Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Alexandria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Alexandria. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Why Grace Church is Doomed to Fail



I’ve written about this before, but with litigation now ramping up against perjuring priest Bob Malm, his family, Grace Church, and the diocese, I am reflecting anew on why the parish and diocese are unlikely to spring back from the hot mess that Bob leaves behind.

As I see it, the problem is that the diocese and parish simply don’t get it. As in they don’t understand how to fix the underlying problems.

In recent years, even the Catholic church, long famous for trying to play hardball against anyone who called it to account, has learned that this approach simply makes things worse. Yes, the Catholic Church managed to buy years — some would say decades — of time with its coverups and no-hold barred litigation. But the day of reckoning has arrived, and it’s looking ugly. Yes, some dioceses have tried to restructure so as to place assets beyond the reach of creditors, and more than one diocese appears to be trying to play games with its cemeteries and other, less visible assets. But no matter how you parse it, Rome is shedding members in all directions, and even the Vatican itself appears poised to run a deficit. And I would be prepared to bet that very few of those leaving the Catholic Church will ever come back.

By contrast, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia remains locked in a 1970’s approach to issues. When in doubt, deny everything. Then litigate, litigate, litigate, and hope you can sweep what’s left under the rug.

The problem is that conflict and misconduct don’t get resolved this way. Indeed, Bob Malm was a master at denying, avoiding, equivocating and doing everything in his power to to avoid addressing conflict or problems, even going so far as to lie in order to avoid dealing with things. But instead of taking the approach that perjuring priest Bob Malm is gone, and it’s a new day at Grace where people tell the truth and deal openly and honestly with conflict, the diocese is playing the very same games. That includes claiming that perjury is okay as long as no criminal charges result.

Sadly enough, there are still parishioners who like and admire Bob. And that’s likely to continue until the diocese has the integrity to openly disclose perjuring priest Bob Malm’s misconduct. Or, as the Rev. Robin Hammeal-Urban notes in her book on misconduct, it is only through disclosure that the church heals. Absent this, churches will, almost without exception, hold onto patterns of dysfunction that will extend for decades.

Unfortunately, this level of integrity simply doesn’t exist, either at Mayo House or the parish vestry. From the bishops, to JP Causey, right on down, it’s all about protecting the organization and its turf, versus doing what’s right. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” simply doesn’t apply. Instead, the diocese and parish cling to, “It’s our lie, and our church, and we’ll do whatever we damn well want, thank you. And your response will be, ‘Thank you Sir, may I have another?’” Even at the vestry, there’s the whole, “well, people liked Bob—do we really want to go there?,” routine.

That also poses a problem for the next rector. Remember the old joke about not wanting to join any club that would have me as a member? Well, the same holds true for Grace. Specifically, any rector worth having is going to want to know that steps have been taken to come to terms with the past, to heal, to learn, and to grow. With that not happening, good candidates are going to take a pass. As one priest said to me about Grace, “God help whoever’s next. You couldn’t pay me enough.”

Nor is Michael Guy going to cut it. While he seems to be more sincere than was perjuring priest Bob Malm, his positive comments and his hints about forgiveness fall far short of what it is going to take to get the parish back on track.

Even worse, those candidates who might be willing to work with these problems face a further challenge, which is that the parish likely will still be in litigation one year after perjuring priest Bob Malm’s departure. Indeed, with litigation only now ramping up, we are probably at least a year away from any sort of outcome, which puts things close to the two-year mark. And for the record, I am not backing down any time soon. But then, five years into this conflict, folks hopefully realize that already. If nothing else, I outlasted Bob, and I can outlast Grace.

Nor do I think that Bishop Goff or the other fat cats at Mayo House have the integrity to admit that they are wrong. Yes, they might say pretty words in order to try to shut down the conflict, but actually owning up to the mess they have made of things and bringing in experts to fix it? You’ll sooner see a snowman in the fierce flames of the furnace room of hell on a hot day. In fact, one of the reasons for the current state of affairs is that, when Pat Wingo went on sabbatical, he had offered in writing that I could reach out to Bishop Goff if I needed help working through issues with Bob. That’s exactly what I did, only to have Susan take a pass. Meanwhile, Shannon Johnston, with his amazing ability to screw things up, had already sent out a letter in support of Bob, while ignoring my response to him.

Typical.

Neither does Grace have the necessary introspection. My bet is that the vestry will try to get a rector in in who’s good at conflict resolution and hope for the best. But given that she or he will not enjoy meaningful support from the diocese, nor have an accurate perspective on conflict within the parish, that dog won’t hunt. And the parish does not realize that it cannot win the current litigation. Yes, it could prevail in court, but that simply adds fuel to the fire and guarantees that the conflict will continue. (Not to mention giving that much more for me and others to write about.) Put in other words, Bob threw the parish under the bus, but folks are blinded to that reality by their loyalty to Bob and their reluctance to admit their own mistakes.

That brings up a final but important point: The diocese tends to try to convince itself that it knows how to fix conflict, so it is unlikely to bring in outside experts. That said, the diocese is spectacularly bad at dealing with conflict, and in the case of Grace Church, a full-fledged intervention is necessary. Outside resources need to come in, wade through the mess, then discuss specific steps towards normalcy, including:

- Talking to others, versus about others.
- Avoiding triangulation.
- Assuming good intent.
- Respecting all opinions and perspectives, even if they are unpopular.
- Backing away from the emotion inherent in conflict.
- Recognizing that, approached properly, conflict can be a profoundly positive experience.
- Establishing written norms.

In short, any sort of resolution starts with the diocese recognizing that Bob occupied the position of power, as is always the case with relationships between clergy and congregants. Thus, it is incumbent for the diocese to start the painful but necessary process of telling the truth, which includes the fact that clergy are always responsible for maintaining appropriate boundaries — always. And that includes not lying about your parishioners, as Bob has done in my case, trying to bully them, or engaging in Bob’s manipulative games. Or, for that matter, committing perjury.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Bishop Goff, come tear down Bob’s lies. Come tell the truth.”

We’ll wait.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Jan Spence’s Ugly Gossip



One recurring theme on this blog is the ugly nature of conversation at Grace Church. A particularly ugly — and illustrative — such situation involves Jan Spence and her comments about one of the church’s young parishioners.

Specifically, one day Jan recounted to a group of parishioners, myself included, her belief that a particular person is gay and closeted, saying “it’s only a matter of time before he comes out.”

Let’s think about that.

Assuming that person is gay — and I don’t know why anyone would care — it’s none of Jan’s business. That’s doubly the case if indeed he is in the closet. And it’s even more problematic to spread that sort of gossip within the parish.

To make matters worse, Jan stood in a position of trust to the young man in question. She worked with him in the Journey to Adulthood program, which means her conduct towards him should be above reproach.

And for the record, I will not disclose who the young person is. I like him. I like his parents. How he handles his sexuality is up to him, no one else. And I will continue to like him without regard for his sexual orientation, whatever that may be.

That fact that Jan Spence apparently doesn’t see any issue with her conduct is appalling and disgraceful. And it’s typical of the ugly behind-the-scenes discourse that goes on within the parish, and illustrates the broken ethics in the church.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Breaking News: Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Sued in Pennsylvania

With the courts now open again in Pennsylvania, one of the lawsuits pending against perjuring priest Bob Malm moved forward in that state.

The case is predicated on perjuring priest Bob Malm’s efforts to drag Mom, dying of COPD, into court in violation of state law. Given that Bob was represented by Episcopal church attorney Jeff ”Sugarland” Chiow — a nationally recognized attorney, assisted by another law firm with ties to the church — it seems clear that Bob knew his actions were not permitted under state law. Thus, it is appropriate that perjuring priest Bob Malm be required to compensate Mom’s estate for the costs associated with defending his bogus subpoena.

I will post additional detail once the court assigns a trial date.




Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why Grace’s Transition is Doomed to Fail

Grace Church has a problem. Not just one problem, but one really big problem. Specifically, the interim/transition process is not going to succeed.

To be fair, there are some incremental improvements under Michael Guy. But long-term success simply isn’t going to happen.

The problem is that Grace Church is an isolated system. Yes, it has some external interfaces with the diocese, but those are limited to information that flows through Michael Guy and the vestry. And that information is filtered via a constant, which is the family system in the parish.

What does that mean in practice? 

Primarily that the parish survey and other data obtained during the transition process reflects only the views of those who have stayed throughout Bob Malm’s reign of feckless, narcissistic indifference. Thus, survey results are inherently skewed towards those who think Grace Church is wonderful, or at least tolerable. That omits the experiences of the dozens of people who have left the parish in recent years. the loss of 1/3 of its pledging units, and the breach of trust evinced by Bob Malm’s decision to try to drag a dying woman into court, his perjury, his lies, his smear campaigns and more. And even otherwise sensible individuals either turn a blind eye to these issues, or actively provide support. 

Consider: Sugarland Chiow and his family remain members of the church and attend regularly, despite his written claims that the church is the victim of “domestic terrorism.” What kind of husband or parent exposes his wife and children to a situation that he claims involves “domestic terrorism?” One has to wonder.

Thus, as a closed system, members perpetuate the notion that all is well at Grace Church and resoundingly reject anyone who says otherwise. Anyone who disagrees gets tagged as “dysfunctional,” which is Bob Malm’s not-so-Christian label for anyone who disagrees with him. And folks like Jean Reed, Kemp Williams, and Kelly Gable feel free to wade in with their gossip and speculation — but never with any concern for the person they claim is “dysfunctional.” In short, Grace is a goofy loop of narcissistic self-ratification with no external reference point.

Nor will the diocese be of any help. It refuses to address the problems in the parish, and adamantly refuses to tell the truth, even going so far as to trot out the specious argument that Bob Malm is not perjurer on the grounds that he hasn’t been convicted. I guess the same logic applies to sexual misconduct: Clergy cannot, for example, be child molesters unless they have been convicted. After all, molesting children is illegal, right?\

The sad reality is that Grace Church needs truthtelling. It needs to see itself as others see it. It needs to understand that bullying, hateful comments, mobbing, gossip (the speculation about married men in the parish being gay is particularly ugly), and more are neither normal nor acceptable in a healthy church.

So how will the church gain perspective? A good start is being going outside the church’s closed system and surveying the world outside its doors. What do school staff think about the church? Former members? Members of other parishes? Church members in other denominations? What would former members say if asked why they left? What are their thoughts on how the church responds to conflict? Such data should be requested both via the website and in-person listening sessions.

(I’ll give you a hint: It is entirely inappropriate for clergy to try to label people who disagree with them as “dysfunctional”. It’s even more inappropriate to make those statements in emails to diocesan officials. And still more inappropriate for Shannon “Two-Faced” Johnston to accept these sorts of communications from clergy. See below.)



Much of the feedback that would come in would be unsettling. Some would be downright ugly, as it reflects Bob’s ugly conduct. But as Bob Malm said in his communication to the Grace vestry, when he disseminated his facially untruthful “talking points,” “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” 

As things stand, Grace Church, its leadership and the diocese are wedded to Bob Malm’s perjury and other misconduct. As such, they are imprisoned by the toxic legacy of Bob Malm.


Saturday, May 2, 2020

See for Yourself: My Email to Grace Church After it Again Uses My Photo Without Authorization

In Virginia, unlike other jurisdictions, the courts recognize only a very limited right to privacy, which covers use of one’s photo or name for advertising or marketing purposes. With that in mind, and in light of Grace Church’s appalling conduct over the past several years, in 2015 I asked Bob Malm in writing not to use my image in any church publications. Unfortunately, in the May edition of Grace Notes, a photo of me from 2014 appears, standing right behind Lucy Lee Reed.

For the record, I adore Lucy Lee. She is a good people and has an amazing work ethic—not to mention makes wonderful salmon! But I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I implicitly or in any other way support or condone Grace Church, the diocese, or the larger Episcopal church.

Here is the photo:



And here is my email, sent to Anne Caputo, Paul Bellantoni, parish clergy, June Huber, and the church’s attorney.



Of course, given the church’s claims in writing, made via Sugarland Chiow, that I am a “domestic terrorist,” one has to wonder who thought including my photo was a great idea.

Hopefully this is the last time the issue comes up. But if it comes up again, Grace Church and I will be locking horns in court.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Grace Episcopal Pays Perjuring Priest Bob Malm $100,000 Bonus

Thinking about donating to Grace Episcopal?

If so, keep in mind this is a church that not only approves of clergy perjury and dragging the dying into court, it paid perjuring priest Bob Malm a $100,000 bonus in 2014.

When was the last time YOU got a $100,000 bonus? 

Keep in mind that this equals roughly 10% of annual revenue, and went to a priest who got 1 out of every 5 dollars given to the church.

Do yourself a favor and keep your money. Or use it for something ethically relevant, like helping the homeless or educating others. Don’t give to support the clergy perjury parish.




Friday, April 10, 2020

Change.Org Petition Seen Almost 170,000 Times, Spells Further Bad News for the Parish and Denomination

You really have to hand it to The Episcopal Church. At a time when all indicators suggest the denomination is dying, it clings tenaciously to its perceived prerogatives. That includes its utter commitment to ignoring Bob Malm’s perjury.

As a result, well over a million people have seen social media posts, ads, and more, including my online petition on change.org. Apropos the latter, almost 170,000 people have seen the petition. That’s particularly problematic for the church, because change.org holds enormous traction among young people, particularly those with more liberal/inclusive views. In short, Bob’s conduct is eroding the very future of a church that as it stands, at last count had just 1,676,349 members, making it the fourteenth largest denomination in the US. And except for the PCUSA, it has the fastest rate of decline.

And before some imbecile like Sugarland Chiow comes along carrying on about how I should stop sharing my observations about the church, let me be clear: It is Bob Malm’s misconduct, that of the vestry, and that of the diocese that is causing these problems. In fact, in 2015, the parish, speaking through Jeff Chiow, refused my offer to settle things in exchange for nothing more than Bob Malm’s written commitment to stop his shunning and bullying. 

Having done so, perjuring priest Bob Malm, Sugarland Chiow, the parish and the diocese need to live with the results of their decision. 




Monday, April 6, 2020

Grace Episcopal Alexandria: Evil in Action


Hannah Arendt, writing on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann, remarked on the “banality of evil.” But what did she mean by that, and what does it have to do with Grace Episcopal?

In her research, Arendt found that Eichmann was unremarkable in every way. Noting that he was a rather anodyne bureaucrat, she found him “neither brutal nor sadistic,” but rather “terrifyingly normal.” In short, he was shallow and clueless.

Similarly, John Stuart Mill said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Such is the case for Grace Episcopal Alexandria. There, a beautiful building and lovely liturgy take the place of true faith. People are friendly, but for years have either ignored, or quietly lamented without getting involved, perjuring priest Bob Malm’s feckless performance as rector. Whether it is the more than $1 million that the parish squandered on his personal residence, his $100,000 bonus at a time when the church was not saving for the future, Bob’s refusal to address HR issues, hoarding, bullying, and other problems in the parish, or even his indifference to forming relationships with parish leaders, all make for a toxic church.

Similarly, bullies in the parish have been ignored for years, particularly in the church office, the choir, and the altar guild. I get that the altar guild doesn’t like change, but that doesn’t excuse bad behavior.

Worst of all is Bob Malm’s bullying, lying, his willingness to drag a dying woman into court, and his perjury. Yet these behaviors enjoy the full support of the diocese, the vestry, and the church as a whole. Nor was Bob “shooting from the hip,” with his perjury, for he did so in writing, under oath, while advised by church legal counsel, in front of notary and parishioner Jane Rosman. And let’s not forget his perjurious claim that his wife Leslie was the only person in his family who had blogged about our conflict, for he knew full well his daughter Lindsey had done so.

So, if you believe that bullying, lying, and committing perjury are wrong, yet you are paying a pledge, donating money, or otherwise supporting Grace Church and not doing anything about these issues, you are part of the problem. 

Indeed, evil is banal. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

True to Form, St. Dysfunction Screws Up Its Response to COVID-19

It should come as no surprise, but true to form, Grace Episcopal has bollixed its response to Bishop Goff’s announcement regarding the suspension of church services.

Specifically, in its announcement, the church states that all Sunday worship services at all parishes in the diocese are suspended. As other churches in the area were quick to point out, that is absolutely and categorically untrue.

Here is the church’s announcement:


What the diocese HAS said is that all gatherings for public worship are suspended. That is a huge difference. Indeed, Bishop Goff is quick to point out that God will be worshipped and praised, and is encouraging parishes to offer online services. That is in keeping with what I and other have been pointing our for many years, which is that churches that wish to engage with young people must find young people where they are. That means offering interactive alternatives. Not half-baked alternatives, but joyful, engaging interaction in cyberspace.

This is confirmed in Bishop Goff’s statement, reflected below.




So rather than the usual chaos and misinformation, I believe parish leaders should get their backsides in gear, recognize that there are ways to hold services without physically meeting, borrow a tripod stand and an iPod, and get busy going about the business of the church.

For the record, church services are NOT cancelled across the diocese. Only parishes that cannot get their act together to stream a service will not be worshipping this Sunday. And given the times in which we live, churches and other organizations that survive will be those that move swiftly and respond to the changing times. 

So far, Grace Church does not appear to be one of the churches that will survive.

PS Given the demographics of the church, it is stupid to continue with small group meetings. Feel free to quote me. And if you really want to worship God, service at the food pantry or homeless shelter is a good way to start.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

What Would Have Happened if Perjuring Priest Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow Had Gotten Me to Sign an NDA?

With Grace’s transition from 30 years of perjuring priest Bob Malm now entering its sixth month, it seems that very little progress has been made. Yes, a well-qualified group has been chosen for the search committee. Yes, the search committee is going through all the right steps. But they are not meeting the congregation’s needs.

Specifically, one of the requirements of a successful transition is coming to terms with the church’s past. By definition, that would include Bob Malm’s perjury, his lies to the congregation, his efforts to drag a dying woman into court, and more. Yet the parish’s response is typical: It’s trying to defend the case in court, which only erodes confidence in the church, further alienates members and former members, and diverts much-needed funds from — you guessed it — healing and outreach.



Part and parcel of this is Sugarland Chiow’s spectacularly stupid role in this debacle, as well as that of the ever clueless Diocese of Virginia. This included efforts by Sugarland to get me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, in exchange for dropping Bob’s fraudulent protective order obtained via perjury and false statements. The fact that Sugarland even tried to go this route reveals he has scant understanding of Christianity, conflict transformation, or even the simple matter of that makes me tick.

So what would have happened had I signed that NDA?

The answer is the church would have wound up with its problems shoved under the rug and papered over with Sugarland Chiow’s badly written pablum about moving forward in peace and love. The problem, of course, is that nothing about Sugarland’s conduct, Bob Malm’s conduct, the vestry’s conduct, or that of various key church members in any way involves love. Nor does it involve Christian conduct.

As Robin Hammeal-Urban, expert on church misconduct, writes, disclosure of misconduct is essential if we are to be in right relationship with ourselves, each other, and God. Folks like Kemp Williams may decry the harm that comes from disclosure, but concealing misconduct only makes things worse. Indeed, churches that do so may suffer harm decades letter.

Consider the example from Robin’s book below, involving an assistant rector and a non-disclosure agreement:



And below are more excerpts from Robin’s book, covering the importance of disclosure.











And no discussion of the effects of hiding misconduct would be complete without noting that doing so prevents a congregation from understanding, recognizing healthy systems of checks and balances and boundaries.



My observation is that, like all narcissists, Bob Malm established no boundaries for his own conduct. Lying to his vestry, to his congregation, to his bishops, and even to the police and courts, all were okay. Yet the boundary he sought to establish for parishioners was no criticism of his conduct, ever. Indeed, he told me more than once that he would not address my concerns about his behavior. The diocese was even worse, showing zero understanding of its own role in the debacle. And to this day, the diocese and the parish vestry continue to try to defend their conduct in court — which, if they succeed, will only impose another impediment to the church becoming healthy and taking ownership of its issues.

Truly, Grace Church and its leadership appear determined to wreck the future of the parish. As things stand, they are doing an excellent job of doing exactly that.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Update: Grace Episcopal Files Demurrer and Proposed Order in Court Case

Earlier today I learned that Grace Episcopal Church and the diocese have filed a demurrer and proposed order in my case. While I have not yet received a copy, a demurrer generally asserts that a factual claim is accurate, while irrelevant to the underlying point. My bet is that litigation counsel will claim that Bob was not acting as agent for the church and diocese, despite the fact that he clearly held himself forth as such. Indeed, Bob told Dee Parsons that he and the parish leadership decided to pursue a protective order.

Of course, that creates a conundrum for the parish. If it succeeds in court, then it is stuck with me opposing it for years to come. And right now, the sorry state of the parish is such that it doesn’t have years left to leave its misconduct unaddressed.

I’ll post more as soon as I have it.

Monday, February 24, 2020

More Fun and Games from St. Dysfunction Episcopal

More fun and games today from the crowd at Grace Episcopal, otherwise known as St. Dysfunction.

Earlier today, while out protesting in front of the building (but entirely on public land),  I was pleased to see that Planet Malm continues to hold fast to Bob’s Malm’s motion of Christian conduct. Specifically, a well-known parishioner rolled past and flipped the One-Gun Salute to Jesus. So glad to see that he takes the baptismal covenant seriously. (Hint: He drives a black crossover and lives in Del Ray.)

Less than an hour later, two police units rolled in, on the basis that I had allegedly been stepping in front of vehicles. 

A few minor details:
  • Having never left the sidewalk or entered the curb cut, this must mean the driver was driving on the sidewalk. That’s odd—I didn’t see any vehicles on the sidewalk.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way as a matter of law.
  • Having seen the soccer moms and dads of Grace Episcopal School and how they drive, I can assure all involved I stay well away from all drivers associated with the school. And the church for that matter.
  • Patty Culbreth came out and spoke at length with one of the two responding units. Hmmm.
I have filed a FOIA request to learn more. 

In the meantime, it seems to me that folks at St. Dysfunction still have not learned anything about the perils of playing games with our legal system. I note as well that the tort of abuse of process can include reports made to police and regulatory agencies.






Thursday, February 20, 2020

Petition to Investigate Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Zooms Past 4000 Signatures



Check it out! Our petition asking the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to show a little ethics by investigating perjuring priest Bob Malm has zoomed past 4000 signatures. We’re on our way to 5,000 and beyond!

Given that as of 2018 the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia only had 68,902 baptized members, you’d think Susan Goff and the other fat cats at Mayo House would get the hint. But as things stand, Bob Malm’s perjury is “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” In fact, the gods of Mayo House will only deign to consider the matter if Bob Malm faces criminal charges. I guess that means if you are molesting children in an Episcopal church, you’re safe. After all, the diocese itself has said that the touchstone for it to get involved is criminal charges. But then, there is an exception for sexual misconduct...just look at other clergy disciplinary cases in Northern VA. I guess as long as it doesn’t involve sex you are okay.

And folks wonder why the Episcopal church is dying. No surprises there.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Spiritual Abuse and Healthy Churches: Good Article in CT

There’s a good podcast on Christianity Today (“CT”) that discusses spiritual abuse in churches, why it’s often difficult to spot, and typically even harder to address. The information is very relevant to Grace Episcopal Church and the spiritual abuse/toxic dynamics within the parish. Take a listen here.

Key points:

Spiritual abuse, which often involves bullying and manipulation, typically is hard to detect, as it usually involves an ongoing series of small acts that, when examined individually, appear innocuous, but when taken as a whole, form a damning pattern.
  • Rejection of critical feedback, something I observed many times with Bob Malm, is a key indicator of spiritual abuse. Indeed, Bob refused all accountability, either ducking the issue with fabrications, such as saying of church office staff, “Don’t worry about it, they’ll be retiring this year,” or trying to shut it down via explosive outbursts of rage, as in when Lee Meeks brought up governance concerns concerning the Shrine Mont event at a vestry meeting.
  • Church leaders who engage in spiritual abuse often are adept at manipulating perceptions, thus making it difficult for people to realize just unhealthy a church has become. 
    • For example, consider Bob Malm’s “confession” in his final Grace Notes before retirement, in which he states, “in 30 years, I’ve not visited as much as I would have liked. As an example, out of the 15 current Vestry (sic) members, I’ve only visited the homes of 8!” That sort of pseudo-confession is typical of spiritually abusive leadership, and in Bob’s case amusing, as he never lacked time for golf, running/marathons or his month at the beach every summer. Indeed, I don’t recall ever hearing of Bob showing up at a hypothermia shelter, the homeless shelter, or any other ministry, except for Art on the Avenue and the annual altar guild tea. Hardly a grueling schedule, even by the most generous of standards.
  • Because spiritually abusive churches tend to place leaders on a pedestal, they tend to demonize critics. Moreover, one never sees concern within the church for those viewed as critics. 
    • While insiders view the situation as normal, outsiders may view church members’ conduct as childish, hateful, and toxic. Consider the comments on The Wartburg Watch, when Leslie Malm and Lisa Medley went on the attack after the publication covered Bob’s behavior at Grace Church. As one commenter put it, “While these parishioners may seem sane to themselves, they appear childish and hateful to outsiders viewing their actions.” 
    • Similarly, Kemp Williams’ emails about me, in which he says, “It is abundantly clear that Eric is psychopathic,” further illustrate the level of discourse within the parish. Leaving aside the fact that one would hope for better from members of the church, Kemp appears oblivious to the legal concept that opinion may be defamatory if the matter is provable as a matter of fact. The fact that conversations of this sort are acceptable and normative at Grace Church makes clear the depth and breadth of the issues within the parish, and the extent to which the diocese’s laissez faire attitude toward the parish is causing lasting harm. Here is Kemp’s email:


  • Because information flow within spiritually abusive churches often is tightly controlled, people rarely talk to others, preferring instead to talk about others. This is the case at Grace Church, where Bob tried to keep control of information by not releasing financial data, restricting dissemination of vestry minutes, and more. That trend continues to this day, and the fallout is reflected in Kemp’s email above. Given that Kemp has never discussed this thoughts directly with me, and Bob was for years largely indifferent to church security, one sees how this toxic paradigm plays out.
  • Denominational leaders, like Susan Goff, typically are willfully ignorant about issues of abuse, particularly spiritual abuse. They don’t understand it, and be choosing not to bring in those who do understand it and can advise them appropriately, they offer tacit and sometimes explicit support.
  • Toxic churches like Grace typically cause healthy individuals to seek other churches, leaving sycophants, empaths, enablers, and peacemakers at the helm. While these individuals often are well-meaning, they may have little appetite for directly addressing problems, particularly when the problems are as challenging as those involved in spiritual abuse. This certainly has played out at Grace Church, which has shed almost half of its pledging units in recent years, as well as numerous members.
    • Ironically, Lisa Medley claims that that I have said that my conflict is responsible for the church’s declining fortunes and that these issues transcend my conflict with Bob and the parish. She is correct that the parish’s problems go far beyond this conflict; indeed, her toxic responses underscore this reality.
    • Similarly, as the Rev. Robin Hammeal-Urban (canon to the ordinary for the diocese of Connecticut) notes, it is not the person who discloses abuse that is the cause of the harm that results. It is the abuser who is responsible for the harm. Thus, one can see in Kemp Williams’ email the classic response of a toxic church when abuse comes to light.
    • A healthy parish would be unaffected by the criticism of a former parishioner, no matter how noisy he or she might be. It is only as people realize that there indeed are serious problems that they begin to reduce their commitment to the church.
      • The fact that Bob Malm committed perjury, tried to drag a dying woman into court, repeatedly proffered false information to the courts, then tried to paper over the mess by seeking a settlement agreement containing non-disclosure and anti-disparagement clauses indicates just how toxic the church has become. 
  • As Dominique Benninger notes in recent media coverage of his experiences with spiritual abuse, “It is hard to trust once your faith has been used against you.”
  • In short, the best way to become a healthy church is to be a healthy church. And just like an alcoholic starts the road to recovery by acknowledging their problem, Grace Church will only be healthy when it tells the truth about what has transpired and the problems it faces. And like an alcoholic, Grace Church’s illness is progressive, meaning that left untreated it will only get worse, likely becoming terminal if it continues.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Petition Seeking Investigation of Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Passes 3,000 Signatures

Even as Bishop Susan Goff and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia continue to try to ignore Episcopal priest Bob Malm’s perjury, lies, bullying, misuse of funds and more, signatures on my petition keep pouring in.

This morning, we passed 3,000 signatures, and 4,000 won’t be far off.

If you believe that clergy should be held accountable, that clergy should not be able to get away with perjury, and that churches should not be trying to drag dying people into court, please sign my petition today. Even better, chip in a few dollars and help spread word, or share my petition on your social networks.

Let’s tell the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and perjuring priest Bob Malm’s new digs, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, that we expect better.

Thanks for your kind support.

Petition about perjuring priest Bob Malm passes 3,000 signatures



Friday, January 31, 2020

Nearby Church Proves Decline is Not Inevitable

As Grace Episcopal Alexandria continues its precipitous decline due to 30 years of feckless rector Bob Malm and the toxic church culture undercurrents he helped create and foster, it’s worth noting that the third fastest growing Episcopal church in the country is right here in Northern VA. That’s right—just 7.3 miles down the road from Grace Church, to be exact. That church is the Falls Church Episcopal (TFCE), which only a few years ago had an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of only 100 people, but has grown so quickly that ASA now surpasses that of Grace Church.

These data are derived from TFCE’s annual report, which is freely available online. Unlike Grace Church, TFCE makes its information public, because it’s got a message it wants to share with the community, and it doesn’t have secret agendas or other issues that it needs to hide for fear pesky bloggers see information about them. In other words, if you’re operating in the light of day, there’s no reason to keep stuff hidden. 

And not only is attendance at TFCE strong, but giving is as well. During the period 2010 to 2019, pledge and plate giving at TFCE more than tripled. By way of contrast, the number of pledging units at St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Episcopal, crashed and burned during that time, dropping from almost 400 to less than 200. And while the remaining pledging units have increased giving to try to make up the difference, Grace still faces profound financial challenges, having lost 33.55 percent of its purchasing power during the same period of time. 

Tellingly, it was in 2014 that perjuring priest Bob Malm demanded the demolition of the rectory and a massive increase in his compensation package, ultimately flushing more than $2 million in church funds down the toilet, while living life large with a month at the beach every summer, $3,000 going away parties for school staff, and more. Small wonder the church is in decline.

Here are TFCE screen caps relevant to this post:



And for those who’d like to see the TFCE annual report in full, it’s online here in PDF. Not only do us unenlightened heathens get access to that information without calling Amy Medrick, but TFCE actually welcomes all. Not some, not most, not all but the ones perjuring priest Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow decide to lie about and label “domestic terrorists.” And, knowing TFCE firsthand, I can tell you that there are no Alison Hambeast Campbells or Princess Porcine Lisa Medley’s trying to decide who is welcome, and who isn’t.

Check it out:










Grace Episcopal, the Clergy Perjury Parish