Showing posts with label conflict resolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conflict resolution. Show all posts

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Of Clergy and Contracts: What Grace Church Needs to Know Before it Hires the Next Rector

At this point, one thing is abundantly clear. Not only was hiring perjuring priest Bob Malm a major mistake, but the terms and conditions of his employment exacerbated the situation. That raises the question: How can the vestry avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?

Let’s start with the selection process. One of the things that went wrong when perjuring priest Bob Malm was hired was that the selection committee went for the bright, shiny penny. With a degree from Yale, what some say are good looks, full-time experience with the Anglo-Catholic arm of the church, good preaching skills, and an uncanny ability to tell people what they want to hear, Bob Malm looked good both on paper and in person.

But the church might do better with the well-worn dollar bill that’s been in circulation for a while. Far better to have a priest who’s an average preacher, but works her backside off and genuinely loves God and other people, than the bright shiny penny that decamps to the beach for a month every summer and considers this a God-given right as he recuperates from the grueling work of playing golf every weekend.

Speaking of, the selection committee should be highly alert to possible narcissists as candidates. Most of the evidence suggests that at least 30 percent of clergy are narcissists, and the last thing that the parish needs is a narcissist in the role. So it would be wise to read everything out there on this issue and inwardly digest the material. In the meantime, be alert to the candidate who is too good to be true, who appears polished, poised, articulate and very “put together.” Remember, the store front is not the store, and you are looking for someone whose “store” is full of treasure, not the person whose storefront was metaphorically designed by I.M. Pei, but utterly decayed and empty once you step inside. You need a servant leader, not a matinee idol.

On a related note, it is difficult to dig too deeply when vetting candidates. In Bob’s case, there were some warning signs that were not picked up. Per Bob himself, one of his parishioners at his church in Portsmouth ran for the vestry solely in order to “see what you’re going to do to our church.” While I have the advantage of hindsight, and while there will always be naysayers in every church, seemingly minor criticisms like this should be taken seriously and, if possible, responded to with follow-up questions like, “Why do you say that? What specifically are your concerns?” If I remember correctly, the parishioner who said this was an old guy at the time, but he was remarkably insightful, and I believe he spotted the warning signs early on. So the selection committee is well advised to ask, ask, ask and ask some more. Yes, there is the issue of confidentiality, but with less than 2 million members, the church is small enough that there is lots of feedback out there.

Once a finalist is selected, it’s important to lay the groundwork for success via structure and framework. This includes making it crystal clear that, other than selection of the senior warden, there are no circumstances in which the rector gets to choose the executive committee. That is a vestry decision, and The Episcopal Church is a representative democracy, not a monarchy. In fact, were this a US election, this would be election rigging, and would be treated as a felony.

It’s also clear that, thanks to a compromised vestry, there was damned little oversight of perjuring priest Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow. Both caused severe and lasting reputational damage to the parish, and the role of the vestry was confined largely to rocking back, nodding in sage agreement, and letting things play out. And Bob played that for all he was worth, for when he wanted air cover, he put issues in front of the vestry. But when he wanted something inappropriate, like to force Mike out of the parish, he sought no counsel from the vestry. So clear written guidelines should be established regarding engaging in legal action, criteria for dropping individuals from church membership rolls (already set forth in the canons, BTW), and more. (One suggestion: No volunteer attorneys. Just like the priest whose doctor is a member of the parish, there is an inherent boundary issue and conflict of interest, and Sugarland’s spectacularly ill-advised conduct illustrates the problems that can and will arise when using volunteer litigation counsel. The fact that, to this day, Sugarland doesn’t appear to have any issues with his conduct illustrates just how toxic this paradigm can be.)

One way to deal with these issues is to require and enforce a contractual provision mandating a mutual ministry review on at least an annual basis. Those are not the same as performance reviews, and the vestry should conduct one at least twice a year, in writing, with the full vestry involved.  These provisions need to be incorporated into a letter of agreement and need to result in meaningful action. In other words, if clergy do not fulfill their letter of agreement, including but not limited to taking leave in excess of that permitted under the agreement, the rector needs to be held accountable. That includes, if need be, a parting of the ways.

The vestry also should insist on a strategic plan, in writing, with measurable, verifiable steps towards specific results. Thus, the usual hoo-ha involving things like, “Follow the Holy Spirit,” doesn’t count. “Growing the budget by 10 percent” does.

Speaking of, it is essential that the church learn how to deal appropriately with conflict. Unfortunately, the diocese and vestry have largely taken a pass on that during the transition process, with the result that this will fall to the nest rector, who may or may not be willing and able to make this happen. But outside experts need to be brought in, and there should be written normative behaviors. The mobbing, bullying, gossip and defamation are out of control, and if they are not addressed Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish, will be gone sooner rather than later. I’d add that people need to learn to talk to each other, not about each other. One way to accomplish this is to establish written norms. A good set has been developed by the diocese of Southern Virginia and can be found in PDF here. (Before you dismiss this out of hand, this is a church that is so sick that members think it’s okay to urge others to commit suicide. Not to mention publicly disclosing confidential giving and more.)

On a related note, the parish needs to make peace with those it has hurt. Too often, churches treat past conflict as water over the damn, and simply try to move on. But until church members know what it is like to make restitution and engage in real peacemaking, they will never understand the heavy cost that the church pays when clergy and members engage in misconduct. That is not to say that everyone it has hurt can or will be willing to be part of the process; my mother went to her grave loathing perjuring priest Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish. Similarly, Mike is absolutely unwilling to be part of any such conversation. But the effort needs to be made whenever possible.

The vestry also needs to be involved fully in governance. All members should see a real annual audit and engagement letter (NOT an AUP), and work to implement solutions recommended by the auditors. Similarly, with the school representing 2/3 of annual budget and expenses, the vestry needs to see school minutes, budgets, and financials. Yes, I get that there should be some independence from the parish, but vestry members do not fulfill their fiduciary duty when they are not involved at all. (Ironically, perjuring priest Bob Malm offered to include the school in his settlement proposal. Remind me again how the school got involved, please.) And there should be a written personnel manual, a finance manual (the latter is required by the canons), and formal training opportunities for staff.  No one wants to work for a church that simply draws on skills, without doing anything to build them.

There needs to be transparency.That means publishing real budget numbers, including salaries, and treating the vestry as a full missional partner. Ironically, by trying to be all clever and sneaky, many parishioners imagined, for example, that perjuring priest Bob Malm earned more than he actually did. And failure to include line item detail resulted in Richard Newman getting overpaid for many months, and having to repay those funds. While I cannot prove it, I am convinced that Bob Malm tried to pay Richard more than had been approved by the vestry, and got his tail caught in the wringer when Jeff Aaron spotted the issue and brought it up. Had the latter not occurred, my belief is that Bob Malm thought no one would know the difference. And curiously, it was not long afterwards that Jeff’s relationship with perjuring priest Bob Malm seemingly started heading south. Meanwhile, Richard, hardly overpaid by any measure, wound up having to repay the funds, with the result that he got thrown under the bus big time.

It also would be wise to adopt written policies regarding inclusion, bullying, and whistleblowing and more. I brought the issue of bullying up to Elizabeth Legere long ago and was brushed off, but my conflict with perjuring priest Bob Malm would have been resolved early on had there been a written framework for doing so. Regrettably, the diocese is okay even with perjury, and the vestry and wardens at Grace under perjuring priest Bob Malm were paper tigers, despite the requirements the canons impose on both. (Speaking of, all involved should read the canons. Wardens have an express responsibility, for example, to be involved with the performance of staff. Perjuring priest Bob Malm may have refused to deal with those issues, but they are not ones that can be ignored.)

Tenure also is important, and it is not without good reason that rectors stay on average seven years. Staying too long may engender feelings that the parish is the rector’s, while causing burnout. Indeed, perjuring priest Bob Malm had said in writing at year 20 that he was ready to move on, but the issue appears to have been that no parish or organization out there was willing to shell out 200K a year. In other words, this was a bad case of the golden handcuffs. That was exacerbated by the profoundly foolish decision in 2014 to gift away 100K of the loan the church made to Bob in exchange for a de facto agreement to stay five years. Leaving aside the fact that this caused problems for both sides, at no point in time should any church staff garner a bonus of 100K. People give money to the church to be used for the glory of God, not to line perjuring priest Bob Malm’s pockets.

It also would be good to spend the first few years with a priest in charge, so that both sides can size the other up. Believe it or not, Grace will be no slice of paradise for whoever is next, and many will feel that any rector who does her job isn’t exactly heaven-sent, either. Formalizing review and assessment will prevent the usual Grace antics of the altar guild and choir ganging up on someone with whom they have issues, while priest-in-charge status allows either side to opt out if things are not a fit.

This also is an appropriate pivot point for the relationship with the bishops. Grace will not succeed absent appropriate support from the bishops, and the diocese’s past practice of sitting in splendid silence in the antebellum heap of Mayo House has been profoundly unhelpful. Written guidelines would help both sides engage in a more effective manner. And while most conflict can and should be resolved locally, there will be times when the diocese needs to be the neutral arbiter. Again, these guidelines need to be in writing, for the diocese has, in the past, shown itself to have a very short memory. Indeed, Pat Wingo offered that Susan Goff could help resolve any conflicts that came up after perjuring priest Bob Malm and I negotiated our ceasefire, but when I reached out to her for that very reason she took a pass in writing. That, of course, was when things went to hell in a hand-basket.

It’s also important not to panic. It is entirely possible, especially given the mess that perjuring priest Bob Malm leaves behind, that no viable candidate emerges in the first round. That’s okay, and it will happen when it happens. But the advice one hears in dating is spot on: Don’t look for Mr. Right. Be Mr. Right. Thus, Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, has a lot of work to do, and it needs to get cracking. Indeed, as things stand, I am not sure the parish can or will survive, if for no other reason than it has neither the introspection nor the backbone to engage in self-examination.

Right now, Grace Episcopal the clergy perjury parish is what the canon to the ordinary unhelpfully describes as “damaged goods.” That may or may not change, but the only way for it to change is for folks at Grace Church, the clergy perjury parish, to take a long hard look at the church and their own actions, take things seriously, then ACT.

As one wit said long ago, “I am all for the Kingdom of God. But being Episcopal, I’d prefer that it come about without any unpleasant changes.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Why Grace Church is Doomed to Fail

I’ve written about this before, but with litigation now ramping up against perjuring priest Bob Malm, his family, Grace Church, and the diocese, I am reflecting anew on why the parish and diocese are unlikely to spring back from the hot mess that Bob leaves behind.

As I see it, the problem is that the diocese and parish simply don’t get it. As in they don’t understand how to fix the underlying problems.

In recent years, even the Catholic church, long famous for trying to play hardball against anyone who called it to account, has learned that this approach simply makes things worse. Yes, the Catholic Church managed to buy years — some would say decades — of time with its coverups and no-hold barred litigation. But the day of reckoning has arrived, and it’s looking ugly. Yes, some dioceses have tried to restructure so as to place assets beyond the reach of creditors, and more than one diocese appears to be trying to play games with its cemeteries and other, less visible assets. But no matter how you parse it, Rome is shedding members in all directions, and even the Vatican itself appears poised to run a deficit. And I would be prepared to bet that very few of those leaving the Catholic Church will ever come back.

By contrast, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia remains locked in a 1970’s approach to issues. When in doubt, deny everything. Then litigate, litigate, litigate, and hope you can sweep what’s left under the rug.

The problem is that conflict and misconduct don’t get resolved this way. Indeed, Bob Malm was a master at denying, avoiding, equivocating and doing everything in his power to to avoid addressing conflict or problems, even going so far as to lie in order to avoid dealing with things. But instead of taking the approach that perjuring priest Bob Malm is gone, and it’s a new day at Grace where people tell the truth and deal openly and honestly with conflict, the diocese is playing the very same games. That includes claiming that perjury is okay as long as no criminal charges result.

Sadly enough, there are still parishioners who like and admire Bob. And that’s likely to continue until the diocese has the integrity to openly disclose perjuring priest Bob Malm’s misconduct. Or, as the Rev. Robin Hammeal-Urban notes in her book on misconduct, it is only through disclosure that the church heals. Absent this, churches will, almost without exception, hold onto patterns of dysfunction that will extend for decades.

Unfortunately, this level of integrity simply doesn’t exist, either at Mayo House or the parish vestry. From the bishops, to JP Causey, right on down, it’s all about protecting the organization and its turf, versus doing what’s right. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” simply doesn’t apply. Instead, the diocese and parish cling to, “It’s our lie, and our church, and we’ll do whatever we damn well want, thank you. And your response will be, ‘Thank you Sir, may I have another?’” Even at the vestry, there’s the whole, “well, people liked Bob—do we really want to go there?,” routine.

That also poses a problem for the next rector. Remember the old joke about not wanting to join any club that would have me as a member? Well, the same holds true for Grace. Specifically, any rector worth having is going to want to know that steps have been taken to come to terms with the past, to heal, to learn, and to grow. With that not happening, good candidates are going to take a pass. As one priest said to me about Grace, “God help whoever’s next. You couldn’t pay me enough.”

Nor is Michael Guy going to cut it. While he seems to be more sincere than was perjuring priest Bob Malm, his positive comments and his hints about forgiveness fall far short of what it is going to take to get the parish back on track.

Even worse, those candidates who might be willing to work with these problems face a further challenge, which is that the parish likely will still be in litigation one year after perjuring priest Bob Malm’s departure. Indeed, with litigation only now ramping up, we are probably at least a year away from any sort of outcome, which puts things close to the two-year mark. And for the record, I am not backing down any time soon. But then, five years into this conflict, folks hopefully realize that already. If nothing else, I outlasted Bob, and I can outlast Grace.

Nor do I think that Bishop Goff or the other fat cats at Mayo House have the integrity to admit that they are wrong. Yes, they might say pretty words in order to try to shut down the conflict, but actually owning up to the mess they have made of things and bringing in experts to fix it? You’ll sooner see a snowman in the fierce flames of the furnace room of hell on a hot day. In fact, one of the reasons for the current state of affairs is that, when Pat Wingo went on sabbatical, he had offered in writing that I could reach out to Bishop Goff if I needed help working through issues with Bob. That’s exactly what I did, only to have Susan take a pass. Meanwhile, Shannon Johnston, with his amazing ability to screw things up, had already sent out a letter in support of Bob, while ignoring my response to him.


Neither does Grace have the necessary introspection. My bet is that the vestry will try to get a rector in in who’s good at conflict resolution and hope for the best. But given that she or he will not enjoy meaningful support from the diocese, nor have an accurate perspective on conflict within the parish, that dog won’t hunt. And the parish does not realize that it cannot win the current litigation. Yes, it could prevail in court, but that simply adds fuel to the fire and guarantees that the conflict will continue. (Not to mention giving that much more for me and others to write about.) Put in other words, Bob threw the parish under the bus, but folks are blinded to that reality by their loyalty to Bob and their reluctance to admit their own mistakes.

That brings up a final but important point: The diocese tends to try to convince itself that it knows how to fix conflict, so it is unlikely to bring in outside experts. That said, the diocese is spectacularly bad at dealing with conflict, and in the case of Grace Church, a full-fledged intervention is necessary. Outside resources need to come in, wade through the mess, then discuss specific steps towards normalcy, including:

- Talking to others, versus about others.
- Avoiding triangulation.
- Assuming good intent.
- Respecting all opinions and perspectives, even if they are unpopular.
- Backing away from the emotion inherent in conflict.
- Recognizing that, approached properly, conflict can be a profoundly positive experience.
- Establishing written norms.

In short, any sort of resolution starts with the diocese recognizing that Bob occupied the position of power, as is always the case with relationships between clergy and congregants. Thus, it is incumbent for the diocese to start the painful but necessary process of telling the truth, which includes the fact that clergy are always responsible for maintaining appropriate boundaries — always. And that includes not lying about your parishioners, as Bob has done in my case, trying to bully them, or engaging in Bob’s manipulative games. Or, for that matter, committing perjury.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Bishop Goff, come tear down Bob’s lies. Come tell the truth.”

We’ll wait.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Report from Dysfunctional Bob’s Final Day as Rector

Before we go further, two important reminders for parishioners and staff at Grace Episcopal, aka St. Dysfunction:
  1. When I am protesting, I am filming from at least two vantage points. That means that several of you are now part of internet history, and you and your vehicle, including your license plates, are now publicly posted as you fire off those one-gun salutes to Jesus. You’re also likely to feature prominently in the second release of my video, named Begin with Grace after the school recruiting video, which provides prospective members a first-hand look into parish dynamics. So, it was with great pleasure that I filmed Lisa Medley and five other people today — keep up the good work! They’ll know you are Christians by your love! (Viewers report they especially like the juxtaposition of my sign and parishioners firing off the one-gun salute. Something about really speaking to the church’s compassion.)

  2. Pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-60.3, I have previously notified the church in writing that I do not want any further contact from members, staff, or diocesan officials. Under that statute, those of you who feel compelled to contact me anyway may face criminal charges for stalking. And if you don’t think I’m enough of a jerk to file charges, try me. 
On that happy note, I protested outside Grace today. It was a great day, and got a chance to talk with multiple neighbors of the church. Also present was the police unit I had requested in light of Bob Malm’s previous episode, in which he drove up to me, climbed out of his vehicle, and began screaming and threatening me. Needless to say, between that and Bob’s questionable connection with reality, including his false claim that he was repeatedly contacted by my mom or someone claiming to be her, I think there is a strong possibility that Bob may be both dangerous and mentally ill.

The unit sat across Russell Road from me and convinced one profoundly foolish parishioner that picking a fight was not a great idea. Leaving aside the obvious issues, coming up to me and yelling, or flipping me off, tends to undercut Dysfunctional Bob and Sugarland Chiow’s claim that people are frightened of me; few approach someone they believe to be dangerous and flip them off.

Speaking of, it is beyond stupid to flip people off while driving. If nothing else, more than one road rage incident has been caused by the ol’ one-gun salute to Jesus, and any police officer worth her or his salt would advise you not to do it. Get a clue, kids. Don’t try this at home.

On a more macro level, the conduct from parishioners that I documented today underscores one of Dysfunctional Bob’s great failings as rector. Specifically, he not only failed to teach effective conflict resolution, but through his example (and that of Sugarland Chiow) he taught parishioners that any sort of conduct is okay if you think it will help you get the upper hand. Lying, committing perjury, trying to drag the dying into court — from Malm’s perspective, it’s all good.

Looking forward, I have several observations:
  • The more Grace parishioners revert to type with the ad hominem attacks, the middle finger, etc., the more they prove my point, which is that Grace at its heart is a toxic church. And the more they prove my point, the faster Grace Church implodes. As for those who have given generously, in some cases for decades, I offer this fair warning: If the church does not address its issues, it will not be too many more years before Grace Church collapses due to declining membership, participation, and giving. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Since parishioners still have not figured it out, I am going to reiterate something I’ve said many times: The church cannot force people to quit speaking about their experiences with the parish. If the church thinks that suing former members, pushing Mike out of the church, lying under oath, calling other Christians “domestic terrorists,” and trying to drag a dying woman into court are okay, so be it. But then the church must live with the consequence, which is lasting reputational damage. And discussion of your conduct is protected by the First Amendment. However, defamation by church members, including public statements accusing me of alcoholism, having AIDS, and being mentally ill, are not. And those parishioners who believe that this conduct, along with urging me to commit suicide etc., will be effective in shutting me down are delusional.
  • Whoever the church chooses as an interim is in for a rough and bumpy ride, assuming the church actually takes things seriously and doesn’t just hire a seat warmer. But if the church does not take things seriously, it will be gone in the not-distant future. No one wants to join a church that bullies the dying and where members treat other the way people at Grace do. In other words, Grace Church is a hot mess, particularly in regard to organizational dynamics, and very little in the conduct of parishioners would suggest that this is the Body of Christ.
  • Parishioners have no idea how toxic their little stained glass cesspool really is. After 30 years of Dysfunctional Bob, much that passes as normative in the church would result in shock and horror elsewhere. Moreover, given the extent of organizational narcissism, it is going to be an uphill battle for an interim to convince people that this is the case.
  • There’s a fair amount of information out there about organizational narcissism, and parishioners and staff alike would be well-advised to read it. I’ll drop one leading hint: A big component is when an organization thinks it’s special. As when Bob Malm says, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much, [sic] when I suggest that at Grace Church we know, we practice “true religion”. [sic](Source: Sept. 3, 2017 sermon). And if Grace Church is an example of “true religion,” no thanks. You can keep it.
With that, off for a nice cool shower and some dinner.

Friday, June 15, 2018

More Friendly Comments From Planet Malm

Need further proof that there is nothing even remotely Christian about Grace Church, aka St. Dysfunction aka Planet Malm? Check out the following post from yet another person connected with the church.

The upshot is that this is typical of people at Grace church—when all else fails, resort to ad hominem attacks and telling people they’re not wanted. Of course, if the author were a little more clued in, she’d realize I don’t want to associate with people who think this sort of thing is acceptable. That’s why my family and I have left The Episcopal Church, and why I have less than no desire to be part of Grace Church. In other words, you couldn’t pay me enough.

If you are thinking about becoming involved in Grace Church, keep in mind that this sort of thing is okay there. In fact, Bob Malm does it himself. I’ll be providing extensive documentation in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Condescension of Christ

One of the things I have really seen throughout this conflict is how poorly trained Episcopal clergy are in conflict resolution, and how quick they are to resort to patronizing condescension — what I kiddingly refer to as the condescension of Christ.

While I have discussed the matter with relatively few clergy in the diocese of Virginia, the vast majority either resort to tired old saws about forgiveness that are not theologically sound, or dismissive BS about how I’m being hateful, etc.

But the reality is that Jesus had little use for clergy who saw themselves as better by virtue of their role as clergy. Nor do he shun people —including the “hateful,” such as tax collectors.

This faulty understanding of forgiveness, redemption and welcome, combined with lack of accountability and an unwillingness to tackle difficult issues, exists at all levels of The Episcopal Church. Some have rightly noted that this paradigm interferes with the church’s ability to address impairment, but the reality is it extends to challenges, problems, and conflict at every level of the denomination.

The Jesus I know is the Jesus of the radical welcome, the protestor against injustice, and the friend to the outcast. Most Episcopal clergy, however, know nothing of these things. Theirs is a fictitious Jesus: The Jesus of the prep school and the golf course.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Great Post on Twitter

Saw this post on Twitter today and loved it. Guess this advice leaves out referring to the other person as “dysfunctional.”

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bob Malm’s Mess

A friend of mine — a keen observer of human nature — recently pointed out something I already knew, which is that Bob Malm is trying to discredit me by telling people that I am “unbalanced,” She also added a very astute observation, which is that while that argument may work with Grace church, it doesn’t work at at all with prospective church members, but instead drives the latter away.

How so? Because outsiders, not drawn in by Bob’s manipulation, quickly recognize that going around telling people that a former parishioner is mentally ill is conduct unbecoming for clergy. Not only does Bob have no expertise or training in psychology, but even if his assertions were true they are not the sort of thing you share publicly.

The end result is that the more Bob attempts to discredit those who would hold him accountable for his behavior, the more quickly things unravel at Grace Church. That trend is accelerated by those, like Leslie Malm, who go around lying about what transpired. When people realize that parishioners have adopted Bob’s approach to conflict resolution, they see that Grace has become toxic. And no matter how Bob tries to manipulate and bully his way out of things, parishioners eventually realize that Bob has never — not once — reached out to me or any member of my family and asked the question, “What would it take to resolve this?” Instead, Bob clings to his magical thinking that somehow he is going to prevail, and suddenly everything will be as it was 5 years ago.

The reality is that, even if this blog, my mom’s blog, and all the social media criticism of Bob’s behavior went away tomorrow, he and Grace church would still have a major problem on their hands. It’s called Bob’s behavior. And any priest who thinks it’s okay to try to force parishioners out of church for complaining about his or her bullying behavior has no business being a priest.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Will this End?

A friend of mine recently asked me how this will end. The answer could be one of several outcomes, but none of them are likely to be good for Grace Church.

In the best case scenario, the diocese or vestry decide to provide Bob Malm with a little adult supervision. In that case, we return to the agreement forged in Fredericksburg, which essentially was that we leave each other alone, and recognize the fact that none of us have the ability to control third parties, including my mom. Perhaps we could even work on seeing her concerns (and those of others) addressed, but there is no guarantee after more than two years of conflict that this can be accomplished.

In that case, I’m happy to again shutter my website, as I have better things to do with my life, including looking out for my mother. That said, I have never agreed to non-disclosure, and I will continue to reserve my right to share my experience with others.

In the worst case scenario, things continue as they are. In that case, I will continue to blog, and to protest on a regular basis for at least the next two years. There will be additional coverage in the media and on major blogs, and family members will continue to support my efforts, even after mom is gone. As a result, Grace Church and the diocese of Virginia will face continued reputational  harm, and church budgets and attendance will continue to be negatively affected. In this case, time is on my side, for new parish members are relatively few and far between these days, and typically give at lower levels than long-time members. Thus, as people pass away, retire, or leave the area, Grace Church will continue to decline. In a good year, attrition is normally about 30 people, but in recent years it’s been much higher.

The same friend asked me if I feel badly about the declining fortunes of Grace Church. The answer is no. While I feel no malice towards members of the parish, the reality is someone should have called out Bob Malm’s bad behavior long ago. Recall: A former assistant rector of Bob’s has said, “Bob has been getting away with murder for years.” (Geez, maybe I should be afraid for my life. Could it be that she means that literally?) So, sup with the devil, do dishes with the devil.

Did you notice what is not mentioned in this post? Yes, you got it: No mention of reconciliation. There’s no requirement of reconciliation when someone abuses you, and I’ve seen enough of Bob Malm to know how vile, vicious and vindictive he is at his very heart. So I am taking a pass there. With some people, it’s just best to go no contact and leave it at that.

Do I miss Grace Church? Not really. I knew some wonderful people while I was there, and the worship indeed is beautiful. But I’ve come to understand that all that glitters is not gold, and right beneath the bright shiny exterior (whitewashed, as Jesus would say), the place is rotten to the core. Yeah, things like Shrine Mont were fun, but I still go to Shrine Mont, only now in an environment where bullying is not okay.

Or, as one commentator at The Wartburg Watch, put it: “That’s one toxic church you have there, Eric.”

How right she was!