Showing posts with label The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Lies AGAIN!

One of the early phases of litigation is the issuance of requests for admission, also referred to as RFA’s, which I sent to perjuring priest Bob Malm as part of my filing suit against him. True to form, Bob Malm lied in his response.

In my seventh RFA, I asked perjuring priest Bob Malm to admit that he instructed church staff to exclude me and Mike from the parish per below.

Now, look at perjuring priest Bob Malm’s response, in which he lies:

That is a bold-faced lie, and here’s why. As perjuring priest Bob Malm well knows, there are two ways under church canons to leave an Episcopal parish. One is to die; the other to request a letter of transfer. I did the latter in 2017 — almost two years later — and I did so in writing. Mike remained an inactive member of Grace Church until we sent a request in writing through Bishop Todd Ousley, the intake officer for the House of Bishops, to remove our names from all church records in 2018. The result was that I left St. Paul’s K Street, and that parish forwarded a request to Grace Church to remove Mike’s name from all church records.

In the interests of collegiality, fair play, and the equitable administration of justice, I have given attorneys for Bob Malm, the church and the diocese a heads-up on this matter, versus playing gotcha. Since attorneys cannot willfully turn a blind eye to fabrications on the part of their clients, hopefully Wayne Cyron and Diane DiBlasio — both of whom I like — will take steps to ensure that their clients proffer only truthful information.

Of course, it speaks volumes about the current state of the Episcopal Church when one has to ask its attorneys to ensure that the church is truthful in its courtroom conduct.

Bob Malm, perjuring priest, lies again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

BREAKING: Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Sued for $375,000 in Fairfax Circuit Court

Moments ago, I filed suit for abuse of process and the intentional infliction of emotional distress in the Fairfax County Circuit Court against perjuring priest Bob Malm. Damages requested exceed $375,000.

A copy of the filing, case number  2020 06840, is available in PDF here.

Regrettably, this course of action became necessary after the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia repeatedly refused my request to mediate the dispute on the grounds that it is “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.”

As I have said many times, the fact that The Episcopal Church says perjury is acceptable conduct for clergy unless they face criminal charges tells you all you need to know about the denomination and its ethical worldview.

Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Has Been Sued

Monday, May 18, 2020

Grace Church and Perjuring Priest Bob Malm: Believe Them. They’ve Shown You Who They Are.

This is a church where it’s okay for the rector to commit perjury, where parishioners bully each other, urge others to commit suicide, flip others off, call bloggers “domestic terrorists,” and try to drag the dying into court. It’s a place where the rector calls his own parishioners “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional.”

So why are you expecting something different from this sad, dysfunctional, toxic church? Or this sad, dysfunctional, toxic diocese, where the ethical standard is so low that priests are only held accountable if they face criminal charges?

They have already shown you their true colors.

Believe them the first time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Court Cases Rescheduled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, Grace Episcopal May Still be in Court in 2021

COVID-19 Crisis Delays Grace Episcopal Court Cases

With multiple lawsuits now under way against Grace Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Susan Goff, and members of Bob Malm’s family, there is a monkey wrench thrown into things by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of the suit against Grace Church, Susan Goff, and the diocese, the court has continued the motions hearing until June 19. That date does not work for counsel representing the defendants, so opposing counsel and I are trying to work out a new date so that we might submit a praecipe to the court requesting the change.

In the lawsuit against Leslie Malm for defamation, the initial return date has moved to June 26, although that date also may require adjustment. Meantime, I am in discussions with some of the attorneys who represented the dissident groups in the so-called property recovery litigation about possibly expanding the suit. Needless to say, her potential liability in tort is not confined to defamation.

Experts point out that, at its current rate of decline, The Episcopal Church only has about 17 Easters to go. That said, due to scheduling issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis, it increasingly looks Grace Episcopal and the Diocese will still be in court when the 16th-to-last Easter rolls around. Specifically, in response to the pandemic, the motions court hearing date has been postponed until June 19. Unfortunately, defense counsel has a conflict on that date, so it will probably be the end of June or July before we can resolve the various motions pending before the court,

Similarly, dates remain up in the air for the defamation suit against Lindsey Malm Anders, and I may also expand her case with the assistance of legal counsel.

Lastly, while I cannot share details, Bob Malm certainly remains on my radar, as well as the attorneys representing Mom’s estate. Suffice it to say there will be more news on those issues in the coming weeks.

In all of this, the notable thing is that Bob Malm tried to lie his way into misusing the court system to shut down criticism. In so doing, he went down the proverbial rabbit hole, pulling Jeff Sugarland Chiow, the parish, the diocese, and his family into what can only be described as a hot mess. But then, with Bob Malm having consistently placed his own perceived needs ahead of those of anyone else, the outcome comes as no surprise.

Bob et al would also do well to remember that I long ago structured my persona affairs such that I am judgment proof. All assets are either held in irrevocable trust, owned solely by Mike, or in other forms of ownership exempt from judicial process.

Of course, had Bob and Sugarland Chiow had half the common sense God gave a goat, they would have considered such factors long ago. But Bob’s initial hope was to somehow convince law enforcement that writing about him was a crime, But with no lese majeste statutes on the books to cover Episcopal clergy in the US, and the thorny issue of the First Amendment standing in his way, perjuring priest Bob Malm wound up in over his head in record time.

The result is lasting damage to the parish, as well as awareness by literally hundreds of bloggers and more than a million social media users of the church’s actions, initiated by Bob Malm and enjoying the full support of the church vestry and diocesan bishops. Nor is there any possibility that I will go away quietly any time soon. In short, the diocese and parish, as well as Sugarland Chiow and perjuring priest Bob Malm, placed themselves in a catch-22 situation in which no possible scenario exists in which they win. At this point, the only question is how badly they lose, and whether the parish will survive, which is looking less likely by the day.

Moreover, the diocese’s farcical and ugly claim that its clergy will only be held to account if they face criminal charges reveals how illusory church canons are, for they specifically forbid clergy from engaging in conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation”— no criminal charges required. At the same time, it is clear for all to see that the diocese has no claim to moral authority.

Any denomination in which it is okay for Bob Malm to commit perjury is in sorry shape indeed.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Safe Church and DioVA: One of the Diocese’s Major Governance Failures

One of the many downsides of the years of property recovery litigation here in DioVA is that it diverted massive amounts of time and attention from ordinary governance issues. This power vacuum  extended even to day-to-day accountability among Mayo House staff, and it was exacerbated by +Shannon’s indifference to getting involved in the details and his adversarial management style.

But one of the diocese’s biggest failings, and one still ignored by Susan Goff, was the need to update and expand on existing sexual misconduct prevention policies, to include Safe Church training.

As things stand, diocesan policies cover sexual misconduct involving children and vulnerable adults. But there is no next to no training on boundary issues, bullying, and the many other ways in which church power differentials can prove harmful. This is particularly the case with clergy like Bob Malm, who had virtually no meaningful supervision during his tenure with Grace Church, either from the diocese or the vestry.

This is at variance with the work done by the Rev. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban, the Rev. Canon Carol Cole Flanagan, and others in drafting the current Safe Church Model Policies, available here in PDF. The new policies establish standards for LGBTQ+ members, define “vulnerable adults,” and more. Additionally, they establish standards for auditing every three years, much as is done in the Catholic Church.

Work in Other Dioceses

Many dioceses, including Connecticut, where Robin Hammeal-Urban serves, have adopted professional guidelines for clergy and policies for the inclusion of registered sex offenders in parish life. Copies of relevant Connecticut documents are available here.

Meanwhile, Bishop Goff has her visioning initiative under way, in which she seeks to map out a vision for the future. But without an effective governance framework in place, any such effort is likely to flounder. And while Goff talks about her vision for an inclusive church, the church is not effectively inclusive if it permits bullying and other non-sexual misconduct.

In my case, look at the Model Policy’s definition of violence:

See the reference to “isolation from others?” That is exactly what Bob Malm did when he instructed parish staff to isolate Mike and me. Oh, and BTW, Mike’s age at the time placed him within the definition of “vulnerable adult.” Yet per the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s written statement, Bob’s conduct is not of “weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” And Mom, who was dying of COPD, certainly met the definition.


The seriousness of this situation is underscored by the Diocese of Connecticut’s Safe Church training materials, here in PDF.

Below is the definition of bullying:

Note the part about lack of empathy; which certainly would describe Bob Malm’s conduct towards my Mom.

Role of Grace Church Parishioners and Diocesan Staff

Now, look at the information from the Diocese of CT on bystanders to bullying. As you can see, those who stand silently by when witnessing bullying are considered validators. 

Given that most people at Grace Church are well aware of Bob Malm’s efforts to bully me and Mike, yet remain silent, they qualify as validators. And diocesan staff occupy roles from that of assistants to validators; none are defenders.


Not only is the Diocese of Virginia woefully behind the times when it comes to ensuring that its churches are welcoming and inclusive, but it is has absolutely no concept that this is the case. Indeed, it is so caught up in its own little world that it recently voted Sven vanBaars as a delegate to General Convention—the very same priest who says in writing that perjury is only a problem form clergy if they face criminal charges.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Susan Goff Diagnosed With Cancer

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia yesterday reported that Bishop Susan Goff has been diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. The cancer is not aggressive, and her prognosis reportedly excellent.

Goff will undergo surgery shortly before Easter, and will undergo chemo in the weeks that follow. She reports that her Sunday visitations will continue as planned, but her weekday work may have to be adjusted in light of her treatment.

Goff states that her succession plans remain unchanged, which call for the election of a bishop diocesan in 2022, at which time she will return to the role of bishop suffragen, retiring in 2023.

A blog and special email address have been set up to stay in touch with Bishop Goff, which can be accessed at

Friday, February 28, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Petition Seeking Full, Fair, Independent Investigation of Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Passes 5,000 Signatures

My petition seeking a full, fair, independent investigation into perjuring priest Bob Malm’s conduct has zoomed past 5000 signatures. As a result, signatures equal 7.28 percent of the 2018 membership of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which fell to 68,902 members, down 13 percent over a ten-year period.

Signatures equate to 9.18 percent of the 2018 membership of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, where perjuring priest Bob Malm now serves as interim at St. Gabriel’s, Marion.

Total signatures are more than 5 times the total 2018 membership of Grace Church.

Meanwhile, the diocese, which is unwilling to address Bob Malm’s perjury, says it’s forming a Committee on Reconciliation. But how can the diocese hope to achieve any sort of reconciliation when it is consistently unwilling to speak the truth?

Hypocrisy, thy name is Episcopal.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Check it Out: More Lenten Hypocrisy from Bishop Susan Goff

You have to hand it to bishop Susan Goff and the other fat cats at Mayo House—they have real chutzpah. The sort that just makes me laugh at their hypocrisy.

In her Lenten message, Bishop Susan Goff gases on about the winter of our souls, and the spring-like blossoms that can be found if we look. She cites several examples, most notably: “in the reconciliation that comes when we dare to listen without judgment and speak without reproach..”

That begs the question: How does this comport with brushing off Bob Malm’s perjury by saying you’ll only take action if he faces criminal charges? Doesn’t charity start at home? How is brushing off misconduct “listening?”

If that is the best she can do, Susan Goff would do all involved a favor by retiring.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Important Reminder: Possible Gender-Based Harassment at Grace Church

In the midst of the ongoing litigation involving Grace Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Susan Goff, and others, there’s an important issue that does not always get a lot of attention. That issue is that my original complaint to the Diocese included concerns about potential gender-based harassment in the parish.

What’s shocking is that, despite that, the Rev. Carolyn Parkinson, once a candidate for bishop diocesan and, at the time, intake officer for the diocese, dismissed my concerns out of hand, saying that they didn’t so much as warrant an investigation. Moreover, she did so with Bishop Shannon Johnston’s support. And she and other diocesan officials ignored Bob Malm’s subsequent retaliation and deliberate misuse of memorial donations to the parish. In her exact words, the allegations are “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.”

That’s pretty shocking, but there’s more.

Later, Caroline lied, saying that the matter of our exclusion from the church directory had been considered in the summer of 2015. That’s an interesting claim, as the matter didn’t even arise until that fall. As I sarcastically noted at the tine, I was not aware that one of the benefits of ordination was the ability to time travel.

Bishop Shannon also lied, claiming in a letter to the parish that the matter had been investigated and resolved long ago. But the matter was not investigated within the meaning of Title IV, which is the process through which it came to the attention of the diocese. It was brushed off and dismissed as not “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” The diocese took the same line apropos Bob Malm’s perjury.

So, if you are thinking about getting involved in The Episcopal Church, just know that it talks a good game when it comes to #metoo and #churchtoo. But the reality is that allegations of potential gender-based harassment are something the church considers to be unimportant. Same goes for readily verifiable allegations of perjury by Bob Malm.

So much for the Episcopal church’s claim to be loving, liberating, and life-giving.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Check it Out: Petition Continues to Garner Signatures, Approaches 300

One of the amusing things about my social media presence is that Lisa Gardner, Lindsey Malm Anders and the other trolls connected with Grace Episcopal like to claim that no one supports my efforts. That of course is a bunch of hooey.

Leaving aside Dee Parsons and my almost 1500 Twitter followers, we are fast approaching 300 signatories on my petition to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to conduct a full, fair, and impartial investigation of Bob Malm’s abusive conduct. Again, impartial — not an untrained intake officer violating policy and calling up Bob Malm to ask him if he did anything wrong, then calling that an investigation.

Of course, the large number of people supporting me underscores another issue with Bob Malm, Grace Episcopal, Sugarland Chiow, and the Diocese of Virginia. The issue is that truth was never a relevant factor for any of the above when it comes to addressing conflict or acting like Christians. 

Nor does Bob Malm’s disclaimer, “Well, I’m not Jesus,” hold water. While the dissimilarity between Bob Malm and Jesus is well established, the disconnect does not justify perjury and other illegal behavior. In short, Bob’s comment is a red herring, nothing more.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Worthy Read: When Narcissism Comes to Church

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and there’s a good book that sums up perfectly my experiences with perjuring priest Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal church. Titled, When Narcissism Comes to Church the book is written by David Orrison.

Following is an excerpt from his blog that well describes the organizational narcissism at Grace
Too many people have found the church, the institutional local church, to be uncaring and so wrapped up in preserving its image that it will support the abuser in hopes that the victim will just go away and be quiet. We saw another example of this in the news this past week. Another church worker abused a young girl, and the church leaders just moved him to another place. Why does this happen? How can this happen in the church?
The answer is this overwhelming concern for image. In their drive to be seen as superior, some churches would rather ignore the victims than deal with the scandal. When hurting people can be ignored for the sake of the superior image, that’s narcissism. 
Christians expect to be able to go to church leadership when they are hurting. When they are pushed away, or sin is covered up, something is very wrong. Narcissism creeps in to depersonalize and victimize.
 Of course, this paradigm is problematic in the near-term for multiple reasons, including:

  • The fact that Bob Malm, who seems to me to have been the narcissist-in-chief for the past 30 years, is now gone.
  • No healthy priest with a good handle on organizational dynamics is likely to want to serve as rector; only another narcissist could or would fit the bill. 
  • Like any narcissist, the organizational narcissist that is Grace Church sees nothing wrong with its current conduct or attitudes, in which people are drawn to Bob Malm, versus God, and any behavior is justified as long as it meets Bob Malm’s perceived needs, and by extension those of the organization.
  • The diocese is every bit as clueless and organizationally narcissistic as are Bob Malm and Grace Church. Thus, with the diocese fully supporting the current situation at Grace Church, there is zero chance of meaningful change.
Thus, Grace needs to transform from a religion club to a church—a sea change that goes to the very heart of its existence. Unless it does so, it will eventually cease to exist, and yet it remains wedded to its current modus operandi.

By the way, there’s a good post on Dave’s blog about branding, differentiation, and religion, located here. If you read the post, keep in the back of your mind Grace’s role as the only full-time Anglo-Catholic parish in Northern VA. Think too, of Bob Malm’s claim that, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much, when I suggest that at Grace Church we know, we practice “true religion”. (Sept. 3, 2017 sermon)

This, from a church where the rector commits perjury, deliberately misuses funds, instructs staff to shun members, and tries to drag the dying into court.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Grace Episcopal Lawsuit: Update

Updated information on the Grace Episcopal Alexandria lawsuit

As I’m working on the lengthy process of analyzing and organizing the information needed for my bill of particulars — a court document that lays out the plaintiff’s specific allegations in a lawsuit — there’s also a minor change in scheduling. Specifically, attorneys for the diocese, Susan Goff and the parish are not available on the initially selected date for the hearing on my motion to compel. So I’m looking to see if there is a date that will work for them.

Meanwhile, the defendants have declined at this time to stipulate that neither the diocese nor other defendants have documentation to support Bob Malm’s claim that my mother contacted him repeatedly. That said, it’s a given that they don’t, as Bob Malm lied under oath on this topic, which he cited as one of the foundational reasons for his assertion that I threatened him.

I’d also add one observation about defense counsel, which is that the attorneys involved are infinitely more professional than Sugarland Chiow with his ad hominem attacks, repeated false statements of law and fact to the courts, and his inflammatory rhetoric. In short, while we sit on opposite sides of this issue, it is good to see that some measure of civility, professionalism, and decorum remains in the practice of law, especially since licensed attorneys are officers of the court. Moreover, Chiow’s conduct only further erodes the parish’s reputation, as does the diocese’s statement that it supports Bob Malm and, by extension, his conduct. 

Lastly, I’ve let defense counsel know that I intend to subpoena Dee Parsons, editor of The Wartburg Watch, when we go to trial. Dee already knows and is fully supportive,

So, nothing too exciting yet. I will continue to provide updates as we move forward.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Reflections on Abuse, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and the Failure of Leadership

Lately I’ve had several fascinating discussions with experts on abuse about the topic of why organizations like the Episcopal church tolerate and conceal abuse. While many of the conversations have, predictably enough, centered on sexual abuse, the underlying issues remain relevant.

To be clear, Bob Malm is not accused of sexual misconduct. Nor is anyone within the diocese. But at the same time, as far as I can tell the diocese has steadfastly refused to address Bob Malm’s perjury, or even to follow its own canons when it comes to clergy discipline.

One consistent theme in the discussions I’ve had has been that organizations tend to try to protect their reputation, even at the expense of doing something so basic as protecting children. As a result, a culture of silence grows, and group think sets in.

Another person reminded me that narcissistic personalities are often incredibly gifted manipulators, with emotional predators typically able to portray an image of kindness and compassion that is able to fool even a skilled tribunal. And so it would seem in the case of Bob Malm, who is able to portray a friendly, congenial, supportive personality, while masking a lack of genuine empathy for those entrusted to his pastoral care. Certainly, his willingness to go after Mike in his vendetta, his multiple lies to parishioners and others, his inflammatory courtroom rhetoric, and his willingness to pursue a terminally ill woman suggest that he is not someone who should have ever been ordained in the first place. 

But the most important thing I have heard and read suggests that a failure in leadership goes right to the top. In that regard, +Shannon and +Susan have both repeatedly shown that they do not understand the dynamics of abuse. nor do they have any real desire to address it, beyond those situations in which doing so is absolutely unavoidable. And given that the bishops have taken a pass on misuse of funds and perjury, it is difficult to imagine that much other than sexual misconduct would ever get their attention. Indeed, it was laughably ironic when Caroline Parkinson said, in response to my concerns about the alleged child molester in the parish. “Now you’re talking about something that actually matters.”

In fairness to diocesan officials, that also illustrates the very limited training clergy actually have in mental health and abuse prevention. But then, given the number of toxic clergy I have encountered, perhaps it is best that they not get further access to this sort of information. Indeed, some authors suggest that narcissists often treat counseling as nothing more than training sessions in which they learn how to become more adept at getting away with misconduct.

But no matter how you parse it, it is clear to me that the failure of leadership in the diocese extends all the way to the top. And it is that very failure that leads to communication like the one that follows, from a young adult member of Grace Church. Tellingly, Bob Malm tried to claim in court that this was a threat against him. The sad reality, though, is it’s an indictment of him, the parish and the diocese.

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.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Caroline Parkinson: Title IV Intake Officer Lies in Official Proceedings

One of the troubling things about the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is the lack of personal and organizational integrity at every level. Were these isolated cases, one might write these instances off as honest mistakes. But they have happened repeatedly, and over serious issues.

In the case of the Rev. Caroline Parkinson, she at one point stated, in writing, that my complaint about the removal of our names from the church directory had been considered by the reference panel in July 2015. That’s a lie, pure and simple.

First off, it is unlikely that there was a reference panel, which is the panel under Title IV that refers a case out for resolution. When one is set up, there must be an advisor to the complainant and the respondent, and the reference panel is required to notify participants of the outcome. Neither occurred, so there either was no such panel, or it failed to follow church canons.

Second, even if there was such a panel, a dismissal, which occurred in my case, has no preclusive effect. In other words, Caroline’s contention is a red herring and irrelevant to the larger issues.

Third, the matter of the directory did not arise until October 2015. It thus is impossible for the reference panel to have considered the matter the previous summer.

Lastly, under other circumstances, one might argue that Caroline simply was misinformed. But when dealing with the lives of others, their careers, their spiritual and temporal well-being, and the reputation/integrity of the church, one simply cannot be cavalier about such issues. So even if Caroline’s mistake is an honest one, it is unacceptable. Moreover, I pointed the matter out to her and the diocese promptly, only to be ignored, so it is not like Caroline or others are unaware. They have actual notice of the falsity of their written statements, but have failed to correct the matter.

Tellingly, even after bearing false witness in this matter, Caroline remains a priest in good standing. Yet to this day Caroline has taken no action to correct her lies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Mom’s Response to the Diocese’s Announcement that Perjury is Okay

Here’s mom’s response after struggling through my response to Melissa Hollerith’s decision that perjury is acceptable conduct for Episcopal clergy.

It’s pretty bad when even hospice patients tell the diocese that it’s ethical trailer park trash.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Termination of DioVA Search for Bishop Provisional Underscores Problems in Diocese

As members of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia know, the diocese recently announced that it has ended its search for a bishop transitional, or interim bishop to serve for a three-year period following Bishop Shannon Johnston’s retirement. For those of us who have been following events, the announcement is far from unexpected.

As I have said many times, there have been signs for many years that, while Bishop Johnston may have been the right bishop for the years of litigation against the CANA crowd, he was a hot mess when it came to leadership and organizational dynamics. This conclusion is evinced by:
  • The allegations that Bishop Shannon covered up the sexual harassment of a female church employee who had filed a Title IV case against her alleged clergy harasser, including his failure to provide any effective pastoral response to the complainant.
  • His repeated violation of church canons and failure to address my complaints about Bob Malm’s misconduct, including his false statement that the matters complained of had been “investigated and resolved long ago,” and his statement of support for Bob’s misconduct.
  • His utter screw-up of the sad situation at St. Thomas’ McLean, which involved a Title IV case against a much-loved parish priest. Included in this situation is the diocese’s utter failure to adequately address the pain and pastoral needs of affected parishioners. (Highlighted by the spectacularly inept decision to announce the suspension of the parish priest at Sunday Mass without prior warning. The fact that diocesan officials can’t figure out why this is a seriously bad move speaks volumes to the capabilities of diocesan officials.)
  • The abrupt resignation of Canon Pat Wingo.
  • The prior collapse of the Bishop Interim search process, when plans fell through with both final candidates. It’s called “Plan B,” kids.
  • The ongoing spat with the trustees of the funds, which is now permeating every level of the diocese.
  • The shutdown, over the past year, of thing like The Episcopalian magazine, which hasn’t been published in more than a year.
  • The utter lack of diocesan services to churches, including lack of templated resources for pledge campaigns. The diocese yammers on about parishes honoring their funding commitments, yet supplies no resources to help make this happen. Go figure.
  • Spectacularly unresponsive staff at the bloated Mayo House bureaucracy. 
  • The announcement by Susan Goff of listening sessions across the diocese — but no promise of action.
  • The decision by the diocese, which still stands under Susan Goff’s tenure, to permit Bob Malm to perjure himself in court, to try to subpoena a dying woman, and to retaliate for complaining to the diocese about his conduct.
Of course, there’s also the amusing observation by a now deceased clergy friend of mine, who famously used to say, “You know you’re in trouble when the bishop says nice things about you in public.” And so it is with Bishop Johnston, upon whom the presiding bishop heaped fulsome praise as the latter announced his retirement.

What does all this mean for Grace Church aka St. Dysfunction? Primarily that what would have been a relatively minor dispute has now mushroomed into an existential crisis for the parish, which increasingly appears to be lurching towards disaster. Indeed, had the diocese taken seriously its obligation to supervise clergy from the onset, Bob never would have gotten himself into the mess he’s now in.

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Of course, a cure for Grace Episcopal’s woes at this point would involved something closer to a ton of cure, versus a pound.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Holland and Knight: You’d Think Someone Would Inject Some Common Sense

In reviewing materials from discovery, it is clear that Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow and Dysfunctional Bob have spent a lot of time looking for a way to file a defamation claim. As part of their efforts, they have been in contact multiple times with the attorneys at Holland and Knight. That raises an interesting question: Why has no one talked some sense into Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow?

On the ethical front, false and inflammatory pleadings are never helpful, and only serve to discredit the party that deploys such tactics, as well as their client. Indeed, such strategies are invariably a red flag that the underlying case is weak.

Moreover, if you consider who Jeff’s client is (an amorphous proposition at best, as he claims to be counsel of record for Bob Malm, for Leslie Malm, and for Grace Church, not all of whom appear to be free from adverse interests), you’d think there’d be some concern for reputational damage. But instead, like attorneys for the Catholic Church who for many years followed a scorched-earth policy in their defense of sex abuse claims, Jeff has pursued a strategy guaranteed to cause long-term damage to the client’s reputation. Even in this day and age, when churches enjoy relatively little respect within society, there is still the belief that churches should take the high road. But having taken the low road time after time, Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow has made sure that folks will distrust his client(s) for years to come, and has managed to solidify what previously was a somewhat inchoate dispute into one that is now focused and enduring.

It also belabors the obvious to state that it’s not a great idea to lie to the court. There’s never a good outcome, and disparaging my service as a police officer without apparently even so much as Googling me underscores both Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow’s feckless ethics and the marginal quality of the legal representation provided by Rogers, Joseph O’Donnell (RJO). Same goes for checking out my attorney registration—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that I was licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania. And it’s doubly appalling given Jeff’s claims to have spent lots of money researching my allegedly bogus claims—my guess is that Jeff used the same knucklehead who came up with the fictitious town of Sugarland Texas. Even worse is Jeff’s false claim that I violated the protective order—an assertion that is facially untrue, and for which there is no non-frivolous argument in support of Jeff’s contention.

Then there’s the whole concept of entering Pennsylvania, a state that doesn’t permit discovery in restraining order cases, and trying to drag a dying woman into court. Can we say, “Multiple layers of stupidity?”

As things stand, it not only looks like a cruel and remarkably un-Christian thing to do, but it very much looks like Jeff was trying to pull a fast one on the Venango County Court of Common Pleas. Of course, if he wasn’t, we then skid into the space of professional incompetence. But the latter seems unlikely, given the number of law firm associates Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow pulled into the case. Surely between the bunch of them the attorneys at RJO can read the PA rules of civil procedure and figure out that discovery isn’t permitted. Or read the local rules to learn that your proposed final order must be attached to each and every motion. Not just some. Not just the ones you think are important. Not just the ones that are substantive. All of them, RJO rocket scientists; courts hate when you ask them to do your work for them. Practice hint for foreign attorneys: Pennsylvania courts get really irritable when you don’t bother to read the rules, or you read them and ignore them. Big surprise there.

On the practical level, it would further seem that exploring the possibility of a defamation claim would take relatively little time. Virginia has expanded its rather limited anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) statute to make it very difficult to sue those who write about matters of public interest—like whether a church or its clergy act in an ethically appropriate manner. In such cases, the burden of proof is quite high, and the downside to litigation is that, like here, all the behind-the-scenes ugliness, like the multiple disparaging and sneaky emails between Episcopal clergy regarding this conflict, comes to the fore. Or you wind up exploring topics like the years and years of dysfunction in church offices, and Bob Malm’s reasons for ignoring that dysfunction. Not to mention the speculation, which I have heard more than once from prominent parishioners, that previous church staff “had something” on Bob Malm, thus leading to his reluctance to address this situation. Having parishioners on the witness stand is not a pretty thing, and it’s a sure-fire way to see your church get much smaller in a hurry. Professional hint for clergy: Churchgoers really hate conflict. Put them on the stand and watch them head for the door.

At its most basic, you’d think that between Holland and Knight, the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the illustrious attorneys at RJO, and Bob Malm’s more than 40 years as a priest, one of the bunch would have figured out a long time ago that the church’s handling of this matter has been a debacle, beginning to end. Or would have urged  Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow to show a little common sense. Or follow the rules of civil procedure—it’s not just for pro se litigants, any more.

There’s also a practical implication, as I mentioned in a previous post. Not only is there now zero possibility of resolution thanks to Bob’s actions and the compounding effect of Jeff’s actions/stupidity, but even if there were, there is no way that I will negotiate through Jeff Chiow, given his egregious behavior towards a former member of his own church, and the lack of respect he has evinced for all involved, including the circuit court. (Ironically, that includes Bob Malm. While Bob is sufficiently, well, dysfunctional that he undoubtedly can’t see it, Jeff’s conduct in this matter reflects a profound lack of respect for Bob and his family.) So, since Bob and I cannot have any sort of contact until 2020, and we will have zero contact even then, our current state of conflict will remain cemented in place. I am good with that, and will continue to work diligently to share my story with others.

If the DC Bar suspends Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow’s license to practice law, which is one possible outcome when an attorney files untruthful pleadings, it will be interesting to see if Jeff actually takes a deep breath, slows down, and does some introspection about his personal and professional ethics, as well as his judgment in taking a case for which he is neither qualified, nor appropriately dispassionate. Not to mention if I were a fellow RJO shareholder, I’d have some serious reservations about Jeff’s use of firm resources and the case’s implications for the law firm’s reputation and goodwill.

Somehow, I doubt we will see Jeff display any introspection. Arrogance and stupidity appear hardwired into the equation, and seem, in Jeff’s case, to quickly trump any sense of Christian ethics.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

See for Yourself: My Critique of Title IV

In July of 2017, I wrote a piece for Episcopal Cafe about challenges in the current implementation of Title IV. Below is the text of the original article; it and related comments can be found online at

Remember the Maginot Line? History buffs may recall that it was a massive series of fortifications along the French border, put in place after WWI, intended to repel potential future German attacks.

Unfortunately, the Maginot line had several fatal flaws. First, it did not extend to the Low Countries, allowing German troops to bypass French defenses. Second, the Maginot Line’s weaponry only pointed towards Germany, meaning that military forces that attacked from the rear could easily overwhelm these massive but now defenseless fortifications.

And so it is with Title IV. At first glance, Title IV appears to be a tightly crafted piece of canon law that provides an effective framework to address clergy misconduct. In reality, however, there are several fatal flaws that can, in certain circumstances, render Title IV’s protections largely illusory.

To be sure, the 2011 changes to Title IV were largely positive. By providing for multiple levels of conversation and discernment, the current version of Title IV affords greater opportunity for healing, justice, restitution and reconciliation. This, I believe, is consistent with our call as Christians.

Moreover, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons (SCCC) appears well informed and responsive to the issues with the current Title IV. Prefacing its recent report with the accurate observation that a poorly handled Title IV case often cases irreparable harm to the reputation of all parties involved, the SCCC went on to note that there is a church-wide lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities in the Title IV process. This in turn causes delay, uncertainty, and unnecessary expense.

In response, the most recent General Convention funded the development of Title IV training materials, eventually to be translated into multiple languages. The status of this project is unclear to me, but with the next General Convention now roughly a year away, one hopes that these materials will soon be in widespread circulation.

Meanwhile, there are a number of serious challenges that remain unaddressed. These include:
  • Lack of clarity over what constitutes “conduct unbecoming.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising when dealing with a “catch-all” phrase such as this. But some dioceses basically treat “conduct unbecoming” as comprising only major illicit activities, such as rape, murder, and mayhem, while ignoring issues like workplace harassment, bullying, misuse of funds, abuse of office, and other serious matters. In dioceses where the “no blood, no foul” rule seemingly pertains, clergy misconduct is ignored that, were it to occur in most other employment settings, would result in immediate disciplinary action, including termination of employment. Thus, in these cases, clergy are held to an embarrassingly low standard of behavior—one that hasn’t been acceptable in much of the corporate world for decades. 
Meanwhile, an adjudicatory who simply doesn’t wish to be bothered leaves complainants with little recourse other than filing a complaint against the bishop diocesan—hardly an appetizing option for most complainants.

Of particular note is that Title IV never defines or references bullying. While one would assume that clergy who bully fall within the purview of the “conduct unbecoming,” clause, my experience is that intake officers either don’t recognize bullying when they see it, or are unwilling to address it. This ignores the excellent work done by the Diocese of Newark, and specifically addressing these gaps in the upcoming revisions to Title IV would be useful.
  • Lack of clarity about what constitutes conduct that is “weighty and material” to the ministry of the church. Often, intake officers who don’t wish to deal with a complaint will cite the “weighty and material” clause of Title IV. But how do you define “weighty and material?” In my experience, intake officers typically don’t recognize spiritual, financial or emotional abuse as meeting this threshold. Yet any mental health professional will tell you that these forms of abuse can be every bit as damaging as physical abuse. Or, as one complainant told me, “My intake officer was stuck in a 1950’s definition of misconduct. If it didn’t involve rape or physical violence, it just didn’t count.” 
  • Lack of a mechanism to address substantive or procedural errors during a Title IV proceeding. For example, if an intake officer interviews respondent clergy without the latter having access to an advisor, this is a violation of Title IV. Yet there is no meaningful mechanism to address issues such as this. Granted, the most recent revisions provide for a Title IV procedural officer, but with a poorly defined role and no real enforcement powers, this does not go nearly far enough. Similarly, if the reference or hearing panels violate the canons in their handling of a case, there often is no way to address the matter other than an appeal to the good graces of the bishop diocesan. 
  • Lack of recourse in cases of improper dismissal. In cases in which an intake officer improperly dismisses a complaint, the president of the diocesan disciplinary board may overturn the dismissal. But since the reference panel comprises the intake officer, the bishop diocesan, and the president of the disciplinary board, a bishop diocesan may be all too easily swayed by an intake officer with whom she or he already has a close professional relationship. Since there is no right of appeal from a dismissal that is upheld at this level, an intake officer has an almost unchecked ability to impede a complaint if they so choose. True, a dismissal has no preemptive effect against a future complaint, but as long as the complainant must deal with the same intake officer and same adjudicatory, chances of a successful outcome are slim. 
  • Lack of clarity over what constitutes a “pastoral response.” Title IV mandates a pastoral response whenever a complaint is made to an intake officer; that is the case even if the complaint is dismissed. But I have learned of numerous cases in which adjudicatories have used a pastoral response as an excuse to avoid dealing with serious clergy misconduct, including sexual relations with parishioners. Yes, there should always be pastoral care and concern for those affected by clergy misconduct, but when this provision is used to allow clergy to avoid accountability, a serious injustice is done. Additionally, I have heard anecdotes that suggest some adjudicatories define a pastoral response so loosely as to render it meaningless. For example, one bishop allegedly wrote to a sexual abuse survivor to say that he deeply regretted the situation and would pray for her and her family. Yes, I believe in the power of prayer, but not as a be-all-and-end-all solution for serious issues like sexual misconduct.
In short, the pastoral response provision is too often the exception that swallows the rule.
  • Lack of recourse against respondents who engage in misconduct during the early phases of a Title IV proceeding. To its credit, the most recent General Convention amended Title IV to include the possibility of sanctions against parties who engage in misconduct. But this really only applies at the hearing panel stage of proceedings. Thus, clergy who, for example, lie during the intake process or during conciliation may well face no penalty for their actions. Yes, the church attorney can, if she or he chooses to do so, amend the complaint, but this appears to happen rarely. Thus, Title IV cases that don’t reach the hearing panel stage of proceedings may have few disincentives for respondent clergy to engage in misconduct that undercuts the Title IV process. 
  • Lack of protection for complainants. As things stand, there is no specific protection against clergy respondents retaliating against complainants. For instance, in one case with which I am familiar, the respondent clergyperson retaliated for the filing of a Title IV complaint by organizing a multi-year campaign of shunning and harassment against the complainants, and did so using church resources. The diocese and intake officer received multiple complaints about this behavior, but ignored it. While the matter was eventually resolved, the relational, reputational, and other damage caused by the clergyperson’s retaliation is largely irreparable.
In fairness, the SCCC appears poised to recommend the addition of whistleblower protection to Title IV at the 2018 General Convention. In the meantime, though, Title IV complainants and witnesses participate in the process at their own risk—hardly conducive to the healing and reconciliation envisioned in the 2011 changes to Title IV. Yes, one would assume that retaliation, which is illegal in publicly traded companies would constitute conduct unbecoming under Title IV, but the uncertainty over individual roles and responsibilities in this context makes this an uncertain proposition, at best.

Speaking of whistleblower protection, we have learned in cases of sexual misconduct of the importance of having one person who is ultimately responsible for follow-through. This prevents cases from falling through the cracks, or being dismissed out of hand. In most cases, the bishop diocesan is the person responsible for ensuring an appropriate response and follow-through. Yet the national church’s whistleblower hotline only covers church headquarters employees, and we have no single point of contact as a denomination to deal with misconduct. We therefore should give consideration to a churchwide ethics hotline that can be used at all levels to bring potential misconduct to light, as minors, third-party advocates and others otherwise may have difficulty knowing whom to contact in case of a problem. At the same time, there must be assurances that complaints will be listened to, treated with respect, addressed appropriately, and that retaliation will not be tolerated.
  • Lack of implementing regulations. In the case of most civil statutes, the details are implemented via administrative regulation. There is some precedent in church canon law for this, including the “Manual of Business Methods in Church Affairs,” and the sexual misconduct prevention manuals developed by most dioceses. Yet the lack of definitive policies on the day-to-day handling of Title IV matters leads to lack of clarity and some very poor outcomes. Even guidance such as recommending that intake officers meet face to face with a complainant whenever possible would be most helpful, yet there is too little effort in this space. Similarly, a formal certification process for Title IV officials, such as that often required for diocesan sexual misconduct prevention trainers, might be useful. 
We also should do a better job of defining what is within the purview of Title IV. All too often, Title IV is postured as a means of addressing sexual misconduct, since references to Title IV are incorporated into diocesan sexual misconduct prevention materials. This creates the impression – often even among diocesan staff – that Title IV’s main purpose is to address sexual misconduct. As a result, adjudicatories often will jump all over claims that a clergyperson had an affair, all the while ignoring the clergyperson who engages in other, equally troubling behavior, including workplace harassment, bullying, emotional abuse or relational abuse. It is also worth noting that at least one diocese has no reference to Title IV at all on its website—hardly helpful for someone struggling to deal with clergy misconduct.

In conclusion, my belief is that the analogy to the Maginot Line is valuable. At first glance, Title IV appears to be a formidable defense against clergy misconduct, but the reality is that clergy and adjudicatories alike can, with great ease, sidestep Title IV when it so suits them. Thus, like the Maginot Line, Title IV all too often is illusory in the protections it offers.