Showing posts with label church transition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church transition. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why Grace’s Transition is Doomed to Fail

Grace Church has a problem. Not just one problem, but one really big problem. Specifically, the interim/transition process is not going to succeed.

To be fair, there are some incremental improvements under Michael Guy. But long-term success simply isn’t going to happen.

The problem is that Grace Church is an isolated system. Yes, it has some external interfaces with the diocese, but those are limited to information that flows through Michael Guy and the vestry. And that information is filtered via a constant, which is the family system in the parish.

What does that mean in practice? 

Primarily that the parish survey and other data obtained during the transition process reflects only the views of those who have stayed throughout Bob Malm’s reign of feckless, narcissistic indifference. Thus, survey results are inherently skewed towards those who think Grace Church is wonderful, or at least tolerable. That omits the experiences of the dozens of people who have left the parish in recent years. the loss of 1/3 of its pledging units, and the breach of trust evinced by Bob Malm’s decision to try to drag a dying woman into court, his perjury, his lies, his smear campaigns and more. And even otherwise sensible individuals either turn a blind eye to these issues, or actively provide support. 

Consider: Sugarland Chiow and his family remain members of the church and attend regularly, despite his written claims that the church is the victim of “domestic terrorism.” What kind of husband or parent exposes his wife and children to a situation that he claims involves “domestic terrorism?” One has to wonder.

Thus, as a closed system, members perpetuate the notion that all is well at Grace Church and resoundingly reject anyone who says otherwise. Anyone who disagrees gets tagged as “dysfunctional,” which is Bob Malm’s not-so-Christian label for anyone who disagrees with him. And folks like Jean Reed, Kemp Williams, and Kelly Gable feel free to wade in with their gossip and speculation — but never with any concern for the person they claim is “dysfunctional.” In short, Grace is a goofy loop of narcissistic self-ratification with no external reference point.

Nor will the diocese be of any help. It refuses to address the problems in the parish, and adamantly refuses to tell the truth, even going so far as to trot out the specious argument that Bob Malm is not perjurer on the grounds that he hasn’t been convicted. I guess the same logic applies to sexual misconduct: Clergy cannot, for example, be child molesters unless they have been convicted. After all, molesting children is illegal, right?\

The sad reality is that Grace Church needs truthtelling. It needs to see itself as others see it. It needs to understand that bullying, hateful comments, mobbing, gossip (the speculation about married men in the parish being gay is particularly ugly), and more are neither normal nor acceptable in a healthy church.

So how will the church gain perspective? A good start is being going outside the church’s closed system and surveying the world outside its doors. What do school staff think about the church? Former members? Members of other parishes? Church members in other denominations? What would former members say if asked why they left? What are their thoughts on how the church responds to conflict? Such data should be requested both via the website and in-person listening sessions.

(I’ll give you a hint: It is entirely inappropriate for clergy to try to label people who disagree with them as “dysfunctional”. It’s even more inappropriate to make those statements in emails to diocesan officials. And still more inappropriate for Shannon “Two-Faced” Johnston to accept these sorts of communications from clergy. See below.)



Much of the feedback that would come in would be unsettling. Some would be downright ugly, as it reflects Bob’s ugly conduct. But as Bob Malm said in his communication to the Grace vestry, when he disseminated his facially untruthful “talking points,” “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” 

As things stand, Grace Church, its leadership and the diocese are wedded to Bob Malm’s perjury and other misconduct. As such, they are imprisoned by the toxic legacy of Bob Malm.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

More Signs of Financial Trouble at Grace Church



As we move into 2020, signs abound of financial trouble at Grace church. These include further declines in pledging, which I believe are due in large part to a growing awareness of just how toxic Grace Church has become.

Over the past two weeks, the number of pledging units has stalled out at 160, for a total just shy of $561,560. That’s a bad sign, for a variety of reasons:
  • In the past, pledges have continued to come in throughout the final weeks of the year. The lack of an increase during the past two weeks suggests that the pledge campaign has largely run its course.
  • While there are always a few additional pledges in the new year, the increase historically has ranged from 20-40 units. In recent years, the number of pledges has tended towards the lower end of that range. Moreover, late pledges tend to be smaller pledges. Thus, even assuming 30 additional pledges at an average of $3966, that’s only $118,980, for a total of $680,540. That’s a far cry from the $895,000 or more of past years, and leaves the church with gross annual revenue of approximately $830,540. Thus, the parish faces the prospect of draconian cuts to an already tight budget.
  • The underlying causes of the church’s decline remain unaddressed, which include a systemic culture of toxicity evinced by behavior that includes:
    • Bob Malm’s perjury
    • Suing members and calling them “domestic terrorists”
    • Sugarland Chiow’s multiple courtroom fabrications
    • Trying to drag a dying woman into court
    • The childish, malicious conduct of people like Alison Campbell and Lisa Medley
    • Members urging others to commit suicide
    • Unhealthy ways at every level of dealing with conflict
  • It will not be possible to begin the process of addressing these issues any time soon, as it will take some time for Michael Guy to settle in. 
  • The legacy of 30 years of Bob Malm’s feckless and dysfunctional “leadership” won’t be erased overnight, or even in a year.
  • The transition process isn’t cheap, and Grace really needs to bring in paid outside experts to address its toxic culture. Even then, Bob Malm’s various misrepresentations about the underlying issues make change problematic, for it is hard to parse the challenges facing the church when prior leadership has engaged in manipulative conduct.
  • Real leadership is perilously thin in the parish. Indeed, when confronted with a toxic culture like that of Grace church, real leaders typically move on, versus turning a blind eye to unethical conduct such as bullying. And even those regarded as leaders in the parish have no qualms in talking about other people, versus talking to other people. That’s a big problem, and one has only to look at some of the comments from Kemp Williams and Jean Reed to see use how bad things have become in that department.
  • It can be difficult to ask members to increase giving when so much money has been squandered in the past on Bob Malm’s inflated salary, his $100,000 bonus, the tear-down of the rectory, his overly generous leave, and silliness like taking $3,000 from savings for a farewell party for Chris Byrnes—a Head of School that many teaching professionals do not regard as having been particularly effective, and who spent much of her time engaging in divisive empire building.
  • Things are complicated by well-intentioned but disingenuous comments like Jason Roberson’s statement in the November edition of Grace Notes,  in which he falsely claimed that the church is “growing and flourishing.” It is doing neither, and such comments undercut confidence in the messaging coming from church leadership.
  • As discussed in previous posts, if the church really is to be a center for “outreach and healing,” it could start by contributing its fair share to the diocese. $80K a year is ridiculously low and far beneath the norms established by the diocese. Going forward, less money wasted on feckless clergy and more spent on outreach would be a good start.
Of course, financial issues are just one small outward manifestation of larger, structural issues. In other words, the church’s financial woes will only be resolved when it solves its spiritual and ethical woes. And with diocesan leadership that is prepared to support Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow in their misconduct, it’s unlikely that this is going to happen.

The future looks grim indeed for Grace Church.