Showing posts with label Bishop Susan Goff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bishop Susan Goff. Show all posts

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 Title 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, 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.





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



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, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is going pedal-to-the-metal in it 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, comes when she reverts 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 aspects 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, itself, violate Title IV in all directions, yet try to apply Title provisions to laity—which, with one recent exception—Title IV expressly does not 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 IT 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, 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. 

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.

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 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.

It’s also 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. 

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 yet 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.

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 — the diocese will continue to crumble.





Monday, April 8, 2019

See for Yourself: Despite Scandal, the Catholic Church is More Ethical than The Episcopal Church

As those familiar with my conflict with Bob Malm already know, in July 2015 the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia dismissed my Title IV complaint against Bob Malm. What does that mean in real-life? It means that my allegations, which included potential workplace harassment and clear retaliation by Bob for complaining, are not, per the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, even arguably violations of church canons. Indeed, even with the recent change to Title IV, which specifically forbids retaliation, the diocese does not view Bob’s conduct as being within the aegis of conduct unbecoming clergy, and thus actionable.

Before going further, you should note that the this decision was communicated in writing by the Rev. Carolyn Parkinson, then the diocesan intake officer.

That’s also really troubling.

Not only is retaliation illegal at publicly traded companies, but Bob’s conduct would expressly violate Catholic written “safe environment” policy, which requires inter alia that:
  • Clergy refrain from creating or permitting an environment in which harassment of any sort is allowed.
  • Clergy treat all persons with dignity and respect, and avoid intimidation, including verbal and written.
  • Clergy provide an environment marked by fairness and justice.
  • All involved take allegations of harassment seriously.
Guess that would preclude stating that harassment is not a violation of church canons, yelling at volunteers in front of others, permitting staff to do so, lying about parishioners, committing perjury, calling your parishioners “domestic terrorists,” or trying to drag the dying into court.

It is a sorry state of affairs when the Catholic Church takes the moral high ground versus the supposedly inclusive Episcopal Church.

The following screen caps are from Catholic Safe Environment policies:






Monday, November 5, 2018

DioVA Plans Listening Sessions, I Call Bullcrud

When I was a kid, a family member commonly  used the phrase “a day late and a dollar short.” This words come to mind as Bishop Susan Goff now takes on the ecclesiastical authority for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and announces that she will begin a series of “listening sessions” across the diocese. All of which is a nice way of saying that the listening sessions are a bunch of hogwash. A complete waste of time for all involved.

Why do I say that? Because +Susan, and the rest of the Mayo House crowd, has been well aware of Bob Malm’s antics over the past three years and have consistently refused to do anything about them. That begs the question: Why even have a bishop if they can’t so much as ensure that church is a safe place?

Indeed, +Susan is well aware of Bob’s perjury; his efforts to drag my mother, dying of COPD, into court; and more. In fact, she refused to get involved when I asked her to help mediate rising tensions with Bob Malm, even though Pay Wingo had suggested I reach out to her if help was needed in this area.

In short, why bother with listening sessions if the diocese won’t even address clergy misconduct?  What an absolute waste of time! If the diocese wants to mend its ways, why not start with the issues it already knows?

Bishop Goff, please don’t offer false hope. DioVA is utterly indifferent to the welfare of its members, and you can quote me on that. Moreover, you and the rest of the Mayo House fat cats have demonstrated this repeatedly, so let’s not waste time on such silliness.







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:







Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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.