Grace Episcopal Alexandria’s Finances Continue Decline

Grace Faces Looming Financial Problems

The Episcopal Church’s annual data report has been released, and things are not looking good for Grace Episcopal Alexandria, the clergy perjury parish.

In 2011, Grace had plate and pledge revenue of $1,026,046.

Flash forward to 2020, the last year for which data is available, and plate and pledge totaled $872,659.

Grace Alex Revenue Decline

Grace Alex Revenue Decline

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Adjust the value of 2011’s plate and pledge to account for inflation, and the parish would need to bring in $1,180,551.13 to have the same buying power.

Grace income, adjusted for inflation

Grace income, adjusted for inflation

So, take the delta between $1,180,551 and $872,659, and you have a 26% decline in real income.

Even worse, in 2011 the parish had 324 pledging units. As of 2022, the number of pledging units is at 170. Thus, a smaller and smaller group of people are giving more and more to stave off financial collapse. Obviously, this is unsustainable.

Grace Episcopal Alexandria pledging units

Grace Episcopal Alexandria pledging units

And the one bit of good news in the mix—the generous Saalfeld bequest, which allowed the church to finally address major deferred maintenance issues that were placing the entire place at risk —illustrates another peril facing the parish. Specifically, a handful of families, all retired, who out of respect will be named here, collectively give approximately 20 percent of the church’s income.

In other words, all it takes is a handful of deaths to send the church’s budget into a tailspin. And given the decreasingly small pool of pledges, even the death of one faithful parishioner, like the beloved Anne Caputo, stresses the budget.

That’s not to say that there are no positive notes. The recommendation, dating to 2013, to conduct a formal replacement reserve study is finally off the ground. That’s an excellent move, and a step away from the replacement reserve study, donated by a parishioner, that went into the trash in 2015 thanks to the childish behavior of Lisa Medley.

Still, this is long overdue, and the church still has not professionalized its plant maintenance. Even some of the recent decisions — like putting LED light bulbs in the parking lot — were badly conceived and reflect a lack of property management experience on the part of Alison Campbell and parish staff. (In the case of the parking lot lights, transitioning to LED lighting was recommended in 2014. But the temporary light posts, built of treated lumber during the 1994 renovations, are well past life. Thus, the better options were either new lightpoles with LED fixtures, or tearing down the poles and placing LED panels along the building parapets.)

Hopefully, a well-done replacement study will help members of the church understand the major roofing issues confronting it, including an area of failing parapet that risks a major accident.

Apropos these specifics, only time will tell. But absent major growth, Grace faces big, big challenges in the coming years.

 

Episcopal Survivors Network Calls for Criminal Investigation of Bob Malm

Bob Malm, perjuring priest

The Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN), a group of survivors of abuse in the Episcopal Church, has called for a criminal investigation into perjuring priest Bob Malm’s fabrications under oath.

On July 1, the group issued the following statement:

Dioceses of Virginia and Massachusetts refuse to act

For the past several years, the Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN), a group of survivors of abuse in the Episcopal Church, has followed allegations of non-sexual abuse involving an Episcopal priest, Robert H. Malm. Malm is canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and currently serves as interim rector of St. Peter’s-on-the-Canal, in Bourne, MA.

ESN calls upon the Episcopal dioceses of Virginia and Massachusetts to comply with church canons, including the Title IV clergy disciplinary provisions. In conjunction, ESN also calls upon law enforcement, local prosecutors, and both dioceses, to conduct full, fair, and impartial investigations into the allegations against Malm.

The allegations against Malm are made by Eric Bonetti, a former parishioner, and include:

  • Filing false police reports.

  • Engaging in retaliation for filing a complaint about his conduct with the diocese.

  • Repeatedly filing false civil actions in which Malm claimed he was being threatened, despite having had no contact with Bonetti in several years.

  • Claiming that blog posts about him, on blogs published by Bonetti and family members, were “threatening and harassing.”

  • Concealing evidence adverse to Malm in litigation.

  • Repeatedly offering fabricated statements of law and fact to the courts.

  • Repeatedly committing perjury, including falsely claiming under oath that Bonetti’s late mother, then dying of COPD, contacted him multiple times. Later, Malm told a judge under oath that he didn’t even know her name — despite the fact he expressly referenced her by name in his original sworn statement.

  • Attempting to depose Bonetti’s mother, then dying, in violation of state law.
  • Falsely telling police that Bonetti had stalked, threatened, and “terrorized” Malm and his family, despite having had no contact in several years.
  • Using inflammatory and inappropriate language in court, including referring to Bonetti as a “domestic terrorist.”
  • Witness tampering.
  • Falsely telling parishioners and others that Bonetti is mentally ill.
  • Lying to the Episcopal bishop of Virginia about facts related to the case.

ENS reminds both dioceses that church canons mandate a Title IV proceeding if the allegations, when assumed to be true, would be violations of Title IV.

Since Title IV expressly forbids “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy,” and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,” it is improper and unethical for the Episcopal Church to brush allegations of perjury off as “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.”

Similarly, it is shocking, abusive, and appalling to insist that a victim go to court to resolve the matter, to dismiss a complaint at intake on the basis that the church cannot determine if a violation has occurred, or to require that a member of the clergy be found guilty of a criminal offense.

Nor are ESN’s concerns confined to Malm’s conduct.

Both bishops diocesan have abused their authority by repeatedly refusing to deal with these allegations. In doing so, they have undercut the credibility of the church and its willingness to respond to non-sexual misconduct.

Even now, the denomination and its lawyers are attempting to prevent discovery in the ongoing litigation. That begs the question, “Why?”. Indeed, if there is nothing to hide, all involved should welcome the chance to tell their side of the story. Truth and transparency are at the heart of any meaningful response to complaints of abuse, yet the Episcopal Church appears to be taking the opposite approach.

Moreover, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s claim, set forth in a letter from former bishop Shannon Johnston to parish leaders, that the matter was investigated “long ago,” is not credible. Any meaningful investigation is conducted by an independent, outside entity, not an untrained Title IV intake officer making phone calls to Malm and his assistant rector.

Similarly, the denomination’s refusal to provide the pastoral response mandated in all cases when a complaint is made has caused lasting harm not just to the complainant, but to the church, its mission, and those it serves. Indeed, if Bonetti’s claims were false, that would be all the more reason to respond with compassion, sensitivity and care. Yet to date we see no evidence or concern for Bonetti, his husband, his late mother, or others affected by these allegations.

ESN also is deeply concerned that both dioceses appear to be insisting on criminal charges against Malm before they will act. Not only are clergy by their very nature often given unwarranted deference, but victims typically lack access to the lawyers and other resources needed to pursue such a matter. Additionally, we note that the City of Alexandria VA has refused to even investigate these allegations, while the Marion MA police department has conditioned any investigation on the outcome of civil litigation.

ESN believes that the allegations, while unproven, deserve a full investigation. We call upon both dioceses, and their bishops, to set aside preconceived notions, to act with care and compassion, and to conduct a meaningful investigation of these claims using outside resources. Additionally, Title IV intake officers and bishops need to better understand Title IV and honor its requirements in all cases, not just in select cases. And the Alexandria VA courts should not attempt to impose confidentiality on discovery, as it is important that these allegations, and the facts behind them, be part of the public discourse.

“Like many who have faced abuse of every sort, what is most painful is not the misconduct itself, but the subsequent betrayal of trust by church officials. My family and I have been demonized, lied about, gotten obscene gestures, and even urged to commit suicide by church members,” says Bonetti. “The only thing we haven’t experienced from the church is care or concern.”

Bonetti and his husband Mike were among the first same-sex couples married in the Episcopal Church. Bonetti is currently getting treatment for PTSD and depression as a result of his experiences with the church.

The release is located at https://religionnews.com/2022/07/01/episcopal-survivors-network-calls-for-investigation-of-abuse-allegations/

Episcopal Survivors Network Weighs In

perjuring priest Bob Malm lies to bishop

The Episcopal Survivors Network, a group of abuse survivors connected with the Episcopal Church, has weighed in on perjuring priest Bob Malm’s conduct and the need to pursue a criminal investigation of Malm’s behavior.

The press release, distributed worldwide via the Religion News Network, calls for an investigation into the following allegations involving perjuring priest Bob Malm:

  • Filing false police reports.
  • Engaging in retaliation for filing a complaint about his conduct with the diocese.
  • Repeatedly filing false civil actions in which Malm claimed he was being threatened, despite having had no contact with Bonetti in several years.
  • Claiming that blog posts about him, on blogs published by Bonetti and family members, were “threatening and harassing.”
  • Concealing evidence adverse to Malm in litigation.
  • Repeatedly offering fabricated statements of law and fact to the courts.
  • Repeatedly committing perjury, including falsely claiming under oath that Bonetti’s late mother, then dying of COPD, contacted him multiple times. Later, Malm told a judge under oath that he didn’t even know her name — despite the fact he expressly referenced her by name in his original sworn statement.
  • Attempting to depose Bonetti’s mother, then dying, in violation of state law.
  • Falsely telling police that Bonetti had stalked, threatened, and “terrorized” Malm and his family, despite having had no contact in several years.
  • Using inflammatory and inappropriate language in court, including referring to Bonetti as a “domestic terrorist.”
  • Witness tampering.
  • Falsely telling parishioners and others that Bonetti is mentally ill.
  • Lying to the Episcopal bishop of Virginia about facts related to the case.

The full text of the press release can be found at https://religionnews.com/2022/07/01/episcopal-survivors-network-calls-for-investigation-of-abuse-allegations/.

 

Letter to the Clergy of DioVA Calls for Change

Yesterday, I sent an email to the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Below is what I sent, together with the attachments.


All:

This week, something extraordinary happened in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Specifically, the messengers, who are that denomination’s equivalent to delegates to General Convention, stood up and demanded that the church take abuse seriously. As a result, a handful of lawyers and staffers are no longer able to dismiss, deny, disparage and otherwise prevent the church from being held responsible. In fact, they demanded — and obtained — a waiver of attorney-client privilege.

It is time for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to do the same. It is time for the bishops, the standing committee, the executive committee, and each and every one of you to stop paying lip service to the baptismal covenant, and to start living it. It is time to take abuse seriously, of every sort. As things stand, the diocese is profoundly dysfunctional. Like the SBC until now, it prefers to protect the organization, rather than the people who make up the organization.

For far too long, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has refused to follow church canons and basic notions of Christian ethics. For example, based on the advice of legal counsel, it has repeatedly refused to follow Title IV, which requires that a “pastoral response,” (not the same as pastoral care), be offered EVERY time a complaint is made to an intake officer.

Why?

According to Shannon Johnston, it’s because attorneys have told the bishops “not to get too involved.” This happened in the Title IV case at St. Thomas’ McLean. It happened to a friend, a female church worker, who faced egregious sexual harassment from a member of the clergy. She now suffers from PTSD; the priest continues to serve a parish in another state. And it has happened repeatedly to me.

In my case, Title IV intake officer Sven vanBaars knowingly and deliberately ignored the clear provisions of my Title IV complaint against Bob Malm, former rector of Grace Church in Alexandria.

Title IV tasks intake officers with just two determinations at the time of intake:

1) Assessing whether the matter complained of, if true, would constitute a violation of the canons.
2) Assessing whether, if the matter complained was a violation of the canons, it would be “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.”

It authorizes nothing else.

Title IV does NOT, as vanBaars claims he did, ask him to investigate, to determine whether Malm indeed engaged in criminal behavior, or anything else.

Thus, vanBaars dismissed my complaint, which involved perjury and false police reports by Malm, on a purely pretextual basis. Moreover, this dismissal was approved by Susan Goff, and upheld by Melissa Hollerith. And all involved refused to provide the pastoral response required by canon — and by simple Christian integrity.

As to the substance of my complaint, let me be absolutely clear with you: Bob Malm repeatedly perjured himself, in writing, while advised by church attorney Jeffery Chiow.

I have attached in PDF just a few of Malm’s lies.

In the first, he claims in writing that my mother, then dying of COPD, incontinent, dependent on morphine and oxygen, and suffering from a severe anxiety disorder, contacted him repeatedly to set up appointments, only to no-show. This neither happened, nor was possible. (Malm later tried to drag her into court via a subpoena. I alerted Goff and Johnston to this misconduct and didn’t even get the courtesy of a response.)

In the second, he tries to walk his perjury back, saying he doesn’t recall speaking to her, thus leaving Malm wiggle room.

In the third, he lies to a judge, saying he didn’t commit perjury, and that he didn’t even know Mom’s name. Yet she had emailed him once — only once — when the diocese refused to take seriously her complaint about his conduct. And he referenced her by name in the original perjury.

Nor is this a case of there being “two sides to every story.” There are no good racists. There are no good perjurers. There are no good homophobes.

Moreover, Title IV expressly forbids “conduct unbecoming,” as well as “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Yet vanBaars, Goff, and Hollerith all decided to ignore the plain language of the canons. And I suspect they did so based on guidance from diocesan chancellor J.P. Causey.

As Christians, you cannot say, “I don’t want to get involved.” Nor can you validly brush this off because you may like Bob Malm, or not like me. You cannot talk about “striving for justice and peace” and “respecting the dignity of every human being,” and ignore corruption within the diocese.

As for Mom, the diocese and its conduct caused her dire distress in her final days.

I also categorically reject Malm’s comments to the police, the courts, and the bishops, in which he told them that I am mentally ill, and suggested that, as a result, I am dangerous. Not only is his claim a lie, but no rational actor believes the stereotype that mental illness correlates with a propensity for violence. As someone with family members who struggle with mental illness, this is profoundly offensive and disrespectful, and damaging to the church as well. I also reject as outrageous and inappropriate the church’s claim, made via attorney Jeffery Chiow to the courts that I am a “domestic terrorist.” Anyone willing to say that to try to get an upper hand in a conflict does so with utter disrespect for the victims in Texas and other victims of gun violence and genuine acts of domestic terrorism.

I can also tell you that, thanks to Malm’s conduct and that of the diocese, I now do have a clinical diagnosis of PTSD and depression. As a result, I have major expenses, not the least of which are the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees resulting from Malm’s frivolous and perjurious legal filings against me. And I am not embarrassed to share those details with you. Abuse hides in the shadows, but Christians are called to bring light to the darkness.

So, what does all this mean to you?

For those of you electing a new bishop, I encourage you to choose the candidate you conclude will be most likely to bring ethical conduct to Mayo House and the diocese. As things stand, the diocese is ethically utterly broken, caught up in its little stained glass paradise of drinking at Shrine Mont, meetings, paperwork, worship, study groups, and other largely irrelevant transactional solutions.

Of course, more is needed. The election of a new bishop is a chance for new beginnings. But each of you — whether or not you will be part of the elections process — needs to insist on change. The baptismal covenant needs to be a way of life, not just empty words on Sunday. And the changes that need to happen if the diocese is to survive are not just superficial. They are structural. And if the SBC has the courage to take issues of abuse seriously, the supposedly inclusive and progressive Episcopal church needs to have the courage to do the same.

I therefore am asking each and every one of you to live into your baptismal vows by insisting that the diocese, its attorneys, and the inner circle at Mayo House stop protecting the organization first, while ignoring and demonizing victims of abuse. And folks like Sven vanBaars, Melissa Hollerith, Susan Goff, JP Causey, and others need to be held accountable for placing human beings second, and the organization first. There is no fact pattern under which it is okay to ignore abuse on the basis that the diocese “shouldn’t get too involved.”

Nor does it cut it for people to say, “Well, that happened before I got there,” or “Well, I’m not Bob Malm.” We are talking about real people, real human lives, and real human suffering caused by the diocese, Bob Malm, Jeffery Chiow, Svan vanBaars, Melissa Hollerith, Shannon Johnston, Susan Goff, and others.

In closing, I am attaching a screen cap of a message from a young adult at Grace Church to me. In it, she uses profanity, homophobia, and urges me to commit suicide. Yet this person grew up at Grace Church. I therefore ask each of you: What does it say about the diocese when someone can grow up in the church and think that it is okay to urge another human being to commit suicide?

I also am attaching a photo of Mom dying, taken with her permission, so you can put a face with the name and see firsthand someone who suffered profoundly as a result of the behavior of the diocese. While I don’t believe in a literal hell, if I did, there would be a special place in it for hypocrites like Susan Goff, Sven vanBaars, and others who say they proclaim Christ, but whose actions tell a very different story.

As things stand, each and every one of you shares responsibility for the current dysfunction of the diocese. It remains to be seen if you will have the integrity to address it.

Eric Bonetti
Former member
Grace Episcopal Church Alexandria

Letter to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia