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

Friday, March 6, 2020

Grace Church Transition Process at Risk As Church Refuses to Deal With Bob Malm’s Perjury, Misconduct

Comment from Twitter about Bob Malm’s conduct. 
In September 2019, I authored a piece for Episcopal Cafe on the role of interim ministry in congregational health. The piece, developed with the assistance of a former canon to the ordinary and an expert on the interim process, noted that one of the steps in a successful interim ministry per the seminal Alban Institute study is a congregation coming to terms with its past.

In that regard — understanding and coming to terms with its past — Grace Church presently is failing on both scores. As a result, the parish, already in a state of precipitous decline, places itself at existential risk.

Specifically, I am referring to the need to recognize and put into context Bob Malm’s role within the parish. While many of the parishioners who remain regard Bob and his “ministry” with affection, the reality is rather more complex.

For example, Bob’s compensation package, bludgeoned past a reluctant vestry, starved the parish of funds needed to serve the needy, to reach out to the community, and to properly maintain its physical plant.

Similarly, Bob’s aloof but cordial brand of narcissism, combined with his sense of entitlement, his feckless but controlling approach to parish governance, his indifference to the ethical aspects of the church and its members, and his seemingly thin personal faith, all combined to create a parish very much built in Bob’s image. People are friendly and welcoming, but there is little attention to good governance, saving for the future, or living into the baptismal covenant.

Beyond that, much like Bob, the parish devotes much of its time and energy towards meeting its own needs and desires, often emphasizing near-term consumption. Money flows in rivers for flowers at the holidays, to get absolutely blotto at Shrine Mont, and for things like the reception after the Great Vigil. But funds are in short supply to maintain the original elevator, to repave the parking lot, to serve the poor and needy, or to fund the diocese and its outreach into the world.

Most troubling, however, is that the parish, vestry, and diocese have lost any claim to moral legitimacy as they support the pious fraud of Bob Malm’s perjury and other misconduct in his conflict with me,

Unlike Lenin and Stalin, who justified their conduct by arguing that the ends justified the means, Christianity holds to the notion that certain behaviors are always and everywhere wrong. Among them are various actions by the church and Bob Malm, including:
  • Attempting to drag the dying into court absent an absolutely compelling reason to do so.
  • Lying to police, local officials, and church members.
  • Committing perjury.
  • Going after Mike and others not even arguably guilty of any wrongdoing.
  • Urging people to commit suicide.
  • Engaging in smear campaigns involving claims of mental illness and criminal conduct.
Yet Grace Church and its leadership, aided and abetted by Sugarland Chiow and encouraged by Susan Goff and the other knuckleheads at the diocese, steadfastly refuse to acknowledge these sins or their role in them.

Or, when forced to deal with these matters, as in the current litigation, they try to sidestep things by pretending that I made all this up, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Just check out the dozens of Bob’s emails and other church records on this site.

Of course, that’s all part of the Malm paradigm. Deny, avoid, equivocate, attack — just don’t ever take responsibility. Or, if all else fails, make it sound good, pretend like you’re apologizing, then regroup and begin again. In other words, act like a narcissist.

In short, as Grace church moves into its sixth month of interim ministry, there are no signs to suggest that it understands, let alone has come to terms with, its past. Nor does it have any desire to do so. Or as Christine Cheevers put it, “[Bob Malm’s] gone.”

And that is exactly my point. Bob Malm is gone. Now it’s time to deal with his mess,.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

If Grace is Such a Slice of Paradise, Why is it Shedding Members? Further Reflections on the Church’s Organizational Narcissism

One of the noteworthy things about my conflict with Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal Church has been the extent of organizational narcissism in the church. This has been typified by the reactions of parishioners, who remain clueless about how their behavior appears to outsiders, while continuing to think that somehow it benefits the parish.

For example, consider the conduct of Sally Schneider, who rolled up to me one day and said, in her typically saccharine way, “Shame on you, Eric Bonetti,” repeating this several times. Sally has zero first-hand knowledge of the conflict, yet thinks she can wade in and pass judgment. Yet I’d be prepared to bet that she would not regard Bob Malm’s perjury as kosher, nor his attempt to drag a dying woman into court.

Similarly, Lisa Medley, who doesn’t even have the backbone to post comments under her own name, preferring instead handles like, “Long-time parishioner,” still can’t figure out why third parties look at her ad hominem attacks on me and respond with comments like, “This group of parishioners is circling the wagons and while they seem sane to themselves, they seem immature and hateful to outsiders who are looking at their behavior.”



The same holds true for Alison Campbell, who tells people that she is “just the messenger,” even as she uses the altar guild and others to try to cause trouble within the parish. She may think that somehow she’s benefitting the parish, Kelly Gable, or others, but the reality is she’s simply showing herself to be childish and hateful, while underscoring that Grace is toxic. 

Then we come to the Kemp Williams and Jean Reeds of the place, who are happy to gossip within the church about others and their perceptions of them, yet see no need to discuss those issues directly with the persons involved. Just spend a few minutes searching this blog and you will find examples of their truly ugly comments.

Also among the better examples of toxic behavior at Grace Church are the comments from a twenty-something in the parish, who urged me to commit suicide in the post below.





And of course, we cannot forget Sugarland Chiow, with his multiple false statements of law and fact to the courts, his inflammatory rhetoric, and his various courtroom fabrications, including that I never practiced law. Jeff claims that the church is threatened by “domestic terrorism,” yet brings his wife and children there on a regular basis. 

Nor can we forget Big Bad Bob, with his lying under oath (aka perjury), his lies to parishioners, and his false police reports. Truly, the ugly stuff rolls downhill.

Even more problematic is the fact that this sort of behavior is, for many, acceptable within the church. This underscores the organizational narcissism that exists at every level in the church. Yes, attendance and giving are at record lows in the parish, and yes, one-third of pledging units have stopped pledging in recent years. And many have left the parish altogether, preferring somewhere where the Ten Commandments aren’t just a bit of arcane trivia. But the fact remains that many continue to provide financial and other support for this toxic mess. Nor have any of the people identified above ever taken responsibility for their own conduct.

Thus far, parish leaders also have ignored the many things that could be done to address these issues. For example, the vestry could adopt a statement of normative behaviors, making clear the type of conduct that rightly should be present in any church. It could specifically address bullying. It could bring in outside experts in addressing conflict. Yet none of these things have happened, nor have they been discussed in any meaningful way.

Will Michael Guy and the vestry be up to the task? Can they drain the swamp that is Grace Episcopal? 

I doubt it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Shout Out To St. Gabriel’s, Marion Massachusetts



If you are a member or friend of St. Gabriel’s parish in Massachusetts and you are reading this, good for you. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll agree with the opinions in this post, my hope is that they will be helpful to you.

If you’ve come across this blog, you may be wondering where to start, and what this blog means.

Before we go further, let’s acknowledge something: Bob Malm can turn on the charm when he chooses to. He is intelligent, he can be engaging, he is articulate. He’s adept at telling people what they want to hear. Indeed, he has said that he would have chosen to be a politician if he had not become a priest, and he has many of the attributes needed to be successful as a politician.

At the same time, I believe you have a problem on your hands, one that places your church at risk. Far too often, churchgoers conflate friendly with faithful, but the two are not coterminous. Indeed, they may be opposites, and therein lies the danger.

Right behind Bob’s engaging demeanor exists a very different reality, which is that Bob is a priest in name only. In the past, he has lied under oath, attempted to drag my mother, dying of COPD, into court, lied to parishioners and his vestry, and more, all in the name of trying to shut down public criticism of his misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance during his time as rector of Grace Episcopal Church, his last job. 

Apropos his lies to his parish, he falsely stated that I left the church on my own. That is a lie, as evinced by the email, which you can find on this site, in which he directed my husband Mike and me to find a new church. You also will find a copy of my confirmatory email to Mike Jones, a fellow parishioner, in which Mike confirmed that Bob had contacted him to direct him to exclude me from the life of the parish. And Bob acknowledged during a meeting with bishop Shannon Johnston in Fredericksburg Virginia that this was a lie saying, “I don’t know what planet you live on, but when someone does something to me, I do something to them.” Also present in the room was Canon Pat Wingo.

Bob also was largely indifferent to the wellbeing of Grace Church. During his time as rector, the church office and business records were a shambles. Cash went AWOL without explanation, with thousands of dollars in loose cash and stale checks found in the parish administrator’s office after she left; she was a hoarder, and her space could best be described as a death trap. Additionally, church staff bullied parishioners, including me, Deborah Crabtree, and others, while Bob consistently turned a blind eye. Nor was Bob compliant with church canons—during my years at the church, the parish did not have a church finance manual as required by canon, despite Bob having been rector for more than 25 years. And yet Bob claims no one shirked their responsibility. 

Behind the scenes, Bob also causes unhealthy church dynamics, referring to parishioners as “assholes,” and “spies,” and other disparaging comments. In short, Bob models a lack of respect for the baptismal covenant that has caused more than one person to say, “I would never belong to your church, and it’s because of the way people talk to each other.”

Apropos these comments, Bob tells people that I am mentally ill, that I threatened him, and a whole bunch of other hogwash, all of which is part of a larger smear campaign on his part. Yet there is ample documentation of his misconduct on this site.

Most telling is the fact that during the last 5 years of Bob Malm’s tenure at Grace Church, the parish shed one-third of its pledging units, going from 317 units in 2014 to 208 last year.

Bob can lie and try to diminish criticism all he wants, but if Grace was such a slice of paradise under Bob Malm, why are people leaving?

I’d also note that, to my knowledge, Bob has no formal interim training. That is troubling, because a good transition minister has some very specific tasks ahead of her or him. I do not believe Bob is capable of achieving these goals.

Please do yourself a favor: Do your utmost not to let Bob Malm trash your parish. He’ll smile, give you hugs, and tell you that your church is a holy place, but behind the scenes he may well cause profound damage to your parish.