Thursday, March 19, 2020
During the 2015 General Convention (GC) of The Episcopal Church, two measures were passed that addressed abuse in the church. Measure 2015-A073 authorized the updating of Model Policies for the Protection of Children, while Measure 2015-A074 called for the update of the Safe Church Training Materials.
The work was done by a GC-appointed task force spearheaded by the eminently capable The Rev. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban, and the Rev. Canon Carol Cole Flanagan, as well as several other persons with a passion for ensuring that Episcopal churches are safe places for all persons.
The resulting materials were approved by the most recent General Convention and require that all dioceses adopt standards at least as protective as those approved by General Convention; higher standards may be implemented. Further, the measure makes clear that the standards apply to all church programs and activities.
Yet many dioceses have ignored these requirements. For example, here in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the policies used do not reflect the current standards. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (EDOW) does follow the standards, since Canon Flanagan is canonically resident in that diocese.
The status of the new policies in other dioceses are less clear, for many don’t publish their policies on their websites. That’s a mistake, for failing to publish that information makes it difficult at best to ensure compliance. (Speaking of, General Convention ignored efforts to include a question about compliance in the annual report.)
And of course, there is nothing to prevent individual parishes from adopting these policies. Yet those with which which I am familiar have consistently failed to done do.
So my questions are these: What message does General Convention’s failure to include a question about compliance on the annual parochial report send to the church? To victims of #metoo and #churchtoo? How can the church claim to be serious about these issues when it fails to take even the most minimal steps towards ensuring compliance?
For those dioceses and parishes that have ignored the requirements imposed by the new standards: What message does this send to parents in the church? To vulnerable adults? To all who are concerned about bullying and misconduct in the church? How can you claim to be an inclusive church when you ignore safe church efforts?
As a practical matter, entities within the church that fail to adopt these measures could be found liable to failing to adopt these common standards.
Clearly, the Episcopal Church still pays far too little attention to issues of sexual and other misconduct in the church. And Bishop Goff’s claim to be working for an inclusive church are a bunch of poo.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
When it comes to really bad, really un-Christian behavior, it takes a church. And in this case, not just any church, but Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.
Readers may recall the saga of Phil Snyder, the former member of Tenth Presbyterian, who spoke out about his concerns over allegations of sexual misconduct, including possible assault of a female church member in the basement of the church. In addition, there are concerns about a former employee of the church, who is alleged to have administered sexualized naked beatings to persons connected with the church.
Instead of taking these matters seriously, however, and recognizing Phil for his courage in speaking out, First Presbyterian appears to have tried to sweep matters under the rug, at one point claiming that they had investigated and found Phil’s concerns to be false. I find the church’s arguments unpersuasive, and strongly believe that Phil is not only largely on point, but that the situation may be far worse than Phil suspects.
All that said, instead of seeking peace, justice, and reconciliation, Tenth Presbyterian, for the second time, is seeking an injunction to prevent Phil from protesting outside the church. True to form for church bullies, the church is doing the usual church routine of claiming that somehow it is threatened by Phil’s protesting and other activities. But a sign is not a threat, and efforts by the church and its attorneys to portray otherwise are shameful and despicable. Nor have I seen anything, from Phil or the church, that suggests that the church or its members actually have been threatened. For example, the church’s lawyers claim that Phil called one person a “liar” and that she felt threatened. All I can say is that clearly none of these knuckleheads have spent any meaningful time in cyberspace. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every time someone on Twitter called someone else a liar, I would be wealthy indeed. And the court system would have collapsed long ago under the weight of so many injunctions.
Moreover, the church’s attorneys no doubt are aware that such an injunction would constitute a prior restraint of First Amendment rights; that is the reason for the church’s inflammatory rhetoric in its pleadings. Moreover, I know Phil, and while I have not personally observed his conduct in Philadelphia, I seriously doubt he claims to be Jesus or believes that to be the case. Any church or pastor that would sign off on such pleadings is, I believe, both un-Christian and unethical, and you can quote me on that.
In short, this is a disgraceful situation in which a church, which is supposed to be a place of healing and reconciliation, attempts to “paper” the other side, and run up attorney’s fees for Phil in an effort to silence him. But I can confidently say that Phil won’t go away any time soon, and that being more than 1,000 from the church won’t in any way slow down the growing public awareness of problems at Tenth Presbyterian. In fact, the church’s actions all but guarantee that social media criticism of the church will ramp up—and given the importance to 20-somethings of social media, you can bet your bottom dollar that the church’s conduct will result in a sharp decline in its fortunes.
Meanwhile, as you look over the church’s outlandish and inflammatory comments, which outside legal pleadings could well be considered defamatory, consider this: The church does not appear to have obtained criminal charges. If Phil is making terroristic threats, why has there been no arrest? And how can a purported expert in active shooters assess Phil’s behavior without meeting him in person? Such ex parte conclusions are at best highly questionable, and would be grounds for professional discipline were a mental health professional to make a diagnosis without meeting Phil. And for the record, I’ve spoken with Phil multiple times, and have never seen any signs of mental illness. I’d point out too that the church already has been shown to have displayed questionable veracity in its claims that Phil has threatened it, as video footage appears to show that this was an utter fabrication on the church’s part. Bearing false witness, anyone?
Lastly, as I have said many times about my former church, folks at Tenth Presbyterian don’t get it. Phil isn’t their problem. Their problem is how they handle conflict, and their lack of personal and professional integrity in how they respond to serious concerns about abusive conduct. In other words, the church’s response to Phil is, itself, abusive, as it attempts to misuse the perceived authority of clergy and church officials.
And to Liam Goligher and elders at Tenth Presbyterian, I have this to say: Your conduct is highly unbecoming, and brings discredit on you, your church, and those affiliated with the church. And you can quote me on that.
Here is the filing:
Friday, July 12, 2019
Thursday, May 9, 2019
One of the sad things about the myriad denominations within Christianity is that they too often fail to learn from one another. And so it is with the recent papal efforts to address abuse. These, while well intentioned, will prove problematic in exactly the same way as The Episcopal Church’s clergy disciplinary canon, Title IV, is inherently flawed.
For starters, much like the recent changes to Title IV, which purport to protect whistleblowers, the papal decree requires people to blow the whistle on abuse and coverup. But just as dioceses—including the Diocese of Virginia—are already ignoring the whistleblower protection provisions of Title IV with impunity, the lack of an enforcement mechanism within the papal provisions makes it highly likely that Catholic dioceses will ignore these requirements. In other words, only the truly foolhardy or those with incredible fortitude will risk the reprisals they will face if they come forward with allegations.
Similarly, the requirement in the new Catholic legislation that survivors be treated with respect will quickly fall prey to the advice of attorneys, who will urge diocesan officials not to get too involved. This is common in The Episcopal Church, where dioceses routinely ignore the Title IV requirement of a pastoral response in every case in which a complaint is made to the intake officer, even when a parish is traumatized by the removal of a rector in a Title IV proceeding. This mirrors the finding of the Church of England’s recent report on clergy abuse and Bishop Bell, which found that the needs of survivors were routinely ignored in the quest to protect the church’s reputation.
Most importantly, the new Catholic regulations permit bishops to ignore complaints if they are found to be “manifestly unfounded.” This mirrors the materiality provisions of Title IV, which apply a two-pronged test to complaints; they must be both a violation of Title IV and “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” Given that Episcopal dioceses that wish to avoid dealing with a complaint routinely invoke this clause, even in cases that involve retaliation by clergy and allegations of criminal conduct, one may be confident that Catholic bishops will find myriad behaviors that most of us would consider patently antithetical to Christian values to involve allegations that are “manifestly unfounded.”
In short, while the attention to these issues is to be commended, we remain far from resolution, regardless of the denomination.
Monday, March 4, 2019
Yet more unhealthy, abusive comments from Grace Church, almost certainly written by Bob Malm’s daughter, Lindsey Malm Anders.
The fact Bob and his family think it’s okay to talk to other people like this tells you everything you need to know about this sad, dysfunctional priest and his toxic church.