Showing posts with label integrity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label integrity. Show all posts

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Jason Roberson Pulls a Bob Malm and Argues Alternative Facts

At a time when Grace church is dealing with record declines in giving and participation, there are multiple ways to deal with the situation. Some ways likely will be successful; others not. But one strategy is guaranteed to fail, and that is to argue “alternative facts,” as Jason Roberson attempts to do in the November edition of the church newsletter, Grace Notes. 

Specifically, it’s neither useful, nor helpful, nor truthful, to claim that the parish is “growing and flourishing.” It is not. Not financially, not numerically, not spiritually.

Indeed, it’s in a state of precipitous decline, brought about by years of Bob Malm’s feckless performance as rector and toxic conduct at various levels within the parish, including:
  • Committing perjury, as Bob has done with the assistance and support of Sugarland Chiow and the vestry.
  • Lying to the parish and others by claiming that Mike and I left on our own, as the vestry did via messaging supplied by Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow.
  • Trying to drag a dying woman into court.
On top of that, I hate to break it to Jason, but folks are not looking at doubling down on their pledges. Or, as one parishioner said to me, “If the church has enough money to pay [church office staff] to sit on their fat asses, do nothing all day, and give me attitude, it doesn’t need my money.”

Same for $3,000 farewell parties for heads of school, rectors who make 200K and are at the beach for a month every summer (but to my knowledge never once turned up, for example, at Carpenter’s Shelter), and the church generally living above its means for years. And let’s not forget that 2014 bonus of 100K the church paid to Bob Malm, which was entirely inappropriate. (One knucklehead, Lisa Medley, asked at the relevant vestry meeting if the amount could be increased to $200,000. “Private inurement,” anyone?)

DC is expensive, and many in this area haven’t had a vacation in years. Even fewer spend a month at the beach each summer. Many in the parish already are tapped out, and few want to dig even deeper to help out. 

Nor should the church count on planned giving as a bailout. Even those of us without kids have folks we want to care for when we are gone, and for many that does not include a church that engages in toxic behavior or turns a blind eye to its rector committing perjury in court.

So, for those still reading, I will tell you what really needs to happen.

First, the church needs to become healthy in every way and truly become a center for healing. Healthy relationships with each other, with God, and with the church’s past, parts of which are remarkably ugly and un-Christian, all are part of the deal. And it needs to take a healthy approach to the challenges facing it, which includes not trying to sweep them under the rug or arguing alternative facts. In other words, don’t claim the church is “growing and flourishing.”

Second, the parish needs to become a real center for outreach. The old Episcopal approach of metaphorically putting a bucket by the sea and waiting for the fish to jump in simply is not working. Three percent of budget for outreach is a joke, even with the food pantry and Haiti being off-budget. And while you’re at it, honor your commitment to the diocese. 70K a year doesn’t cut it.

Third, Grace needs to make a commitment to grow. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, most churches grow just about as much as they choose to grow, and this is simply something that has never been a priority for the church. And no, Art on the Avenue and a few extra signs on the lawn are not going to cut it.

Fourth, as a near-term tactical matter, the diocese needs to help by providing guidance in situations such as this. While Jason’s efforts were well-intended, it is exactly this sort of mistake that undercuts confidence in the transition and search process. Nor are existing internal vetting processes adequate—church staff and volunteers are simply too close to the issues to exercise the sort of independent judgment needed to avoid missteps of this sort.

So, I appreciate Jason’s positive spin, but it’s counterproductive to pretend that the church doesn’t have issues, or that it is not in decline. It has many serious challenges, some of which have been festering for decades. The sooner the church decides to look the monster right in the eyes, the sooner it can deal with the monster. But ignoring the monster won’t make it go away.

Ignoring the monster will simply result in the monster of decline consuming the church.

Jason Roberson Argues Alternative Facts





Thursday, October 24, 2019

Will Susan Goff Tell The Truth?

Will Susan Goff put her money where her mouth is and admit that Bob Malm committed perjury? Or will she continue to deny the truth and show all the world what is becoming increasingly obvious, which is that The Episcopal Church is morally bankrupt, interested only in its fast dwindling power and prestige? Will she put into practice Jesus’ teaching that, “As you have done to the least of these, so also have you done to me?”

Safe money says she will continue to act as an enabler, endorsing Bob Malm’s perjury by refusing to address it or offer restitution for the harm her actions have caused.

Susan, this is your chance. Lead by example. Demonstrate integrity.



Monday, July 29, 2019

The Burning Question: Will Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow Show Some Integrity as Bob Gears up for Retirement?



As Bob Malm gears up for retirement, and turns the Jesus-babble tap full open, the burning question (as Kemp Williams would put it), is will Bob Malm show some integrity? As in practicing what he preaches, telling the truth, and admitting to the parish that he has committed perjury by lying under oath? And while we’re at it, will Jeff Chiow similarly belly up to the bar and admit his misconduct to parishioners?

The short answer to both is, “Not bloody likely.”

In Bob Malm’s case, he’s hard at work, tugging on the heartstrings, trying to convince people that they are about to suffer a great loss, akin to losing someone to death. As discussed previously, the reality is far different. Not only has Bob Malm been a mediocre rector at best, but his behavior in office has caused lasting harm to many, not the least of which is the parish he claims to serve. And clergy come and go, in Bob’s case taking far too long to go, and wearing out his welcome

Intertwined with that is Bob’s narcissism, in which he does his utmost to avoid accountability. Even in the rare cases where he admits to wrongdoing, he either tries to charm his way back, or he apologizes solely in order to shut things down and move on. In those cases, he still does his best to duck things, including offering non-apologies like, “I’m sorry you were upset.” 

Thus, with Dysfunctional Bob soon packing off to Jekyll Island, there is little incentive for him to behave in an ethical manner. Given that his primary motivating factor over time is to obtain adulation, admitting to his misconduct would only serve to cut into his narcissistic supply, while confirming what a number of current and former parishioners have know about Bob for some time, wbich is that he is a hot mess. Lots of fine words, plenty of smiles and friendly behavior to people’s faces, but right behind it all lurks Dysfunctional Bob’s narcissism, lies, gaslighting, and manipulative behavior.

Nor has Dysfunctional Bob learned anything from all of this, as evidenced by his little tantrum along Russell Road. Even now, with Grace continuing to shed members, Bob still foolishly thinks screaming and yelling will accomplish something.

Of course, the best going away gift Dysfunctional Bob could give the church would be to actually lead by example. But even if Bob suddenly decided to actually be a priest, 30 years of his misconduct isn’t going to be undone with a few weeks of Christian behavior.

In Jeff Chiow’s case, there are other factors at work. Having claimed to be representing both Bob Malm and the parish in the role of legal counsel, Sugarland has ethical obligations to both. As a result, one can argue that, absent Bob’s permission, Jeff cannot publicly disclose Bob’s perjury and other malfeasance. But Jeff can and should disclose his own courtroom fabrications, which include false statements of both law and fact. And I suspect that, while few would come right out and say it, the relatively advancing age of the parish leads to a certain unease when it comes to Bob and Jeff’s decision to drag a dying woman into court. Something about what goes around comes around.

Of course, Jeff’s antics have caused tremendous reputational damage to the church. Bob can tell vestry members that I’m a “sad individual, starving for attention,” and otherwise try to discredit me, but the really ugly stuff involving Jeff, including his claims that the church is threatened by “domestic terrorists,” are all in writing and available for all the world to see. 

Moreover, there’s no way Jeff can deny that he tried to subpoena a dying woman, conveniently ignored the relevant rules of civil procedure when he tried to get the Venango County Court of Common Pleas to issue a subpoena not authorized by Pennsylvania law, and more. Not to mention supporting Bob Malm’s facially obvious courtroom fabrications, including taking words out of context in order to support his claim that he has been threatened.

Thus, Sugarland is unlikely to be able to sidestep the fallout from his misconduct. Not only can prospective clients assess for themselves Jeff’s judgment and integrity as an attorney, but he and his family likely will remain part of the Alexandria community for the foreseeable future. In that context, they  will face questions over time as Grace Church faces further challenges due to Jeff’s conduct. And if parishioners are true to form, sooner or later they will blame Jeff for the church’s woes and take their frustrations out on him and his family. Hardly fair to go after his wife and kids, but that is the way Grace rolls, as Mike knows all too well.

Speaking of kids, Jeff also has the issue of the example he sets for his own kids. Does he really think his kids are going to see the online documentation of his actions and learn positive lessons? I doubt Jeff is introspective enough to really parse these issues, but I also don’t think he should be surprised when his kids conclude they have little use for organized religion.

To Jeff’s credit, he is somewhat more cognizant of the damage that Grace is suffering due to Bob’s conduct. But like Bob, he thought he could bully his way through the issue, when what he should have done was to advise Bob that 1) It’s not a great idea to serve as both attorney and parishioner, and 2) Bob is foolish to try to use the a protective order as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). (These are lawsuits intended to stop public criticism.) With that, Jeff should have declined representation. That said, Jeff has nowhere near that level of common sense and good judgment, and he undoubtedly faced a lot of manipulation from Bob, who is masterful when it comes to these issues.

At the end of the day, it’s probably a safe bet that neither Dysfunctional Bob nor Sugarland Chiow are going to turn over a new leaf any time soon and show a little integrity, or conduct themselves like Christians.