Friday, June 1, 2018

Happy News: I Have Left the Episcopal Church

Years ago, a mentor of mine told me, “The best way to deal with some people is to not deal with them at all.” And so it is with The Episcopal Church.

Today I asked Bishop Todd Ousley, the national intake officer for The Episcopal Church (meaning he handles Title IV issues involving bishops) to help me have my name removed from all Episcopal Church records. It’s a long overdue and happy decision, not just for Bob Malm, but for me as well. Note that I am not transferring anywhere; instead, I’m asking for the equivalent of dropping my records in the shredder.

My decision ends a lifetime in The Episcopal Church, although I wandered away for a number of years during college.

Why did I leave? Primarily because increasingly it is clear to me that The Episcopal Church is irreparably broken. In a day and age when government and corporate America not only protect whistleblowers, but actually require disclosure of potential wrongdoing as a condition of employment, The Episcopal Church remains adamantly opposed to providing a safe environment in which to do so. What’s worse is it is stuck in a 1960’s, Madmen-era time warp, where the only kind of clergy misconduct that counts is that which involves an affair or jail time. Clergy who have an affair unbeknownst to their congregants are deemed worthy of being defrocked, but those who openly engage in retaliation for a good-faith report under church disciplinary canons, or who tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, are treated as not having engaged in behavior “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” Moreover, The Episcopal Church typically thinks of sexual harassment as being sexual in nature, which is legally and morally wrong. All too often, it is gender-based in nature and, as such, it is illegal under state and Federal law.

The church’s narcissistic approach to such things also is both amusing and telling: The bad conduct of its clergy is not material to its ministry, but would you please quit complaining about it? You might damage the reputation of the church.

Sorry, kids, you can’t have it both ways.

The church also is focused on all the wrong things. While I fully supported the litigation against the Anglican dissidents, I also came to realize that if The Episcopal Church spent half the time, energy and money it spent fighting over a bunch of crappy old properties on ministry and on healing its own issues, it would be a very different church.

It’s also ludicrous that the church litigated to the ends of the earth over its rights as a hierarchical denomination, but when you ask the hierarchy to provide some adult supervision to wayward clergy, it declines to get involved. Why waste time and money on a bunch of irrelevant fat cats hanging out at Mayo House and other creaking old heaps when they serve absolutely zero purpose?

The church’s inability to understand why Bob Malm’s behavior is unacceptable further underscores its irrelevance. Only in a very poorly run church would his behavior be okay. In any other setting he would have gotten the heave-ho within the first year, and probably sooner rather than later. The fact that hoarding, bullying, and the other stupid antics that have gone on at Grace Church have been ignored for so long at every level makes clear that The Episcopal Church is sadly dysfunctional, top to bottom. Nor do I particularly want to subsidize any organization that shows so little respect for the human and financial resources entrusted to it.

In looking over Bob’s correspondence with others, it’s also interesting that both he and others within the church, including the Grace vestry, think that his descriptions of his own parishioners are appropriate, including referring to me as “sick,” and “dysfunctional.” If that is ethical pastoral conduct in The Episcopal Church, no thanks, you can keep it. (Note to Jeff Chiow: Don’t bother. Both quotes come from independent sources.) Same for providing financial support so that Bob Malm can spend his month every year at the beach, all while acting like a superannuated prep school bully and a spoiled, narcissistic brat.

Moreover, Bob has done what is, at best, a half-assed job at work, and the vestry turned around and gave him a $100,000 bonus for his shoddy efforts. What the hell? Obviously, way too much money on the church’s hands, so it sure doesn’t need my money. Again, though, the larger issue is the lack of understanding and awareness. Regarding shoddy work performance as worthy of this sort of over-the-top reward is just clueless and reflects personal affection for Bob trumping common sense and good judgment, as well as the fact that Bob points the executive committee in violation of church canons.  It also reinforces to people the cavalier attitude within the church towards the resources entrusted to its care.

Then there’s the issue of the trauma The Episcopal Church has caused for my mom, Mike, and all those affected by Grace Church’s deliberate misuse of memorial donations. As I kiddingly told a third party, “Anytime you mix God, dead mothers, and money, things are bound to get ugly.”A somewhat flippant remark, but still very true. The Episcopal Church has caused a tremendous amount of unhappiness for family members and there’s no way I can be true to them and support the church.

Looking forward, I don’t particularly believe in a vengeful God. That said, I have the feeling that old age will not be pretty for Bob Malm. That’s often the case with people like him, and it certainly was true for his father. Being stuck on Jekyll Island with nothing to do but drink beer, play golf, jog, fight with his wife, and occasionally serve as supply clergy sounds appropriately hellish — and that comes from someone who likes golf and running. Not only is karma a bear, but it has a wicked sense of humor. It’s going to have a lot of fun with Bob in the coming years.

Nor am I sanguine about the future of The Episcopal Church. Millennials typically have a pretty good nose for things, and I suspect they will prove adept at spotting the problems in The Episcopal Church.  More and more, the denomination just looks old, tired, clueless, and self-indulgent. Kind of like Bob Malm.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to update this blog, protest, and update social media for as long as Bob’s protective order is in place. Once it ends, this site will remain, to serve as a reminder of Bob’s childish games, and to point up why The Episcopal Church is lurching towards collapse.

In the near-term, legal action against several individuals, as well as Grace Episcopal Church and the diocese, for defamation and several related claims appears increasingly likely. (I have some real academy award winners, in writing, from the relevant persons, and am well within the statute of limitations for the juiciest of the bunch.)

That said, I’m not particularly concerned about criticizing The Episcopal Church or otherwise trying to hold its collective feet to the fire. The church is fast becoming irrelevant, and no one cares what happens to it anyway. That’s for the best, as it’s done so badly with its own internal issues, who the hell wants it messing with sensitive topics like gun control and race relations? It would have a lot more credibility on these issues if it took seriously the disparate pay that its own female clergy receive, or the dichotomy between clergy and lay pay and benefits. Or even its own inability to address sexual harassment in the church in a meaningful way.

Nor am I impressed by the current “listening sessions” regarding sexual harassment. The church has had 2,000 years to listen, and I see no signs whatsoever that any meaningful changes will result. Spare me.

Neither am I interested in any sort of “reconciliation” with Bob Malm or folks at Grace Church. Not only does Bob have a conveniently faulty theological understanding of the term, but I know him well enough to know that the minute I’d turn my back he’d be working behind the scenes to try and get me. Or, as Bob said in front of the bishop, “I don’t know what planet you live on, but when someone does something to me, I do something to them.” Fitting, and fully reflective of his understanding of Christianity. So, having turned my back on the church and its attendant nonsense of that sort, Bob and I don’t have enough in common to even bother. Bob can keep his church and his tawdry brand of Christianity. Similarly, The Episcopal Church’s understanding of repentance and reconciliation is theologically flawed, and I have neither the time nor the interest to engage with a church that doesn’t understand its own theology.

It’s cool saying goodbye to The Episcopal Church and not at all sad. As I get older, I realize the importance of knowing when it’s time to toss the baggage, and the value of traveling light.

This should have happened long ago.