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

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 K├╝bler-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.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Additional Allegations Emerge About Bishop Shannon Johnston Covering up Sexual Harassment of Women



One of the valid criticisms of The Episcopal Church is that dioceses all too often function like the personal fiefdoms of their bishops. Yes, bishops are elected, and yes there is an elected standing committee, but bishops, like most bureaucrats, tend to surround themselves with sycophants. And this is nowhere more true than in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, where these is both a long track record of backroom dealing, and recent evidence of corruption within the hierarchy. These allegations go all the way to the office of the bishop and include Susan Goff and, to an even greater extent, Shannon Johnston.

Most recently, allegations have again swirled that +Johnston covered up an egregious case of sexual harassment, reported via the Title IV disciplinary canons, involving a member of the clergy under his supervision. While I do not have firsthand knowledge of the specifics of the case, I believe the complainant. Moreover, one thing is abundantly clear, which is that Johnston has shown no care or concern for the woman who was abused. Nor has he provided the pastoral response mandated by church canon in a Title IV case. To the contrary, his only response to the victim has been to state that the matter is “confidential.” That is bogus, particularly since Title IV specifically states that the bishop has discretion to disclose otherwise confidential matters in order to afford a pastoral response to the parties. In this, I sense the baleful influence of Chancellor J.P. Causey, whose primary goal over time has consistently been to protect against potential legal liability, versus doing what is right. (Recall the situation of St. Thomas’ church in McLean Virginia, in which the diocese declined to provide a pastoral response to members of the church hurt by a successful Title IV case, on the grounds that it should not get “too involved,” per the advice of legal counsel. Talk about lack of compassion.) Nor has Bishop Goff done anything to fix this situation,

This sordid episode underscores my earlier point, which is that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia appears to be okay with almost any form of clergy misconduct that doesn’t involve sex, so long as there isn’t a criminal conviction. And in my case, Bishop Susan Goff has personally signed off in writing on the notion that Bob Malm’s perjury is okay, since there hasn’t been a conviction.

It’s also interesting to compare the current hot mess in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia with the Bishop Bruno debacle. Just as Bishop Bruno was prepared to conduct his Corp Sole activities in secret, pulling in only a small circle of loyalists, so too did Bishop Shannon negotiate his confidential exit package. And while +Bruno publicly released a largely incomplete financial audit, to my knowledge the Diocese of Virginia doesn’t manage even that level of transparency. My concerns are exacerbated by the conflict with the Trustees of the Funds, who inter alia appear to have concerns about the quality of governance within the diocese.

So, my questions to Susan Goff and Shannon Johnston are these:
  1. How would you react if your spouse were sexually harassed? Would you be satisfied with being told by the diocese that the outcome of your complaint is confidential? If not, how would that influence your view of the diocese? Of The Episcopal Church? How would it influence your faith?
  2. Do you really believe that perjury is okay absent a criminal conviction? If not, how do you justify your dismissal of my Title IV complaint against Bob Malm? And what does your response tell me and the diocese about The Episcopal Church? About your personal faith? You routinely recite the baptismal covenant, but do you really believe it? Or is it merely a bunch of empty words? Or words that apply, right up until you can invoke the whole “greater good of the church” routine in your own mind?
  3. In light of the issues with transparency in the Catholic Church, including the emerging scandal in the Diocese of West Virginia, and the debacle in the Diocese of Los Angeles, are you happy with the level of transparency in the diocese? In that context, does the average person in the pew understand how you use church funds? And why isn’t an annual financial audit front and center on the diocesan website?
  4. You appear to readily take advice from J.P. Causey about avoiding potential legal liability for the diocese. But how often do you ask yourself the question, “Is this the right thing to do?”
  5. You were fully apprised of Bob Malm’s efforts to drag my mother, dying of COPD into court, yet you chose inaction. How does that comport with your purported commitment to social justice?
My take: The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is in major need of an ethics overhaul, in which accountability, transparency, and living out a Christian witness in day-to-day life are priorities. As things stand now, when I look at the Diocese of Virginia, I don’t see the face of Jesus, nor do I see Christian values. Instead, I see institutional narcissism, mendacity, corruption, indifference, and bunch of folks whose primary goal is to make it to retirement, where they will enjoy the church’s generous defined benefit plan.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bishop Susan Goff

Remember, bearing false witness only counts if you’re convicted! Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Your Sister in Christ,

Bishop Susan Goff








Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Rev. Melissa Hollerith Confirms that Perjury is Okay for Episcopal Clergy Absent Conviction

Check it out: Melissa Hollerith, wife of the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, today confirmed in writing that perjury is acceptable conduct for Episcopal clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Here is her memo:

And here is my response:



It is small wonder that, with so little ethical reference point, the Episcopal Church is collapsing. Indeed, the world will be a better place without it.


Friday, May 17, 2019

The Arrogance of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia: A Sign of Decline

Canon Mary Thorpe

It’s amazing, really. At a time when the rate at which The Episcopal Church is shedding members is surpassed only by the losses of the Presbyterian Church USA (and even that is questionable), the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is going pedal-to-the-metal in its efforts to drive away members. How does it do that? Chiefly through its incredible blind arrogance and belief that somehow people cannot exist without the church. In short, that it is, in the words of Saturday Night Live, “specccial.”

For example, in a letter to me and the other two complainants in one of the Title IV cases, intake officer Caroline Parkinson, after accusing us of “distracting, disingenous, and duplicitous” conduct, prattled on about how there would be no point to a Title IV case, as our alleged conduct would interfere with the Title IV goals of healing and reconciliation. That, of course, does four things:
  • Conveniently overlooks Bob Malm’s misconduct.
  • Assigns blame for the problem in the victims of Bob’s misconduct.
  • Demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of the dynamics of abuse, which is that victims often behave in ways that are not rational or helpful, up to and including things like alcoholism and suicide.
  • Ignores the fact that Title IV applies only to clergy. As in, clergy are always responsible for maintaining boundaries, full stop. And, as illustrated by the +Bruno case, in which allegations swirled about the conduct of parishioners, clergy are supposed to be accountable for their conduct, regardless.
Caroline also violated confidentiality by disclosing a third complaint, and by lumping all three complaints together.

The real cherry on top, though, came  when she reverted to Jesus-babble in her letter, urging us to have the “grace to find a new church.”

Why on God’s green earth would anyone want anything to do with the church after this, including the diocese’s decision that retaliation for filing a Title IV complaint is acceptable?

Then we get to Caroline’s lie, which is that the diocese had already considered the matter of Bob’s decision to remove our names from the church directory the previous summer. Leaving aside the fact that there was no advisor, or communication from the reference panel, which means there likely was no reference panel that summer, the issue of the directory didn’t arise until that fall. All I can say is that I was not aware that the ability to time travel was one of the benefits of ordination. How special.

Similarly, Canon Mary Thorpe, whose husband serves as Executive Director of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, should surely have a handle both on Title IV and the pastoral implications of violating the promises Title IV sets forth to laity. Yet she apparently has said nothing about:
  • The outrageous and appalling conclusion set forth in the most recent Title IV notice of dismissal that perjury by members of the clergy is acceptable as long as there is no criminal violation. 
  • The fact that the diocese has repeatedly ignored the requirement of a pastoral response in all Title IV cases, including those involving dismissal. (Indeed, mapping out a pastoral response should be one of the first things to happen when a complaint is filed. But I guarantee you that the diocese has done nothing in this regard. Indeed, a pastoral response should be implemented from the moment a complaint is filed.)
  • The fact that the diocese itself has repeatedly breached confidentiality in this matter, including through its violation of the Title IV whistleblower provisions.
Yet she wants to try to insist that I should keep the diocese’s actions confidential? All I can say is I call BS on that one. It takes a special kind of arrogance for the diocese to repeatedly violate Title IV in all directions, yet try to apply those very same provisions to laity. This, despite the fact that with the exception of one provision, Title IV expressly doesn’t apply to laity. 

What’s really sad, though, is that we have clergy, aka professional Christians, who get paid to do this stuff full-time, who consider Title IV so unimportant that they don’t bother to learn its requirements, or to follow them. And doubly sad when I, as laity (if that’s what you want to call a former Christian), am far more familiar with the provisions of Title IV than they are.

And for the record, this is not the only time that the Diocese has ignored the Title IV requirement of a pastoral response. In the case of the lovely small church of St. Thomas’ in McLean, the diocese violated not only every best practice out there (including having Pat Wingo show up unannounced to tell people that the rector had been suspended), but it adamantly refused to do anything to care for the parish in the aftermath.

Why? Per Bishop Shannon, it was because diocesan chancellor JP Causey had told them not to get too involved due to fears of legal liability. All I can say is that’s pretty rich, coming from a chancellor who oversaw litigation in which the diocese bloviated on for years in the courts about the applicability of church canons to its constituent parishes. And no, there is no allegation of wrongdoing within the parish itself. And yes, it was nice that +Shannon apologized, but having not done anything to actually repair the damage, the gesture was purely symbolic.

In the meantime, a number of parishioners have left St. Thomas’, several of them life-long members, yet no one has ever reached out to them to care for them or attempt to fix the hurt that the diocese has caused. Proof that, as laity, we’re supposed to keep our mouths shut and send money, nothing more. And if we leave, we are of no consequence to the diocese. Next customer, window three, step right up.

The great irony in all of this is that these situations have created a deep well of knowledge and of pain among those hurt by the church. If the diocese had half the common sense God gave a goat, it would follow the lead of one of the dioceses in California, which ultimately invited friends of mine who had left the church due to abuse to serve on its advisory panel for preventing abuse. As is often pointed out within nonprofits, your critics are often your most useful allies, if you can lean into things and not feel threatened. But the church is nowhere near that self-aware.

With that in mind, it’s time I think for the diocese to engage in a period of introspection and repentence. Much of the harm it has caused in recent years is irreparable, and signs suggest that things are going to get worse, not better. But ignoring the problem will only allow it to fester.

For example, when the day comes in the not-distant future that Dysfunctional Bob packs it in, Grace church is headed for a period of turmoil. No matter how skilled an interim may be things will get ugly, especially when folks eventually realize just how problematic Bob Malm was and is. Having a priest for 30+ years who considers it nothing but a job, and who exploited the church shamelessly for his personal needs, is not a good situation for even the healthiest of churches, and Grace is far from healthy. But neither the parish itself nor the diocese see this, so there’s a storm lurking just over the horizon. Yikes.

Will the diocese reverse course and take my conflict with Bob seriously? Not bloody likely. Nor does it perceive any need to actually follow Title IV. And it is so blindly narcissistic as an organization that it has no concept or empathy for the pain it has caused and continues to cause. Moreover, just like individual narcissists, who often wind up late in life being profoundly isolated and alone (as appears increasingly likely for Bob Malm), it doesn’t realize that it’s sowing the seeds for its own destruction, for this sort of conduct inevitably causes organizations to rot from within.

That’s particularly troubling in light of +Goff’s progressive creds, as well as her academic background in psychology. One would think she, of all people, would recognize the looming problems, but she appears to have no insight beyond the tactical, day-to-day business of the rapidly dwindling diocese. Yes, she is a better tactician than +Johnston, but that’s not saying much. Indeed, the hot mess that was the diocese’s effort to find a bishop transitional should be of profound concern at every level in the organization, as it shows that problems are both systemic and structural. 

The fact that, even at the highest levels, the diocese can’t see the forest for the trees, and doesn’t recognize just how troubled it is, bespeaks an organization that is ill-prepared for the future—a future that will be marked by sharply declining revenue and membership. And until it actually cares for its members — even those who, like me, it both dislikes and distrusts — and demonstrates an ethical worldview marked by something more than empty Jesus-babble, the diocese will continue to crumble.

Not a pretty sight.