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.