Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Grace by the Numbers

Did you ever wonder what effect Bob’s vendetta against me has had on the parish? The numbers are telling.

Since 2015, when this dispute first broke out, the parish has lost more than 100 pledging units. This includes long-time members like John Cunningham, who, in a Facebook post, confirmed that he too had experienced relational and other bad behavior while at Grace church. As a result, the church now has roughly 220 pledging units—a number fast approaching the tipping point into unsustainability.

Income has been somewhat buffered by the fact that remaining members have been stepping up their giving. Even so, final pledges for 2018 will probably settle in at around $760,000–a far cry from the $895,000 and higher figure of previous years.

Within those numbers is another troubling data point, which is that new pledging units are typically much smaller than the historic roughly $3,100 average pledge. That combines with the fact that millenials loathe the fact that organized religion often, in their view, shows no better ethical reference point than the world at large, and Bob Malm’s campaign of shunning and harassment suggests it’s going to be a tough slog to get 20- and 30-somethings in the door.

Then there is the whole over-the-top nature of Bob’s vendetta. Most people understand that churches are not immune from conflict, but the fact that Bob has continued his bullying for what soon will be three years speaks volumes to his real priorities. Additionally, most would conclude that locking horns with a woman who is terminally ill (my mother) is a bad idea, if for no other reason than it’s really bad PR, not to mention really bad karma. But Bob seems immune to those sorts of considerations. It’s his vendetta, and he’ll have one if he wants to, seems to be the rallying cry. The best interests of the parish seem not to even be a consideration.

Nor are the vestry or other parish “leaders,” showing much common sense when it comes to leadership. You’d think that, between the bunch, someone would realize that ongoing conflict is incredibly destructive for a voluntary organization like Grace church. But folks seems determined to stay the course, no matter how damaging it is for the parish over time. And why not? They have a letter from Bishop Shannon that basically eggs them on.

Of course, it’s at that point that one sees the crux of the problem: Bishop Shannon is very concerned about who blogged what to whom, all the while forgetting about the people involved. Never once, for example, has he reached out to my mom and asked how she is doing, or showed concern for her. To the contrary, he has brushed off her concerns in writing. So why wouldn’t she be upset? And why wouldn’t she share her unhappiness? Of course, it’s at that point that the diocese tries the whole, “It’s not nice to object publicly to being thrown under the bus,” (yes, that is a metaphor) all the while conveniently overlooking the fact that it was the organization that threw you under the bus.

In all of this, it’s hard to know whether the diocese or Grace church is the bigger mess. But no matter which you conclude, it’s a hard-fought race between the two to come out on top.