Tuesday, January 14, 2020

News: Looking Beyond Two Years


With the two-year anniversary coming up soon of perjuring priest Bob Malm’s bogus protective order, the question arises: What comes next? The answer is more protests, more lawsuits, and more leafletting. In short, I am far from done, and as long as clergy perjury parish Grace Episcopal and the diocese continue to not only turn a blind eye to Bob’s abusive behavior, but endorse it, I will continue to call them out on it.

Indeed, even as horrific as abuse in the Catholic Church is, it has the common sense to investigate allegations against clergy, and to not name buildings after abusers. But the Episcopal church does not care about abuse as long as it doesn’t result in criminal charges, and even named the Malm Narthex (aka Perjury Place) after Bob Malm, despite being fully aware of the latter’ s abusive conduct.

Remind me again why Bob forced Mike out of the church?

I’ll wait.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Perjuring Priest Bob Malm by the Numbers

And this warranted a $100,000 bonus in 2014 and $200K in annual compensation?

If you want to see just how much financial ground has been lost during perjuring priest Bob Malm’s tenure, take a look at the second image. It shows how much would have to be pledged for FY 2020 for the church to have the same buying power today as it had in FY 2008. The amount? It would be $1,095,359. In other words, if 2020 pledges came to $916,900, the church would have still lost 19.5% of its budget.

Looking at it another way, the church has lost 33.55% of its budget since 2008. Nice move Bob—no wonder the church paid you a $100,000 bonus in 2014!

Bob Malm, perjuring priest

Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish




Wednesday, January 8, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: SNAP Enters the Fray

Earlier today, I got some good news, which is that the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will start sharing information on my change.org petition to hold perjuring priest Bob Malm accountable. Additionally, executive director Zach Heiner signed my petition.

Good news as we move into 2020.




Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Grace Episcopal: More Lawsuits Coming!



As we move into 2020, I am now preparing the forms for several additional lawsuits, including one that is directed to a member of Bob Malm’s immediate family. I anticipate filing in the next 20 to 30 days.

In talking the matter over with colleagues, one asked me how I felt about suing a priest. My answer was twofold: 1) Bob is a priest in title only, and 2) Having resorted to court and committed perjury in an effort to shut down scrutiny of his conduct, Bob Malm was foolish indeed if he thought the litigation would end there. So I have no issues with suing Bob or members of his family.

And yes, I anticipate naming Grace Church as a defendant in at least one further case.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Church Abuse Website References This Conflict

I was pleased to see that the Tenth Presbyterian church abuse website, located at https://www.tenthpresbyterianchurch.com/, has referenced this conflict and the abusive conduct of Grace Episcopal Church, perjuring priest Bob Malm, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

Phil Snyder is a good guy and a friend, and I stand with him. Please be sure to visit his website to learn more about Liam Goligher’s bullying of him, as well as Goligher’s profoundly un-Christian conduct.

And thanks Phil for the shout-out!

Below is a photo of Phil protesting outside Tenth Presbyterian.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Want to See How People at Grace Episcopal Talk to Others? See for Yourself

Want to see how people at Grace Episcopal talk to others? Following is a post, allegedly from Lisa Gardner, a friend of Bob and Leslie Malm and Lisa Medley.

The irony too, is that people like Lisa actually think that it’s okay/normal to claim that a so-called friend like Bob Malm is having a gay affair outside his marriage. Nor do they think that their behavior results in people turning their back on the parish.

It’s also worth remembering that this is not the only example of toxic conduct. For example, we have the post, from a member of Lisa Medley’s family, urging me to commit suicide.

Keep these behaviors in mind if you are contemplating being part of Grace Episcopal.




Friday, January 3, 2020

Momentum Builds as Online Petition Nears 100 Signatures

Just a couple of days ago, I launched my online petition demanding that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Bishop Susan Goff act with integrity and address perjuring priest Bob Malm’s abusive conduct. Already, we are zooming along towards 100 signatures, and momentum is building.

That sad thing is that, with so many ills in the world, time and money have to be spent trying to push the diocese to do what should be normative—to address abusive conduct by clergy. But instead, the diocese acts like a little child; the more you ask it to clean up its room, the more it pouts and resists.

If you’d like to sign my petition, it’s at http://chng.it/fKqkK625

Thanks so much to all who are lending their support to my efforts!

#justiceformom




Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reflections as We Enter the Final Days of the 2020 Pledge Season





As we get ready to move into a new year, the Grace Church vestry has the unenviable task of preparing the parish’s 2020 budget. Similarly, members may be contemplating year-end gifts to the church. With those factors in mind, here are my thoughts on those issues.

On the one hand, the parish now is free of the deleterious effect of perjuring priest Bob Malm, at least on a daily basis. Michael Guy appears to be much more grounded in actual faith, and less in outward image.

That said, the church has yet to make peace with its past and Bob’s baleful influence. This is still a spendthrift church—one that pays $100k bonuses to a feckless rector, while cutting employee health benefits. A church that refuses to save for the future. A church that does next to nothing to grow, yet expects membership to miraculously increase. A church that claims to be a center for “outreach and healing,” yet puts very little money toward these goals. A church that tries to drag the dying into court, where members urge people to commit suicide, and where the rector commits perjury with impunity. In fact, the church named part of the building after its former Perjurer in Chief. A church that has to borrow to keep the HVAC on, but draws $3,000 out of savings for a party.

Even better, the church has the chutzpah to claim that it’s been careful with its funds. Leaving aside $100,000 bonuses and the more than $2 million cost to the church of Bob Malm’s personally owned rathole of a house, I guess that’s true. After all, those expenses don’t leave room for much else.

All of that points to a larger issue, which is how much longer will people provide funding for this toxic mess? The fact that Bob Malm can commit perjury with the full support of the vestry, Sugarland Chiow, the staff, and the diocese, then get part of the building named after him for his troubles, demonstrates that this is a church and denomination that is utterly broken and dysfunctional. Yes, the optimists among us think some of these issues will be addressed in another generation, but collapsing attendance, baptisms, and other indices of church health suggest that neither the denomination nor the parish have another generation during which to fiddle with the deck chairs.

If we look at Europe and the role of organized religion there, it seems unlikely that church ever will make a comeback. Once-bitten, twice shy applies, and this is a dog that’s bitten far too often to get any benefit of the doubt.

So, if you are a member of Grace Church, or of the Club Mayo crowd, my message to you is this: It is time for radical change. And if you can’t or won’t make that happen, it’s time to say goodbye. Grace Church, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church simply are no longer relevant.

And as the vestry plans for 2020, I’m here to tell you that more of the same isn’t going to work. No one wants to subsidize the lifestyles of the rich and famous, let alone the perjurious.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Bob Malm Reduces Home Listing Price, Even as Alexandria Housing Market Ranks Among Most Competitive in the US

Dysfunctional Bob’s Crib Faces Price Cuts

In previous posts, I expressed concern about Bob Malm’s decision, jammed through the vestry, to tear down the rector and purchase a private residence. All-in, the decision cost the church more than $2 million—money it needed for other purposes. The folly of this decision is becoming increasingly evident, as Bob Malm has reduced the listing price of his former residence by $20,000. This despite the Alexandria housing market remaining among the most competitive in the nation,

To be sure, listing during the holidays is never easy, and often is regarded by buyers as a sign of desperation. And Bob’s agent has done everything right, including slapping a layer of paint over the worst signs of deterioration in the home.

Still, in a market when the average listing moves to pending in 17 days, and in which prices continue to rise, making Alexandria one of the most competitive housing markets in the nation, the fact Bob is cutting his asking price is telling. And the house is sold as-is, which makes clear that all involved recognize that there are issues.

In the meantime, the tear-down of the rectory locks the parish into offering a housing allowance for the indefinite future, probably extending until one of the more generous parishioners leaves their home to the church. This is problematic, for continuing declines in church income already are making for a perilously thin budget—one that leaves the parish teetering on the brink of existential crisis. 

Nor did Bob exactly bust his butt. Filled with his inflated but shallow sense of self-importance, Bob noisily proclaimed that the church’s lack of growth was “unacceptable,” at one annual parish meeting. Yet it’s not like he was leading the charge to actually do something about it. (Sorry kids, Art on the Avenue and some banners on the lawn, along with a single lit drop in Potomac Yards, doesn’t cut it.) Meanwhile, Bob was spending summers at the beach, going to the Boston Marathon, and otherwise slipping “out of town” whenever convenient, in some years being gone for 11 or more weeks of the year.

With the ill-advised 2014 bonus of $100,000 to Bob, which shored up Bob’s position in the loan, he undoubtedly will walk away with some cash from the transaction to plump his already generous defined benefit plan retirement. But in so doing, Bob walks all over the church he claimed to serve. And again, I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why church employees should face cuts to their health insurance, while Bob Malm gets treated like royalty. Isn’t health care a basic human right?

The entire situation reeks of dysfunction and hypocrisy—two values works that neatly summarize Bob’s 30 years with Grace Church.




Friday, December 27, 2019

Announcing Plans for 2020!


It’s that time again—time to ring out one year, and plan for a new one.

With that in mind, protests will continue around Alexandria, with some directly in front of the church, commencing late January. At that time, I will add Bob Malm to the present lawsuit, or file against him separately. I am not yet sure which approach I will take.

Another lawsuit will be moving forward in Pennsylvania, with specifics to follow. I am also contemplating a separate lawsuit against Leslie Malm and a family member of Bob’s, and possibly against several other individuals. Again, if I move forward, I won’t disclose details until the time of filing.

So, apropos Grace Church, 2020 will be a year marked by lawsuits and protests. And I won’t be backing down anytime soon.


Planet Malm Draws 3K from Savings for Party, Cuts Employee Health Benefits

Let’s just hope that those who attended Chris’ farewell party enjoyed the barbecue. 

Too bad church employees don’t get a similar send off.




Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 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.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

More Signs of Financial Trouble at Grace Church



As we move into 2020, signs abound of financial trouble at Grace church. These include further declines in pledging, which I believe are due in large part to a growing awareness of just how toxic Grace Church has become.

Over the past two weeks, the number of pledging units has stalled out at 160, for a total just shy of $561,560. That’s a bad sign, for a variety of reasons:
  • In the past, pledges have continued to come in throughout the final weeks of the year. The lack of an increase during the past two weeks suggests that the pledge campaign has largely run its course.
  • While there are always a few additional pledges in the new year, the increase historically has ranged from 20-40 units. In recent years, the number of pledges has tended towards the lower end of that range. Moreover, late pledges tend to be smaller pledges. Thus, even assuming 30 additional pledges at an average of $3966, that’s only $118,980, for a total of $680,540. That’s a far cry from the $895,000 or more of past years, and leaves the church with gross annual revenue of approximately $830,540. Thus, the parish faces the prospect of draconian cuts to an already tight budget.
  • The underlying causes of the church’s decline remain unaddressed, which include a systemic culture of toxicity evinced by behavior that includes:
    • Bob Malm’s perjury
    • Suing members and calling them “domestic terrorists”
    • Sugarland Chiow’s multiple courtroom fabrications
    • Trying to drag a dying woman into court
    • The childish, malicious conduct of people like Alison Campbell and Lisa Medley
    • Members urging others to commit suicide
    • Unhealthy ways at every level of dealing with conflict
  • It will not be possible to begin the process of addressing these issues any time soon, as it will take some time for Michael Guy to settle in. 
  • The legacy of 30 years of Bob Malm’s feckless and dysfunctional “leadership” won’t be erased overnight, or even in a year.
  • The transition process isn’t cheap, and Grace really needs to bring in paid outside experts to address its toxic culture. Even then, Bob Malm’s various misrepresentations about the underlying issues make change problematic, for it is hard to parse the challenges facing the church when prior leadership has engaged in manipulative conduct.
  • Real leadership is perilously thin in the parish. Indeed, when confronted with a toxic culture like that of Grace church, real leaders typically move on, versus turning a blind eye to unethical conduct such as bullying. And even those regarded as leaders in the parish have no qualms in talking about other people, versus talking to other people. That’s a big problem, and one has only to look at some of the comments from Kemp Williams and Jean Reed to see use how bad things have become in that department.
  • It can be difficult to ask members to increase giving when so much money has been squandered in the past on Bob Malm’s inflated salary, his $100,000 bonus, the tear-down of the rectory, his overly generous leave, and silliness like taking $3,000 from savings for a farewell party for Chris Byrnes—a Head of School that many teaching professionals do not regard as having been particularly effective, and who spent much of her time engaging in divisive empire building.
  • Things are complicated by well-intentioned but disingenuous comments like Jason Roberson’s statement in the November edition of Grace Notes,  in which he falsely claimed that the church is “growing and flourishing.” It is doing neither, and such comments undercut confidence in the messaging coming from church leadership.
  • As discussed in previous posts, if the church really is to be a center for “outreach and healing,” it could start by contributing its fair share to the diocese. $80K a year is ridiculously low and far beneath the norms established by the diocese. Going forward, less money wasted on feckless clergy and more spent on outreach would be a good start.
Of course, financial issues are just one small outward manifestation of larger, structural issues. In other words, the church’s financial woes will only be resolved when it solves its spiritual and ethical woes. And with diocesan leadership that is prepared to support Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow in their misconduct, it’s unlikely that this is going to happen.

The future looks grim indeed for Grace Church.


Friday, December 20, 2019

We’re Episcopal, Aren’t We? Is Grace an Episcopal Church?



There’s a good article on the Wartburg Watch this week, in which friend and fellow blogger Dee Parsons asks the question, why are so many SBC churches in the closet about their SBC affiliation? That got me to thinking—-what about churches that claim to be part of a denomination, but really aren’t? In other words, is Grace really an Episcopal church?

To be sure, at first blush Grace would appear to be fully an Episcopal church. Its governing documents, as poorly done as they are, contain the accession clause required under church canons. Most clergy are Episcopal. The hymnal and Book of Common Prayer are Episcopal. The bishop visits once a year and has to approve clergy hires. Even the sign out front says Episcopal.

But scratch the surface and things aren’t so clear. Given its size, the parish makes only a token financial contribution to the diocese. Similarly, during Bob Malm’s tenure, the diocese did little to address issues in the church, thus allowing problems to fester for decades. (Ironically, the diocese is now in court trying to defend this situation, inter alia claiming that Bob Malm took me to court on his own. That ignores the more than 18 times Bob contacted the diocese about doing so, as well as his claim that the decision to take me to court was a form of  “discipline” that he and other parish leadership decided to implement. Additionally, Bob received legal advice and other diocesan support for his efforts, including a letter of endorsement from Bishop Shannon Johnston.)

True, the church is inclusive in the sense of welcoming gays and lesbians. But it has never welcomed non-gender binaries or transgenders, and Bob Malm is very uncomfortable with these issues.

It is this latter aspect that is particularly troubling, and that is Bob Malm’s role in the parish. During this tenure, more than 1 out of every 5 dollars in church revenue went to Bob. Bob personally chose the executive committee, in violation of church canons. Even the nominally self-governing school allegedly restructured so that Bob could send his son James to school there—a claim that, if true, would be highly unethical.

Similarly, the demolition of the rectory—a decision made at Bob Malm’s insistence—wound up costing the church more than $2 million in the years that followed. And Bob was ruthless in ensuring he took every bit of leave available to him, with no regard for the welfare of the parish. Indeed, he once told me that issues with the parish administrator would have to wait, as he was going on vacation.

And so it is with Bob’s claims that I am mentally ill. While few if any parishioners knew or cared if I blogged about my experiences at Grace, Bob worked the traps hard to stir things up at the school, the diocese, and within in the parish with his fabrications.

At the very heart of the matter is Bob’s ongoing effort to obtain recognition and adulation from parishioners. While a healthy pastoral relationship points people to God, Bob points people to himself. In so doing, he routinely undercut relationships amongst parishioners, using derogatory language about almost all parishioners at one time or another. (Recall his references to Jan Spence as an “asshole,” and to Lisa Doelp as “like a little spy.”)

It is this paradigm, in which Bob created a parish in his own image, to reflect his personality and to meet his own needs, that led me to dub Grace Church “Planet Malm.” 

In short, while the church is nominally Episcopal, its real reference point is Bob Malm. It is nothing more than a cult of personality, now missing the underlying personality. As such, it is not a church, but rather a religious club organized within The Episcopal Church.