Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Leafleting This Week

Later this week I will leafleting a large swath of the city, with a focus on a high-value area near King Street. Efforts likely will spill into next week, but I plan to do another 1,000 homes in short order. 

I’m also gearing up to increase visibility coming into the holidays, including ramping up at shopping areas and near Metro stations.

Fun times!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Planning to Pledge This Fall? If So, Remember that Grace Episcopal’s Vestry Lies to Its Members

Know anyone else who’s gotten an email like this from Bob Malm?

And remind me, why exactly did Bob Malm direct Mike to leave?

Any church whose vestry lies to parishioners is one you should avoid at all costs.

My advice, worth exactly what you paid for it.








Great Description of Grace Church, Dysfunctional Bob and Sugarland Chiow at Work

Following is an excellent post by Wade Mullen, an expert on abusive clergy and seminary instructor. 

Spot on, and exactly the tactics that Dysfunctional Bob and Sugarland Chiow use. Grace church members love these tactics as well as they conveniently ignore Bob’s perjury, while urging me to “move on.” Or they flip me off, willfully blind to their role in the church’s misconduct, ranging from turning a blind eye to tacit approval.

Grace church, toxic church. Grace church, the clergy perjury parish.




Sunday, October 6, 2019

Heaven Help Us: More on Interims and Organizational Narcissism




In earlier posts, I discussed organizational narcissism and the challenges it poses for an interim and Grace church. This article more fully explores these concepts, with an emphasis on the difficulties organizations face when they seek to change.

So what is organizational narcissism? (Note that we are here referring to the high self-esteem variant. There are others.)

A concept in organizational psychology, the term describes an organization that is unable to behave ethically because it lacks a moral identity. While such organizations may not be intentionally unethical, they become self-obsessed and use a sense of entitlement, denial, and rationalizations to justify anything they do. Source: Duchon, D. & Drake, B. J Bus Ethics (2009) 85: 301. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-9771-7. As a result, the organization is blind to its flaws and weaknesses.

While academic research into organizational narcissism in churches is limited, experts are in agreement on two key points:
  1. Such organizations find it profoundly hard to change.
  2. While narcissistic organizations may adopt ethics and other policies, such efforts will have little effect.
Industrial psychologists also note that such organizations often are headed by a narcissist, in many instances adopting their persona. And all organizations, just like humans, have personalities, learned behaviors, and ways to respond to stress, problems, and challenges. In short, organizations have personalities, and can choose to act in an ethical manner, or not.

And so it is with Grace. Bob Malm and the church both, in my opinion, lack moral identities. Both use a sense of entitlement, denial and rationalizations to justify anything they do. Both have behaved in ways that to outsiders are shocking and unethical, including:
  • Committing perjury
  • Making false police reports
  • Proferring false statements of fact and law in court
  • Trying to subpoena a dying woman in violation of state law
  • Referring to those entrusted to their pastoral care as “domestic terrorists,” “sick,” “twisted,” and “sad individual[s], starving for attention.” (Projection, anyone?)
  • Lying to members
Indeed, one of the reasons that Grace church has gotten away with these behaviors to the extent it has is that these behaviors are so over the top; few readily believe that a church would engage in such conduct, particularly in a hierarchical organization like The Episcopal Church.

Similarly, just like an individual narcissist, Grace church demonstrates little introspection, either on an individual or collective level. For example, parishioners fail to see the laughable irony when they leave Mass on Sunday, having just made their confession, and flip off protesters. Nor has there been any organizational demand for accountability by Dysfunctional Bob or Sugarland Chiow. Indeed, the parish saw the former off with a celebration of his 30 years of “ministry.” Yes, there were many good aspects of Bob’s tenure, but any situation in which it’s okay to commit perjury and bully the dying is hardly cause for celebration, even when taken as a whole.

So where does that leave things? Like the alcoholic who tells herself that, “I can stop any time,” Grace church is in denial. Beautiful liturgy and cordial relations with fellow parishioners mask the underlying reality, which is that the parish is a hot mess. And just as narcissists create a false image for themselves that they present to others, so too does Grace Church create a beautiful illusion of a friendly, welcoming place.

Moreover, just as telling an alcoholic that she has a problem rarely goes well, so too will the interim who steps into the breach discover that efforts to fix problems at Grace are unwelcome. First will come the inevitable comparisons to Bob, then the fun and games with the altar guild and choir, eventually leading to the new person being declared the source of all the church’s woes. “Things were fine when Bob was here, so it’s obviously the interim’s fault,” will be the refrain, conveniently forgetting that things were far from fine.

Even worse, the one person who potentially could help the parish move through these issues has checked out. Much like the bishop had to write a letter  to ask parishioners not to visit Bob Malm during his recovery unless specifically asked to do so, Susan Goff may be the one person who could step in, speak at a parish meeting, ask people to tone it down, to be open to new approaches, and to fix long-standing problems. But with +Shannon having weighed in to express his full support of Dysfunctional Bob, doing so involves an implicit repudiation Goff’s none-too-successful predecessor. Nor is the diocese great at issues of this sort: Even on how way out the door, +Shannon proclaimed that everything was going well at the diocese, despite the fact it clearly was not.

Additionally, +Goff refuses to respond to emails about Bob’s misconduct and reneged on Pat Wingo’s offer to be a resource following our meeting in Fredericksburg, Thus, she has scant credibility and zero first-hand knowledge of my issues, or the larger issues in the parish, which center on power, abuse, respect, the baptismal covenant, and the notion of being the Body of Christ. And after providing the diocese with multiple opportunities to help work towards reconciliation, I want nothing to do with those knuckleheads. Indeed, the diocese appears best suited to meaningless liturgies and laments over slavery and racial injustice, and reflections on reproductive rights. Real social justice has proven repeatedly to “not be of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” Plus, with membership in The Episcopal Church plummeting, these days the church is too small for anyone to care what it thinks anyway.

My advice to interims: Think twice. Even a highly skilled and very determined expert in interim ministry faces a daunting task, plenty of stress and anxiety, and potentially lasting damage to her or his personal and professional reputation.

Happy Sunday!

Well, another Sunday morning on Russell Road as I protest 1,030 feet from Grace Episcopal.

Not long ago, Dysfunctional Bob rolled past. True to form, he drove on the wrong side of the road, although this time he didn’t stop to threaten me. 

Sadly enough, only one Grace parishioner contributed to my Begin With Grace video. Gotta love those one-gun salutes to Jesus!

Meanwhile, given this Sunday’s forum, which is an update on the search for an interim, I offer this small contribution to the conversation: A screen cap in which Mom’s attorney expressed his opinion that Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow and Grace Church are “coming at you with a personal vendetta.”

Grace claims to be a “center for healing.” So physician, heal thyself.

And prospective interims, beware. This is the mess that BM leaves behind.






Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Follow-Up Email to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Following the childish antics of Grace parishioners while I protested outside Dysfunctional Bob’s farewell, I sent the following email to bishop Susan Goff and several diocesan officials.

* * * *

As you may be aware, I continue to protest Bob Malm’s perjury and Grace Episcopal’s organizational misconduct, while being careful to remain beyond 1,000 feet from the church and the Malm residence. Most recently, I protested outside Bob’s farewell, held this past Sunday at the church; my protests will continue indefinitely.

With that in mind, please make sure that clergy and parishioners at Grace understand that I am exercising my rights under Virginia’s anti-stalking statute, found at https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter4/section18.2-60.3/, Specifically, I do not wish to be contacted or threatened by any member of the parish, including clergy, parishioners, and staff, and am prepared to file criminal charges against any person who ignores this request, including Bob Malm and members of his family.

Note that the Rev. David Crosby continues to feel the need to contact me. Given Bob’s courtroom claim that I am a “domestic terrorist,” one would assume that Crosby would maintain a distance adequate to ensure his personal safety.

Similarly, the six members of the parish who rolled past last Sunday while making obscene gestures do themselves, the parish, and the diocese no favors. Indeed, the video footage of these persons that I captured and uploaded to the web has generated considerable discussion of organizational health, both at the church and within the diocese, and none of it has been positive.

On a similar note, the elderly parishioner who rolled up and offered to fight me, only to drive off when I pointed out that I had arranged a police detail, who was watching from a short distance away, should not threaten me again. Should he do so, I will immediately take legal action.

Lastly, I offer the observation that the online comments from Bob’s family, friends, and parishioners are causing lasting damage to the church’s reputation. These include various ad hominem attacks, including that I:
  • Am mentally ill, a notion that Bob assiduously promoted among parishioners and diocesan staff.
  • Have AIDS.
  • Physically abuse my husband Mike, who was received into the Episcopal Church in 2014, married me there, and was forced out of the church by Malm in 2015.
  • Am sexually attracted to Bob.
  • Left the parish on my own, a claim that Bob and the vestry falsely made to church members in their 2017 written talking points.
  • Engaged in criminal conduct while on the church’s vestry.
Leaving aside the mockery these actions make of the baptismal covenant, several of these comments are defamatory, and I am prepared to pursue all appropriate legal remedies against the relevant parties, including the diocese.

I therefore ask that you ensure that all involved understand that I wish no further contact with the parish or those associated with it.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Eric Bonetti

Dear Grace Church





Things I Think, by the Rev. Michael Newnham

The other day, I was thinking about the organizational narcissism of Grace Church under Dysfunctional Bob. Specifically, the church imposes no accountability on Dysfunctional Bob when he doesn’t do his job, commits perjury, or tries to drag a dying woman into court. It does nothing to address the matter when Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow, and the vestry lie to church members, telling them that Mike and I left on our own. And yet members of the parish feel that somehow I have an obligation not to share my experiences or, as one parishioner put it, I “ just need to get a job.”

At about the same time, I came across the following post by the Rev. Richard Newnham, an Anglican priest and noted publisher. (I use Anglican in the sense of belonging to one of the ACNA churches. Thus, while I don’t agree with his overall worldview, I had a very pleasant albeit brief exchange with him via email when I asked for reprint permission.)

The post does an excellent job of correlating abuse of power in churches and the resulting decline in organized religion.

Check it out.

1. I talk a lot about how the “business model” has usurped the “family model” of church governance…the “congregation” has replaced “employees” and they have as much say about how the church is run as the average corporate employee has…none…

2. This is always highlighted when there is some sort of issue or scandal…information and influence (as well as decisions) are cloistered only among the chosen few and control of information is a paramount concern…

3. Controlling information is a primary concern because it serves the ultimate concern…preserving the leadership…

4. It has always struck me as strange that in the place where the importance of truth is held as sacred, that some truths are considered too true for the congregation to know…

5. In business and in church the primary benefits accrue to the “owners” and the employees and congregations are simply means to those ends…

6. I’ve never run a story where I didn’t have to use confidential sources because telling the truth was such a risk to the one speaking truth…some truths are too true for management…

7. I’ve lost count of how many people I’m friends with who can’t take the risk of anyone finding out they’re friends with me…in the church…

8. The “successful” modern pastor is one who can create the illusion of a family that may save him when the business has a scandal…it’s still just an illusion…

9. Pastors who fall betray God and their congregations…the congregations usually then betray each other by standing with the one who has fallen or abused instead of with those abused…

10. I’m guessing that those who have left the church over the abuse of power or people comprise one of the biggest and fastest growing “denominations” in the country…

Find the original post here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Potential Interims, Check it Out: More Ugly Comments from the Grace Episcopal Crowd

You really have to hand it to the crowd at Grace Episcopal: Even as the church implodes, they keep up the same ugly rhetoric that got them in trouble in the first place. Meanwhile, our good buddy Lisa G., aka Lisa Gardner, just can’t get it through her head that, even if everything she says were true, this isn’t the way to handle it. But hey, she’s a Christian.

She’s also profoundly stupid. If you’re going to post defamatory content, don’t proffer details that would identify yourself.

Nor does Lisa recognize that her argument is a tu quoque logical fallacy. No matter how you parse it, Bob Malm is a perjurer. Lisa can toss out every ad hominem attack out there, but Bob Malm is still a perjurer.

Wonder how long before Grace drops to 150 pledging units.

Prospective interims, beware. This sort of discourse is part and parcel of life at Grace Church following 30 years of Dysfunctional Bob.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Check it Out: Online Hatred From “Lisa G”


Check it out: More childish, hateful, homophobic online behavior on Fairfax Underground from user “Lisa G.,” a Grace church groupie.

Know any Lisa G’s at the church? The only one I know is Lisa G. Medley, who already has been called “childish and hateful” over at The Wartburg Watch, when she and Leslie Malm posted in response to one of Dee’s posts about my situation. In that case, both got called out for being liars.

Of course, that’s the great things about Fairfax Underground. Decades from now, folks can see for themselves how people at Grace Church talk to each other. They can then use this information to decide whether they wish to be involved with Grace Episcopal, aka St. Dysfunction.

Recent post:



Earlier post:

Breaking: Sven vanBaar, Former Candidate for Bishop Diocesan of Southern VA, Displays Questionable Ethics, Judgment

Some time ago, the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia elected the Rev. Susan B. Haynes as bishop diocesan. Because her consecration still must be approved by a majority of bishops in the House of Bishops, I wanted to make sure that diocesan officials understand the profound concerns I have about Sven’s qualifications. With that in mind, here is the email I sent to the search committee, together with the attachments.












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, September 27, 2019

Breaking News: Alexandria Police Department Cancels Church Security Detail

This just in: 

The Alexandria police department has rescinded its security detail for Grace Church on Sunday. This follows Dysfunctional Bob Malm’s explosive rage on Russell Road a few months ago, which was directed at me and extremely threatening. Bob’s conduct also was a violation of my express written request to him from December 2017 to have no further contact with me, and thus may have violated Virginia’s anti-stalking statute. Further, shortly after that, I received an email from an Episcopal priest warning me about Bob’s conduct. I therefore had requested a police detail this weekend, with the goal of preventing further irrational, threatening and potentially violent behavior from Bob Malm. 

Keep in mind too that Dysfunctional Bob appears to have other, larger issues, as evinced by his written statements, under oath, made while advised by legal counsel Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow, in which Bob falsely alleges that my mom, or someone purporting to be her, repeatedly set up appointments with him. This is either perjury on Bob’s part, or some sort of break from reality in which Bob can no longer separate fact from his fantasies. Either way, all the more reason to be wary of this very troubled individual.

Of course, if Dysfunctional Bob, Sugarland Chiow, or others have evidence to support Bob’s claim, I am happy to publish it. And no, I’m not holding my breath.

Below is a copy of the email from the police department.




Tonight’s Gala Reception for Bob Malm Underscores Why Many at Grace Church Deserve Bob Malm






Tonight’s gala reception for Bob Malm underscores why many at Grace Episcopal deserve exactly what they get. Meaning that they deserve Bob Malm, and all the baggage that comes with him, including his perjury, his multiple abuses of power, his bullying, his manipulation, and his feckless attitude towards being rector, despite being paid more than many senior denominational officials.






Christians are called towards peace, reconciliation, health, and healing. What they are not called to is turning a blind eye to misconduct. In the case of Dysfunctional Bob, examples of his misconduct are myriad, ranging from his indifference to the well-being of church employees to his inappropriate comments about those entrusted to his pastoral care.






Yet there will be plenty of people who will turn out tonight to swill wine, socialize, and to get all teary-eyed that Dysfunctional Bob will soon be packing it in, headed towards full-time life on the beach and golf course, replete with a defined benefit plan, paid for by the church, that far exceeds the retirement benefits most of us will receive.






Of course, by turning out, folks lend credibility to Bob and his conduct. At the same time, these same people make no effort to take seriously or address the trauma that Bob has caused people, including Mike and my mother, thus making them modern-day versions of the Scribes and Pharisees who looked the other way when confronted with someone who was suffering.






Ironically, karma has a way of fixing these things. Those who blindly support Bob, who think it’s okay to bully others, who behave badly towards other church members, will tend to attract equally toxic persons to their orbits. And by doing so, they will accelerate Grace Episcopal’s internal problems, while interjecting still more challenges into their own lives.






So, for those turning out to “celebrate” Bob Malm’s 30 years of misfeasance and nonfeasance, I say go for it. Birds of a feather....

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How Does This Square With Forcing Mike Out of The Church?

In his most recent sermon posted to the church website, perjuring priest Bob Malm bloviates on about caring for those who feel cast out. So how does that square with Bob Malm forcing Mike out out of the church?

Here is the relevant part of Bob’s sermon:

And here is Bob’s email, in which, in true passive-aggressive Bob Malm fashion, Bob announces that Mike needs to find a new church:


And here is a photo of Mike being received into the church 16 months earlier, along with our friends Tony and Diane. All three have left the church, along with me and the rest of my family.


So, I have this to say about Bob Malm’s sermon: Total BS. Absolute hypocrisy.

Upcoming Protests and Leafletting



Despite Dysfunctional Bob’s departure from Grace Church this Sunday, I will continue to protest and leaflet. Plans are to leaflet a stretch of King Street, as well as to protest at several of my favorite locations.

See you there!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Surviving.Church Relaunches


Surviving Church, my general blogging platform on church abuse, is back!

Operating under the twin domains of surviving.church and anglicanwatch.com, the site offers a non-evangelical approach to abuse, while welcoming diverse perspectives.

Content is both original and syndicated from a variety of sister blog, including Episcopal Cafe, the Wartburg Watch, Wade Mullen and more.

Early traffic is good, and I hope to start seeing comments within the first year. And, true to form, the predictable Chinese scanners are already scanning the site. What a world we live in!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Susie Saffelle’s Google Review of Grace Episcopal: My Response

Recently, Susie Saffelle, an active member of Grace Episcopal Church, updated her review of the church to say how positive her experience was with Bob Malm’s 30 years as rector. While I like and respect Susie, her comments are misplaced and immoral.



My response:

Susie conflates two words, friendly and faithful.

Bob Malm often can be, and is, friendly and engaging. He is good at playing the role of priest. He knows how to look like a priest. He often acts like a priest. To the average person in the pew, he is a solid priest.

But scratch the surface and you discover a very different reality. Like all narcissists, Bob’s charm, his seeming kindness, and his other positive attributes are all just an act. The real Bob, lurking right beneath the surface:
  • Lies under oath, otherwise known as commits perjury.
  • Tries to drag the dying into court.
  • Bullies my husband out of the church, received into it just 16 months earlier.
  • Ignores utter chaos, including hoarding and bullying, in the church office for more than a decade.
  • Shows little use for the food pantry, the homeless shelter, or other service to those in need.
  • Bullies the vestry into an outrageously generous compensation that exceeds that of even senior bishops in the denomination.
  • Manipulates parishioners.
  • Engages in smear campaigns.
  • Refers to those entrusted to his pastoral care as “sick,” “twisted,” and dysfunctional.”
  • Calls Jan Spence an “asshole.”
  • Refers to Lisa Doelp as, “like a little spy.”
  • Violates confidentiality repeatedly.
  • Conducts a multi-year vendetta against me and my family, disregarding the effect his actions have on the church he purports to serve.
Jesus’ comments are spot on:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Nor can one ignore Bob’s actions. Jesus overturned tables in the temple when confronted with hypocrisy, and loudly criticized the Scribes and Pharisees. People like Susie, however, turn a blind eye, and thus are complicit in Bob’s misconduct. And those who provide financial support to the parish are endorsing Bob’s actions. Nor is there anything “sacred” about a parish that condones such actions.

Here is what abuse expert Dr. Diane Langberg says:


And below is an example of the results of Bob Malm’s thirty years of “ministry,” posted by a now college-aged member of the parish:


Nor am I the only one to have these experiences.



In closing, note Susie’s use of the phrase, “At the helm,” which reflects the rampant clericalism of the parish. Bob should not be regarded as being “at the helm.” As a priest, Bob is there to serve the parish community, not the other way around. It is time for members of the church to take responsibility for the bull crud that goes on in the parish and address these matters, versus turning a blind eye on the basis that they are the rector’s responsibility, then invoking the notion that “we all have our faults.”

Grace church is a toxic church, and it is toxic because people allow it to be toxic. That is the bottom line.

Signs of the Times: Malm’s Farewell Reception is Pay-to-Play



Observant members of Grace Church may have noticed something about the upcoming gala farewell reception for perjuring priest Bob Malm: It’s pay-to-pay. That stands in marked contrast to Chris Byrne’s farewell, in which both the church and the school ponied up several thousand dollars for a catered reception, with the church funds drawn from management reserves. The change highlights both the shoddy management of Dysfunctional Bob’s reign, as well as the new financial realities facing the church.

To be clear, the decision to draw on savings to pay for a farewell party for Chris was stupid on multiple fronts. First, Chris was not a particularly effective head of school. Her approach to management alienated staff, parents, and parishioners alike, and her empire building led many to question the wisdom of having a school. Second, a catered party for Chris featuring barbecue from an outside vendor sends an unfortunate message to church staff, who typically get a sheet cake during coffee hour when they left. Why Chris would warrant a $6,000 reception when church staff got a $35 sheet cake is beyond me. Third, entertainment appropriately is paid for out of free cash flow, not savings, nor from borrowing. In other words, any church with money to pay $100,000 bonuses to Dysfunctional Bob, and pay for $6,000 farewell parties, all while cutting health insurance benefits to church staff and their dependents is both seriously screwed up, and surely needs neither my money, nor yours.

Of course, the underlying point about health insurance for church employees, many of whom are underpaid to begin with and cannot afford to live in Northern VA absent a second income, continues to hold true. Church members can pony up to get smashed at Shrine Mont, and to attend a gala reception for Dysfunctional Bob, but they can’t find money to pay for full health insurance for the human beings who make their little stained glass paradise run? That is truly sad and unethical.

Meanwhile, pay-to-play underscores the new rules of the road. Grace Church needs to get its act together, its priorities straight, and start behaving like a church. That includes not wasting money on self-indulgent, unnecessary luxuries like parties.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Party With Perjuring Priest Bob Malm!

Join perjuring priest Bob Malm Friday, September 27 at Grace Episcopal for an adults-only reception, celebrating 30 years of Bob’s so-called ministry—spreading the Good News of Jesus, one beach at a time.




DioSVA Norms: Anything But Normative At Grace Episcopal

One of the troubling things about Grace Church aka St. Dysfunction under Bob Malm is the way in which people talk to and about each other. With that in mind, check out the norms of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, which I adapted and used with permission while heading up the non-profit. 

Of particular interest is the request that people bring up issues only with those able to do something about it. Contrast that with parishioners who, encouraged by Bob Malm, speculate on my mental health and motives, while never once raising the issue with me. Kemp Williams, Jean Reed: Here’s looking at you.







Thursday, September 19, 2019

Perjuring Priest Bob Malm Allegedly Hires Off-Duty Police for His Final Day As Rector



Breaking News: Reliable Sources Report Dysfunctional Bob Has Hired a Police Detail for His Last Sunday



This just in:

Perjuring priest Bob Malm, who will hold his last service at Grace Church at 10 AM Sunday, September 29, allegedly has hired an off-duty police officer for the day. This puts him on a par with other illuminaries of The Episcopal Church, including ++Michael Curry, who had a detail present when he preached in Charlottesville followed the fascist rallies in the city.

Perhaps the church’s time, money and effort would be better spent putting a stop to Bob Malm’s perjury.

In the meantime, the news underscores that Bob Malm continues his games as church giving and attendance plummet, and even on his final day with the church.

All the more reason to take a pass on Grace Episcopal Church and Bob’s circle of flying monkeys.

And it’s interesting to note: Bob claims that the church has been threatened, but even after being ordered by a court to do so, refuses to specify what was said that was threatening. That is in addition to his perjury, in which he stated that my mom, or someone claiming to be her, contacted him repeatedly. That simply did not happen.

As for church members who blindly dismiss these inconvenient truths as fabrications or, to use Easter Thompson’s phrase, “Things that didn’t happen,” the documentation is right here, on this site. If they are foolish enough to disregard the clear evidence of Bob’s misconduct, then they deserve a bully and perjurer for priest.

Bob Malm, perjuring priest.

Grace Episcopal, toxic church.

Looking for Jesus? You Won’t Find Him in the Discourse at Grace Church

As Grace Church prepares for Dysfunctional Bob’s departure and the arrival of an interim rector, one thing is painfully clear: Any interim brave enough (or perhaps foolish enough) to take the position has her work cut out for her. Specifically, after 30 years of Dysfunctional Bob and his sordid example, the way people in the church talk about each other, and to each other, is appalling.

To be sure, it took me a long time to spot this issue myself. Indeed, it was a member of the Grace Episcopal School staff, herself Episcopal, who pointed it out to me in 2014. Her exact words: “I would never belong to your church, and it’s because of the way people talk to each other. And it goes right to the top. And I’ll tell you right now, Bob will never say anything about it. And because he engages in a certain amount of it himself, he shows people that it’s alright.”

At the time, I foolishly came to Bob’s defense; it was more than a year later before I finally realized that she was absolutely correct.

Now, with the advantage of hindsight, and having seen firsthand that Dysfunctional Bob is morally bankrupt and a perjurer as well, I realize that this ugly discourse does indeed permeate every aspect of Grace Church. Whether it’s Alison Campbell and her fun and games with the altar guild; Lisa Medley and her bullying/bitchy behavior; Teresa Preston and her gestures that indicate she believes I’m mentally ill; Eric Waskowiscz, Amy Medrick and others with their one-gun salutes to Jesus, or Bob Malm in his emails to the vestry and the diocese, there is a profoundly un-Christian attitude within the church that comes to the surface when parishioners talk to each other.

Before we go further, I am not the only one to notice it. Kyle Babin, himself the target of bullying by choir members, called it an “evil spirit” at Grace Church.  Former member John Cunningham posted to Facebook, saying he left the parish due to bullying and other abusive conduct (screen cap below).



Additionally, folks at the Wartburg Watch commented on ugly comments from Lisa Medley and Leslie Malm; the former didn’t even have the courage to post under her name. Their comment: “[these parishioners] seem sane to themselves, they seem immature and hateful to outsiders looking at their behavior.” (Screen cap below)


Going right to the top, we have Dysfunctional Bob’s email to the vestry, in which he describes me as a “sad individual...starving for attention.” While this is an interesting bit of projection from Bob Malm, who regularly curries adulation in order to support his shaky sense of self, the fact the he feels comfortable talking about a former parishioner to the vestry in this manner is telling and illustrates the church culture that Bob has promoted during his 30 years with the parish. (Screen cap below.)




Of course, there also is the comment from a college-aged member of Lisa Medley’s family, in which she urges me to commit suicide. (Screen cap below.)


So what can an interim do to address this situation? Establishing written norms would be helpful, but unpacking and fixing 30 years’ of Dysfunctional Bob’s toxic behavior and lessons learned within the parish about conflict resolution will probably take professional intervention. Even then, it’s an uphill battle, and both the diocese and church members like to sweep such issues under the rug and deny that an issue exists. Indeed, toxic parishioners like Lisa Medley not only deny that an issue exists, but also attack anyone who raises these issues. (Screen cap below.)



It should also be noted that Dee Parsons, publisher of the Wartburg Watch, herself experienced Bob Malm’s efforts at bullying and manipulating her. First, Bob tried the noisy bluster approach, which didn’t work at all. Then he tried flattery. Then he tried manipulation, claiming that Dee had promised to take down any posts about me, all the while ignoring Dee’s recommendation to work towards reconciliation.

As one looks at other correspondence from within the parish, including Jean Reed’s speculation that I am mentally ill, as well as former friend Kemp Williams comments, one reaches the same conclusion that user Ishy, a commenter on the Wartburg Watch, came to as she asked church members:

“What kind of Christians are you? I don’t see any love or concern for Eric in your posts. I don’t see that you tried to do anything about it other than make sure Eric couldn’t come back either. (Emphasis added. Original in screen cap above.)

That conclusion holds true for Bishop Susan Goff on down to the Grace Church vestry and membership. Nowhere is there any evidence of any real concerns including for Mike and my other family members hurt by Bob Malm’s conduct, and that of the church. 

So, if you are a prospective interim and you are reading this, just know that if you take the job you are going to have one toxic mess on your hands, and one that requires professional outside intervention.

On the other hand, if you are a church leader reading this and contemplating hiring Bob Malm as supply clergy, you should know that this is part of the baggage that comes with Bob Malm. Caveat emptor.

Lastly, if you are a prospective member, it is important to know that right behind the beautiful, friendly exterior, this is the sort of internal rot that runs rampant at Grace Church. If you join the parish, this is part of the package deal. To quote Proverbs, “in the tongue is the power of life and death.”

Grace Church is just plain bad karma.




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Disgraceful Waste: Bob Malm Flushes $2 Million of Church Funds Down the Toilet on His Personal Residence

Speaking of dysfunction, in 2014 the Grace vestry decided to write off half of the value of a loan it had made 10 years earlier to Bob Malm. The loan had been provided so that Bob could purchase a private residence. But writing off half the loan, especially at a time when the church was in relatively dismal financial condition, was a bad and irresponsible decision, as we’ll see below. And before you ask, as a vestry member, I was the sole person to vote no on the forgiveness, which amounted to $100,000 of a $200,000 loan.

But there’s more to it than just the loan. As we’ll see below, the loan is just the tip of the iceberg in a series of spectacularly ill-advised business decisions made by the vestry at Bob Malm’s urging. In this matter, Bob placed his perceived personal interests ahead of those of the parish he claims to serve, while the vestry lost sight of its fiduciary obligations.

First, an important disclaimer, which is that a loan for a personal residence is the one exception to the canonical prohibition on churches lending money to their clergy. Thus, there is nothing inherently wrong about a church lending its rector money for the down payment for a personal residence.

That said, it is important to note that, at the time Bob decided to buy a personal residence, he resided in a perfectly livable rectory, much larger than his current home. Yes, it needed work, perhaps as much as $200,000 worth, but it was comfortable, convenient, and owned free and clear by the church.

But Bob appears to have had it in his head that if he had his own place it would be a nest egg for retirement. That of course, presupposes adequate maintenance and upkeep—neither of which has happened in practice. Thus, Bob traded a large, poorly maintained home for a small, poorly maintained home, all while spending a small mountain of donated cash. Nice move, Bob. 



So, despite considerable misgivings and resistance on the part of the vestry, Bob bludgeoned a proposal through the vestry to help him buy a private residence. This he did by dint of much noisy argument, and by remaining present during the vestry vote on the matter, with the result that more than one vestry member feared that, if they voted no, they would face retaliation. Yes, imagine that.

But the proposal went further. At Bob’s urging, the church tore down the rectory, an asset with a value of roughly $700,000, at an all-in demolition cost of about $200,000. (Such projects are surprisingly costly.) Thus, the parish was down about $900,000, of which roughly $200,000 was a wash versus the cost of updating the rectory.

To get Bob into his new residence, the parish extended what was then a $100,000 loan for the down payment, and boosted Bob’s total compensation via a housing allowance and other perks from a little more than $70,000 a year, plus the use of the rectory, to a total well more than double the original figure.

To make matters worse, the original loan amortized accrued interest. In other words, the loan just sat there like Jabba the Hut, getting bigger and bigger over time, with no payments or interest due. Thus, Bob’s personal residence needed to increase in value by 7% every year if the loan was not to erode any potential profit that Bob would make at the time he resold the house. Hardly a done deal in the best of times, and a very tall order indeed for a small, older home with few updates and much deferred maintenance.



Jabba would look better with a hair transplant, don’t you think?

When the note first matured in 2009, Bob already had signaled that he would likely seek another position, one in a different church. But it appears that Bob did not find another church willing to match his insanely generous compensation package, nor provide a laissez-faire governance regime in which, to closely paraphrase one of Bob’s former assistant rectors, “Bob could get away with murder.” So, in true Grace Church fashion, the vestry decided to add insult to injury for all parties and kick the can down the road. The maturation date on the loan was set back another five years, conveniently ignoring the deferred maintenance and interest that was piling up on Bob’s personal residence and thus eroding the parties’ equity in the property.

By this time, Bob still had made not a single payment of interest or principal. Making monthly payments, regardless of the imprudent terms of the loan, would of course have been sensible, but Bob has never been one to let such niceties intrude. As a result, when the loan matured in 2014, the value of the loan had ballooned to $200,000, double its original size.

So, in 2014, the vestry decided to “solve” things by writing off $100,000 of the loan, in recognition of Bob’s years of “service,” and requiring repayment of the original loan over a five-year period. That’s right—the church walked away from the original deal and gave Bob a $100,000 bonus. Keep in mind, too, Bob is far from stupid. He knew full well what he was getting into. So, why should he not have been held to the terms and conditions to which he agreed?

There are, of course, circumstances under which this may have been appropriate. For example, if the parish were awash in a sea of cash. Or if Bob’s job performance were exemplary. As in, if he adhered to the terms of his letter of agreement. Or grew the parish. Or had regular mutual ministry reviews. But the reality is that, while Bob can be engaging on an interpersonal level, he views being a priest as, in the words of someone close to him, “Just a job.” So no need to get too caught up in notions of Christian charity—that’s not part of Bob’s worldview, and I can tell you firsthand he doesn’t extend that approach to others.

Bob Malm’s Mediocre Job Performance

Moreover, Bob’s attitude towards being a priest is reflected in his work performance. Consider:
  1. For years, parish business records were a hot mess. 
  2. One of the parish registers has gone missing. 
  3. For more than a decade, church financial records were facially disorganized, and no audit was done, nor was any meaningful effort made to clean up the books. (The parish does an agreed-upon procedures review, which has no external attestation value. In other words, it doesn’t prove anything, but instead recites information provided by the client.) 
  4. Staff has often behaved badly, and one staff member was a hoarder. Bob consistently refused to address these issues.
  5. There still is no strategic plan.
  6. Bob comes and goes pretty much as he pleases; there have been times when he has taken leave far in excess of that permitted under his letter of agreement, and without vestry approval.
  7. Basic canonical requirements, such as a written finance manual, are still not in place, more than 25 years after Bob started his job. (See the Manual of Methods in Church Business Affairs for this and other requirements that Bob has conveniently ignored.)
  8. Even his sermons have become pointedly short, and more than one parishioner has said that Bob seems thoroughly burned out. Bob has become both increasingly lackadaisical and autocratic, while appearing convinced that he is somehow special. Yes, he can turn on the superficial charm when he chooses to, but that’s all it is — superficial charm. I mean, if Bob really cares about the church and its people, as some members claim, why the dysfunction and the indifference? And it’s not like there’s any dearth of folks who’d be willing to help fix things; many parishioners are both intelligent and highly skilled.
Where does that leave things? As things stand, Bob is paid better than a great many Episcopal bishops. For example, below are 2017 salaries for bishops on the staff of the presiding bishop, including Todd Ousley, the bishop in charge of pastoral development:

Nor does locality account for Bob’s overly generous compensation. See, for example, data below for priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which has some of the highest salaries in the country:


Another data point is reflected below, which is the Church Pension Group’s (CPG) 2016 salary survey of Episcopal churches of Province III, which reveals that Bob is compensated at annual rate more than 40 percent higher than comparable clergy in the region (look at the Program category)—and that is without factoring in his $100000 bonus in 2014! (CPG’s numbers include housing and any bonuses paid; the imputed value of a rectory is included).



Bob has about another year of payments left on the original $100,000 loan; meanwhile, the church (including its component entity, the school) is preparing to spend $1.2 million on HVAC improvements that will primarily benefit the school, with half the money coming from the church. The faux slate roof needs to be replaced, the stained glass windows need costly restoration, the parking lot needs repaved, and the original elevator needs to be overhauled.

The Debacle by the Numbers

Total Loss to Grace Episcopal Church, 2004-2018
Total
-$2,000,000.00
ItemCost
Loss of equity, rectory$700,000.00
Write-off, accrued interest$100,000.00
Total compensation increase, 14 years$1,200,000.00
Avoided costs, rectory repairs$200,000.00
Rectory tear-down costs$200,000.00

These numbers become particularly compelling when we look at the capital expenses and extraordinary costs the church will face in the next few years:

Anticipated Capital and Extraordinary Expenses, 2018-2021
Total
-$1,137,500.00
ItemCost
Miscellaneous HVAC repairs$45,000.00
HVAC replacement, church share$600,000.00
Elevator refurbishment, church share$30,000.00
Stained glass restoration$60,000.00
Parking lot repaving, church share$25,000.00
HVAC blueprints, church share$22,500.00
Faux slate roof replacement$60,000.00
Replace failed double-pane windows$40,000.00
Replace exterior rotted wood trim and rake boards$40,000.00
Replace obsolete fire alarm control panel$15,000.00
Contingency funds (needed for HVAC replacement and other major projects in light of facility age)$200,000.00

Outcomes

Keep in mind that, when all this work is done, there still will be major challenges with the building. For instance:
  • The nave still will not be able to maintain temperature during hot summer days or major events. 
  • Plumbing will still be obsolete, with piping in original parts of the building at actuarial end of life (for the record, copper pipes, which comprise most of the plumbing in the building, do not have an indefinite lifespan). 
  • Neither elevator will meet modern Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. 
  • There still will be no ADA-acessible entrance. That means not just a ramp, but Braille signage and an electro-mechanical door opening system to assist wheelchair users and others of limited mobility.
  • Interior directional signage will remain crude and non-ADA compliant.
  • Interior finish, notably much of the 1994 renovations, will still be at end of life. 
  • The commercial kitchen will still be obsolete.
  • Several local HVAC units will remain out, including the one in the rear fire tower.
  • The lower hallway under the original narthex will still lack adequate HVAC.
  • Humidity and temperature control in the undercroft will remain spotty at best due to poor air flow control and the oversized, 20-ton unit that services the space. As a result, summer humidity levels routinely exceed 70 percent, which is neither healthy, nor good for the grand piano and other musical instruments in the choir room.
Nor is the HVAC work likely to come in under budget. Builders are doing well right now, and with the third floor of the building out of service, it will be clear to bidders that the church has little leverage. Further, older buildings such as Grace’s physical plant have one consistent characteristic, and that is their ability to throw curve balls into the path of anyone doing capital improvements. In short, procurement under duress rarely is the most cost-effective procurement, and even more so in a building that is now more than 60 years old.

Nor do things look much better for Bob Malm. Although comparable homes in the area have appreciated by about $200,000 since the date of this purchase, the extent of deferred maintenance on Bob’s private residence, the antiquated layout, the very small size, the perilous exterior steps, the lack of landscaping, the original windows and the obsolete bathrooms leave Bob in a position where he will be lucky to break even. Moreover, despite the influx of donated cash, Bob’s penchant for lengthy vacations, expensive private schools for his children, cosmetic procedures, and other indicia of keeping up with the Hillers left the family in precarious financial condition for many years. See, for example, the judgment recorded in 2010 by Suntrust Bank,  now a matter of public record, six years after the church’s original loan, against Bob’s wife Leslie, for what appears to be an unpaid personal loan; it appears the default occurred on August 2009. (Source: Alexandria General District Court public records)



Similarly, public records reveal what appear to be unpaid dental bills for two of Bob’s children at about the same time; the cases were scheduled for hearing on 12/15/10, but the cases dismissed. My opinion: Getting your kids sued for medical bills is not cool. Actually, it’s pretty damned dysfunctional.  (Source: Fairfax County General District Court public records)


Rising interest rates, bad credit history, and the fact that the original mortgage has an adjustable interest rate also suggest that the house will get more costly over time. A re-fi may take some finagling, and terms for a new loan likely will not be great. So the entire transaction winds up looking even worse with the passage of time, not better.

At the end of the day, Bob engaged in a highly speculative real estate transaction, and now has been bailed out by the church for his remarkably bad business decision. It also is troubling that the loan to Bob was recorded off the books, not showing in the financial reports, for the first ten years. This raises some disturbing issues concerning financial transparency, candor, and accuracy of financial reports. If nothing else, why did the church’s “auditors” not insist that the underlying receivable be reflected in the financials? It is a basic premise of good governance that insider deals such as this be reported publicly. Again, why was this allowed to happen?

Summary

In summary, the church’s current financial posture is best described as a hot mess. Over time, Bob has increased the church’s carrying costs, while reducing its assets and eroding both giving and attendance. Yet the decline in the church’s financial position would be more than adequate to pay cash and carry for upcoming expenses, and even more so had the cash involved in underwriting Bob’s desired lifestyle been appropriately invested.

Meanwhile, the church is placing itself in existential peril, for its continuing declines in giving and attendance could well result in its being unable to meet its financial obligations as this wave of capital expenses hits in the coming years. And regardless of the ultimate outcome, the parish is out more than $2 million dollars as a result of Bob’s self-serving lack of business acumen. At the same time, it is shocking, appalling, and outrageous that Bob Malm should get both a 2014 bonus of $100,000, and annual compensation that exceeds that of many Episcopal bishops, given his feckless job performance. Even his decision to pursue a personal residence, at a time when he couldn’t so much as come up with a down payment, shows a remarkable lack of concern for the wellbeing of the parish and a dearth of common sense.