One of the amusing things in recent weeks has been the chance to see firsthand the extent to which members of Grace Church wrongly believe that there’s much of anything that goes on in the church that is secret.
In a small community of any sort, it it normal for information to move quickly between members, often through informal channels. That tendency is enhanced when, as at Grace Church, persons in positions of power use that power not for the greater good of the community, but rather to pursue their own goals. A case in point is Bob Malm’s current smear campaign directed at me, in which he has repeatedly made innuendos (and public statements), in which he asserts that I am mentally ill. In situations such as this, “leaders” like Bob actually rely on back channel communications to pursue their objectives.
Of course, in doing so, Bob and others make clear that such behind-the-scenes communications are okay. As a result, even issues discussed “in executive session” by the vestry typically reach me quickly, often in a matter of hours. At the same time, communications flow outward from the parish, reaching far into local communities, and often much further.
As a result, Bob may think he is getting the upper hand in his efforts to silence critics, but the reality is any such “victory” is entirely illusory. Rather, Bob is causing lasting damage to the parish, to his own reputation, and to The Episcopal Church. The result will be ongoing declines in the church’s fortunes.
My view is that may not be a bad thing. Jesus had scant use for clergy who felt that their positions were an entitlement. In fact, one of the recurring themes in Jesus’ ministry was his disdain for those who, while loudly professing their faith, served as a stumbling block to the faith of others. In other words, Jesus would have had little patience for Bob Malm and his self-righteous assertions about how Jesus is “truth” (his quotes, not mine), all while engaging in smear campaigns and shunning.
In fact, when we met in Fredericksburg, Bob said, sitting right in front of the Episcopal bishop of Virginia and the canon to the ordinary, “Having resigned from the vestry, you were no longer eligible to serve as a trustee.” I pointed out that no such policy exists, and in fact none of the trustees were, at that time, vestry members. Doubt it? Both Pat Wingo and Bishop Johnston were sitting right there.
What was that about Jesus and truth again?