Showing posts with label toxic churches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toxic churches. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Grace Episcopal Alexandria: Lessons from a Toxic Church

Growing up, I had preconceived notions about toxic churches. But after my experiences with Grace Episcopal church in Alexandria, I now know that many of my ideas were nothing but stereotypes. As such, these ideas had a kernel of truth, but they missed the larger point. Indeed, I had so little understanding of what really goes on in a toxic church that I was a member of one and never knew it.

So, what did I think constituted a toxic church? My answer probably would be consistent with that of most liberal Episcopalians. Conservative, fundamentalist churches that excluded people, that held to complementarianism, that had rigid doctrinal positions, and had theologies of cheap grace, in which you uttered a magic phrase about turning your life over to Jesus, and bingo! Everything suddenly is right in the world.

Factoring into this was the notion that abusive churches often claim to have all the answers.

But during my time at Grace, I came to understand that liberal, ostensibly inclusive churches often claim to have all the answers too. The packaging may be nicer, but they can be every bit as bad as the most vigorous Pentecostal church, and then some.

Often, this tilt toward abuse is marked by a charismatic, but narcissistic, leader.  This person may appear charming and hyper-confident, but the focus is on them, versus God. Yes, their sermons may be wonderful and cogent, but if you listen closely, they almost always include some reference to themselves. Oftentimes this will take the form of subtle references to something they think makes them special, like the sports they played in school or some leadership position they have held.

Another clue: A rector or other leader who avoids dealing with conflict. This allow them to duck criticism, which narcissists avoid at all costs. And it allows ample opportunity for the narcissist to play people against each other—a favorite pastime of narcissists everywhere. But it is the whims of this “leader” that become the answer set in stone—the hallmark of abusive churches.

Having explored the relationship between narcissism and abuse, let’s explore a few other myths before we go further:
  • Abusive churches are not necessarily unwelcoming. Indeed, many are extraordinarily friendly.
  • Being in an abusive church isn’t necessarily an unhappy experience; it certainly is possible to be happy in an abusive church. In fact, most members enjoy their experiences with an abusive church. So they often are happy places—just unhealthy.
  • Abusive churches often are not collapsing, but may be holding their own or even thriving.
So how do you spot an abusive church? Look for one where boundaries are not clear, or have been eroded.  For example, most psychologically healthy people would not urge another person to commit suicide. Yet, that is exactly what one teenager at Grace Church did to me, with zero recognition of the underlying irony. Same goes for calling people “sickos,” “sick,” “twisted,” and all the other verbal BS that pours forth at Grace Church. (For the record, one of the worst offenders is Bob Malm, with a close second being immediate members of his family.

Also, if there is a sense of betrayal if people criticize church leadership, that is a sign of trouble. In my case, members of Grace Church will actually flip me off as they roll past, oblivious to the irony, especially when I am protesting the church’s behavior toward my terminally ill mother.

Another sign: Conditional friendships. If your church loves you when you are patching the leaky basement, but defriends you on Facebook when you leave the church and criticize it, you’re not dealing with a church—you’ve got a religious fraternity/sorority on your hands.

Yet another symptom: Lack of accountability. If your clergy person is “out of town” any time he or she feels like it, there’s an issue. Same for lack of servant leadership. If you’ve never heard your priest ask, “What can I do to help?,” be wary. Better yet, run.

Still another warning that a church is abusive is members who feel it is their place to discipline other members. Altar guild not talking to you because you ordered the wrong flowers or made a change it didn’t like? If so, that’s hardly the stuff of Christ, and if members are honest, they know it. This sort of emphasis on power and control tells you this is a church that has lost its way. Hopefully you won’t lose your way as you run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

Financial reporting also is a warning sign. If, for example, even vestry members don’t see line item details, particularly for church payroll, you should be very, very suspicious. Why can’t you see that information? It’s your donations that pay those salaries.

Another clue: Look for people who instinctively know that things will come unglued when an abusive leader leaves. The observer may not recognize that the situation is abusive, but any church whose health hinges on a single person is not healthy.

Finally, abusive churches, which are masters of double-speak, often hide behind empty claims of exceptionalism and triumphalism. If you hear about how your church practices “true religion,” or is a “special place,” be wary. And if attendance is dwindling but your church claims to be a slice of paradise, ask why people are leaving such a wonderful place.

And yes, I have observed all these behaviors and phenomena at Grace Church under Bob Malm. So yes, Grace Church is abusive.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Church Member Urges Me to Commit Suicide

Here’s an important reminder of just how toxic Grace Episcopal has become under Dysfunctional Bob Malm.

In this screen cap,,we see a post, believed to be from a member of Lisa Medley’s family. Lisa is a former senior warden, and has repeatedly lied about my experiences with the church.

Needless to say, anyone who thinks urging another human being to commit suicide is one sad individual indeed. Even more sad is that this individual runs in circles, and attends a church, that thinks this sort of conduct is okay.

Proof that Grace Church under Bob Malm is toxic, and in no way a reflection of actual Christian values.




Tuesday, December 11, 2018

See for Yourself: Grace Parishioners Continue Their Efforts to Destroy Their Church

It is comments like this that underscore my point: Grace Episcopal Church is a toxic church.

And if you send your child to Grace Episcopal School, keep in mind that this is the caliber of conversation that goes on behind the scenes.

Lastly, if you are contemplating pledging for 2019, this is the sort of discourse you are supporting.




Friday, December 7, 2018

See for Yourself: Grace Episcopal Parishioner Mocks Dying Woman, Drags Family Members Into Dispute, Makes Accusations of Domestic Violence

Need further proof that Grace Episcopal Church and Bob Malm are toxic? Here’s a screen cap of comments believed to come from a member of Bob Malm’s family. I’d add that mom’s “shiner” is a growth on her right eye.

Grace Episcopal and Bob Malm are so ethically skewed they think it’s okay to mock the dying.




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Leslie Malm Again Underscores the Fact that Grace Episcopal is Toxic

In a recent posting on Fairfax Underground, Leslie Malm again demonstrated that Grace Episcopal Church is both toxic and paranoid.

In her posts, Leslie makes a number of assertions, including that:
  1. The “Grace Episcopal Philosoraptor” post and meme are mine.
  2. That this is all about the fact I wasn’t asked to be senior warden.
  3. That she hasn’t written to me.
  4. That I am a compulsive liar.
  5. That God will punish me in heaven for sharing my experiences with Grace Church.




To set the record straight:
  1. The original post and meme are not mine. That said, if Leslie had half the common sense God gave a goat (or half the intellect), it would be pretty obvious who did develop and publish these items. Thus, we see firsthand the paranoia that is rampant in the place — like referring to me as a “domestic terrorist.”
  2. Actually, Bob did ask me to serve as senior warden, although that was not the position in which I was hoping to serve. My preference, had anyone bothered to ask, would have been to continue as junior warden. That said, after asking, Bob reversed course and asked Lisa, no doubt as tit-for-tat for having insisted that he address the lunacy in the church office. A rude way to handle things, and some would say inappropriate on multiple fronts, given my labors following the flood at the church just prior to Bob’s accident, but what else can you expect from a “priest” like Bob Malm? And Lisa, who was never particularly popular in the church and was originally elected to the vestry as an alternate (meaning she was at the bottom of the heap in terms of votes), in my opinion proved to be exactly the senior warden that Bob deserved. That is all I have to say on that matter.
  3. No one said Leslie has written to me. Ever. She did, however, repeatedly contact me via the webform on my former website; I didn’t include a form on my new site so I wouldn’t have to listen to nonsense of this sort.
  4. Defamatory and untrue. But were that the case, members of the parish have heard things like, “Don’t worry about it, they’ll be retiring this year,” often enough that I would be in not-so-good company. And if it were the case, Leslie’s response hardly mirrors what should be normative for Christians. And speaking of lying, Leslie has yet to respond to my friend Dee Parsons’ email asking why Leslie told the former that I had admitted in open court that Mom’s blog is really mine. Nor is this the first time that Leslie has lied about this matter.
  5. If God and heaven in any way reflect Bob or Leslie Malm’s conduct or that of Grace Episcopal Church, no thanks. You can keep all of the above. And having left the Christian faith, I turned my back on all that nonsense long ago. No desire to waste time and money on a super-annuated geriatric fraternity boy who thinks he’s special, or his family, or his church, or any of the tomfoolery that goes along. So I am not worried about those issues, not in the least.
Bottom line, this is one messed up church. Good bye and good riddance; I hope others can learn from my experiences and devote their time and talent to something useful, like animal welfare, homelessness, or building a more just society. 

PS To the person who did post—thanks for weighing in. Just be careful; if people figure out who you are, you’ll be treated every bit as badly as Mike and I have been,












Saturday, August 25, 2018

How (Real) Christians Respond in Times of Trouble

There’s been a very troubling story in the news over the past several months, and that has been the repeated vandalism at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Annandale. A welcoming, inclusive, small but vibrant congregation, the church has been vandalized seven times over the past few months. Most recently, someone destroyed many of the pew cushions in the church, which are affixed to the pews and thus difficult to replace or repair. Additionally, on one occasion a young volunteer allegedly was assaulted by the intruder. See http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/annandale-church-vandalized-for-the-7th-time-since-may for details.

Before we go further, Bob Malm might well consider folks at this church to be a threat. Given that he claims protesting is somehow a threat to him, the church’s recent outdoor protests, objecting to vandalism at the Jewish Community Center and nearby UCC church, no doubt caused Bob Malm tremendous alarm; see the photos below of the church’s efforts.






But to fully see how Bethlehem Lutheran really is Christian, versus the #fakechristian nonsense that comes from Bob Malm, see what the church’s interim pastor said about the recent vandalism and the person behind it:


That’s a far cry from Bob Malm’s efforts to obtain a restraining order based on his paranoid assumptions/conclusions based on a few words in someone’s blog. 

Of course, that is not to say that I condone vandalism. Indeed, I abhor violence of every sort, including the emotional and relational violence, and shunning, that is part and parcel of Bob Malm’s “ministry” at Grace Episcopal Church. 

And like members of Bethlehem Lutheran church, I am prepared to call out Bob Malm, Jeff Chiow, and all who seek to oppress, intimidate, and harm others. The First Amendment still guarantees the right to peaceful protest, even under Donald Trump and Bob Malm.








Friday, July 27, 2018

Comment from Fairfax Underground

Just saw the following posting, clearly from someone connected with Grace Church.

Why do I get the feeling that Bob Malm’s daughter Lindsey is the poster?

This  sort of invective further proves my point: If you’re looking for Christianity, you won’t find it with Bob Malm or St. Dysfunction Episcopal Church, aka Grace Church.






Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Statement by Bishop Adams Underscores Bob Malm’s Hypocrisy

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina recently made an interesting statement apropos the Lawrencian dissidents. The statement underscores the fact that there is absolutely nothing Christian in Bob Malm’s current smear campaign and effort to avoid accountability by falsely claiming that he’s been threatened.

Here’s what loyalist bishop Skip Adams said:
The break in fellowship within The Episcopal Church that occurred in 2012 must certainly grieve the heart of God. Ever since the break, reconciliation has been our constant prayer. We of The Episcopal Church want to be able to explore every possibility for making reconciliation a reality. 
We have no desire for any member of a congregation to leave his or her church building. Our aim is restoration and unity. We want to work together in mutual respect for the benefit of all, so that we can continue to be about the Good News of Jesus.
That contrasts sharply with Bob’s false police reports and his efforts to force a dying woman, my mother, to testify on his behalf. You’d think that, having lost his own mother (sorry Bob, not a proper noun. It’s lower-case.) only a little over three years ago, he’d have some respect for the dying.

My opinion: Bob Malm is a priest in name only. And like Jesus’ description of the Scribes and Pharisees, Grace is pretty on the outside. But inside it’s rotten and full of decay—like Bob M<alm’s conduct. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

More Sick Comments From Grace Parishioners

Want to see still further proof that Grace Episcopal Church has become toxic? Check out the comments below, which judging from context, come from a parishioner. 

Typical crap from the church—any approach except actually addressing misconduct within the parish.

It’s telling, too, that members of the church go right to sex when they want to try to discredit someone. Needless to say, the parish has an unhealthy obsession with sex. 

At the same time, it has little recognition of the importance of telling the truth: My blow-up with Bob Malm didn’t happen until 2015.

Grace is one sad and dysfunctional church.




Sunday, April 29, 2018

Amusing Encounter

Ever wonder just how dysfunctional Grace Church is? Today’s amusing encounter with a clueless parishioner (who will, for now remain nameless), provides insight.

The individual in question rolled through one of the intersections where I was protesting, yelling, “Get a life, Eric!”

Subsequently, he parked his vehicle and took several photos of me, adding, “Move your sign down. I want to make sure it’s you.”

Given that I maintain this blog, and maintain paid advertising nationwide, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m not looking for anonymity. So, for the record, if you see a protester calling out Grace Church, it is me, or someone connected with me. 

Yeah, taking my pic—top-flight scary stuff, that.

With Christ-like responses like that, I have four words for you: Dysfunctional priest. Dysfunctional church.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Will this End?

A friend of mine recently asked me how this will end. The answer could be one of several outcomes, but none of them are likely to be good for Grace Church.

In the best case scenario, the diocese or vestry decide to provide Bob Malm with a little adult supervision. In that case, we return to the agreement forged in Fredericksburg, which essentially was that we leave each other alone, and recognize the fact that none of us have the ability to control third parties, including my mom. Perhaps we could even work on seeing her concerns (and those of others) addressed, but there is no guarantee after more than two years of conflict that this can be accomplished.

In that case, I’m happy to again shutter my website, as I have better things to do with my life, including looking out for my mother. That said, I have never agreed to non-disclosure, and I will continue to reserve my right to share my experience with others.

In the worst case scenario, things continue as they are. In that case, I will continue to blog, and to protest on a regular basis for at least the next two years. There will be additional coverage in the media and on major blogs, and family members will continue to support my efforts, even after mom is gone. As a result, Grace Church and the diocese of Virginia will face continued reputational  harm, and church budgets and attendance will continue to be negatively affected. In this case, time is on my side, for new parish members are relatively few and far between these days, and typically give at lower levels than long-time members. Thus, as people pass away, retire, or leave the area, Grace Church will continue to decline. In a good year, attrition is normally about 30 people, but in recent years it’s been much higher.

The same friend asked me if I feel badly about the declining fortunes of Grace Church. The answer is no. While I feel no malice towards members of the parish, the reality is someone should have called out Bob Malm’s bad behavior long ago. Recall: A former assistant rector of Bob’s has said, “Bob has been getting away with murder for years.” (Geez, maybe I should be afraid for my life. Could it be that she means that literally?) So, sup with the devil, do dishes with the devil.

Did you notice what is not mentioned in this post? Yes, you got it: No mention of reconciliation. There’s no requirement of reconciliation when someone abuses you, and I’ve seen enough of Bob Malm to know how vile, vicious and vindictive he is at his very heart. So I am taking a pass there. With some people, it’s just best to go no contact and leave it at that.

Do I miss Grace Church? Not really. I knew some wonderful people while I was there, and the worship indeed is beautiful. But I’ve come to understand that all that glitters is not gold, and right beneath the bright shiny exterior (whitewashed, as Jesus would say), the place is rotten to the core. Yeah, things like Shrine Mont were fun, but I still go to Shrine Mont, only now in an environment where bullying is not okay.

Or, as one commentator at The Wartburg Watch, put it: “That’s one toxic church you have there, Eric.”

How right she was!