course, is that no one is going to stick their neck out when the diocese responds like this.

The answer becomes even more starkly clear when, as in Bob Malm’s case, the diocese turns a blind eye to breach of confidentiality in the complaint process. Complaints are supposed to be confidential, but the diocese knew and turned a blind eye to Bob Malm’s disclosure of my complaint to Jeff Aaron and others. Yes, it eventually took action, but nothing serious. The fact that Bob Malm doesn’t even adhere to canonically mandated confidentiality should serve as a warning sign to anyone dealing with him, or the diocese itself.

This paradigm has profound implications within the larger Title IV process. Given that clergy occupy the position of perceived power in any complaint situation, parents who for example allege sexual abuse of a child face insurmountable challenges if the diocese is willing to allow retaliation, and turn its back on all clergy misconduct that does not involve criminal charges. Their only option is to get out, and hope that police take their complaints seriously.

In short, the situation with Bob Malm calls into question the entire Title IV system and its ability to address clergy misconduct. Additionally, it makes clear that diocesan officials simply cannot be trusted with issues of this sort.

Read more about the Catholic Church and Dr. Wijlins’ interview here.

Monday, March 2, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Bishop Susan Goff and Episcopal Church Defend Perjuring Priest Bob Malm in Court




You have to hand it to the Diocese, Bishop Susan Goff and Grace Episcopal. Not only are they morally bankrupt, but they are vigorous in their defense of their right to be morally bankrupt. I mean, where else would you find a church that is litigating to defend a priest who, like Bob Malm, commits perjury, lies repeatedly, tries to subpoena the dying, and more? Even the Catholic Church has moved past the notion that it should defend abusive clergy in court. But in our case, the diocese continues to try to avoid any accountability, as it files a demurrer, claiming inter alia that Bob Malm’s perjury in the previous proceedings and the ethically questionable behavior of counsel Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow, are not sufficient to state a claim of abuse of process.

Of course, in the end there will be accountability. It will come as members increasingly leave the Episcopal Church, as they come to realize that the church has zero claim to moral authority or legitimacy.

My prediction: Given the utter dysfunction in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, we will see the rate of decline accelerate within the diocese over the next few years. And why not? If there’s one thing we learned from 30 years of Bob Malm, there is zero need for the ludicrous clericalism associated with having an overpaid professional Christian serving as a “priest.” Paying some 200k a year, with 6 weeks of paid vacation and $100,000 bonuses is simply insane. And that is particularly the case when less than 3 percent of the church budget goes to serving those in need.

Check out the church’s pleading below.


























































































Monday, January 20, 2020

Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Leaves a Parish Bordering on Bankruptcy

While Bob Malm was careful to ensure that he got every last minute of leave and then some coming to him, he was not do diligent in honoring the responsibilities set out in his letter of agreement and in church canons. Whether it was ignoring church canons that require the vestry to elect its officers, the requirement of a finance manual, or even Bob’s facially self-serving “disclosure” on his way out the door that he did not bother to visit most of the parishioners entrusted to his care, Bob was feckless, to say the least.

One of the results is that, in addition to its toxic internal dynamics, concealed beneath an organizationally narcissistic veneer of friendliness, Grace Church is in perilous financial condition.

Current projections — which could change as the last few pledges trickle in — show the parish with 2020 pledges of $723,506, for net income of $872,000. Even with the reduction in payroll resulting from no longer having to pay Bob Malm’s outrageously generous compensation package, that still leaves Grace with perilously thin income, including:

  1. A likely deficit budget, unless the church tries its usual tricks of irrationally inflating projected revenue or irrationally deflating projected expenses, or reduces staff headcount.
  2. The reality that it claims to be a “center for outreach and healing,” yet dramatically underfunds its commitment to the diocese.
  3. The grim reality of paying $70K a year for HVAC repairs — expenses it has known were coming, and for which it should have saved,
  4. Inadequate HVAC in the nave and undercroft, including excess humidity in the latter.
  5. Elevator 1 long overdue for a major overhaul (knowing the church’s spendthrift propensities, some ding-a-ling likely will push to waste money by replacing the whole thing,)
  6. Failing rake boards, thermopane windows, and a faux slate roof from the 1997 renovations.
  7. A parking lot with paving beyond actuarial end of life.
  8. Energy inefficient lighting throughout the building, including parking lot lights likely to fail within the next few years.
  9. A shortened life expectancy on the condensing boilers due to lack of maintenance.
  10. Failing hot water heaters due to lack of maintenance.
  11. Lack of current ADA features, including compliant internal directional signage and electro-mechanical entrance systems.
  12. Local outreach amounting to just 3 percent of budget.
  13. Ongoing problems with rodents, particularly in classroom and food preparation areas.
  14. An antiquated commercial kitchen.
Moreover, in a classic sign of a dying church, a plummeting number of remaining pledging units is attempting to shore things up by increasing their giving, leaving the church highly vulnerable to even the loss of a few pledging units. As things stand, when adjusted for inflation, Grace Church has lost 1/3 of its income since 2008, even as it paid Bob Malm a $100,000 bonus, no doubt for his exemplary work performance. Meanwhile, more than half its pledging units have fled the church.

And to top it all off, the layers of unresolved conflict in the church now are largely irreparable, with my situation now no longer capable of repair. Having offered the church and diocese multiple opportunities to resolve our differences, that option is now off the table. After all, the very definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting a different result. So I am not wasting any time on the hypocrites of The Episcopal Church. 

Here, in visual format, is where things stand, thanks to 30 years of perjuring priest Bob Malm:


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reflections as We Enter the Final Days of the 2020 Pledge Season





As we get ready to move into a new year, the Grace Church vestry has the unenviable task of preparing the parish’s 2020 budget. Similarly, members may be contemplating year-end gifts to the church. With those factors in mind, here are my thoughts on those issues.

On the one hand, the parish now is free of the deleterious effect of perjuring priest Bob Malm, at least on a daily basis. Michael Guy appears to be much more grounded in actual faith, and less in outward image.

That said, the church has yet to make peace with its past and Bob’s baleful influence. This is still a spendthrift church—one that pays $100k bonuses to a feckless rector, while cutting employee health benefits. A church that refuses to save for the future. A church that does next to nothing to grow, yet expects membership to miraculously increase. A church that claims to be a center for “outreach and healing,” yet puts very little money toward these goals. A church that tries to drag the dying into court, where members urge people to commit suicide, and where the rector commits perjury with impunity. In fact, the church named part of the building after its former Perjurer in Chief. A church that has to borrow to keep the HVAC on, but draws $3,000 out of savings for a party.

Even better, the church has the chutzpah to claim that it’s been careful with its funds. Leaving aside $100,000 bonuses and the more than $2 million cost to the church of Bob Malm’s personally owned rathole of a house, I guess that’s true. After all, those expenses don’t leave room for much else.

All of that points to a larger issue, which is how much longer will people provide funding for this toxic mess? The fact that Bob Malm can commit perjury with the full support of the vestry, Sugarland Chiow, the staff, and the diocese, then get part of the building named after him for his troubles, demonstrates that this is a church and denomination that is utterly broken and dysfunctional. Yes, the optimists among us think some of these issues will be addressed in another generation, but collapsing attendance, baptisms, and other indices of church health suggest that neither the denomination nor the parish have another generation during which to fiddle with the deck chairs.

If we look at Europe and the role of organized religion there, it seems unlikely that church ever will make a comeback. Once-bitten, twice shy applies, and this is a dog that’s bitten far too often to get any benefit of the doubt.

So, if you are a member of Grace Church, or of the Club Mayo crowd, my message to you is this: It is time for radical change. And if you can’t or won’t make that happen, it’s time to say goodbye. Grace Church, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church simply are no longer relevant.

And as the vestry plans for 2020, I’m here to tell you that more of the same isn’t going to work. No one wants to subsidize the lifestyles of the rich and famous, let alone the perjurious.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Breaking News: Grace Episcopal Lawsuit Moves Forward



Earlier today, the Alexandria General District court heard my motion to compel. It also received various motions from Diane DiBlasio, the attorney for Grace Episcopal, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and Bishop Susan Goff. The defense motions included a motion to dismiss with prejudice and a motion requesting a bill of particulars. The latter sets forth the reasons a plaintiff believes she or he has a legal cause of action.

The only motion on which the court ruled was the request to schedule a bill of particulars. Thus, I will be filing that pleading by the end of January, the defense will file its response by the end of February, and we will hold the next hearing in March.

Afterwards, I had a moment to chat with Diane, who is very professional and capable. My heads-up to her, which I hope informs her efforts and those of her clients, centers around Bob Malm’s perjury during the discovery phrase of my appeal. (Recall that Bob falsely claimed that my mom, or someone purporting to be her, “time after time” contacted him. This he cited as a primary reason he believed mom’s blog to really be mine.)

So, it will be interesting to see if the diocese, Bishop Goff, and Grace Episcopal want to defend Bob Malm’s perjury. That said, if past performance is any indicator, all three will do their utmost to defend his conduct.

It’s also interesting that defense counsel attempted to assert that this is an internal ecclesiastical matter. With the parish having taken the matter to court in the first place, it is difficult to conclude that this indeed is not subject to judicial review. That said, in fairness to defense counsel, she had little to go on.

Bob Malm, perjuring priest.

Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Just Like the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Bob Malm, Church Ignored Warning Signs in Brian Boucher Case



Before we go further, let me say up front: To my knowledge, Bob Malm is not accused of any form of sexual impropriety.

That said, the case of convicted Canadian pedophile priest Brian Boucher sounds alarmingly similar to my experiences with Bob Malm and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, both in terms of Boucher’s manipulative, possibly sociopathic, behavior and the diocese’s efforts to avoid dealing with the real issues. Indeed, in Boucher’s case, the diocese appears to have taken the matter more seriously than has the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, for the former at least spent time and effort addressing the more obvious signs that Boucher was maladjusted.

In reviewing the Boucher media coverage, the first thing one notices is Boucher’s attention to his physical appearance. Even when headed to jail, Boucher consistently looks put together and carefully pressed. This is very similar to Bob Malm, who often appears inordinately consumed with keeping his SUV clean and polished, his tan, his hair color, and even his efforts to conceal his hair loss via transplants.

Then one transitions to Boucher’s conduct, in which, much like Bob Malm, he attempts to manipulate the world around him to suit his needs. Those of importance to him get attention and flattery, while those unimportant to him get ignored. Similarly, those who expressed concern about Boucher’s conduct found themselves denied access to the church and rectory buildings. Indeed, Boucher attempted to fire one parish employee who spoke out, and multiple families left Boucher’s parish, rather than comply with his manipulative behavior. Such conduct is strikingly similar to that of Bob Malm, even down to trying to deny access to the church building to critics.

Similarly, critics feared Boucher’s temper, which sounds suspiciously like the classic narcissistic rage. Boucher’s attempts at domination and control, much like Malm’s behavior, also seem to witnesses to be antithetical to his alleged calling as a priest.

Then we read about Boucher’s divisive conduct, in which he surrounds himself with a circle of loyalists who protect him and alert him to criticism from within the parish. Again, very similar to Bob Malm.

Turning to the diocese, we see that time and again officials turned a blind eye to the myriad warning signs of trouble. Yes, the church may have spent considerable time and trouble to deal with Boucher’s controlling behavior, but it never was willing to delve further into the issues, including assessing root causes behind the behavior. Indeed, even prior to ordination, those who feared Boucher was unsuited to the priesthood were ignored and brushed off.

This sounds very much like Bob Malm, where some parishioners, even as early as his calling to the church in Portsmouth NH, appear to have recognized that something was not right. For example, when Bob was in New Hampshire, one parishioner allegedly ran for vestry solely in order to see what Bob was “going to do to my church.”  While seemingly innocuous and easily dismissed, that sort of gut reaction to Bob should have been a warning sign.

Similarly, the ongoing flight of pledging units and the departure of numerous former leaders from Grace Church should be more than a warning sign to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia; it should be the equivalent of Cheyenne Mountain’s air raid siren blaring in the night. People don’t pack up and leave a church in which they’re invested for trivial reasons. Instead, when they leave in droves, it’s because something is seriously wrong.

Will the church vestry and the diocese ever comprehend the real issues here? I doubt it. Between thirty years of Bob’s manipulative behavior, the organizational narcissism in the parish, and the inconvenience that would come with addressing Bob Malm’s misconduct, there is little reason for optimism.

For more on Boucher and the church’s attempt to avoid dealing with the real issues, visit the CBC’s investigative report at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/brian-boucher-history-investigation-1.5383177.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Online Court Case Information

Someone recently asked how they could access independent information on the court case now pending against Grace Episcopal Alexandria, Bishop Susan Goff, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in conjunction with Bob Malm’s perjury. 


I will provide information on the other court cases as they are filed.




Monday, November 25, 2019

Grace Episcopal, the Clergy Perjury Parish



Response: Why Does the Diocese Defend Bob Malm and His Perjury?

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia: Mad Men Revisited

Someone recently asked me why the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia continues to defend Bob Malm, his perjury, and Grace Episcopal’s attempts to game the legal system. Of course, only the diocese knows for sure, but I believe I know why.

In large measure, it’s the same paradigm, I believe, as led diocesan officials to support Bishop Bruno, despite clear evidence he’d behaved badly on multiple occasions. Specifically, trust in people known to the diocese, combined with arrogance, complacency, and a psychological paradigm in which questioning one’s preconceived notions intertwines with fear of questioning one’s faith. On top of that, there’s evidence to suggest that diocesan chancellor, JP Causey, gives folks bad legal advice, in which he urges diocesan officials to take a hands-off approach in order to minimize potential liability, despite canonical requirements to the contrary and larger ethical issues. And there’s the gut instinct to protect the institution at all costs, even when doing so actually results in lasting damage.

Of course, it is this same confluence of factors that leads churches to ignore sexual abuse. The Catholic church has been handling issues this way for decades, with predictably disastrous results. And the church adheres to a Madmen-era definition of abuse: Unless it involves children or sex, it doesn’t count.

At the same time, the one thing that can be said for the vestry at Grace church and the diocese is that Christianity has nothing to do with their conduct. Even a rudimentary review of the evidence would make clear that Bob Malm misused the legal system, lied to the courts, and committed perjury during discovery. But the diocese doesn’t want to go there, as doing so would uncover these inconvenient truths. And parishioners continue with their laughable, “Bob Malm wouldn’t do that,” routine.

In short, no matter how things play out in court, it’s important to realize that this situation illustrates a larger truth, which is that there is simply nothing Christian about the diocese of Virginia or its officials. Yes, there are churches in the diocese that do hold to a real faith, but they face profound challenges when they send money to an utterly broken and corrupt diocese.

So, if you are looking for real Christian faith, my advice is to look elsewhere. Otherwise, you may wind up wasting a lot of time, money and energy on an utterly illusory situation.

Friday, November 1, 2019

My Comments on Religion News Service

Following is my response to an article on Religion News Service “Christianity as We Know it is Dying.”

The death of organized religion comes as no surprise when, as in my case, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia (including Bishop Susan Goff and Melissa Hollerith, wife of Randy Hollerith, dean of the National Cathedral), can tell me with a straight face that courtroom perjury against me by my former priest, Bob Malm of Grace Episcopal in Alexandria VA, is okay on the grounds that he didn’t face criminal charges for it. (And for the record yes, I know what defamation is. I also know that truth is an absolute defense.)

Finally, after wasting a whole lot of time and effort trying to get the diocese to drain its own swamp, I have filed suit in the Virginia courts for abuse of process and breach of fiduciary duty). Among the respondents are the diocese, Susan Goff, and my former parish. It will be interesting indeed to see how they respond to my request for evidence in support of Bob’s perjury. Of course, if they were Christians, they would come right out and, after conducting their own investigation, admit that there is none. But I do not believe that level of integrity can be found in The Episcopal Church. And even were I to lose based on procedural or other grounds, I am still happy to call a spade a spade.

Meanwhile, members of my former parish engage in smear campaigns against me, fire off the old one-gun-salute to Jesus as they roll past, threaten me, attempt to interfere with my employment, and more. And then they wonder why the parish is imploding.

If you want to learn more about my abuse at the hands of a church that I once loved, my blog is located at http://www.gracealexwatch.org.

In the meantime, I’ll add only that the author is spot on: If the church wants to survive, it needs to start being the church.

Find the original at: http://disq.us/p/25asarz




Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Coming Soon to a Diocesan Convention Near You!

Despite Dysfunctional Bob’s departure, I continue to stand up to the narcissistic bully that is the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. With that in mind, I’m continuing to protest throughout the Alexandria area, including making the rounds of area Episcopal churches, schools, etc. 


I’m also continuing to leaflet and will be making a special guest appearance outside the diocesan convention in November.

The current court order expires in late January, and the following Sunday I and a small group of fellow protestors will be outside Grace Church, just in time for the parish annual meeting. Included in the crowd will be at least two fellow bloggers, and I believe there will be at least one major media outlet reporter in the mix. Shortly afterwards is the first hearing in the Virginia lawsuit, and I anticipate that I will interplead (add) additional defendants at that time.

So, prospective interims, welcome to Planet Malm! See you at Dysfunction Junction (Bob Malm’s rather Christlike description for my favorite protest corner), and on the sidewalk in front of the church. Even better, part of your new church home is named after perjuring priest Bob Malm: The Malm Narthex, aka Perjury Place.

Fun times on Planet Malm!



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Breaking News: Demand Letter Sent to Episcopal Bishop Susan Goff and Church Pension Group

Breaking news: As I prepare to file suit against the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and other parties relevant to Bob Malm’s vendetta against me, I have sent the following demand letter to the diocese and its insurer, in which I ask the diocese to admit that Bob Malm committed perjury. That would, at a minimum, be the Christian thing to do, but I have little doubt that the diocese will continue its abusive conduct.

Stay tuned for further developments.






Wednesday, October 16, 2019

This Fall, Withhold Your Pledge

Until the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the vestry of Grace Episcopal Alexandria renounce their support for priest Bob Malm’s perjury and his efforts to bully a dying woman, please withhold your pledge.

That’s what Jesus would do.




Friday, October 11, 2019

Bob Malm’s Top-Ten Lists: A Seriously Bad Idea



One of Dysfunctional Bob’s final acts as rector was publishing a series of top-ten lists in the church newsletter, Grace Notes. While most of the content is unremarkable at best, there is one aspect that is really troubling.

Before we go to the heart of the matter, let me say this: Someone should have edited these lists. Between irregular punctuation and Bob’s famous Decorative Caps for Important Words That Are Not Proper Nouns, there are issues that don’t reflect well.

More importantly, Bob should not be listing the diocese as one of the top ten challenges ahead for the church. I say that as someone who is unimpressed with the diocese and its leadership. But at the time the article was published, Bob’s role should have been to be supportive of the parish, the diocese, and the people involved. As things stand, the addition of this challenge is far from helpful.

As an aside, the irony is that the diocese may well prove to be a pain in the church’s backside, but not for the reasons Bob may imagine. Left to wade through the dysfunctional, clueless mess that Bob leaves behind, no doubt the diocese will have to tread carefully. Even so, there is little doubt that some parishioners will be offended, for one cannot buy into Planet Malm, only later to discover the illusory nature of one’s investment, without at least some angst.

Still worse, the reality is that many who are offended by Bob Malm’s narcissistic behavior already have pulled the plug on Grace. Yes, some will come back, but those who remain are by and large those who have either turned a blind eye to the toxic nature of the church, or who just don’t get it. Either way, many are in for a rude shock when they realize the depth and breadth of problems at the church.

I surely do not envy whoever is unfortunate enough to become interim.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

My Advice to Potential Interims: Run!





Analysis of the recent surge in traffic to this website reveals that a great many visitors to the site are clergy and others interested both in issues at Grace church and the possibility of serving as the interim rector. With that in mind, here is my advice to anyone considering serving as interim: Run. Like. Hell.

Let’s start with the lay of the land.

Problems in the Parish

Dysfunctional Bob “served” for more than 30 years. That in itself is an issue, because you’re not coming in after someone has made a hash of things for a few years, then moved on. Instead, you’ve got three decades of dysfunction, misfeasance and nonfeasance. As a result, only a handful of parishioners have known anything other than the so-called Planet Malm paradigm.

Why do I refer to the church as Planet Malm? The other handle sometimes used for the place, “Bobby Malm’s Playground,” speaks to that issue. Simply put, Grace Church is all about Bob Malm. He decides who serves on the Executive Committee, thus ensuring a rubber-stamp vestry. As a result, there’s zero accountability for Bob or church staff. No annual performance review, no annual mutual ministry review. Or, as one former assistant rector of the parish says, “Bob’s been getting away with murder for years.” And while Bob’s friendly, there is zero genuine concern for others. Instead, the church is all about meeting Bob’s needs

Bob’s also been very clever in playing to the whole “lay-driven church” thing. Bob claims, and rightly so, that laity at the church are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the church. What this means is that things like church administration, facilities issues, and programmatic activities all fall to laity. In other words, Bob simply doesn’t get involved in the food pantry, Carpenter’s Shelter, planning Shrine Mont, or much of anything else. His role is liturgy, answering emails, and very limited pastoral care—as in Bob will show up for a few minutes, smile, chat, give you a hug and dash off.  But with a vestry that reports to Bob, and where Bob can bypass or overrule the vestry at any time, the result is that even basics, like ensuring that cash is handled appropriately, were ignored by Bob for much of his tenure. Consider: thousands of dollars in cash and stale checks were found in the office of a previous parish administrator following her departure. Are we really to assume that no one ever called to ask why these checks were never cashed? What does this tell people about the church, its clergy/staff, and its “stewardship?”

Moreover, Dysfunctional Bob uses this paradigm to dismiss anyone who claims he’s abusive, arguing that laity would not put up with things like gross mismanagement. But the reality is that laity has done exactly that for many years, lacking any meaningful recourse.

Predictably enough, Bob exploits this paradigm to his personal advantage. His annual compensation exceeds that of even top denominational officials, despite a demonstrably mediocre track record.  His insistence that the church tear down the rectory and help him buy a personal residence was a financially disastrous move for the parish, and one that he bullied through a reluctant vestry. And Bob pretty much comes and goes as he pleases.

It is in the matter of Bob’s 2014 bonus of $100,000 in the form of debt he owed the church that one really begins to understand this situation. “Negotiated” by two members of the executive committee directly with Bob (one’s husband is a regular golfing buddy of Bob’s), this was an outrageously large bonus for a feckless rector, particularly in light of the looming massive expenses facing the church. Yet members of the vestry supported the measure, with vestry member Lisa Medley even suggesting that the bonus be $200,000.

Why did vestry members make such an ill-advised decision? The answer is that, like many narcissists, Bob is good at turning on the superficial flattery and charm. He’s also very good at manipulating people and playing them against each other, with the result that conflict is rife in the parish.

Nor should one be misled by Bob’s claim that he doesn’t like conflict, which he trots out when faced with demands to address conflict within the parish. The reality is that his claim is true in part, in that he doesn’t like to do anything that will engender criticism. Yet the larger truth is that Bob often foments conflict among parishioners. His favorite tactic is to make himself out to be the friend, ally, and supporter, while claiming that others are hostile. As a result, people glob on to Bob, never realizing that he actually is the source of the underlying conflict. Much like Donald Trump, Bob exploits this paradigm to meet his own perceived needs, both oblivious and indifferent to the underlying harm he is causing the larger organization.

By now, astute readers will have concluded that, like Trump, Bob may be a narcissist. I believe that conclusion is spot on, and that Dysfunctional Bob exhibits other signs of possible narcissism and psychological maladjustment, including a propensity for lying. Whether it’s his claim that church office employees will be “retiring this year” (a lie he told repeatedly over the years), or his claims in writing, under oath, made with the advice of legal counsel that my mom or someone claiming to be her repeatedly made appointments with him and no-showed, Bob demonstrates a shocking lack of integrity, particularly for a priest.

In short. Bob’s tenure with the parish has produced a church that, not surprisingly, is much like him: Outwardly friendly and welcoming, while lacking inward faith and integrity, with a strong bias towards real or perceived self-interest, and willing to engage in virtually any behavior to meet its own needs.

Dysfunction at the Diocese

Things are no better at the diocese. Over the past few years, the diocese has repeatedly refused to deal with Bob Malm’s misconduct, even in the face of clear evidence that Bob has engaged in illegal activity. The latter includes perjury and deliberate misuse of restricted solicitations. Indeed, I am told by one church official that Bishop Shannon expressly understood that Bob’s misuse of funds was illegal, but still did not want to get involved.

The diocese also has ignored both church canons and the recommendations of its own officials. For instance, Title IV intake officer Rev. Randall Prior recommended that the church engage in conciliation of my conflict with Bob, only to be ignored by Bishop Shannon. In fact, when it did so, the diocese ignored the canonical requirement of providing written notice of its decision, instead simply falling silent. Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a diocese that had just spent seven years caterwauling to the courts about the canons and their applicability to dissidents who had left the organization.

Even more disturbingly, the diocese has said that there’s no point in its getting involved, as reconciliation is not possible. But reconciliation is not the only goal of church disciplinary canons; justice is also an objective. Nor did the diocese ever ask if I wanted to be reconciled with Bob. I don’t, as reconcilation is neither possible nor desirable when dealing with someone with Bob’s level of dysfunction.

In short, the diocese is part and parcel of the problem, for it is dysfunction at the diocese that has allowed the mess at Grace Church to take on a life of its own.

Trouble at Grace, a Stained Glass Slice of Paradise

So what does all this mean for an interim and the stained glass slice of paradise that is Grace Church?

Primarily, it means that problems within the parish will not not easily fixed. Part of the problem is that the issues that loom largest for the church are actually symptoms of bigger problems. For example, plummeting revenue and attendance at the church are seen by members of the church as themselves being challenges, while the real issues are the causes of these declines. These causes include organizational narcissism, troubled interpersonal relationships, and a lack of understanding what it means to be the Body of Christ. In other words, the parish has become much like Dysfunctional Bob: outwardly friendly, but in a narcissistic way, with all sorts of meanness right behind the scenes and a lack of self-awareness. Church members simply do not see that the place is toxic.

Predictably enough, people are very used to Bob’s way of doing things, and change will be met with resistance, a lack of understanding, and a lack of charity. (Keep in mind this is a church and diocese in which Bob Malm writes to diocesan officials, calling me “sick” and “twisted.”) Yet at the same time the challenge is to become a church, versus a religion club. This is a sea change akin to the challenges that faced The Falls Church and the Church of the Epiphany following the property recovery litigation, and it’s a massive effort, complicated by the fact that there is no external enemy akin to the “Orthodox Anglicans.”

In the case of my conflict with Bob, which in many ways is the least of the church’s problems, Bob’s all-out effort to pull members of the church in to the conflict and to create fear among parishioners, complete with his ridiculous BS about mental illness and “single-button emergency transmitters,” etc., will make it very hard for folks to reverse course and approach the issue with clarity. Even otherwise intelligent, reasonable people have fallen prey to Bob’s manipulation, and few appear to see how laughable it is to claim to be “servants of Christ,” while failing to show any love or compassion for those who are the subjects of their gossip and speculation. It’s also worth noting that I am allegedly neither the first nor the second person that Bob has tried to push out of the church; long-time members say this is a pattern of behavior on Bob’s part.

Even more laughable are people like David Crosby, who see fit to lecture me on being hateful, yet turn a blind eye to Bob Malm’s perjury. But I can say with certainty that neither David, nor anyone else at Grace, has ever seen evidence of those alleged appointments that Mom — or someone claiming to be her — made with Bob Malm. Yet David and many others continue to support a priest who commits perjury and bullies the dying. In other words, Bob may not literally be getting away with murder, but he is literally getting away with perjury.

At the same time, any potential interim faces a grim reality, which is that the diocese, which should be leading the charge to fix things at Grace, is worse than no help at all. Diocesan officials are fine with Bob’s perjury and bullying of a dying woman, and have refused to address Bob’s forcing Mike out of the Christian faith. So the diocese is not going to provide air cover and lacks the ethical underpinnings to act as an honest broker going forward. Moreover, given the track record of diocesan officials, it would be difficult for anyone to take the diocese seriously at this point, even if it attempts that role. Indeed, the role of the diocese seems best confined to lamenting slavery and reflecting on reproductive rights, versus actually addressing real-world conflict. And the diocese lacks the self-awareness and Christian ethics needed to examine its own extensive role, both in my conflict with Bob and with the larger mess that is Grace Church, to wade in, accept responsibility, and fix things. Nor does the diocese have a great track record in that regard, for it made a hash of things over at St. Thomas’ McLean and managed to violate virtually every best practice out there regarding care for a church injured by allegations of misconduct, while conveniently ignoring church canons as well.

Of course, as Bob likes to say, “Charity starts at home.” While this is an ironic statement for a priest whose noisy fights with his wife are legendary, it underscores the reality that a denomination that cannot fix problems in its own house is unlikely to be able to do much to fix the issues in the world around it.

In closing

In closing, problems at Grace church far exceed the scope of a single post. These problems start with a lack of introspection, and are threaded through every aspect of church life, up to and including the diocese itself. Moreover, they go back many years, meaning that no interim, no matter how skilled or diligent, can fully resolve all or even most of these issues. Much like an alcoholic, who can only get better when he or she hits bottom and decides it’s time to change, so too can Grace Church only become healthy once it has hit rock bottom and decides something has to give. And for this to be successful, the diocese must also embrace a healthy approach, both to the parish and to its relationship with the parish. 

The analogy to an alcoholic goes even further. Much like the drunk who lashes out at those who try to intervene, potential interims need to understand that members of the parish will have no compunction against trying to obstruct their efforts, or throwing them under the bus. One has only to look at the ugly comments coming from within the church, including the college-aged parishioner who urged me to commit suicide, to realize just how sick Grace Church really is. And the Jean Reeds of the place can bloviate all they want to about defamation, etc., but Bob Malm’s perjury, his manipulative behavior, his bullying, and even the comments from the parishioner about suicide are all documented in writing.

Fixing the mess at Grace Church is a Herculean task, and I have yet to meet the interim who is up to the challenge. But if you are a prospective interim and considering taking on the job, I urge you to do your homework before signing on the dotted line. You are in for a rough and rocky road.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bishop Plans Appearance at Dysfunctional Bob’s Retirement Service



Among the guests at Dysfunctional Bob’s final service at Grace, slated for September 29, is the Episcopal bishop of Virginia. That may be a good sign, but it carries with it enormous risks. It also underscores the diocese’s role in supporting and covering up Bob Malm’s repeated incidents of misconduct, including his perjury.

On the one hand, the presence of the bishop may indicate that the diocese is taking the ungodly mess at Grace seriously. If Grace Church is to become healthy and survive, there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done, and the diocese needs to be a missional partner in making that happen. 

At the same time, the messaging here is both tricky and vital. The bishop cannot be seen to be dissing Dysfunctional Bob, but at the same time must be careful not to praise the many problems within the church, including bickering, shunning, and the utter disregard for the baptismal covenant evinced by many, including Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow, and the parish vestry. Indeed, my conclusion is that Grace is not a church, but instead a religion club, with dynamics modeled on a college fraternity or sorority. Thus, the task at hand is not just to recover from the problems of Bob Malm’s tenure—it’s actually to build a church from what is now a social organization.

Complicating matters is the fact that Bob continues to try to tug on people’s heartstrings in order to convince them that his departure is a great loss, on a par with the stages of dying identified by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. This, from a priest whose response when people leave the parish due to conflict with him is, “Why should I give a fuck? People transfer all the time.” But the reality is the same goes for clergy, and Bob’s departure is long, long overdue. Moreover, while Bob would not agree with this statement, the years of dysfunction in the parish office, his refusal to supervise staff, his efforts to avoid dealing with staff issues by lying to vestry members, his failure to comply with denominational requirements like having a parish finance manual, his ongoing violation of church canons, and his sense of superiority and entitlement render Bob’s track record as rector sub-par, at best. And to parallel Bob’s statement about departing parishioners, priests transfer all the time, except that in healthy parishes it doesn’t take 30 years for this to happen.

As a result, the bishop can help by providing a vision of the future that focuses on hope, growth, unity, and cooperation. While Bob’s goal may be to pull in every last bit of adulation, the bishop can temper things by pointing people’s focus towards things that matter.

The wrinkle in things, of course, is that the diocese still refuses to recognize or address Bob’s multiple incidents of misconduct, including his perjury, but instead insists on covering them up. Thus, no matter how skillfully the diocese handles Bob’s retirement and the subsequent interim period, there remains an elephant in the living room. No one will take Grace Church, the diocese, or the bishop seriously as long as diocesan officials cover up Bob Malm’s perjury. Yes, parishioners may defer to the bishop, but the larger outside world still sees a dysfunctional organization that has lost any claim to ethical relevance.

Meanwhile, the bishop’s presence reinforces the hypocrisy of diocesan officials. Grace Church is important enough to warrant a visit from the bishop at Bob’s farewell, but not important enough to address Bob’s perjury or the other severe problems that lurk right behind the scenes. It’s also fair to point out, as previously discussed, that the diocese’s track record when it comes to clergy transitions is mixed, at best. And when it bollixes things, often due to bad advice from J.P. Causey, the diocese has shown an unparalleled ability to leave a disaster in its wake.

I can also assure all involved that my efforts to publicize Bob’s misconduct and the diocese’s ensuing cover-up will not stop with Bob’s retirement. People need to understand that while the diocese talks a good game, and likes to gas on about the baptismal covenant, there is no substance to any of it, The reality is that even criminal activity such as perjury is okay for Episcopal clergy, as long as they’re not convicted. 

So, the bishop can roll through, pointy hat and crozier in tow, and put on a good show, but it does nothing to correct the underlying moral bankruptcy of the parish, the diocese or The Episcopal Church. These issues cannot be ignored, glossed over, or be treated as matters that hopefully resolve themselves over time. Only when these issues are addressed will there be any hope for the future.