Showing posts with label Bishop Shannon Johnston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bishop Shannon Johnston. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Caroline Parkinson: Title IV Intake Officer Lies in Official Proceedings

One of the troubling things about the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is the lack of personal and organizational integrity at every level. Were these isolated cases, one might write these instances off as honest mistakes. But they have happened repeatedly, and over serious issues.

In the case of the Rev. Caroline Parkinson, she at one point stated, in writing, that my complaint about the removal of our names from the church directory had been considered by the reference panel in July 2015. That’s a lie, pure and simple.

First off, it is unlikely that there was a reference panel, which is the panel under Title IV that refers a case out for resolution. When one is set up, there must be an advisor to the complainant and the respondent, and the reference panel is required to notify participants of the outcome. Neither occurred, so there either was no such panel, or it failed to follow church canons.

Second, even if there was such a panel, a dismissal, which occurred in my case, has no preclusive effect. In other words, Caroline’s contention is a red herring and irrelevant to the larger issues.

Third, the matter of the directory did not arise until October 2015. It thus is impossible for the reference panel to have considered the matter the previous summer.

Lastly, under other circumstances, one might argue that Caroline simply was misinformed. But when dealing with the lives of others, their careers, their spiritual and temporal well-being, and the reputation/integrity of the church, one simply cannot be cavalier about such issues. So even if Caroline’s mistake is an honest one, it is unacceptable. Moreover, I pointed the matter out to her and the diocese promptly, only to be ignored, so it is not like Caroline or others are unaware. They have actual notice of the falsity of their written statements, but have failed to correct the matter.

Tellingly, even after bearing false witness in this matter, Caroline remains a priest in good standing. Yet to this day Caroline has taken no action to correct her lies.






Thursday, July 11, 2019

++Justin Welby, the Diocese of Virginia, and Abuse: Casual Indifference, Lying, and Bullying as a Common Thread

Archbishop Welby: Breathtaking Hypocrisy

Bishop Susan Goff, Breathtaking Hypocrisy

It’s been an intertesting day for the Church of England. Today was the final day of hearings by the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, a commission that is examining the role of the church in child sex abuse. Among those testifying was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who had been criticized during previous sessions as unfit to lead. His testimony was, to put in bluntly, appalling, and showed that he was, and is, utterly clueless when it comes to abuse. And the really troubling parts of his testimony are startlingly similar to the tactics employed by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Bishop Susan Goff in their efforts to avoid dealing with Bob Malm’s abusive conduct. Particularly ugly is Welby’s facially false claim he didn’t treat allegations of misconduct involving an adult with “casual indifference,” which is exactly how the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia treats complaints of non-sexual clergy abuse involving adults.

++Welby’s woes center around an unidentified adult complainant, who contacted him while Welby was dean of the Liverpool Cathedral in 2011.The complainant attempted to notify Welby that he was being sexually harassed by a member of the cathedral staff. The result? The abuser remained on Welby’s staff, while Welby barred the victim from the grounds of the cathedral on the basis that he had been threatening to staff, and that the latter were very frightened of him.

Sound familiar? Sure does. It sounds for all the world like Bob Malm’s claim that people at Grace Church are frightened of me. That’s cute, since most only found about Mom’s blog and its supposed threats thanks to — you guessed it — none other than Dysfunctional Bob himself. And in that respect, Bob went to church officials, telling them that his family and staff were, “anxious, sometimes fearful.” At the same time, he got his wife Leslie all spun up; he also was the one who told Leslie about Mom’s blog. And so, back and forth, Bob played his little game of shuttle diplomacy. (Although he did slip up once, telling diocesan officials that his wife and daughter [Lindsey] took the matter far too seriously.

My bet? The abuser on Welby’s staff played this up, or possibly Welby himself. Interestingly, Welby, like Malm, also appears to have made a statement against interest. On the one hand, he claims that staff was frightened by the victim, yet says he would have rescinded the ban had the victim apologized. All I can say is they couldn’t have been all that scared, now could they? And it fails to recognize that victims of abuse, not suprisingly, get really angry, especially when they get the big brush-off.

To make matters worse, Welby told the complainant via email that his account, and that of the abuser, were entirely inconconsistent, and that absent independent verification, he could not assess which was true. That underscores the notion that Welby is clueless, for evidence overwhelmingly suggests that sexual misconduct is rarely falsely reported. And my experience is that people are doubly reluctant to complain when clergy is involved, for they instinctively know that they face a power imbalance. Thus, Welby doesn’t even grasp the dynamics of clergy abuse.

Next comes Welby’s claim that he took the matter seriously. That appears to be total horse crud, as the abuser stayed, and the victim got the heave-ho. On this matter, Welby says he regarded the matter as a disciplinary complaint, not a safeguarding one. So what? Welby doesn’t think adults get abused or sexually harassed? Ironically, in the diocese of Virginia, about the only way to get the diocese involved is to implicate sex; sex is the touchstone for a disciplinary complaint. Be that as it may, nothing in the record suggests Welby took any meaningful action. So yes, it looks for all the world like Welby treated the complaint with “casual indifference.”

Of course, that’s how the Diocese and Susan Goff have treated Bob Malm’s perjury. “Hey, he didn’t get convicted. What’s the big deal?”

Then we have Welby’s claim that he apologized to Matthew Ineson, who allegedly was raped by a Church of England vicar; the latter committed suicide when the allegations came to light. I personally have been in touch with Ineson, and find his evidence convincing that Welby never did apologize, and that his one alleged apology was not even possible, given the larger timeline of events. This is much like the Rev. Caroline Parkinson’s false claim, in writing, that the reference panel in July 2015 considered Bob Malm’s decision to remove us from the church directory. The latter was an obvious lie:
  • Bob did not remove us from the directory until October. Thus, Caroline would have had to time travel.
  • I was given no advisor or written notice from a reference panel. Thus, it either didn’t happen, or failed to follow church canons.
So, I agree with Ineson’s statement that Welby has demonstrated “breathtaking hypocrisy.” And his comments about how the CoE has responded to his complaints exactly mirror my experiences with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:

“I know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that safeguarding within the C of E is appalling,” Ineson said. “The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.”

Yes, ++is engaged in breathtaking hypocrisy. So is the CoE. And The Episcopal Church is equally culpable, with the corruption and hypocrisy extending all the way to ++Curry, +Todd Ousley, +Johnston and +Goff. 

Any church that is willing to lie, deflect, bully, and ignore abuse in this manner is morally bankrupt. 




Friday, May 17, 2019

The Arrogance of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia: A Sign of Decline

Canon Mary Thorpe

It’s amazing, really. At a time when the rate at which The Episcopal Church is shedding members is surpassed only by the losses of the Presbyterian Church USA (and even that is questionable), the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is going pedal-to-the-metal in its efforts to drive away members. How does it do that? Chiefly through its incredible blind arrogance and belief that somehow people cannot exist without the church. In short, that it is, in the words of Saturday Night Live, “specccial.”

For example, in a letter to me and the other two complainants in one of the Title IV cases, intake officer Caroline Parkinson, after accusing us of “distracting, disingenous, and duplicitous” conduct, prattled on about how there would be no point to a Title IV case, as our alleged conduct would interfere with the Title IV goals of healing and reconciliation. That, of course, does four things:
  • Conveniently overlooks Bob Malm’s misconduct.
  • Assigns blame for the problem in the victims of Bob’s misconduct.
  • Demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of the dynamics of abuse, which is that victims often behave in ways that are not rational or helpful, up to and including things like alcoholism and suicide.
  • Ignores the fact that Title IV applies only to clergy. As in, clergy are always responsible for maintaining boundaries, full stop. And, as illustrated by the +Bruno case, in which allegations swirled about the conduct of parishioners, clergy are supposed to be accountable for their conduct, regardless.
Caroline also violated confidentiality by disclosing a third complaint, and by lumping all three complaints together.

The real cherry on top, though, came  when she reverted to Jesus-babble in her letter, urging us to have the “grace to find a new church.”

Why on God’s green earth would anyone want anything to do with the church after this, including the diocese’s decision that retaliation for filing a Title IV complaint is acceptable?

Then we get to Caroline’s lie, which is that the diocese had already considered the matter of Bob’s decision to remove our names from the church directory the previous summer. Leaving aside the fact that there was no advisor, or communication from the reference panel, which means there likely was no reference panel that summer, the issue of the directory didn’t arise until that fall. All I can say is that I was not aware that the ability to time travel was one of the benefits of ordination. How special.

Similarly, Canon Mary Thorpe, whose husband serves as Executive Director of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, should surely have a handle both on Title IV and the pastoral implications of violating the promises Title IV sets forth to laity. Yet she apparently has said nothing about:
  • The outrageous and appalling conclusion set forth in the most recent Title IV notice of dismissal that perjury by members of the clergy is acceptable as long as there is no criminal violation. 
  • The fact that the diocese has repeatedly ignored the requirement of a pastoral response in all Title IV cases, including those involving dismissal. (Indeed, mapping out a pastoral response should be one of the first things to happen when a complaint is filed. But I guarantee you that the diocese has done nothing in this regard. Indeed, a pastoral response should be implemented from the moment a complaint is filed.)
  • The fact that the diocese itself has repeatedly breached confidentiality in this matter, including through its violation of the Title IV whistleblower provisions.
Yet she wants to try to insist that I should keep the diocese’s actions confidential? All I can say is I call BS on that one. It takes a special kind of arrogance for the diocese to repeatedly violate Title IV in all directions, yet try to apply those very same provisions to laity. This, despite the fact that with the exception of one provision, Title IV expressly doesn’t apply to laity. 

What’s really sad, though, is that we have clergy, aka professional Christians, who get paid to do this stuff full-time, who consider Title IV so unimportant that they don’t bother to learn its requirements, or to follow them. And doubly sad when I, as laity (if that’s what you want to call a former Christian), am far more familiar with the provisions of Title IV than they are.

And for the record, this is not the only time that the Diocese has ignored the Title IV requirement of a pastoral response. In the case of the lovely small church of St. Thomas’ in McLean, the diocese violated not only every best practice out there (including having Pat Wingo show up unannounced to tell people that the rector had been suspended), but it adamantly refused to do anything to care for the parish in the aftermath.

Why? Per Bishop Shannon, it was because diocesan chancellor JP Causey had told them not to get too involved due to fears of legal liability. All I can say is that’s pretty rich, coming from a chancellor who oversaw litigation in which the diocese bloviated on for years in the courts about the applicability of church canons to its constituent parishes. And no, there is no allegation of wrongdoing within the parish itself. And yes, it was nice that +Shannon apologized, but having not done anything to actually repair the damage, the gesture was purely symbolic.

In the meantime, a number of parishioners have left St. Thomas’, several of them life-long members, yet no one has ever reached out to them to care for them or attempt to fix the hurt that the diocese has caused. Proof that, as laity, we’re supposed to keep our mouths shut and send money, nothing more. And if we leave, we are of no consequence to the diocese. Next customer, window three, step right up.

The great irony in all of this is that these situations have created a deep well of knowledge and of pain among those hurt by the church. If the diocese had half the common sense God gave a goat, it would follow the lead of one of the dioceses in California, which ultimately invited friends of mine who had left the church due to abuse to serve on its advisory panel for preventing abuse. As is often pointed out within nonprofits, your critics are often your most useful allies, if you can lean into things and not feel threatened. But the church is nowhere near that self-aware.

With that in mind, it’s time I think for the diocese to engage in a period of introspection and repentence. Much of the harm it has caused in recent years is irreparable, and signs suggest that things are going to get worse, not better. But ignoring the problem will only allow it to fester.

For example, when the day comes in the not-distant future that Dysfunctional Bob packs it in, Grace church is headed for a period of turmoil. No matter how skilled an interim may be things will get ugly, especially when folks eventually realize just how problematic Bob Malm was and is. Having a priest for 30+ years who considers it nothing but a job, and who exploited the church shamelessly for his personal needs, is not a good situation for even the healthiest of churches, and Grace is far from healthy. But neither the parish itself nor the diocese see this, so there’s a storm lurking just over the horizon. Yikes.

Will the diocese reverse course and take my conflict with Bob seriously? Not bloody likely. Nor does it perceive any need to actually follow Title IV. And it is so blindly narcissistic as an organization that it has no concept or empathy for the pain it has caused and continues to cause. Moreover, just like individual narcissists, who often wind up late in life being profoundly isolated and alone (as appears increasingly likely for Bob Malm), it doesn’t realize that it’s sowing the seeds for its own destruction, for this sort of conduct inevitably causes organizations to rot from within.

That’s particularly troubling in light of +Goff’s progressive creds, as well as her academic background in psychology. One would think she, of all people, would recognize the looming problems, but she appears to have no insight beyond the tactical, day-to-day business of the rapidly dwindling diocese. Yes, she is a better tactician than +Johnston, but that’s not saying much. Indeed, the hot mess that was the diocese’s effort to find a bishop transitional should be of profound concern at every level in the organization, as it shows that problems are both systemic and structural. 

The fact that, even at the highest levels, the diocese can’t see the forest for the trees, and doesn’t recognize just how troubled it is, bespeaks an organization that is ill-prepared for the future—a future that will be marked by sharply declining revenue and membership. And until it actually cares for its members — even those who, like me, it both dislikes and distrusts — and demonstrates an ethical worldview marked by something more than empty Jesus-babble, the diocese will continue to crumble.

Not a pretty sight.





Saturday, April 6, 2019

Bob Malm: Yet Another of His Lies

Here’s another good example of Bob Malm’s lies and misrepresentations.

The first screen cap is a message I sent to Bob when things heated back up in the summer of 2017, after several communications from parishioners that were hateful and homophobic. Note that I discuss the importance of publicly saying that bullying is not okay, and of reminding people that both sides had put the matter behind us. What the email does NOT include:
  • Any discussion of a public forum.
  • Any discussion of an apology from Bob.
Moreover, this is the only email I sent to Bob on this subject.


Now, in Bob’s subsequent email to Bishop Shannon and Canon Pat Wingo, see how Bob describes my email. Note his references to a public forum and an apology, and his claim that I asked him to take responsibility for the conflict. These are, to be blunt, lies.


I’d add that apropos Mom and other family members, several of whom have independent grievances against Bob, Bob indeed has made no effort to resolve their concerns. In fact, he has never discussed the matter with them. And, of course, there is Bob’s little antic of taking words out of context roughly one-third of the way through his endless run-on sentence.

Meanwhile, Bob’s email underscores an important point: Bob Malm is a liar. Or, to use Sugarland Chiow’s phrase, a “serial liar.” 

As such, Bob should not be serving as a priest, and you can quote me on that.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

More Signs of Trouble from DioVA

As some of you know, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia recently announced that there will not be a vote on a Bishop Provisional at this weekend’s general convention. The news was released immediately following Sunday’s farewell reception for bishop Shannon, held at the Virginia Theological Seminary. 

Taken in light of recent events within the diocese, the announcement adds to the growing evidence that the diocese has serious governance issues. These include:
  1. The abrupt resignation this summer of Pat Wingo, who served as the bishop’s assistant, or canon to the ordinary.
  2. The collapse, not long after, of the search for a bishop adjutant, followed by the resignation of Bishop Shannon.
  3. Evidence of multiple bad decisions in the area of clergy discipline, including the diocese’s repeated failure to exercise appropriate supervision over Bob Malm, resulting in profound damage to the reputation of the church due to Bob’s claims of being threatened by terrorists, his decision to take a former parishioner to court, and his decision to try to drag an elderly dying woman into court.
  4. Multiple Title IV Disciplinary cases pending against Bishop Shannon, including one in which it is alleged that he acted to cover up repeated instances of sexual harassment by clergy under his supervision. (The office of the presiding bishop has refused on multiple occasions to update complainants on the status of their cases, raising the possibility of additional attempts at cover-up.)
  5. Signs of major conflict between the executive committee and the trustees of the funds. Not uncommon following litigation, such kerfuffles invariably end badly, and must be addressed immediately if they are to avoid snowballing.
  6. A bishop who, like many clergy, is conflict avoidant and tends to tell people what they want to hear. I have experienced this firsthand.
Of course, the handling of the search for a bishop provisional also is telling. The standing committee has been working on the matter since August 3, 2018, and no doubt knew it had a hot potato on its hands. Moreover, it was likely obvious from the get-go that the pool of applicants would be very limited, given that this is intended to be a three-year gig, the candidate must have previously served as a bishop, and must be under age 69 in order to comply with the canonically mandated retirement age of 72. All of this, at a time when a large number of bishop positions are open. Thus, it surely made sense to have both a Plan B and a Plan C in place, such that the diocese would not again have egg on its face if the search process ran into problems. Yet, here we sit, with the diocese now thoroughly covered in egg.

So, the more things change the more they stay the same. The diocese remains a hot mess, governance is in a shambles, and it’s the Wild, Wild West when it comes to clergy discipline within the diocese. And now, matters are compounded by a power vacuum at the top, for if there’s anything worse than an incompetent bishop, it’s governance via committee.

But the most telling sign of serious trouble in the diocese comes via the wry observation of a friend of mine, a Episcopal priest for more than 50 years. Many years ago, he said, “As a priest, you know you’re in trouble when the bishop starts saying nice things about you in public.” And so it is with Bishop Shannon, on whom the presiding bishop heaped fulsome praise following the announcement of his retirement.

Things surely are a hot mess in The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.






Saturday, September 1, 2018

See for Yourself: I Confront the Episcopal Bishops of Virginia over Bob Malm’s Lies to the Circuit Court, Inappropriate Comments

Earlier today, I contacted Bishop Shannon Johnston; Bishop Susan Goff;  and the national intake officer for Title IV, Bishop Todd Ousley via email to alert all involved of Bob Malm’s lies set forth in his most recent court filing. In the filing, sent to the Alexandria Circuit Court, Bob told three lies:
  1. That I have violated the existing protective order.
  2. That I was never a police officer.
  3. That I was never admitted to practice law.
As documented in my previous post, all three are flagrantly false.

Copied on the email were my two attorneys, as well as my friend Dee Parsons, publisher of The Wartburg Watch. The latter will be running an update in the coming weeks about Bob’s behavior since December 2017, including his filing of a bogus request for a protective order against me.

Will Bishop Shannon do anything about Bob Malm’s lies? Doubtful, given that he himself has falsely claimed that these matters were “investigated and resolved long ago.” But the reality is that Title IV intake officers do not have investigatory powers, and are not trained as investigators. Their only investigatory powers extend to making a preliminary inquiry in order to “understand the matter complained of.” If a matter requires investigation, it is sent out for investigation, which never happened. Instead, the matter was brushed off, dismissed out of hand, and without the pastoral response (which is not the same as pastoral care) required under Title IV.

Additionally, when Bishop Shannon and I met with Bob Malm in person, we all agreed that our ceasefire only extended to those parties in the room. In short, it did not include Mike, Mom, or anyone else. Thus, one cannot say that a conflict has been resolved when only two of the principals were involved.

Moreover, when the diocese was previously notified of Bob’s various falsehoods, including perjury, it stated in writing that these matters were not “of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” 

As a result, I have concluded that both the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church overall are morally bankrupt. If bullying, harassment, shunning, lying and perjury aren’t actionable, what the hell is? Indeed, at this point, Bishop Shannon has stated in writing that he supports Bob Malm, so it logically follows that he supports these behaviors. Nor has Bishop Shannon retracted his written statement. 

Moreover, given the recent allegations that have emerged that Bishop Shannon covered up the sexual harassment of a female church worker by a priest under his supervision, sexual harassment appears to be acceptable as well.

In short, The Episcopal Church is every bit as broken as the Catholic Church, and Bishop Shannon appears to be every bit as corrupt as any of the Catholic Bishops; his only interest is in protecting the church’s reputation, and he doesn’t get a red rat’s rear end about who gets hurt in the process.

The Episcopal Church has no relation whatsoever to the teachings of Jesus.

Attachment:







Saturday, August 25, 2018

Breaking News: Reports that Pope Francis Covered Up Abuse Sound Very Much Like Recent Allegations Involving Bishop Shannon Johnston

In recent postings, I discussed allegations that recently surfaced that Episcopal bishop Shannon Johnston may have covered up accusations of sexual harassment involving an Episcopal priest under his supervision. The matter came to a head when the victim filed a complaint against Johnston with the national church.

The matter sounds very much like the breaking news involving Pope Francis, in which a former papal nuncio has submitted testimony claiming that Francis lifted restrictions imposed by Pope Benedict on Archbishop McCarrick.

See for Yourself: Bob Malm Steps Right in It, Makes a Statement Against Interest

In litigation, there’s something called a statement against interest. Such a statement is one that counters one’s entire argument, and thus tends to prove its falsity.

Here Bob Malm jumps, Sperrys first, right into a great, steaming heap of poo, when he tells Bishop Shannon Johnston that his wife and one of his daughters take this whole conflict more seriously than they should, going on to say that folks at St. Dysfunction “know how dysfunctional [I] am.” Hmm. 

Defamation by implication, anyone?

For the record, the daughter is Lindsey, who actually is the person who called the Alexandria police department to complain that she didn’t like a post of Mom’s on the Wartburg Watch. As the ensuing conversation progressed, it was Bob who started trotting out things like the phrase, “psychological murder,” which refers to shunning, to try to make his facially thin case that somehow he was being threatened. And he started pulling the church in, so that he could use his perceived authority in the church to make this whole thing about the safety of the church.

BTW, don’t you love the whole, “coach, put me in the game” tone of Bob’s email? 

#fakechristians











See for Yourself: Correspondence Between Chris Byrnes, Bob Malm, and Bishop Shannon


Gotta love a Tabor education; apparently, logic is not high on the list of priorities. 

Here, we see Bob Malm asserting that he’s never met my mom, and thus her blog cannot be hers. 

Non sequitor, anyone? Or should we class this as a fallacy of ignoratio elenchi? Your call.






See for Yourself: Another Email from Bob Malm Lobbying the Diocese and Demonstrating Questionable Veracity

In this email, Bob pulls in a reference to a church shooting in Chattanooga as he tries to inflame fears within the church. He also falsely represents our exchange of email from the previous summer when I offered to try to mediate this conflict. We did not, at any point, discuss a public forum, nor did we discuss Bob apologizing. (The latter is worthless, as my experience is that an apology from Bob Malm is nothing but pretty words, carefully chosen, as Bob attempts to regroup and move onto other things. In short, an apology is never an expression of remorse, as Bob appears to lack empathy for others.)

See anything Christlike here? Nope, me neither.




See for Yourself: Bishop Shannon Letter With Multiple Falsehoods

Here is a copy of the letter that Bishop Shannon Johnston sent to Grace Church some time ago. It’s notable for several reasons:
  1. At the top-most level, the bishop expresses suppport for clergy who have engaged in shunning and retaliation; the latter is now specifically grounds for clergy discipline under church canons. You’d think a bishop of all people would hold to a higher standard, but you’d be wrong. No wonder things are a hot mess at Mayo House and Bishop Shannon is headed for the hills.
  2. The letter falsely claims that these matters were investigated and resolved long ago. That’s facially untrue. The intake officer has no investigatory authority, but may make such inquiry as is needed in order to “understand the matter complained of.” (That is the exact wording.) Having dismissed my complaint outright, having failed to provide the pastoral response required under the canons, and having allowed Bob Malm to disclose the matter to Jeff Chiow, Jeff Aaron, and others in violation of the canons, the matter also was not resolved. Not from the perspective of canon law. Not from a practical perspective.
  3. Given that Bob out-and-out lied at one point during our meeting with the Bishop, I’d hardly say he’s to be commended. His exact falsehood: “Having resigned from the vestry, you were no longer eligible to serve as a trustee.” Too bad none of the trustees have been vestry members (nor should they be, as a practical matter).
  4. In my one-on-one discussions with Bishop Shannon, he acknowledged that the matter was not appropriately handled. Yet here, he claims that it was and everything is copacetic. So which is it? Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.
#fakechristians




Friday, August 17, 2018

See for Yourself: Comments from Prominent Author on Bishop Shannon’s Violation of Title IV

Recently, I sent Bishop Shannon’s notice of dismissal, and my emailed response, to a prominent author who frequently writes about The Episcopal Church. Although he and I have profoundly different political views, as well as serious differences on issues like marriage equality, here’s what he writes about Bishop Shannon:



And at this point, the “institutional stupidity” continues, as Jeff Chiow and Bob Malm continue their efforts to trump up a bogus civil suit against me, and to drag my dying mother into court, with the full support and blessing of Bishops Shannon and Susan.

No wonder organized religion is dying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

See for Yourself: Documentation that Bishop Shannon Johnston Violated Church Disciplinary Canons

Here is another interesting point of reference. Under Title IV, the Episcopal disciplinary canons, the reference panel, which is responsible for referring a case for resolution, has four options for dealing with a complaint. These options include:
  1. No further action except for the pastoral response mandated by Canon IV.8 at the time of intake.
  2. Conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10.
  3. Investigation pursuant to Canon IV.11.
  4. Referral to the bishop for possible agreement on terms of discipline pursuant to Canon IV.9.
Instead, the diocese attempted, with Bishop Shannon’s full knowledge, to dismiss my complaint at the reference panel stage, thus violating its own canons, or laws.

Moreover, it:
  • Breached confidentiality by improperly combining, and disclosing, the existence of an independent complaint, filed by my mother.
  • Failed to provide the pastoral response mandate by Canon IV.8.
  • Inserted snotty, rude, dismissive language, accusing others of behaving badly, despite the fact that Title IV only covers clergy. (The latter changes on January 1, 2019)
  • Ignored written documentation that misuse of donations was illegal.
  • Improperly contacted respondents during the intake phase of the case.
  • Makes an interesting assumption, which is that anyone would want to have anything to do with The Episcopal Church after this experience.
Here’s the diocese’s notice:




Additionally, when I pointed out the diocese’s violation of church canons, it ignored me.

Here is my email:


Decide for yourself whether you believe Bishop Shannon Johnston responds appropriately to victims of clergy abuse, and see you think of his pastoral ethics.

My take: It is, shall we say, duplicitous and disingenuous to violate church canons, then accuse others of behaving badly. And you have to love a church that argues that the canons mean that it has an ownership interest in all parish property within the diocese, and yet it is free to disregard the very same canons any time it feels like doing so.


See for Yourself: Discussion on Twitter About Bishop Shannon’s Retirement



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

See for Yourself: Catholic Pastoral Standards Cover Bob Malm’s Conduct

In light of today’s news, the Catholic Church is getting considerable negative attention. Yet, ironically, in many ways it is far less tolerant of misconduct than is The Episcopal Church. Moreover, much of Bob Malm’s behavior towards me would be cause for disciplinary action undee Catholic guidelines—conduct that, per Bishop Shannon Johnston and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, is “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.”

Here is what the Catholic Church’s pastoral guidelines say about harassment:





Rumors About Bishop Shannon

Someone recently asked me about +Shannon, and rumors swirling about the abrupt news of his departure, as well as the recent departure of other key personnel in the diocese. Specifically, I was asked if the allegations about +Shannon potentially covering up a case of sexual harassment have anything to do with another recent departure, presumably that of Pat Wingo.

By way of clarification, the allegations to which I am referring do not in any way suggest that Pat Wingo engaged in sexual harassment. 

More than that I cannot say, except that +Shannon has a dubious track record when it comes to dealing with clergy misconduct. That includes his whole approach of, “tell the wardens about it.” But as anyone who ever worked in HR knows, there are times when, for a variety of reasons, those experiencing abuse or harassment simply cannot deal with the issue locally, or with these directly involved. In those situations, it is highly inappropriate to insist that they do.

In my case, I can also say that +Shannon has turned an appallingly blind eye to Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow’s actions, and the damage they are doing to The Episcopal Church. As a result, it is fair to ask, “Why even have a bishop if he or she won’t deal with clergy misconduct? In what sort of sick religion is it okay to bully the dying? In what sort of church is it okay for clergy to refer to their own parishioners as “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional,” as Bob Malm has done?”

Indeed, per the diocese, bullying, workplace harassment, and deliberate misuse of church funds are not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church. I have it in writing, reviewed and approved by Bishop Shannon personally.

My opinion is that all of this points up a larger truth, which is that we are really seeing just how troubled the Diocese of Virginia and Grace Episcopal church have really become. And no wonder Bob Malm doesn’t want to tell parishioners that this sort of thing is inappropriate—it’s his modus operandi, even if done behind the scenes. Something about a house divided....


Friday, August 10, 2018

COPD, Depression and Anxiety: Further Information on Bob Malm’s Stunning Ethical Deficit

As Bob Malm’s attorney Jeff Chiow loudly carries on about his legal ethics, both he and client Bob Malm face one incontrovertible fact: Trying to drag my mom into court for a deposition carries with it serious ethical implications.

For example, the vast majority of end-stage COPD patients suffer from anxiety and depression, with 66 percent experiencing panic attacks. These symptoms appear to correlate both with physical issues, including dyspnea (shortness of breath), erratic sleep patterns, and with several specific sources of anxiety. The latter include awareness of death, fear of suffocation, separation anxiety, and fear of suffering. Regrettably, medical literature suggests that treating physicians frequently fail to adequately treat these issues, with some regarding depression in particular as part of the grieving process associated with knowledge of impending death.

Notably, perceptions of dyspnea both cause anxiety and depression, and emanate from dyspnea. Thus, a vicious cycle may come into play that further interferes with the ability to perform daily life functions.

So, in situations such as this, efforts to (to use Jeff Chiow’s language) “compel” a terminally ill patient to participate in civil litigation are not something to be taken lightly. And with Bob Malm, Jeff Chiow, Bishop Shannon Johnston and Bishop Susan Goff all aware that mom is suffering from end-stage COPD, you’d think that one of the bunch would consider the ethical and moral implications, wouldn’t you?

Of course, you’d be wrong. After all, this is St. Dysfunction Episcopal Church aka Grace Episcopal Church, where such things aren’t even a factor. They aren’t a factor for Dysfunctional Bob. They aren’t a factor for Jeff Chiow.

Nor are they a factor for The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Lots of lip service and bragging about social justice, marching in Charlottesville and other hoo-ha, but when the rubber meets the road there is absolutely zero substance.

For those interested in learning more about the psychological and emotional suffering experienced by end-stage COPD patients, a good starting point can be found here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

See for Yourself: My Critique of Title IV

In July of 2017, I wrote a piece for Episcopal Cafe about challenges in the current implementation of Title IV. Below is the text of the original article; it and related comments can be found online at https://www.episcopalcafe.com/title-iv-the-maginot-line-of-clergy-discipline/

Remember the Maginot Line? History buffs may recall that it was a massive series of fortifications along the French border, put in place after WWI, intended to repel potential future German attacks.

Unfortunately, the Maginot line had several fatal flaws. First, it did not extend to the Low Countries, allowing German troops to bypass French defenses. Second, the Maginot Line’s weaponry only pointed towards Germany, meaning that military forces that attacked from the rear could easily overwhelm these massive but now defenseless fortifications.

And so it is with Title IV. At first glance, Title IV appears to be a tightly crafted piece of canon law that provides an effective framework to address clergy misconduct. In reality, however, there are several fatal flaws that can, in certain circumstances, render Title IV’s protections largely illusory.

To be sure, the 2011 changes to Title IV were largely positive. By providing for multiple levels of conversation and discernment, the current version of Title IV affords greater opportunity for healing, justice, restitution and reconciliation. This, I believe, is consistent with our call as Christians.

Moreover, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons (SCCC) appears well informed and responsive to the issues with the current Title IV. Prefacing its recent report with the accurate observation that a poorly handled Title IV case often cases irreparable harm to the reputation of all parties involved, the SCCC went on to note that there is a church-wide lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities in the Title IV process. This in turn causes delay, uncertainty, and unnecessary expense.

In response, the most recent General Convention funded the development of Title IV training materials, eventually to be translated into multiple languages. The status of this project is unclear to me, but with the next General Convention now roughly a year away, one hopes that these materials will soon be in widespread circulation.

Meanwhile, there are a number of serious challenges that remain unaddressed. These include:
  • Lack of clarity over what constitutes “conduct unbecoming.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising when dealing with a “catch-all” phrase such as this. But some dioceses basically treat “conduct unbecoming” as comprising only major illicit activities, such as rape, murder, and mayhem, while ignoring issues like workplace harassment, bullying, misuse of funds, abuse of office, and other serious matters. In dioceses where the “no blood, no foul” rule seemingly pertains, clergy misconduct is ignored that, were it to occur in most other employment settings, would result in immediate disciplinary action, including termination of employment. Thus, in these cases, clergy are held to an embarrassingly low standard of behavior—one that hasn’t been acceptable in much of the corporate world for decades. 
Meanwhile, an adjudicatory who simply doesn’t wish to be bothered leaves complainants with little recourse other than filing a complaint against the bishop diocesan—hardly an appetizing option for most complainants.

Of particular note is that Title IV never defines or references bullying. While one would assume that clergy who bully fall within the purview of the “conduct unbecoming,” clause, my experience is that intake officers either don’t recognize bullying when they see it, or are unwilling to address it. This ignores the excellent work done by the Diocese of Newark, and specifically addressing these gaps in the upcoming revisions to Title IV would be useful.
  • Lack of clarity about what constitutes conduct that is “weighty and material” to the ministry of the church. Often, intake officers who don’t wish to deal with a complaint will cite the “weighty and material” clause of Title IV. But how do you define “weighty and material?” In my experience, intake officers typically don’t recognize spiritual, financial or emotional abuse as meeting this threshold. Yet any mental health professional will tell you that these forms of abuse can be every bit as damaging as physical abuse. Or, as one complainant told me, “My intake officer was stuck in a 1950’s definition of misconduct. If it didn’t involve rape or physical violence, it just didn’t count.” 
  • Lack of a mechanism to address substantive or procedural errors during a Title IV proceeding. For example, if an intake officer interviews respondent clergy without the latter having access to an advisor, this is a violation of Title IV. Yet there is no meaningful mechanism to address issues such as this. Granted, the most recent revisions provide for a Title IV procedural officer, but with a poorly defined role and no real enforcement powers, this does not go nearly far enough. Similarly, if the reference or hearing panels violate the canons in their handling of a case, there often is no way to address the matter other than an appeal to the good graces of the bishop diocesan. 
  • Lack of recourse in cases of improper dismissal. In cases in which an intake officer improperly dismisses a complaint, the president of the diocesan disciplinary board may overturn the dismissal. But since the reference panel comprises the intake officer, the bishop diocesan, and the president of the disciplinary board, a bishop diocesan may be all too easily swayed by an intake officer with whom she or he already has a close professional relationship. Since there is no right of appeal from a dismissal that is upheld at this level, an intake officer has an almost unchecked ability to impede a complaint if they so choose. True, a dismissal has no preemptive effect against a future complaint, but as long as the complainant must deal with the same intake officer and same adjudicatory, chances of a successful outcome are slim. 
  • Lack of clarity over what constitutes a “pastoral response.” Title IV mandates a pastoral response whenever a complaint is made to an intake officer; that is the case even if the complaint is dismissed. But I have learned of numerous cases in which adjudicatories have used a pastoral response as an excuse to avoid dealing with serious clergy misconduct, including sexual relations with parishioners. Yes, there should always be pastoral care and concern for those affected by clergy misconduct, but when this provision is used to allow clergy to avoid accountability, a serious injustice is done. Additionally, I have heard anecdotes that suggest some adjudicatories define a pastoral response so loosely as to render it meaningless. For example, one bishop allegedly wrote to a sexual abuse survivor to say that he deeply regretted the situation and would pray for her and her family. Yes, I believe in the power of prayer, but not as a be-all-and-end-all solution for serious issues like sexual misconduct.
In short, the pastoral response provision is too often the exception that swallows the rule.
  • Lack of recourse against respondents who engage in misconduct during the early phases of a Title IV proceeding. To its credit, the most recent General Convention amended Title IV to include the possibility of sanctions against parties who engage in misconduct. But this really only applies at the hearing panel stage of proceedings. Thus, clergy who, for example, lie during the intake process or during conciliation may well face no penalty for their actions. Yes, the church attorney can, if she or he chooses to do so, amend the complaint, but this appears to happen rarely. Thus, Title IV cases that don’t reach the hearing panel stage of proceedings may have few disincentives for respondent clergy to engage in misconduct that undercuts the Title IV process. 
  • Lack of protection for complainants. As things stand, there is no specific protection against clergy respondents retaliating against complainants. For instance, in one case with which I am familiar, the respondent clergyperson retaliated for the filing of a Title IV complaint by organizing a multi-year campaign of shunning and harassment against the complainants, and did so using church resources. The diocese and intake officer received multiple complaints about this behavior, but ignored it. While the matter was eventually resolved, the relational, reputational, and other damage caused by the clergyperson’s retaliation is largely irreparable.
In fairness, the SCCC appears poised to recommend the addition of whistleblower protection to Title IV at the 2018 General Convention. In the meantime, though, Title IV complainants and witnesses participate in the process at their own risk—hardly conducive to the healing and reconciliation envisioned in the 2011 changes to Title IV. Yes, one would assume that retaliation, which is illegal in publicly traded companies would constitute conduct unbecoming under Title IV, but the uncertainty over individual roles and responsibilities in this context makes this an uncertain proposition, at best.

Speaking of whistleblower protection, we have learned in cases of sexual misconduct of the importance of having one person who is ultimately responsible for follow-through. This prevents cases from falling through the cracks, or being dismissed out of hand. In most cases, the bishop diocesan is the person responsible for ensuring an appropriate response and follow-through. Yet the national church’s whistleblower hotline only covers church headquarters employees, and we have no single point of contact as a denomination to deal with misconduct. We therefore should give consideration to a churchwide ethics hotline that can be used at all levels to bring potential misconduct to light, as minors, third-party advocates and others otherwise may have difficulty knowing whom to contact in case of a problem. At the same time, there must be assurances that complaints will be listened to, treated with respect, addressed appropriately, and that retaliation will not be tolerated.
  • Lack of implementing regulations. In the case of most civil statutes, the details are implemented via administrative regulation. There is some precedent in church canon law for this, including the “Manual of Business Methods in Church Affairs,” and the sexual misconduct prevention manuals developed by most dioceses. Yet the lack of definitive policies on the day-to-day handling of Title IV matters leads to lack of clarity and some very poor outcomes. Even guidance such as recommending that intake officers meet face to face with a complainant whenever possible would be most helpful, yet there is too little effort in this space. Similarly, a formal certification process for Title IV officials, such as that often required for diocesan sexual misconduct prevention trainers, might be useful. 
We also should do a better job of defining what is within the purview of Title IV. All too often, Title IV is postured as a means of addressing sexual misconduct, since references to Title IV are incorporated into diocesan sexual misconduct prevention materials. This creates the impression – often even among diocesan staff – that Title IV’s main purpose is to address sexual misconduct. As a result, adjudicatories often will jump all over claims that a clergyperson had an affair, all the while ignoring the clergyperson who engages in other, equally troubling behavior, including workplace harassment, bullying, emotional abuse or relational abuse. It is also worth noting that at least one diocese has no reference to Title IV at all on its website—hardly helpful for someone struggling to deal with clergy misconduct.

In conclusion, my belief is that the analogy to the Maginot Line is valuable. At first glance, Title IV appears to be a formidable defense against clergy misconduct, but the reality is that clergy and adjudicatories alike can, with great ease, sidestep Title IV when it so suits them. Thus, like the Maginot Line, Title IV all too often is illusory in the protections it offers.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Navy Investigates Top Enlisted Sailor for Verbal Abuse; Episcopal Church Says Such Conduct is Unimportant to its Ministry

In a move that shows how out of step with the times The Episcopal Church really is, the US Navy has launched a misconduct investigation into Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Giordano‘s conduct, amidst acccusations that he has been verbally abusive. As a result of the investigation, Giordano has tendered his resignation, according to CNN.

The navy’s actions are in marked contrast to those of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which under Bishop Shannon Johnston, has repeatedly stated in writing that Bob Malm’s repeated documented instances of verbal abuse and bullying are not, “Of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” Thus, the diocese has declined to address these issues.

Per the navy’s Inspector General, Giordano is being investigated for fostering a “hostile work environment,” in which members of his staff complained of “verbal abuse” and a “bullying leadership style.”

It is telling when the US military displays greater moral integrity in the workplace than does The Episcopal Church in one of its houses of worship.