Shannon Johnston is the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In my experience, Johnston is utterly corrupt and unethical.
My experiences with Johnston relate primarily to my filing a Title IV disciplinary complaint against perjuring priest Bob Malm, former rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria VA. In 2015, I asked the diocese to assist in mediating a dispute with Malm that dealt with Malm’s bullying, his misuse of leave; questionable HR, cash management, and financial reporting practices; misconduct by church staff, harassment among church staff, and missing church funds.
Four weeks later, I got an email from the diocese, saying in a nutshell that it was good with all these things and dismissing my complaint.
Shortly afterwards, Malm instructed church staff to exclude us from the parish, and I notified the diocese. Under Johnston, the diocese ignored me.
The diocese ignored Malm’s subsequent illegal misuse of church donations. And it lied when I complained that fall that Malm had excluded us from the church directory, saying that that matter had been addressed the previous summer. That’s pretty rich, since the issue only arose that October. As I said at the time, I was not aware that time travel was one of the benefits of ordination.
Additionally, Johnston and the diocese ignored Malm’s retaliation, his perjury in subsequent legal proceedings, and even his efforts to subpoena my mother, then terminally ill, in violation of state law. I notified both Johnston and Goff via email, and did not so much as get the courtesy of a response.
Moreover, Johnston repeatedly ignored church canons, including those forbidding dishonesty, fraud, and deceit by clergy, and ones requiring a pastoral response any time a complaint is made to an intake officer (not the same as pastoral care.)
At one point, Johnston even drafted a letter to Grace Church, saying that my concerns had been investigated and resolved long ago. But ding-a-ling intake officer Caroline Parkinson calling Bob Malm and asking him if he had done any of these things is NOT an investigation, and it belabors the obvious to point out that I wouldn’t be writing if the issues had been resolved. In other words, Shannon Johnston is a lying sack of scum. Full stop.
But it doesn’t stop there.
As all this was playing out, I learned that Shannon Johnston had covered up an egregious case of sexual harassment by a priest canonically resident in the diocese. That person behaved appallingly towards a female church staffer, yet he today remains active as a priest. And true to form, Johnston provided no pastoral care to the victim.
Nor is that the only time Johnston ignored the need to care for those hurt by clergy misconduct. He took the same approach in a Title IV case involving St. Thomas’ parish in McLean, where he brushed the parish off on the grounds that legal counsel had told him to “not get too involved.” So much for caring for your flock — it’s all about protecting the organization.
And as all this was playing out, diocesan headquarters, Mayo House, basically imploded during Johnston’s stay. Outside experts were brought in, and the one consistent finding was that the problem was Johnston. The latter subsequently retired, apparently receiving a sweetheart deal on his way out the door.
Wonder just how bad things were? They were so bad that the search for a bishop interim collapsed, allegedly on the grounds that no one wanted to move here for three years. Yet curiously, several did just that to serve as assistant bishops under Susan Goff.
Even richer is Shannon Johnston’s gig after making a hot mess of the Diocese of Virginia. He now positions himself as some sort of expert at healing and reconciliation — which is pretty rich, since he is one of the worst people I have ever met at those issues. But hey, nothing like a narcissist who wants to manage his reputation.
Meanwhile, Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff aka Susan Goof, got stuck holding the bag, and has spent much of her time cleaning up the mess that Johnston left. That includes figuring out what the diocese owns, and where those assets are. The fact that more than 200 years into its existence the diocese had no clue about these issues is just appalling.
As to another of Goff’s stated goals, which was healing the diocese, she has largely not bothered. There has been no effort at all to make peace with the past and bring healing and wholeness to the diocese. And if the diocese can’t be bothered with that very basic aspect of leadership, it’s fair to ask why any of us should be bothered.
Shannon Johnston is morally bankrupt, as is the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Susan Goff. Feel free to quote me.