Reports from Mayo House indicate that an increasing number of Episcopalians are leaving the diocese for other denominations, and leaving the Christian faith altogether, over the continuing closure of churches in the diocese. Despite this, bishop Goff holds firm in her refusal to open the churches of the diocese. That in turn begs the question: Why is Goff so principled when it comes to health issues, yet so unprincipled when it comes to protecting and covering up Bob Malm’s perjury and other misconduct?
For the record, I support the decision to keep churches closed. The diocese, like all other members of the so-called “seven sisters” of the mainstream denominations, has a disproportionate number of older members when compared to the population at large. Thus, churches are particularly at risk for severe presentations of COVID-19. This is compounded by the fact that churches are considered super-spreaders due to the singing, physical contact, poor air circulation, and shared communion vessels. But the result is costly to the church, with more and more clergy reporting criticism from church members about the fact that holy communion has not been available since March.
Needless to say, I adamantly oppose Susan Goff’s coverup of Bob Malm’s perjury, Malm’s efforts to drag a dying woman into court, his multiple lies, his deliberate misuse of memorial funds, and more. In that situation, the church intake officer has said that the diocese “can’t get involved” in civil litigation. That’s interesting, because by Goff’s own admission, her decision to close the churches is at best a stretch of her canonical authority. Yet despite the express canonical proscription of conduct involving deceit and misrepresentation, set forth in Title IV, Goff remains unwilling to enforce canon law.
I suspect the key to sorting out this situation exists in the fact that Goff herself is at high risk during the pandemic due to age and chemotherapy. Indeed, one suspects that if her personal wellbeing were not implicated, Goff likely would prove far less principled.
Her role as an enabler also comes into play, for in recent clergy conference calls, Goff urges clergy to take vacation and Sabbath, saying that God rejoices in our relaxation.
I hate to break it Goff, but the average clergy person in the diocese is hardly in need of rest and relaxation. While many essential workers put on the PPE every day and trudge off to work, where they face an increasing number of hostile and aggressive individuals, your average priest in the diocese is “working” from home. Yes, they may call to check in on parishioners, and they may send and receive more email than usual, but the reality is that the endless parish meetings are now largely cancelled or virtual. Hospital visits are constrained, funerals are largely on hold, and weddings are at best abbreviated. In short, clergy are pretty much in a holding pattern, with many of their normal duties impossible for the time being. They are not being overworked. Yet they will in many cases be the last person left standing as church budgets continue their precipitous decline, thanks to the church’s runaway clericalism.
The result is a diocese that increasingly appears to be a narcissistic organization. Dedicated to its own comfort and convenience, the diocese loudly proclaims its commitment to the gospels, all while avoiding any sort of accountability. And its perception of itself is as a leader in racial reconciliation and healing, all while promoting civil discourse and a more just society. Yet in the same breath, the diocese expressly supports clergy perjury and other outrageous behavior of the worst sort. Simply put, Goff and her minions see themselves in a light utterly inconsistent with reality, even as the diocese increasingly lurches towards collapse.
Truly, a sad end for The Episcopal Church.