True to form, the Great Pumpkin made his annual visit to the Immanuel-on-the-Hill pumpkin patch.
I showed up around 1 PM, replete with signage. To their credit, folks at the church didn’t act like the fake Christians of Grace Church, who like to fire off the ol’ one-gun salute to Jesus when they see me. (Something about “as you have done to the least of these...”)
Sure enough, Immanuel rector Randy Alexander showed up, trying for the usual NOMCL (not on my church lawn) routine. As in yes, we’re the body of Christ, right up until someone suggests that the bishop of Maryland has a drinking problem. Then when she kills someone, it’s a case of, “Um, how did that happen?” Answer: Because as the body of Christ, you turned a blind eye and allowed it to happen. After all, it wasn’t on my church lawn.
Ditto for Bob Malm and his perjury problem. We’re the body of Christ and I’m sorry about his conduct, but could you move down the street so we can sell some pumpkins? I mean, he wasn’t convicted, your mom will be dead soon and we just named part of the church after him, so how bad could it be?
That said, as Randy and I talked, I think he got it. Or at least came close. In fact, he did something I’ve only ever seen happen once before at an Episcopal Church—he asked me if I needed anything. Truly remarkable coming from an Episcopal priest.
Ironically, it’s evangelicals who usually get the notion of radical hospitality. Episcopal churches claim to be welcoming, but they’re usually just indifferent. That’s why I kiddingly call my protests “Operation Leper at the Gate.” (In fairness, there have been some very supportive seminarians as well, including one entirely too handsome and friendly young guy who joined me one Sunday. Dangerous territory for a married guy, and I always refused to date priests anyway, so that led to a hasty exit and solo lunch at the diner.)
Does that mean this conflict is going away any time soon? Of course not. Thus far Susan Goff has not had the integrity to ask for the emails or phone records that would back up or disprove Bob’s claim that mom or someone claiming to be her contacted him repeatedly—a statement that went to the heart of his claim that he had been threatened, was done in writing, and was done with the advice of church legal counsel Jeffery Chiow. These records simply don’t exist, which leads to one inescapable conclusion: Bob Malm is a perjurer, a liar, a bully, and he is aided and abetted at every level of the church. Whether or not he is a friendly guy — which he is — is irrelevant.
Moreover, by refusing to address Bob’s perjury, Goff is every bit as culpable as he is. So is the diocese. So is the Grace Church vestry. And so is the body of Christ. And Jeff Chiow engaged in a number of fabrications, including at one point telling the court that he wasn’t aware that Mom’s dying. That claim directly contradicts his statements that he’s carefully reviewed her site, which makes very clear that she is terminally ill.
That said, we would be in a very different place if the church were to tell the truth. In fact, here’s what church abuse expert Dr. Diane Langberg has to say:
That’s the curious thing about these situations: Opposing sides can get so entrenched that they fail to realize how easily the matter can be resolved.
But as long as the diocese signs off on perjury, bullies a dying woman in violation of the law, backs Bob’s repeated lies to the court through his attorney and more, I am going to continue to push back. And if that causes the collapse of Grace Church, the cancellation of every pumpkin patch in the area or more, I don’t care. (As an aside, several of Bob’s lies were curious, in that they were readily Googleable, meaning he either just didn’t give a damn, or he thought no one would call him out, or he didn’t bother to check. “I didn’t lie your honor. I just didn’t bother to check the things I told the court were facts.”
I’ll start caring when the church treats me like a human being, worthy of dignity and respect. But it’s asking a lot for the church to request that I care about its welfare or that of its programs after calling all me a “domestic terrorist” in its court filings, bullying my mother, forcing my husband out of the church, and more. Or, as Mom’s attorney put it, “This attorney is coming at you with a personal vendetta.”
That said, I enjoyed talking with Randy. Maybe there is hope for TEC after all. I doubt it, but maybe.
I’d point out, too, that if you believe Jesus’ words about “as you have done to the least of these,” then you by definition believe that Bob Malm called Jesus a “domestic terrorist,” “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional.” And every time members of Grace Church flip me off, they’re doing it to Jesus.
That just underscores the sad state of affairs in The Episcopal Church and confirms for me why I doubt there will be any meaningful TEC left by the time I die.