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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bob Malm: Club Protest Membership Countdown


By virtue of trying to shutdown criticism by going to court with his facially false claims that he had been threatened, pseudo-priest Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal signed up for the two-year membership at Club Protest. No refunds, late payments result in an extension of membership. And his decision to include Mike in his vendetta, his multiple lies in court, and his efforts to subpoena a dying woman, all mean Bob gets the special VIP add-on package — my online presence will continue ad infinitum. That’s right, Dysfunctional Bob gets the lifetime virtual membership. Hey, Bob always did think he was special. Well, he’s right.

So, this countdown timer doesn’t mark the countdown to an end to open hostilities. But it does mark the payout of Dysfunctional Bob’s basic Club Protest membership.That said, I have always believed in under-promise, over-deliver, so I will no doubt extend Bob’s basic membership well beyond his original contract. And Grace Episcopal gets in on the action, for free.

Hey, if he behaves, maybe we can even spot Bob some core body fitness tips. Heaven knows he’s been looking rather well-fed in recent years. And it fits — Grace Church aka St. Dysfunction is looking a whole lot leaner and meaner these days.

See you at Dysfunction Junction aka Malm Square(d)!

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




Monday, October 21, 2019

Breaking News: Lawsuit Filed

Earlier today, I filed a lawsuit against Grace Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and Bishop Susan Goff. All parties have been alerted to the importance of maintaining relevant records. In addition, per the existing court orders, I have reminded the defendants that they may not use any material I send them to contact Bob Malm or his family.

Additional defendants likely will be added in the coming days, and subpoenas will go out shortly as well as other discovery requests, etc. 

The initial hearing date is set for January 30, 2020.








Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Things I Think, by the Rev. Michael Newnham

The other day, I was thinking about the organizational narcissism of Grace Church under Dysfunctional Bob. Specifically, the church imposes no accountability on Dysfunctional Bob when he doesn’t do his job, commits perjury, or tries to drag a dying woman into court. It does nothing to address the matter when Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow, and the vestry lie to church members, telling them that Mike and I left on our own. And yet members of the parish feel that somehow I have an obligation not to share my experiences or, as one parishioner put it, I “ just need to get a job.”

At about the same time, I came across the following post by the Rev. Richard Newnham, an Anglican priest and noted publisher. (I use Anglican in the sense of belonging to one of the ACNA churches. Thus, while I don’t agree with his overall worldview, I had a very pleasant albeit brief exchange with him via email when I asked for reprint permission.)

The post does an excellent job of correlating abuse of power in churches and the resulting decline in organized religion.

Check it out.

1. I talk a lot about how the “business model” has usurped the “family model” of church governance…the “congregation” has replaced “employees” and they have as much say about how the church is run as the average corporate employee has…none…

2. This is always highlighted when there is some sort of issue or scandal…information and influence (as well as decisions) are cloistered only among the chosen few and control of information is a paramount concern…

3. Controlling information is a primary concern because it serves the ultimate concern…preserving the leadership…

4. It has always struck me as strange that in the place where the importance of truth is held as sacred, that some truths are considered too true for the congregation to know…

5. In business and in church the primary benefits accrue to the “owners” and the employees and congregations are simply means to those ends…

6. I’ve never run a story where I didn’t have to use confidential sources because telling the truth was such a risk to the one speaking truth…some truths are too true for management…

7. I’ve lost count of how many people I’m friends with who can’t take the risk of anyone finding out they’re friends with me…in the church…

8. The “successful” modern pastor is one who can create the illusion of a family that may save him when the business has a scandal…it’s still just an illusion…

9. Pastors who fall betray God and their congregations…the congregations usually then betray each other by standing with the one who has fallen or abused instead of with those abused…

10. I’m guessing that those who have left the church over the abuse of power or people comprise one of the biggest and fastest growing “denominations” in the country…

Find the original post here.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Check it Out: Online Hatred From “Lisa G”


Check it out: More childish, hateful, homophobic online behavior on Fairfax Underground from user “Lisa G.,” a Grace church groupie.

Know any Lisa G’s at the church? The only one I know is Lisa G. Medley, who already has been called “childish and hateful” over at The Wartburg Watch, when she and Leslie Malm posted in response to one of Dee’s posts about my situation. In that case, both got called out for being liars.

Of course, that’s the great things about Fairfax Underground. Decades from now, folks can see for themselves how people at Grace Church talk to each other. They can then use this information to decide whether they wish to be involved with Grace Episcopal, aka St. Dysfunction.

Recent post:



Earlier post:

Friday, September 20, 2019

DioSVA Norms: Anything But Normative At Grace Episcopal

One of the troubling things about Grace Church aka St. Dysfunction under Bob Malm is the way in which people talk to and about each other. With that in mind, check out the norms of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, which I adapted and used with permission while heading up the non-profit. 

Of particular interest is the request that people bring up issues only with those able to do something about it. Contrast that with parishioners who, encouraged by Bob Malm, speculate on my mental health and motives, while never once raising the issue with me. Kemp Williams, Jean Reed: Here’s looking at you.







Saturday, September 14, 2019

Fourteen Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders

Ever back up and take a dispassionate look at Bob Malm’s “ministry?” 

Check out the linked article for an insightful look at the atttributes of toxic church leaders. Yes, like Bob Malm.

https://thomrainer.com/2014/10/fourteen-symptoms-toxic-church-leaders/




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.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Michael Jones’ Sermon: My Response



I read with interest Michael Jones’ sermons from Shrine Mont, particularly in light of Dysfunctional Bob’s impending retirement. And while I agree with much of what he says, particularly his remarks about the importance of being positive, I want to rebut the underlying premises behind his sermons.

Specifically, Grace church is not a wonderful place. Bob Malm is not a wonderful priest. And God is not on the church’s side.
  • Jesus was very clear in offering choice words for clergy who are hypocrites and who interfere with the faith of others. 
  • The Bible is very clear about bearing false witness—as in Bob Malm’s perjury, done in writing, under oath, in front of parishioners, and with legal counsel involved.
  • Jesus would have no use for a church that thinks it’s okay to try to drag a drying woman into court. 
  • God does not approve of the deliberate misuse of memorial donations. 
  • God is outraged when Bob Malm pushes Mike out of the Christian faith, after being received into The Episcopal Church only 18 months earlier.
  • God is not okay with a church where members are so morally bereft as to think it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide.
Nor did Dysfunctional Bob and Sugarland Chiow act in isolation. They acted with the approval of the vestry and a family system that allows, permits, and endorses such conduct. And one can understand the real motives and values of the parish by examining these behaviors and actions, for Jesus is clear: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

In the case of Mike Jones, he and others who wash their hands of these issues offer tacit, if not explicit, endorsement. They are hypocrites of the first order, modern-day Scribes and Pharisees. Turning a blind eye to evil is itself evil. Or as Desmond Tutu says:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

I would add that if you say the elephant is great, wonderful, and doing an awesome job, the mouse will not only be ticked, he will think that you are a liar, a bully, and an enabler. And if you are an organization that makes that claim, the mouse likely will conclude that you are an organizational narcissist.

Meanwhile, Michael Jones conveniently ignores Fanny Belanger’s abrupt resignation, two years early, for “personal reasons.” We all know the real reasons for that, and sweeping the matter under the rug does not help anyone.

Further, even if everything Bob Malm claims is true, and it certainly is not, nothing justifies bullying Mike, lying under oath aka perjury, or trying to drag a dying woman into court. 

Nothing.




Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Official Church Reports Prove Grace Church In Crisis

Some time ago, Bob Malm and the Grace vestry decided to quietly hide evidence of the damage caused by Dysfunctional Bob’s and Sugarland Chiow’s antics. This included both the real reasons for Fanny Belanger’s departure, as well as the continuing decline in attendance and giving caused by their misconduct. Hiding this information, however, was foolish, as it’s readily available from other sources, and it underscores the ongoing lack of candor and transparency in the parish’s governance.

Among the information that has quietly disappered in the past year or so:
  1. Information in Grace Notes, the parish newslettter, about updates to the parish register. This information would have revealed that even long-time parish stalwarts, including people who have taken the three-year Education for Ministry course, have been departing the parish.
  2. Vestry minutes, which would have revealed serious budgetary challenges caused by Dysfunctional Bob’s and Sugarland Chiow’s conduct, as well as ongoing discussions about how to deal with these issues.
Of course, the parish has never exactly been a model of transparency and good governance, in light of its customary violations of church canons regarding elections and eligibility for parish offices, its failure to publicly release its annual report, the lack of information on the annual agreed-upon procedures financial review, and the carefully controlled information that the vestry is allowed to see.

Into this mix comes the annual parochial report, one of the oldest bits of denominational reporting in the Episcopal Church. Published on the national church website every August, the results cover the prior calendar year, meaning that 2018 data just went live.

This report, required of every parish, is a key barometer of organizational health, and tracks membership, giving and worship. Of these three, the latter two are most telling, for membership is defined as rolling through at least three times a year, and giving some money to the parish. Thus, membership is loosely defined, and a parish can be growing in membership, even as it’s collapsing on other fronts.

In Grace’s case, worship attendance and giving have dropped to their lowest levels in more than a decade. Indeed, worship attendance mirrors the decline that occurred following Bob’s accident, while giving dropped sharply for the first time since Bob’s arrival as rector. Particularly troubling is the drop in worship attendance, or average Sunday attendance (ASA), which once stood at more than 350, but has now dropped to 250. With an almost 1/3 decline, this shows that the most basic function of the parish, divine worship, is collapsing.

Three factors compound these problems:
  1. Lack of transparency has consistently been shown to erode church giving, and Bob Malm is permitting next to no meaningful information to reach church membership. Yes, vestry minutes are posted outside the church office, but the reality is that this affords little opportunity for meaningful review. Even Bob’s letter announcing his resignation is available by calling the church office for those who didn’t get a copy in the mail, which begs the question: Why isn’t it simply posted on the website? (I can assure readers that Bob’s efforts have done nothing to keep information from reaching me, so if that’s the issue, it’s been a total waste of time.)
  2. The $70,000 annual debt service the church has incurred leaves the parish unable to fully fund its ministries and adequately care for members. With far too much of the budget going into keeping the building running, the church is in danger of no longer being a church, but instead being a museum in which religious services are held.
  3. Bob’s departure, as in all cases where a rector of long standing leaves, will undoubtedly further erode giving and attendance.
Moreover, since the most recent report reflects 2018 data, the full effect of Dysfunctional Bob’s lawsuit and related perjury won’t be reported until August 2020. I anticipate that the results will be devastating.

At this point, I surely feel sympathy for the poor interim who inherits Bob Malm’s hot mess, as well as for loyal parishioners who are trying to ride out the storm.






Monday, September 2, 2019

See for Yourself: Member of Grace Episcopal Alexandria Urges Me to Commit Suicide

Want to see just how toxic Grace Episcopal is under Bob Malm? Here’s a social media post in which a college-aged member of the parish urges me to commit suicide.

The fact that Bob Malm, Jeff Chiow, the vestry, the diocese, and the members of this church try to defend this conduct tells you everything you need to know. And let’s not forget that the Diocese of Virginia says it fully supports Bob Malm and the parish. So clearly the diocese thinks this sort of thing is okay. That’s no surprise, though, since the diocese also thinks perjury is acceptable conduct for clergy as long as they aren’t criminally convicted.

If that’s your idea of a healthy church, or the Christian faith, no thanks. You can keep it.



Friday, August 30, 2019

News: Cyber Work



With perjuring priest Bob Malm planning to pack it in at the end of September, I’ve been hard at work, repositioning this website and other online resources. This will allow me to more effectively spread word of issues at Grace Episcopal Alexandria. But fear not: I will continue to publicize Bob’s conduct across much of the nation.

The more alert among you noticed this morning that I briefly took the site offline, as it moves to a new domain name. This move protects the existing material and data that covers Bob Malm and his antics, while shifting the focus on new material to the parish and diocese itself. 

In addition, I’m rebranding, with less of perjuring priest Bob Malm, and more emphasis on the church itself. Meanwhile, traffic remains strong, and within the next few months the main website will pass 100,000 hits.

I also may be speaking at a church abuse conference in the coming weeks, where I’ll also be handing out materials. And I continue to lit drop Alexandria and surrounding areas, sharing with people the Bad News of Bob Malm.

More to come!

Friday, August 23, 2019

See for Yourself: Vestry Talking Points Demonstrate Questionable Veracity

When you elect people to a church vestry or board, you expect them to be honest and diligent, right? Well, in the case of the Grace Church vestry, you’d have just cause to ask tough questions about the former.

Attached is the vestry talking points document circulated about this conflict. In it are several questionable assertions:
  1. The document asserts that I left on my own. If that’s the case, why did Bob Malm feel the need to send an email to me and Mike, telling us we are unwelcome? And by did he instruct church staff and volunteers to exclude us? For the record, I didn’t transfer my membership until 2017. And it was not until 2018 that Mike and I asked to have our names removed from all Episcopal church records.
  2. If there is no truth to my concerns, why then do I have messages like the one that follows, from Peter Barnes, then senior warden, which was sent after one of Bob’s spates of inappropriate behavior. In it, Peter is very clear: “It’s Bob, not you.”
  3. As discussed elsewhere, at no point have I threatened anyone at Grace Church, and Bob knows it. Indeed, his actions, in which he tries to use his role as clergy to discredit me, claim that I am mentally ill, and stoke fears within the church prove the accuracy of my underlying contentions. 
  4. The use of inflammatory, prejudicial rhetoric in his pleadings, including his references to a non-existent church shooting in the equally non-existent town of “Sugarland Texas,” together with his treating this as a personal vendetta, underscores Jeff Chiow’s questionable ethics.
And, while I’m engaged in what Jeff  “Sugarland” Chiow delicately refers to as “ranting and raving,” for the love of the almighty, the header doesn’t get a question mark. Just because it references a question doesn’t make the clause a question. Sheesh.

#fakechristians









Friday, August 9, 2019

Understanding Interim Ministry

One of the things that looms large for Grace Church is the need for an interim rector. But do folks at the parish understand what interim ministry is, and what it does? More importantly does the diocese understand the importance of interim ministry? The answers are not clear, but one thing is certain: A successful interim ministry is essential for Grace Church’s future.

So what is interim ministry?

Interim ministry grew out of studies by the Alban Institute after years of failed calls and an effort to understand what was happening and why. What they discovered is that there is a natural developmental process that occurs and it can be facilitated and it can be blocked or undermined, accidentally or deliberately.

Not everyone who does interim ministry is trained or has a clue what an interim should be doing. Here are the stages.
  • Coming to terms with history
  • Clarifying identity
  • Raising up new leadership
  • Developing denominational linkages
  • Welcoming a new rector
When a call results in a new rector leaving within 2-3 years, it’s almost always a sign of a failed interim process. Yet for all the change DioVA has experienced in recent years, including the property recovery litigation, the diocese has a very mixed record in this department. For example, the rebuilding of The Falls Church seemingly has gone well, despite the need for the continuing congregation to again learn what it means to be a church. The Church of the Epiphany Herndon got off to a very bumpy start, but has done well under the current rector. St. Thomas’ McLean, which had a clergy disciplinary case a few years ago, was a bloody disaster marked by a clueless diocese that refused to provide meaningful pastoral care to the parish during the transition, redeemed only by the arrival of the current rector, who by all accounts is wonderful and very healing. In the case of St. Thomas,’ there was no real interim ministry, and the damage was lasting.

In the case of Grace, Bob’s legacy is a very troubled parish, with a lot of work to do. Sadly, very few within the parish recognize the extent of the issues, or in many cases, that there’s any issue at all. Thus, it will take a courageous interim to surface these issues, and to create a safe environment to work towards resolution and healing.

To make matters worse, it is not clear that the diocese recognizes the problems at Grace. As I’ve said before, the diocese has an unparalleled ability to mess up even the best situation, and it can be both remarkably clueless and amoral. So there’s a real possibility that the diocese will not recognize the issues at hand until it’s too late. And frankly, the diocese should have recognized long ago the problems at Grace, but it either didn’t, or ignored the problems. But then, this is the diocese that had an ACNA clergy person on the staff at Mayo House, so no suprises there.

So, what can parishioners do to ensure success? My suggestion is to learn as much as possible about the interim process, what it involves, and what the outcomes are supposed to be. And if the diocese blows you off — as it may well do — you need to insist. There simply is no room for failure. 

Similarly, you need parishioners to understand the issue, understand why it’s important, and why the church is headed for very difficult times if the interim period fails. Vestry members and other leaders need to take ownership of these issues, and to help members understand that the parish has no future if members are going to behave as they have during Bob’s time with the parish. There is no excuse for bullying other parishioners, ever. And the vestry needs to resume its rightful role—the notion that the rector appoints the executive committee and otherwise interferes with the functioning of the vestry is bad for the rector, bad for the parish, and bad for church members.

A good starting point is the online resources available from the national church, with one example available here in PDF.

For those interested, here is a diagram of the process:






Wednesday, August 7, 2019

See for Yourself: Jeffery Chiow and Bob Malm Lie in Court Pleadings

Here’s another blast from the past. In this excerpt from a motion filed in the Alexandria Circuit Court, Jeff Chiow flat out lies to the court. Specifically, he claims that he would have proven that I was never licensed to practice law, and that I never served as a police officer. Both are untrue,

To be fair, in the practice of law, there are times one argues for an expansion of the law, or one postures. There also are times when one states in pleadings that, “The evidence strongly suggests...” or, “There is no evidence to support defendant’s claim....” In short, one not only leaves room for error as a way to preserve one’s credibility with the court, but also to avoid proffering false evidence to the court. Avoiding offering false information to the court is an obligation under the professional rules, as signing one’s name to a pleading means that the information presented is believed to be true, based on reasonable efforts by the attorney.

This is illustrated by the old law school tale, perhaps apocryphal, in which defense counsel, a heavyset man, loudly exclaims, “It simply is not possible that the plaintiff’s contentions about my client’s ladder are true. My client, XYC corporation, makes the toughest ladders out there, capable of holding many times the plaintiff’s weight. See for yourself!” Whereupon he scales the ladder, only to have the thing disintegrate under him, leaving him in a heap on the floor, and with a verdict against his client to boot.

Similarly, if one were to assert in pleadings that Bob Malm is a pedophile based solely on the fact that Bob is a priest, and many priests are pedophiles, that would be highly inappropriate and likely grounds for sanctions. I can’t simply show up in court with an unsupported assertion like that and expect smooth sailing. (For the record, I do not claim Bob to be a pedophile and have seen no evidence to support that conclusion.)

So, Jeff Chiow cannot assert his claims that I never practiced law, and never served as a police officer willy-nilly. These claims would need to be supported by research, and would properly be proferred to the court as, “There is no evidence to support the defendant’s claim....”

Moreover, having used multiple attorneys within his firm, as well as resources from another law firm in town, and having expended what he claims was more than $100,000 worth of legal fees, Jeff Chiow knew, or had reason to know, that this was the case. Additionally, it is hardly a great leap of logic for Sugarland, who claims to have done extensive research on the case, to surmise that it would have made sense to check bar records in Pennsylvania. After all, I did undergraduate there and was a state resident in 1986–facts readily ascertainable. Additionally, a Google search readily reveals information on having served as a police officer.

In short, Jeff Chiow lied to the courts. And while it does not appear he will face disciplinary charges for his misconduct, his behavior is damaging both to his personal reputation and to that of his client, Grace Church.

When one looks at the situation in the context of Bob Malm’s perjury, one quickly understands how Jesus came to refer to the Scribes and Pharisees as “broods of vipers.”





Sunday, August 4, 2019

Grace Church’s Rhetoric Disrespects Victims of Violence, Promotes Divisive Conduct



Yesterday’s horrific news of active shooters in two American cities underscores both the prevalence of violence in our society, and the trends that encourage borderline or anti-social personalities to engage in acts of bigotry, violence and oppression. And while no one suggests that Bob Malm or Grace church overtly support violence, the rhetoric the church engages in does, I think, contribute in a small way to these larger issues.

Specifically, in recent years we have seen an increase in hate-filled, disrespectful rhetoric across all levels of society. In many instances, this rhetoric is justified based on the desired outcome—an approach that, until now, was considered unacceptable in mainstream society. So whether it’s winning an election, or barring asylum-seekers, or simply getting the upper hand in a dispute, many forms of rhetoric previously off limits are now fair game.

The sad reality, too, is that words matter. Words hurt. Words can cause violence and hatred. Borderline personalities by definition need little to set them off, and the disaffected and marginalized in our society may already feel anger and resentment.

In the case of Grace Church, the rhetoric coming from Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow, with its references to “domestic terrorism” and other inflammatory language, is highly inappropriate. Using language of this sort tells people that this sort of conduct is okay, both within church and within society at large, as it demonstrates disrespect for others. After all, if a priest can try to go after perceived enemies by referring to those individuals as “dysfunctional” and “terrorists,” and “starved for attention,” including in discussions with the church vestry and diocesan staff, then some inevitably will conclude that this sort of rhetoric is an acceptable way to solve problems.

At the same time, using these buzzwords to describe online criticism, and taking words out of context, is disrespectful to the very real human tragedy confronting many Americans. For Bob Malm and Grace Church to claim that they are victims of “domestic terrorism” is a grave injustice to all who have lost loved ones or otherwise been traumatized by violence. The reality is the Bob has lived a privileged life of very little work, and a whole lot of leisure, while those affected by the violence of El Paso and Dayton now face lives of enduring sorrow and pain.

Inflammatory rhetoric of the sort deployed by Grace Church, Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow also demonstrates profound disrespect for the first responders involved in these and other tragedies. When the risk and sacrifice these women and men make is trivialized into nothing more than the rhetoric for a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) case, as here, society looks past the very real courage, commitment and bravery that is called upon in situations such as this.

Of course, this sort of conduct also makes a mockery of the baptismal covenant. That said, I long ago realized that the latter means nothing to Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow—it’s just a bunch of empty words that get said on Sundays, with no larger meaning for day-to-day life. Like the Nicene Creed, pretty, quaint words, but nothing more.

Meanwhile, as one of our Supreme Court justices noted, the best defense against misuse of the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is more free speech. I therefore will continue to spread word far and wide of the toxic mess that is Grace Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In doing so, people can form their own opinions. And ironically enough, Bob’s choice of rhetoric is a lose-lose situation for the church: If true, people will stay away. If false, people will stay away. 

At this point, nothing Bob Malm or Grace Church can do is likely to repair any time soon the harm Bob Malm has inflicted upon this particular faith community. Bob’s rhetoric is hateful and ugly, as are his lies, and there’s simply no avoiding those issues.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

See for Yourself: Grace Episcopal Says it is the Victim of Domestic Terrorism

Just in case you thought Grace Episcopal couldn’t be any more toxic, here is the relevant section of the church’s pleadings in the Venango County (PA) Court of Common Pleas, in which rector Bob Malm and church attorney Jeff Chiow tell the court that the church is the victim of domestic terrorism.

A bit of context: Sugarland Chiow tried to tell the court that the subpoena was “validly-issued” (sic), despite the fact that Pennsylvania law does not permit subpoenas in protection from abuse cases. Yet he claims to have expended more than $100,000 worth of time researching and preparing for the case. Nor is Jeff Chiow aka Sugarland newly admitted to practice law. Indeed, he is a shareholder at Rogers, Joseph, O’Donnell, which styles itself a “boutique litigation firm.”

Anyone get the idea that Sugarland was trying to pull a fast one on the Pennsylvania courts? If nothing else, Sugarland didn’t exactly enhance his credibility.

Of course, no matter how you parse it, the church’s claims are either true, in which case one might conclude that it is best to avoid the church; or they are false, in which case one might conclude that it is best to avoid the church, but for wholly different reasons.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ain’t it Great to Be Wealthy? Grace Church Pays Bob Malm $100,000 Bonus, Borrows to Keep the HVAC On

When you give to Grace Church, is it with the idea that the parish will pay $100,000 bonuses to Bob Malm? At the same time it’s cutting health insurance benefits to other clergy and employees? Is this social justice?

Does it mater to you that the church is paying bonuses of this sort when it is borrowing to keep the HVAC on in the building?

Does it matter to you that one out of every five dollars the church brings in go to Bob Malm?

When was the last time you got a bonus of $100,000? Or were able to spend a month at the beach?

Are you comfortable funding a church where the rector commits perjury? Tries to drag a dying woman into court? Or where the vestry lies to you, falsely telling you that members left the church on their own, when in fact Bob Malm instructed church staff to exclude them? When Bob Malm goes after Mike Smith, who didn’t even arguably do anything to anyone? 

When the Fairfax County Office of Consumer Affairs lists Grace Church as the only church with a successful consumer protection claim filed against it, after the parish deliberately misused memorial donations Mike Smith gave in memory of his mother? And did so on Bob Malm’s instructions?

These are valid questions to ask as you consider your pledge for 2020.







Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Best Description Yet for Grace Episcopal, aka St. Dysfunction



One of the recurring themes on this blog, predictably enough, is the extent of spiritual and practical dysfunction at Grace Episcopal Church. Ironically, one of the best descriptions of this situation comes from Jesus, who referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs,” beautiful on the outside, yet reeking and full of filth on the inside.

And so it is, both with the church itself and Bob Malm. 

Apropos Grace Church, the building is lovely, and people are friendly. Walking in on a Sunday, visitors are warmly welcomed. The sunlight plays through the gorgeous stained glass windows, and the wonderful smell of incense permeates the entire building.

Similarly, Bob is very focused on physical appearance, and thus presents well as a priest. He’s friendly, engaging, seemingly self confident (if somewhat too loud), and charismatic. He also knows all the requisite Jesus-babble, delivering well-crafted, if pointedly short, sermons in which all the key phrases are there, “the shadow of the cross,” “the way of love,” “called to follow Jesus.” And he’s careful to use the present tense and to use us and we.

But scratch the surface and one quickly sees a far different reality. The altar guild has no qualms about ganging up on anyone who it thinks has infringed on its God-given prerogatives. Like all churches, people in the pews gossip, although at Grace they seem to have even fewer off-limits topics, with conversation ranging from Bob’s insanely generous compensation package (no, he is not one of the highest paid priests in the country, although he is wildly overpaid given the size of the parish, his work ethic, and other benchmarks), to one parishioner’s supposed penile implant, to speculation about the sexual orientation of one recently married parishioner.

Then we get to the behavior of members, including one parishioner who actively pursues married men within the church, to drug use at Shrine Mont, to the ugly way parishioners talk to each other. The latter, of course, is typified by the messsage from a now college-aged parishioner, in which she urged me to commit suicide, while saying that my “name is mud in Alexandria.” (Given her reference point, I should hope so!)

Nor are these issues confined to members. For many years, office staff yelled and bullied people, there was a hoarder in the church office, and donations routinely went missing. One of the parish registers has been lost, and record keeping was a shambles. But Bob Malm refused to address any of these issues, despite the fact that they are explicitly within his job description. Of course, the latter was never an impediment, with Bob Malm once telling me apropos facilities issues, “I have neither the time nor the interest.” Must be nice to pick and choose.

All of this is best summed up when I criticized Bob Malm over his indifference to the fact that parishioners were leaving the church due to issues they had with him. His response? “Why should I give a fuck? People leave all the time.”

So much for Bob’s Jesus-babble about being called to love God and each other. But, to use another of Bob’s rather worn phrases, “It was a God-incidence.” How so? It revealed the reality behind the pretty whitewashed exterior of Planet Malm. (And before you ask, yes, there were multiple witnesses.)

When you visit Planet Malm, by all means enjoy the beautiful building, the friendly welcome, and the engaging sermons. But before you take the plunge, just know that right beneath the surface are layers of toxic filth. This is a church where the priest commits perjury; where the attorney for the parish, “Sugarland” Chiow, makes false statements of law and fact in court; where the church sues its own parishioners, subpoenas the dying, and deliberately misuses funds. 

In short, Grace Episcopal church is a whitewashed tomb, beautiful on the outside, and seemingly filled with glittering brass, flowers, candles and friendly people on the inside. But at its heart, Grace Church reeks of corruption, hypocrisy, decay and filth.