Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Alexandria the Clergy Perjury Parish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Alexandria the Clergy Perjury Parish. Show all posts

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Complaint Filed Against Church Pension Group for Insuring Perjuring Priest Bob Malm’s Illegal Conduct

One of the basic tenets of insurance is that it will not cover illegal, intentional acts, or otherwise act contrary to public policy.

That’s an area of the law that often is murky, for there exist numerous exceptions, but the fact remains that it is illegal for insurers to protect against deliberate illegal activity. With that in mind, I today began formal proceedings against the Church Pension Group (CPG) the parent entity behind Grace Episcopal’s insurance policy.

To be clear, exceptions are myriad. For example, your automobile insurance coverage does not cover illegal acts, but if you injure or kill someone while DUI, it will pay. Why? Because while DUI is illegal, you didn’t intend to kill anyone. (That said, you will either be dropped at renewal, or your rates will go through the roof.)

Similarly, if you get in a fistfight and cause property damage, your insurance is likely to pay for the damage, because you didn’t intend the property damage, and because it would be manifestly unjust to the victim to deny coverage.

Yet the fact remains: Insurance does not cover deliberate acts, like vandalism. Nor does it cover punitive damages, since those are the result of conduct that a court found to be outrageous.

In the instant case, Bob Malm committed perjury, and did so multiple times. Among his fabrications, made under oath, was that Mom or someone claiming to be her contacted him repeatedly to set up appointments, only to no-show. He also claimed that only his wife had blogged about our conflict, despite knowing that his daughter Lindsey had done so. He falsely claimed under oath that all of his statements were true. And he engaged in defamation per se, claiming that I had embezzled money from a previous employer, while lying to the bishop regarding the timeline of my departure from the organization.

Of particular concern is Bob’s perjury, which by definition is deliberate. Yet CPG continues to provide insurance coverage and litigation support on these claims, in what I submit is a violation of state law and public policy.

I have therefore filed a formal action against CPG with the commonwealth, and have notified CPG’s CEO, Mary Kate Wold; its Chief Legal Officer, Nancy Sanborn; and the examiner handling Grace’s claims, Heather Crockett; that I intend to pursue the matter.

Simply put, CPG cannot turn a blind eye to perjuring priest Bob Malm’s illegal behavior, when it can readily verify that Bob lied under oath. Indeed, all it has to do is ask for evidence to support perjuring priest Bob Malm’s claim that Mom or someone purporting to be her contacted him repeatedly to set up appointments. That simply didn’t happen. It is a lie, pure and simple.

Here is the email I sent.




Saturday, August 15, 2020

This Pledge Season, It’s Time to Defund Grace, the Clergy Perjury Parish

Grace Episcopal Alexandria

With the fall pledge season fast approaching, parishioners at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, have some hard decisions to make. Medical experts, for example, predict that this fall will be truly ugly when the present pandemic overlays the annual influenza season, with soaring death counts and dwindling hospital capacity. The result may well be further job losses and financial turmoil, which in turn may disincentivize giving to the parish.

But there are other factors that members should consider as well as they contemplate pledging. In addition to the enormous expenses of operating a pretty but empty set in the form of the church building — an annual cost of more than $150.000 — there is the grim reality of the church’s hypocrisy, organizational narcissism, and downright evil behavior.

Over the years, members of the parish have recited the baptismal covenant. replete with its promise to respect the dignity of every human being, hundreds of times. But that promise flies in the face of myriad forms of misconduct within the parish, including:
  1. Bob Malm’s decision, tacitly approved by the vestry, to force Mike out of the church.
  2. Bob Malm’s perjury.
  3. The church’s efforts to subpoena a dying woman, my mother, in violation of the law.
  4. Bob Malm’s multiple lies.
  5. Bob Malm’s defamation.
  6. Kelly Gable’s defamation.
  7. The childish and hateful antics of Lisa Medley and Alison Campbell.
  8. Sugarland Chiow’s multiple courtroom fabrications, his inflammatory and hateful rhetoric, and his treatment of our conflict as a personal vendetta
  9. The church’s illegal concealment of evidence damaging to its case.
  10. The remarks, almost certainly by a member of Lisa Medley’s family, urging me to commit suicide.

Nor have we seen any move towards accountability. Indeed, five years into our conflict, the parish is still trying to justify its actions in court. Meanwhile, parish leaders such as Elizabeth Legere cannot turn a blind eye to perjuring priest Bob Malm’s lies, for they have firsthand knowledge that he lied, in writing, to the bishop.

Things are no better at the diocese, where bishop Susan Goff and the rest of the fat cats turn a knowing blind eye to Bob Malm’s perjury. This has gone on since 2015, so there is scant reason to think that the diocese will ever approach the matter with the integrity of an open mind. And it’s a safe bet that long ago the diocese, acting with its attorneys, verified that neither Mom, nor someone pretending to be her, set up even a single appointment with perjuring priest Bob Malm.

Of course, like any good narcissist, the parish is friendly, for that’s part of a narcissist’s modus operandi. But right behind the scenes, things get ugly, and folks see no disconnect between their conduct and their professed beliefs. Indeed, the view of folks like Sugarland Chiow is that the ends justify the means, and if the matter is brought up, they compartmentalize, or brush things off by claiming that they are “fallible humans.” What they won’t do is take responsibility.

Nor is it possible to support the parish and turn a blind eye to these issues. Just as one cannot pay dues to the KKK while disclaiming its views, neither can one provide financial support to Grace while ignoring its outrageous, ugly, evil behavior.

It’s interesting, too. Perjuring priest Bob Malm likes to think he’s special, and there’s a big chunk of Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, that would agree. But when it comes to this conflict, Bob and others trot out the whole routine of, “Look what Bonetti did,” coveniently forgetting that clergy are, per the canons, supposed to be held to a higher standard. Moreover, one of the most basic notions when parsing clergy misconduct is simple: Due to the imbalance of perceived power, clergy are always responsible for maintaining boundaries. Always. And that starts with their own behavior. In other words, in a situation such as this, I never occupy the role of an equal to Bob.

Perjuring priest Bob Malm knows this and has consistently abused the disparity in perceived power. But much like the way systemic racism relies on our collective refusal to acknowledge and address prejudice. so too can the parish and Bob Malm engage in misconduct only if members turn a blind eye.

So, this pledge season, there are two ways to encourage Grace Church and its “leadership” to reform. One is to use your feet to walk away — which doesn’t matter much, with services still being virtual. The other is to defund the church and its misconduct until it formally and publicly renounces its bad behavior. This would, of neccessity involve truth telling, for otherwise Grace Church the clergy perjury parish will never change.

In short, it’s time to defund Grace.

Annual Parochial Report Results Due Soon, Results Expected to Show Further Decline

Front 2011 to 2018, Grace Church shed more than 31% of its average Sunday
attendance. The upcoming results from the 2019 annual parochial report
are expected to show further declines.
One of the oldest traditions of The Episcopal Church is the annual parochial report. Submitted annually, the report documents the state of the church, focusing on key metrics such as average Sunday attendance (ASA) and giving.

In recent years, the results for both the denomination as a whole and Grace Church have not been good. Overall, The Episcopal Church has dropped below 2 million members, and the rate of decline has accelerated. Even so, giving has increased for the denomination, as older members provide additional resources to shore up what looks more and more like a dying church.

A similar pattern prevails at Grace Church. Attendance declined precipitiously following Bob’s accident in 2014, never fully recovering. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the much of this was due to the childish bickering, bullying, and mobbing that took place during Bob’s extensive leave of absence.

Further abrupt declines in attendance hit when when Bob started trying to pursue me and Mom in the courts with his claims of “domestic terrorism.” This was accompanied by the ugly rhetoric coming from Leslie Malm, Lisa Medley, and others, which undoubtedly was not helped by the decision of the vestry to lie to the parish with its claims that Mike and I left on our own.

Similarly, the number of pledging units at Grace Church collapsed during this time, dropping from 324 in 2011 to less than 200 in 2020.

Even so, total plate and pledge has been relatively steady, albeit not keeping up with inflation. hovering right around $890,000 over the past few years. Indeed, total income climbed in during the past year due to the one-time income from the school of funds for replacement of the HVAC.

Results from perjuring priest Bob Malm’s last year at Grace, 2019, should be publicly available from the national church by September 15. My belief is that the continuing conflict within the parish, the efforts by the church to simply ignore the conflict and its other problems, and perjuring priest Bob Malm’s departure will all result in further declines. Next year’s report will undoubtedly reveal further sharp declines, exacerbated by the pandemic, the deaths of several long-time parishioners, and the ongoing litigation at the church.

I’ll post details as soon as they are available.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Check it Out: Leslie Malm Falsely Claims Settlement Proposal is Somehow a Court Order

Just when we thought life on Planet Malm couldn’t get an weirder, we get news on the legal front that  takes weird to a whole new level.

In her plea of the Statute of Limitations, filed in response to my lawsuit against her for defamation, Leslie claims that the settlement proposal proferred by the church and perjuring priest Bob Malm somehow magically became part of the protection from abuse order. It did not, and the proposal has no legally binding effect upon the parties.

The reality is that I rejected the church’s settlement proposal on the spot and did not offer a counter-proposal. My reasons for doing so:

  1. I did not wish to incentivize or reward perjuring priest Bob Malm’s lies, perjury, and misrepresentations.
  2. The settlement offer contained a confidentiality provision. Church abuse experts regard such provisions as themselves inherently abusive, for they prohibit victims of abuse from sharing their experiences and warning others. In the past several years, the Catholic church has seen such provisions knocked down in the courts and legislatures repeatedly.
  3. The settlement offer was the antithesis of Christian conduct and included zero provisions for accountability on the part of perjuring priest Bob Malm or the parish.
  4. Perjuring priest Bob Malm, as we have seen in his defamatory email to Bishop Shannon (including his outright lie about the timing of my arrival at Grace Church), like many at Grace Church, engages in much of his manipulation behind the scenes. Thus, the settlement proposal’s requirements for the church were illusory, for it would have only addressed public disparagement.

Grace Episcopal Alexandria
Grace Episcopal Alexandria
Grace Episcopal Alexandria



Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Legal Update: Motion for Reconsideration in Pennsylvania Case


Grace Episcopal Alexandria

A few days ago, I received notice that the Pennsylvania court dismissed the case against perjuring priest Bob Malm without prejudice, meaning that the decision has no preclusive effect. While the court’s decision does not explain its reasoning, based on the oral arguments and the nature of the decision itself, I believe the court concluded that Mom’s written assignment of rights, made shortly before her death, was excludable as hearsay.

Assuming that is an accurate conclusion, the court’s decision was in error, for it is well-settled that written contracts, verbal contracts, contractual language and assignments of rights are not hearsay. Instead, they are independent acts that do not go to the truth or falsity of another matter. As such, they are evaluated on their own, and in the context of surrounding circumstances.

In the instant case, it is undisputed that Mom assigned all her legal rights as against perjuring priest Bob Malm, Grace Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to me in writing prior to her death. She knew death was imminent, and she knew that litigation against perjuring priest Bob Malm and related parties was only weeks away. Thus, there should be no doubt that she effectuated a transfer of these rights to me—the only person for whom they would have value—prior to her death.

A copy of my motion for reconsideration is posted below. If this is unsuccessful, my plan is to bring suit in the Court of Common Pleas.

Protests Set to Increase This Fall

Over the past few months, I’ve only protested a few times. Reasons for this include respect for the lockdown. Plus the move to virtual services at Grace brings most church activity online—a forum in which I already have a robust presence.

That said, with the advent of cooler weather, it’s time to resume picketing in front of the church and at major intersections in Alexandria. If nothing else, it’s good practice for when the next rector arrives!

With that in mind, I’ve added additional signage per the below. A nice reminder of the currents that swirl right beneath the friendly facade of Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish!

Grace Episcopal Alexandria

Monday, August 10, 2020

Accountability and The Episcopal Church

Grace Episcopal Alexandria

Earlier I posted definitive proof that Bob Malm lied to the Episcopal bishop of Virginia when he claimed that I was the executive director of RPJ Housing before coming to Grace Church. Literally dozens of parishioners know that to be a lie. That begs the question: How many will have the integrity to tell the truth? And how many will be cowardly and play the, “I don’t want to get involved,” card?

This question goes to the very heart of the Christian faith, for it implicates the baptismal covenant’s promise to respect the dignity of every human being, as well as the promise to resist injustice and oppression.

That also raises issues of leadership and parental responsibility. We have already seen the results of parenting failures within the church in the form of twenty-somethings, raised in the church, who think it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide. We have seen the failure of leadership in the parish in the lack of accountability on Bob Malm’s part. We have seen the failure of leadership at the vestry in the years of slipshod record keeping, the ongoing prevalence of bullying and mobbing within the parish, the misconduct and disrespect within the choir and the altar guild. We have seen the failure of leadership in the defamatory statements from Sugarland Chiow, Bob Malm, and Kelly Gable. Indeed, the lack of any sort of Christian perspective even extends to the conduct of Lisa Gardner—a person not even a member of the parish. In short, like The Episcopal Church as a whole, there is a profound lack of accountability.

As things stand, Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish, is lurching further and further into existential crisis. Only a willingness to tell the truth will save the parish.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Rector Candidates: This Should Give You Pause

Grace Episcopal Alexandria


This screen cap, probably more so than any other, illustrates the toxic nature of Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish.

In it, a then college-aged parishioner who grew up in the church not only uses the homophobic handle. “Eat_A-Dick,” but urges me to commit suicide. Nor is this someone on the fringes of the church; both her parents have served on the vestry, and as wardens.

It is a sad state of affairs indeed when this is the result of a lifetime in the church. You need to know that this exemplifies how Grace parishioners live into the baptismal covenant, for if you are serious about your faith, this is what you will be dealing with during your tenure with the church.

Nor should you think that this is a one-off misstep and that folks are sorry for their mistakes. As it happens, the church is in court, even as we speak, defending six lawsuits against it and various persons connected with the church, and trying to claim that the conduct in question is defensible.

It’s not.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the Clergy Perjury Parish, Again Extends Deadline for Applications for Rector Position

Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention. — Douglas Horton

Desperation is never pretty. It’s not pretty in dating. It’s not pretty when job hunting. And it isn’t pretty when it involves a church looking for a new rector. And so it is with Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, where signs increasingly suggest that folks are taking a pass on what should be an A-list gig, the rector position.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia updated its website to show that the search committee has extended the deadline to apply until August 10. That’s the second extension.

Grace Episcopal Alexandria
Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the Clergy Perjury Parish, Again Extends
Deadline to Apply for Rector Position

The decision to do so is telling, indeed damning.

By rights, Grace Church should be, to use Shannon Johnston’s phrase, a “flagship.” With a decent income, loyal members, a gorgeous nave, close proximity to National Airport, close to trendy Del Ray, a long history of inclusion, and friendly members, at first blush Grace is a highly attractive calling.

But folks seem increasingly attuned to what Bob Malm himself termed the “dirty underbelly” of Grace church. The mere fact that one has to go to court in order to deal with misconduct in the parish speaks volumes. 

Even more telling is the fact that the diocese refuses to provide adult supervision to perjuring priest Bob Malm, or to wade in and do the hard work needed to make peace with the past. Indeed, the fact that the diocese has said in writing that it won’t get involved unless perjuring priest Bob Malm faces criminal charges shows that the corruption and incompetence extend right to Susan Goff herself. And the toxic miasma of perjuring priest Bob Malm, Sugarland Chiow, Alison Campbell, Lisa Medley and others has permeated every facet of life at Grace Episcopal Alexandria, where the place is so screwed up that parishioners actually think it’s okay to lie about each other, to urge others to commit suicide, and in Kelly Gable’s case, to accuse others of criminal conduct.

To make matters worse, some issues are irreparable. There is no way to make peace with my mother, for example, now that she is dead. 

Indeed, even with perjuring priest Bob Malm gone for what soon will be a year, Grace Church’s reputation is getting worse, not better. One has only to look at its efforts to defend its actions in court to see that no one at Grace is interested in changing. Instead, they are interested in justifying their conduct and continuing in exactly the same vein as always.

And the current litigation has provided myriad examples of profoundly ugly conduct within the parish—enough that even the most generous cannot avoid the conclusion that there are real problems at the church.

Now, with the parish again pushing back its already extended deadline for applying for the position of rector, the place is starting to smell of desperation. That’s really bad news for the church, and much like stealing from the Mafia, it’s likely to attract attention of all the wrong sort. In fact, that awful smell isn’t just desperation — it’s the stench of rot and corruption. Just like Jesus’ whitewashed tombs, the place is pretty on the exterior, but filled with death and decay on the inside.

The reality is this: No rector worth her salt is going to be willing to come in and muck out the filth that perjuring priest Bob Malm left behind. That’s especially true when, as here, the diocese has washed its hands of the matter. Thus, Grace needs to consider the possibility that the best it can do is to get in long-term supply clergy, possibly David Crosby or another member of the “Bobby Malm, You’re Amazing,” fan boys.

But however the rector search plays out, of this you can be certain: I am not backing down. Anyone who bullies Mike or my Mom has me to contend with, and I am tenacious.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

BREAKING: 200,000 Hits and Counting!

Today, this blog passed a major milestone: 200,000 hits and counting!

Meanwhile, my petition on change.org is motoring along and about to pass 20,000 signatures.

Good times!





Monday, July 27, 2020

Bonetti v. Malm: Court Grants Perjuring Priest Bob Malm’s Venue Request

Earlier today, the Fairfax Circuit Court granted perjuring priest Bob Malm’s motion to transfer venue to the Alexandria Circuit Court.

As plaintiff, I do not plan to further challenge venue.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Rector Search Committee Appears to Extend Cut-Off Date

There was a recent change to the rector search process at Grace, and while it’s a small one, it suggests that the search is not exactly going well.

Specifically, the committee quietly pushed the cut-off date back from the 27th through the 31st. It makes sense to do so, for closing things prior to the end of the month doesn’t accomplish much, particularly when much of the country is on vacation, lockdown, or both.

That said, no amount of tactical maneuvering is going to offset the larger reality, which is that the church and diocese still have done nothing to make peace with the church’s dismal past. Indeed, the Kelly Gables of the place are hard at it, trying to defend conduct that simply is indefensible.

Of course, relocating during a pandemic also will be difficult. After all, who wants every item in their household handled by strangers?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Welcome to Sugarland! Grace Episcopal Alexandria Rector Search Process Faces Challenges

Grace Episcopal Alexandria

You have to hand it to perjuring priest Bob Malm, Sugarland Chiow, and to a lesser extent Kelly Motormouth Gable — they have really done a number on Grace Episcopal Church and the search for a new rector.

Consider two possibilities:

First Possibility:

Mere use of the word “murder” in a blog, etc., truly is a threat and not protected speech under the First Amendment. In other words, welcome to Sugarland!

Jeffery Chiow, Esq,
In that case, we can look to Sugarland Chiow’s pleadings filed in the Venango Coubty courts, in which he says, “This is a case of domestic terrorism.” We can give context to this claim through his filings in the Alexandria Courts, in which he claims that I, “surely am dangerous.” How did we know that? According to Sugarland, it is by virtue of withdrawing my appeal. Thus, according to Sugarland’s reasoning, it’s appropriate to impose sanctions, for  as we well know, that is the best way to deal with dangerous people.

That begs the question: If I am a candidate for rector, do I want to serve a church that claims to be threatened by domestic terrorists? Unless I am totally cray-cray, the answer likely is no. That’s doubly the case if I have a family, and I’ll surely think twice when I realize just how expensive Northern VA is.

Second Possibility:

Why drink the KoolAid when you can swill the Sugarland Shine?
The second possibility is that Grace’s pleadings are not true. Thus, Grace faces potential legal liability, as well as the ethical and spiritual challenges posed by a priest who commits perjury, a vestry that supports his efforts, and parish leaders like Sugarland Chiow who aid and abet his efforts. Not to mention the ugly, inflammatory rhetoric coming out of the parish, including Sugarland’s court pleadings, Lisa Medley’s multiple lies and disclosure of confidential giving, and comments from someone, most likely Lucy Medley, urging me to commit suicide. In other words, welcome to Sugarland!

Wow. If this is the case, we’re talking about a profoundly toxic church. As Jesus said, “by their fruits you shall know them,” and this is one ugly, stinkin’ crock of goo. In fact, clergy who love God, love their neighbor, and haven’t lost their sense of smell due to COVID-19 can smell it ten miles away, twenty if they are downwind.

Rector candidates thus face the challenge not only of living in this environment, but also trying to fix it. Both are herculean tasks, especially after 30 years of Bob Malm. All I can say is yikes.

Of course, the possibility also exists that the parish will pull down another narcissist.  She, or more likely he, will come replete with a stellar resume, good looks (they are nothing if not well groomed), a carefully crafted image, athleticism (gotta look good on all fronts), tremendous verbal faculty, and an amazing ability to tell people what they want to hear. And Grace is, on its face, an target for another narcissist, for he or she will readily recognize that the church is a narcissistic organization, onto which they can attach themselves in record time. When he does, the narcissist will paper things over with earnest-sounding apologies, lots of hugs and smiles, the word “love” bouncing around in all directions, and more. But there will be no meaningful resolution, and Grace will have another layer of glitter affixed to its toxic infrastructure.

This is highly likely. While Mary Hix is, I think, wise enough to spot this issue, I don’t know that anyone else on the search committee is, with the possible exception of Tracy Enger.

That said, this presents a dilemma all its own for the narcissist: Should I run the risk of dealing with the six lawsuits now under way and the potential personal liability that attaches, or move on to easier pickings? My guess is most will consider this to be too much work to be worth the trouble, for narcissists are famous for underperforming at their jobs, while telling themselves and others that they are great.

That said, if Grace does pull down another narcissistic rector, things will get ugly in a hurry. Narcissists are invariably toxic, and they build narcissistic constructs around them. Given how far Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish, already is along that curve, if that does happen, Grace is a goner. Done. Kaput. No mas. Au revoir.

And a third possibility:

Of course there is a third potential outcome, which reflects the fact that many clergy are conflict avoidant. Specifically, many qualified candidates won’t want to parse these issues, but instead take a pass and move on. Given that TEC often follows the path of least resistance, that is a likely outcome, but one that will only become apparent over time as it becomes clear that B-list candidates are applying for what should be an A-list calling.

There’s also the possibility that candidates for rector take a preliminary look at applying, but quickly self-select and join this category, simply by asking, “What have you done to resolve this conflict?” Any sort of meaningful questioning will quickly reveal that, other than the token effort to slap some lipstick on this pig at the Fredericksburg meeting, the answer is nothing. And at this point we are no longer in a position to negotiate, for I have seen the middle finger from the good Christians of Grace Church far too often to be willing to talk to them, and have invoked my right under state law to have no contact from members of the church.

Moreover, klaxons will be sounding in all directions when candidates realize that the diocesan posture on these issues is one of no-criminal-charges-no-foul. That reveals just how toxic and broken things are, and it goes all the way to Bishop Goff herself. And it’s not like she hasn’t heard directly from me on these matters; she has many times, and instead sits in splendid silence in that fusty old antebellum heap, Mayo House.

And like any narcissistic organization, the denizens of Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish, will never concede the possibility that the organization suffers from narcissism. Indeed, it will all be the fault of that crazed former member, Eric Bonetti, who resigned from the church and then started harassing us. You know the drill, and Lisa Medley is happy to help you rehearse. If she’s not around, hit up Alison Campbell or Kelly Motormouth Gable. In fact, let’s grab a few drinks and talk about it.

Not matter how things turn out, thanks to perjuring priest Bob Malm, Sugarland Chiow, and now Motormouth Gable, things are not pointed in a good direction for Grace Church.

Welcome to Sugarland!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

St. Paul’s Preschool Covered on My Flagship, Anglican Watch

St. Paul’s Alexandria

As a follow-up to my previous post about former Grace head of school Chris Byrnes showing up as alleged interim head of school at St. Paul’s Alexandria, I have posted an article on my flagship, Anglican Watch.

As things stand, St. Paul’s appears headed for serious financial issues, compounded by poor staffing choices and a lack of even basic good governance, including financial transparency and reporting. Additionally, Chris seems poised to engage in many of the same behaviors that were problematic at Grace Church, including manipulation, triangulation, and empire building.

Here’s hoping that folks at St. Paul’s take the challenges they face seriously as we all struggle to make it in the midst of the pandemic.

For the record, as of press time the church had not responded to my request for comment. I presume it would have been quick to do so had it had good news to report.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Of Clergy and Contracts: What Grace Church Needs to Know Before it Hires the Next Rector



At this point, one thing is abundantly clear. Not only was hiring perjuring priest Bob Malm a major mistake, but the terms and conditions of his employment exacerbated the situation. That raises the question: How can the vestry avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?

Let’s start with the selection process. One of the things that went wrong when perjuring priest Bob Malm was hired was that the selection committee went for the bright, shiny penny. With a degree from Yale, what some say are good looks, full-time experience with the Anglo-Catholic arm of the church, good preaching skills, and an uncanny ability to tell people what they want to hear, Bob Malm looked good both on paper and in person.

But the church might do better with the well-worn dollar bill that’s been in circulation for a while. Far better to have a priest who’s an average preacher, but works her backside off and genuinely loves God and other people, than the bright shiny penny that decamps to the beach for a month every summer and considers this a God-given right as he recuperates from the grueling work of playing golf every weekend.

Speaking of, the selection committee should be highly alert to possible narcissists as candidates. Most of the evidence suggests that at least 30 percent of clergy are narcissists, and the last thing that the parish needs is a narcissist in the role. So it would be wise to read everything out there on this issue and inwardly digest the material. In the meantime, be alert to the candidate who is too good to be true, who appears polished, poised, articulate and very “put together.” Remember, the store front is not the store, and you are looking for someone whose “store” is full of treasure, not the person whose storefront was metaphorically designed by I.M. Pei, but utterly decayed and empty once you step inside. You need a servant leader, not a matinee idol.

On a related note, it is difficult to dig too deeply when vetting candidates. In Bob’s case, there were some warning signs that were not picked up. Per Bob himself, one of his parishioners at his church in Portsmouth ran for the vestry solely in order to “see what you’re going to do to our church.” While I have the advantage of hindsight, and while there will always be naysayers in every church, seemingly minor criticisms like this should be taken seriously and, if possible, responded to with follow-up questions like, “Why do you say that? What specifically are your concerns?” If I remember correctly, the parishioner who said this was an old guy at the time, but he was remarkably insightful, and I believe he spotted the warning signs early on. So the selection committee is well advised to ask, ask, ask and ask some more. Yes, there is the issue of confidentiality, but with less than 2 million members, the church is small enough that there is lots of feedback out there.

Once a finalist is selected, it’s important to lay the groundwork for success via structure and framework. This includes making it crystal clear that, other than selection of the senior warden, there are no circumstances in which the rector gets to choose the executive committee. That is a vestry decision, and The Episcopal Church is a representative democracy, not a monarchy. In fact, were this a US election, this would be election rigging, and would be treated as a felony.

It’s also clear that, thanks to a compromised vestry, there was damned little oversight of perjuring priest Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow. Both caused severe and lasting reputational damage to the parish, and the role of the vestry was confined largely to rocking back, nodding in sage agreement, and letting things play out. And Bob played that for all he was worth, for when he wanted air cover, he put issues in front of the vestry. But when he wanted something inappropriate, like to force Mike out of the parish, he sought no counsel from the vestry. So clear written guidelines should be established regarding engaging in legal action, criteria for dropping individuals from church membership rolls (already set forth in the canons, BTW), and more. (One suggestion: No volunteer attorneys. Just like the priest whose doctor is a member of the parish, there is an inherent boundary issue and conflict of interest, and Sugarland’s spectacularly ill-advised conduct illustrates the problems that can and will arise when using volunteer litigation counsel. The fact that, to this day, Sugarland doesn’t appear to have any issues with his conduct illustrates just how toxic this paradigm can be.)

One way to deal with these issues is to require and enforce a contractual provision mandating a mutual ministry review on at least an annual basis. Those are not the same as performance reviews, and the vestry should conduct one at least twice a year, in writing, with the full vestry involved.  These provisions need to be incorporated into a letter of agreement and need to result in meaningful action. In other words, if clergy do not fulfill their letter of agreement, including but not limited to taking leave in excess of that permitted under the agreement, the rector needs to be held accountable. That includes, if need be, a parting of the ways.

The vestry also should insist on a strategic plan, in writing, with measurable, verifiable steps towards specific results. Thus, the usual hoo-ha involving things like, “Follow the Holy Spirit,” doesn’t count. “Growing the budget by 10 percent” does.

Speaking of, it is essential that the church learn how to deal appropriately with conflict. Unfortunately, the diocese and vestry have largely taken a pass on that during the transition process, with the result that this will fall to the nest rector, who may or may not be willing and able to make this happen. But outside experts need to be brought in, and there should be written normative behaviors. The mobbing, bullying, gossip and defamation are out of control, and if they are not addressed Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish, will be gone sooner rather than later. I’d add that people need to learn to talk to each other, not about each other. One way to accomplish this is to establish written norms. A good set has been developed by the diocese of Southern Virginia and can be found in PDF here. (Before you dismiss this out of hand, this is a church that is so sick that members think it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide. Not to mention publicly disclosing confidential giving and more.)

On a related note, the parish needs to make peace with those it has hurt. Too often, churches treat past conflict as water over the damn, and simply try to move on. But until church members know what it is like to make restitution and engage in real peacemaking, they will never understand the heavy cost that the church pays when clergy and members engage in misconduct. That is not to say that everyone it has hurt can or will be willing to be part of the process; my mother went to her grave loathing perjuring priest Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish. Similarly, Mike is absolutely unwilling to be part of any such conversation. But the effort needs to be made whenever possible.

The vestry also needs to be involved fully in governance. All members should see a real annual audit and engagement letter (NOT an AUP), and work to implement solutions recommended by the auditors. Similarly, with the school representing 2/3 of annual budget and expenses, the vestry needs to see school minutes, budgets, and financials. Yes, I get that there should be some independence from the parish, but vestry members do not fulfill their fiduciary duty when they are not involved at all. (Ironically, perjuring priest Bob Malm offered to include the school in his settlement proposal. Remind me again how the school got involved, please.) And there should be a written personnel manual, a finance manual (the latter is required by the canons), and formal training opportunities for staff.  No one wants to work for a church that simply draws on skills, without doing anything to build them.

There needs to be transparency.That means publishing real budget numbers, including salaries, and treating the vestry as a full missional partner. Ironically, by trying to be all clever and sneaky, many parishioners imagined, for example, that perjuring priest Bob Malm earned more than he actually did. And failure to include line item detail resulted in Richard Newman getting overpaid for many months, and having to repay those funds. While I cannot prove it, I am convinced that Bob Malm tried to pay Richard more than had been approved by the vestry, and got his tail caught in the wringer when Jeff Aaron spotted the issue and brought it up. Had the latter not occurred, my belief is that Bob Malm thought no one would know the difference. And curiously, it was not long afterwards that Jeff’s relationship with perjuring priest Bob Malm seemingly started heading south. Meanwhile, Richard, hardly overpaid by any measure, wound up having to repay the funds, with the result that he got thrown under the bus big time.

It also would be wise to adopt written policies regarding inclusion, bullying, and whistleblowing and more. I brought the issue of bullying up to Elizabeth Legere long ago and was brushed off, but my conflict with perjuring priest Bob Malm would have been resolved early on had there been a written framework for doing so. Regrettably, the diocese is okay even with perjury, and the vestry and wardens at Grace under perjuring priest Bob Malm were paper tigers, despite the requirements the canons impose on both. (Speaking of, all involved should read the canons. Wardens have an express responsibility, for example, to be involved with the performance of staff. Perjuring priest Bob Malm may have refused to deal with those issues, but they are not ones that can be ignored.)

Tenure also is important, and it is not without good reason that rectors stay on average seven years. Staying too long may engender feelings that the parish is the rector’s, while causing burnout. Indeed, perjuring priest Bob Malm had said in writing at year 20 that he was ready to move on, but the issue appears to have been that no parish or organization out there was willing to shell out 200K a year. In other words, this was a bad case of the golden handcuffs. That was exacerbated by the profoundly foolish decision in 2014 to gift away 100K of the loan the church made to Bob in exchange for a de facto agreement to stay five years. Leaving aside the fact that this caused problems for both sides, at no point in time should any church staff garner a bonus of 100K. People give money to the church to be used for the glory of God, not to line perjuring priest Bob Malm’s pockets.

It also would be good to spend the first few years with a priest in charge, so that both sides can size the other up. Believe it or not, Grace will be no slice of paradise for whoever is next, and many will feel that any rector who does her job isn’t exactly heaven-sent, either. Formalizing review and assessment will prevent the usual Grace antics of the altar guild and choir ganging up on someone with whom they have issues, while priest-in-charge status allows either side to opt out if things are not a fit.

This also is an appropriate pivot point for the relationship with the bishops. Grace will not succeed absent appropriate support from the bishops, and the diocese’s past practice of sitting in splendid silence in the antebellum heap of Mayo House has been profoundly unhelpful. Written guidelines would help both sides engage in a more effective manner. And while most conflict can and should be resolved locally, there will be times when the diocese needs to be the neutral arbiter. Again, these guidelines need to be in writing, for the diocese has, in the past, shown itself to have a very short memory. Indeed, Pat Wingo offered that Susan Goff could help resolve any conflicts that came up after perjuring priest Bob Malm and I negotiated our ceasefire, but when I reached out to her for that very reason she took a pass in writing. That, of course, was when things went to hell in a hand-basket.

It’s also important not to panic. It is entirely possible, especially given the mess that perjuring priest Bob Malm leaves behind, that no viable candidate emerges in the first round. That’s okay, and it will happen when it happens. But the advice one hears in dating is spot on: Don’t look for Mr. Right. Be Mr. Right. Thus, Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, has a lot of work to do, and it needs to get cracking. Indeed, as things stand, I am not sure the parish can or will survive, if for no other reason than it has neither the introspection nor the backbone to engage in self-examination.

Right now, Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish is what the canon to the ordinary unhelpfully describes as “damaged goods.” That may or may not change, but the only way for it to change is for folks at Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, to take a long hard look at the church and their own actions, take things seriously, then ACT.

As one wit said long ago, “I am all for the Kingdom of God. But being Episcopal, I’d prefer that it come about without any unpleasant changes.”



Coming Soon to a Courtoom Near You: Lawsuit Number Seven

Grace Episcopal Alexandria

Behind the scenes, I have been really, really busy lately. So much so that I haven’t even been updating my flagship, Anglican Watch. But being quarantined also leaves me with lots of bandwidth to work on things, even though I feel like refried hell,

BTW, before you good Christians at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish, get all excited, don’t get your hopes up. People in my family typically live well into their 90’s, and often past 100. Not to mention that the domain name for this blog is paid in advance for years to come, so if I were to die tomorrow, my blog would continue on for long after I am gone.

That caveat out of the way, I am planning to sue someone closely connected to the parish. With that in mind, I am doing lots of research and making sure I have my ducks in a row before I file. The good news, too, is that there is no way his or her legal costs are covered by the church’s insurance, and I am perfectly happy to spend the next ten years in court. So this may well prove to be a war of attrition, and that is fine by me. In short, Bob’s misconduct is the gift that keeps on giving, and the lawsuits facing the church are, like the pandemic, the new normal for the parish,

Ironically, even if all litigation stopped tomorrow, the underlying issues that gave rise to these lawsuits remain alive and well at Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish. People at Grace will still think it’s okay to treat each other with disrespect. They’ll still think bullying is okay. They’ll still think Bob Malm was a good priest. And they’ll still be unwilling to examine their own conduct.

Bottom line, Grace Episcopal Alexandria the clergy perjury parish will remain a narcissistic organization.