Friday, March 10, 2017

The Restroom Wars

      This week, the Texas Senate considered Senate Bill 6 which is commonly referred to as the Anti Transgender Bathroom Bill. The bill would require all persons to go to the restroom according to the designation on their birth certificate. Since making a gender marker change on a birth certificate is difficult in the best of circumstances and impossible in other cases, it would mean that the Transgender community would be required to go into restrooms that do not equate with their physical presentation.
      Despite an overwhelming number of witnesses who gave highly compelling testimony against the bill, it passed out of committee around 5am on Wednesday morning.  This was after nearly 20 hours of oral testimony.  The battle is not over. The bill now goes to the full Senate, where it is likely to pass.  Hopefully, it will be more difficult to pass it through the Texas House of Representatives.
It is important to know that the two Co Conveners of Integrity Houston, Rev Lisa Hunt and myself (Mx S Wayne Mathis) testified against the bill during the Senate’s State Affairs Committee hearings. My own objections were supported by the Board of Integrity Houston having authorized me to convey their official objections to the bill.
      The day was filled with anguish, compounded by the often open hostility from several Senators and their invited witnesses towards members of the LGBTQIA community.  What gave me strength throughout the day, evening and well into the night was the support of MY community and my church.  Both Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings have publicly stated their opposition to this legislation.

      Integrity Houston wishes to say to the LGBTQIA community that we have and we will stand WITH you.  We will support you in the capitol and we will support you throughout the state. As our buttons at diocesan council stated, “I’ll go with you” to the restroom that best meets your needs.

S Wayne Mathis and Rev. Lisa Hunt, Co-Conveners of Integrity Houston

 S Wayne Mathis
Vice President of Local Affairs 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

40th Anniversary of Rev. Ellen Barrett's Ordination

Rev. Ellen Barrett with Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr.
Forty years ago today the foundations of The Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Communion for that matter) shook a bit as two things took place: Another woman was ordained. She was ordained by the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop of New York. That woman was openly lesbian. She was among the first 50 women ordained in The Episcopal Church, but she was the FIRST lesbian to be ordained priest in the Anglican Communion.

Some reading this will have no clue about whom I write. Others will know and remember very well who that woman is. Her name is Ellen Barrett. Today is the 40th anniversary of her ordination. Congratulations first to Ellen and then to The Episcopal Church on such a milestone. Ellen now lives in England and continues her ministry as Sister Helena.

This posting was intended to be a surprise for Ellen and I hope everyone who had a clue also kept their mouths shut! So: Surprise Ellen! Congratulations on the 40th anniversary of your ordination. You have achieved a milestone many never reach.

I invite those reading (who are old enough!) to look back 40 years. Ordained women were a novelty in The Episcopal Church. (Some groups had other descriptive terms that will not be repeated here. Suffice to say they came from groups and organizations that could not fathom women in any leadership positions, much less as clergy.) Lesbian and gay priests (LGBTQ wasn’t on anyone’s radar back then) were a novelty as well and anathema to some. The discussions about the place of lesbians and gays in The Episcopal Church in both lay and ordained leadership were pretty much still in the embryonic stage. So yes, foundations shook a bit 40 years ago.

The Reverend Doctor Ellen Barrett is one of the pioneers of our faith. She is one of our icons in the struggle for equality. She is one of our elder statespersons who led the way so that those who followed would have an easier path to take. Sadly, many today really do not know who broke down barriers to LGBTQ people’s inclusion in the church and society. Many simply take for granted the things they enjoy as openly LGBTQ. History apparently is not a popular subject, especially church history.


In one of the epistles attributed to St. Paul is the declaration that a price was paid for us, meaning of course, the redeeming actions of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Well my kindred in Christ, I think we forget that a price was paid for us to be openly LGBTQ followers of Jesus Christ. The price was ostracism, exclusion, loss of jobs, being the object of meanness and nastiness rarely known among church folk and often the demonization of us just because of who we are. Ellen Barrett paid such a price. She paid it so she could be ordained and she paid it so that those of us today who wish to be open about our authentic selves AND serve the church might be able to do so.

Our beloved founder, Dr. Louie Crew Clay included one of my favorite collects from the prayer book in his correspondence with me:

"O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

What wonderful words to mark an event four decades ago as things were indeed being made new, being raised up, as the world watched.

Again, congratulations Ellen Barrett!

The black and white pictures were very secretly borrowed from Ellen’s personal materials and are from the ordination service.

If anyone wishes to send a congratulatory note to Ellen, please send messages to alisonjoyosb@gmail.com

Blessings on Ellen from Integrity USA.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA



Friday, December 9, 2016

We Celebrate Louie Crew Clay's 80th Birthday with a Surprise

On December 9, 1936, exactly 80 years ago today, in Anniston, Alabama, God dropped a blessing into the lives of Erman Louie Crew, Sr. and Lula Gaines Hagin Crew. That same blessing would impact this world and would shake many foundations and rattle many cages over the course of the next 80 years. The child born that day would help reshape The Episcopal Church and secular society in ways never imagined at the time. Today is the 80th birthday of Erman Louie Crew, Jr., better known to us as Louie Crew Clay.
Happy Birthday, Louie!!
Integrity USA has chosen to honor Louie’s milestone birthday by creating the Louie Crew Clay Fund for Lifelong Learning. Louie’s life has been devoted to teaching and learning. He has learned where the Holy Spirit has been leading him. In turn Louie has sought to teach others. His gentle spirit and cheerful demeanor has educated and inspired thousands about how it is possible for any LGBTQ person to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.
If you would like to make a contribution to this fund in Louie’s honor, please go to this link.
Early in 2017, the Board of Directors of Integrity USA will send your contributions and a resolution to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church requesting that a special trust fund be created bearing the title of “The Louie Crew Clay Fund for Lifelong Learning.” That trust fund will become a source of income to Trust Fund (TF) 514.00 (Marie Louise Constable) aka “The Constable Fund” created in 1939 to be used for the purposes of The Episcopal Church, preferably for work of religious education not provided for within the budget of the church. After the creation of that trust fund, contributions may be made directly to it through the Church Center.

Louie founded Integrity in 1974 and thus began a long journey toward bringing the full inclusion and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons into the life of The Episcopal Church at all levels of ministry, both lay and ordained. The journey was never an easy one. It faced opposition from many who could not conceive of LGBT folks ever having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Even more inconceivable to some was the idea that LGBTQ folks would ever be ordained deacons, priests and bishops in the church. Still further beyond even the imagination of many was the possibility that same gender couples would be married by The Episcopal Church, in the church, using liturgies approved by the church.

Yet, today, despite some pockets of resistance, these milestones in ministry have been achieved. What Louie began continues to gather into the church those who are among the outcast and marginalized of both society and church. It was through both learning and teaching that issues were peeled away to reveal the faces of the children of God. The human face is infinitely more difficult to dismiss than an issue.
Louie’s ministry has been supported by his beloved husband Ernest. Without that support, without that partnership, the journey would have been too difficult to imagine. Integrity USA asks God’s blessing on Louie and Ernest as they celebrate the 80th anniversary of Louie’s arrival into this realm.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Post-election Action

Kindred in Christ,


The next four years will be decided by how hard we prepare right now. Acts of homophobia, transphobia, racism, religious oppression, and misogyny have exploded: over 400 hate crimes were filed in the days after the election. Churches are experiencing acts of vandalism and graffiti.

We are launching an emergency campaign to stop efforts to derail everything we've achieved. Monthly giving is the best way to support our fight. Please be the lamp of hope, the Light of Christ, and donate $1/day ($30 a month) to protect what we've gained and further protect those in harm’s way. Click here to donate online now. .

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Integrity USA

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Monday, November 14, 2016

Smiling Faces

There is a pop song from the early ‘70’s called “Smiling Faces.”  The lyrics include: Smiling faces….pretend to be your friend.  Smiling faces...don’t tell the truth!  (Google it for the full effect of the lyrics.)

How much more apropos could those lyrics be after Tuesday’s elections?  I saw a lot of smiling faces….that weren’t telling the truth…..that I don’t trust…..that I can’t imagine being my/our friend.  I’m still reeling from the shock of how so many embraced misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia….and pretty much any other way one could think of to denigrate the children of God.  And apparently being crude and vulgar is no longer inappropriate for elected officials either.  To top that off, there seems to be a new definition of what is acceptable to some Christians as well…..at least to those who cling to right end of the spectrum. So much hatred and hypocrisy hiding behind smiling faces.  

Sadly, “smiling faces” are not limited to politicians.  I know a number of folks who sport clerical collars, purple shirts and miters who have plastic smiles pasted on their faces as they smugly hide behind "scripture, tradition and reason” to support their own prejudices, particularly against LGBTQ folks.  And as much as they might want us to think otherwise, a significant number still have "issues” with women clergy too.  We all know how much work remains for us in addressing the sin of  racism, in church and in society.  All of our "isms” bubbled up and boiled over on Tuesday and we all got soiled by them.

There were some bright spots.  We have an openly LGBT state governor now…..one out of 50...guess that isn’t too bad??   In my home state of Georgia we actually have an openly gay man who was elected to our legislature.  (We had been able to elect lesbians for several years, but never a gay man.) The bright spots are difficult to see through the dense fog of prejudice and bigotry, but we should give thanks to God for them anyway.

After Tuesday, can there possibly be anyone who doesn’t see how much work we have left to accomplish in our church and in our society?   Equality is not yet there for us and it is still a nationwide, churchwide issue.  How much larger a rock has to fall on us for us to grasp the fact that we still have work to do?   How many more hate crimes have to be committed because of sexual orientation, race, gender expression/identity before we wake up and smell the proverbial coffee? How many more LGBTQ teens and young people have to get kicked out of their homes by their "good Christian parents” (sarcasm intended!) because they have come out of the closet to them?  How many more Matthew Shepherds do we have to witness?  How many more Travon’s have to die?  How many more Charleston’s must we see?   How many more times must we witness another Pulse Nightclub?   How many more of our parishes must be the victims of vicious attacks and notes like the one left on a priest's car windshield?  Are we really that dense?  Are we that unaware?  Are we, God help us, that uncaring?  Are we still that afraid?

It is indeed time, my kindred in Christ, to speak out, to step up, to be seen, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to drown out the gospel of hate!  Yes it is time…..it is long past time for us to do all of these things.  Could there be any doubt now of the continued need for Integrity?  Could there be any doubt now of the continued need for GLAAD or HRC or Lambda Legal or any and every organization that is working toward securing an equal place for us in both the American Dream and the Household of God?

It has been said that "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”  While that is indeed true, I would add that evil will also triumph if we stick our heads in the sand and/or hide in our closets.   Jesus told Lazarus to "come out” of the tomb and he told the community to "unbind him and let him go.”  It’s time we also heeded the call to "come out.”  But….our community needs to bind ourselves to each other and strive toward reaching the beloved community where all of God’s children are free to be who God created them to be.  We can achieve that in our church if we bind ourselves together in Integrity.  We can achieve that in society by witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and binding ourselves to those groups who will help insure that we are as equal in the site of all the citizens of this nation as we are in the eyes of the One who created us.
I challenge each of you to insure that your membership is up to date.  I further challenge each of you to bring at least one new member into Integrity during the next few weeks.  I challenge each of you to donate your money as well as your time and talent to Integrity and secular organizations working for equality and justice.   This ain’t going away folks unless we make it go away.   
I also challenge us to remember the One we follow.  We must not return the hatred and venom we receive with the same.  We must deflect nastiness with love, no matter how difficult that may be.  We must be examples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we always remember to ask God, the living and loving God, to make us instruments of God’s own peace:
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.



Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Monday, November 7, 2016

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason

One of the hallmarks of Anglican theology is the concept of “scripture, tradition, and reason.”  Over the centuries, we have looked at various issues through this three part lens.  Such a view has given us different understanding of issues that have affected us in our common life as part of the Body of Christ.

Scripture influenced the tradition of keeping other human beings in slavery until reason - usually through experience - began to turn our hearts and our minds away from that heinous and dehumanizing practice.  In retrospect, it seems almost impossible to think that God ever had any intentions of any part of humanity owning any other part.

Scripture influenced the tradition of keeping women “in their place” of being subservient to men and without authority in faith communities as well as in secular society.  Again, reason through experience turned hearts and minds away from a system that rendered women as less than men, despite the fact that in creation God created both male and female in God’s image.  

Scripture influenced by tradition was also the basis for denying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of faith a place at God’s table that was equal to all others.  Yet again, at least for a growing segment of Christ’s Body, reason influenced by experience taught us that there is no sound theological basis for creating outcasts of any of God’s children.

It was the misuse of Scripture in this case, as before, that allowed some to perpetuate the concept that there have been different classes of sinful behavior that could be used to create divisions among God’s children.  Removing passages of Scripture from the context of the culture in which they were written and from the context of the entire narrative of which they are an integral part, continues to provide ways for us to divide ourselves from one another and from God through the mistaken notion that God created some of us more acceptable than others of us.  Do we truly believe that God created some of us “more equal” than others?

I am always amazed at how those “learned in Scripture” can continue to perpetuate a system that discriminates in the name of God.  Duly ordained clergy have told me with certainty that they and their congregations welcome “all” fully, even LGBT folks.  Yet when they then tell me with their next breath that they will neither perform nor permit the marriage of a same gender couple AND base that decision on “Scripture, tradition, and reason,” I am forced to both scratch my head and shake my head in disbelief.  Yet…..such continues to happen….and it happens in too many dioceses of our church and even in congregations in dioceses where full inclusion is the norm.  Apparently the “glass wall” they place between the altar and the pastoral needs of their LGBT members is too clear for even them to see.

My “broken record” continues to play:  Is there still a need for the ministry of Integrity?  Read the above again and I think your answer will be a resounding “Yes!!!”


Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No Outcasts

The Most Reverend Edmond Lee Browning, 24th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church died today. His death is a loss to Integrity USA as an organization and to me personally. Bishop Browning’s stance that there would be no outcasts in The Episcopal Church was a costly position for him to take. He was criticized by those in our church who considered themselves to be of a more traditional bent. His ministry is summarized here: RIP: Bishop Edmond Lee Browning, 24th Presiding Bishop He made room in The Episcopal Church for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who found their way to a faith community where they could be who God created them to be.
Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning with Integrity leaders
L to R: The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, The Most Reverend Edmond Lee Browning, The Rev. Michael Hopkins, The Rev. Canon Susan Russell

Bishop Browning’s vision of no outcasts was a broad vision. In addition to including those who were LGBT, he also embraced those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. He was the chief consecrator of the first woman bishop in the entire Anglican Communion, The Right Reverend Barbara Harris. As an African-American, Bishop Harris would break even more boundaries to the full inclusion of all in our church.

I met Bishop Browning during the General Convention of 1991, held in Phoenix, Arizona. Ours was an "official/unofficial" meeting brought about by some of the nastiness being directed at LGBT folks at that convention. My “poker face” proved to be more revealing than I thought at one of the morning Eucharist’s and a bishop at our “table church table” shared his concerns about me with my bishop who got in touch with me. Out of all of that I found myself in a meeting with Presiding Bishop Browning, my bishop, and the officers of the House of Bishops. When asked what was wrong and what we wanted, I had a few simple requests on behalf of my kindred LGBT souls. We were weary of the nastiness being directed at us by clergy and laity alike who really did not want us included in the life of The Episcopal Church. The world and the church were very different then. We wanted to be treated with the respect accorded us in the vows of our baptismal covenant. Progress had begun and with it came some of the first positive legislation about LGBT issues, not to mention the fact that the first openly LGBT Deputy to General Convention came out on the floor of the House of Deputies. This was also the General Convention where the first true public hearing on LGBT issues was held. We had as a church begun talking about who we were. The speakers were The Reverend Sam Candler and The Rev. Kendall Harmon. Sam was our champion.

Some months later I would become the first President of Integrity to meet with a Presiding Bishop. I traveled to New York and proceeded to 815 Second Avenue and was escorted to the Offices of the Presiding Bishop. I was a little nervous, but I need not have been. Bishop Browning embraced me with his loving aura and sat with me on a sofa in his office as we talked. It was not unlike carrying on a conversation with one’s grandfather. (Although I realized later that he was only twenty years older than I….it must have been the trappings of his office that made me think he was older than he was.)

Subsequent to that meeting would happen the first and historic meeting of an Integrity Board of Directors with The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was, at least at first, a bit hesitant to have the meeting publicized, but we were clear that it would be documented in "The Voice of Integrity" which was our official publication at the time.

Another first and an expression of his vision of no outcasts was his acceptance to be our speaker and guest at our next Integrity Convention (yes, we used to have those regularly!). When he stated from the pulpit at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, that he really didn’t care what the press thought, we got a glimpse of his ardent support for us and his refusal for us to be outcast by the church.

We (and I) have lost a great friend and ally with the death of Bishop Browning. The Episcopal Church has lost one of its giants. Edmond L. Browning now rests in the bosom of the God who created, redeemed and sustained him throughout a long and productive ministry. By now he has heard the words “well done, good and faithful servant.” May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May we ponder our loss even as we celebrate a ministry from which we received innumerable benefits.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Sunday, June 12, 2016

In Response to the tragedy in Orlando:







“We pray for our enemies and those who wish us harm.  Deliver them AND US from hatred, cruelty and revenge.”


I am having a difficult time praying this prayer right now.  This morning I was in the chapel at Kanuga Conference Center near Hendersonville, North Carolina.  I was getting ready to deliver the sermon for the close of the 25th Annual HIV/AIDS Retreat, sponsored by the Province IV Network of AIDS Ministries when I learned of the terrorist attack at a large gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 52 dead and 50 wounded.


The entire weekend had been about HIV/AIDS including the impact of those deaths from the early days and still today.  Now we were to deal with impact of 52 sudden deaths – deaths of ordinary people who were enjoying a social evening….thinking that they were safe at a nightclub many frequented on a regular basis.  Some of you reading this now may have been there – or a place like it at one time.


It is clear that, while it is being investigated as a terrorist attack and is the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history, this is a hate crime.  And the hate that prompts such actions on the part of this killer and others is the hatred of those who are different.  Being different should never result in losing one’s life.


Yet it has and continues to be so.  “Being different” is why working toward finding a cure for and funding prevention against infection for HIV/AIDS was delayed, turning an epidemic into a worldwide pandemic.  “Being different” is what caused the tangential epidemic of “Afraids,” causing so many tragic, senseless deaths.  Too soon.  So young.


Apparently the hatred was directed at people who were either LGBT or were friends and colleagues of folks who were LGBT.  We seem to have become obsessed with acts of hatred against people who are somehow different, whether it is because of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, gender expression, gender identity or any other difference that for some is beyond what they will allow to simply exist.


Integrity USA decries these murders.  Integrity USA decries all acts of violence that are directed at any of God’s children but particularly those that are directed against those children of God who are different, no matter what reason they might be seen as different.


It would be easy to be “the same” and return hate and violence with equal levels of hatred and violence.  Let us be of the same mind as Christ and choose love and peace.  Let us not be intimidated into isolation and shame but let us stand together in pride.  Now, more than ever, we need to continue to let our light so shine that the truth will have won out and love will win.


Pray for the victims of this mass shooting my kindred in Christ.  Pray for the families and loved ones who now grieve. Pray for the recovery of the wounded.  Pray for our nation that the hatred which infects us will be taken from our hearts and minds.  Pray most of all that God’s infinite and indiscriminate love will ultimately prevail over the evil that has caused the deaths of dozens….in Orlando, in Charleston, in Columbine, and everywhere that innocent blood has been shed in the name of hate.


May the dead rest in peace and rise in glory.  May the wounded experience healing of body, mind and soul.  May the living strive for an end to such senseless violence.


Bruce Garner, President


Integrity USA

Monday, May 23, 2016

Is the ministry of Integrity still needed?

Is the ministry of Integrity still needed?

You are probably aware that I have been posing a series of questions on the Friday Flash each week for the last few weeks. All of them focused on the way or lens with which you view your circumstances as an LGBTQ person where you live as well as how you view the situation for where others live. My point was to get us all to try and see that the rest of the world may not be the same as our own when it comes to being able to live the lives with which God blessed us.

My methodology – and yes there has been one – was to prepare for critical questions about the future of Integrity USA as an organization. I frequently hear the following or an equivalent: “Why do we still need Integrity?” “Is there still a reason for Integrity’s mission?” “Do we still need Integrity?”

I think the best way to respond to those questions is to share a few observations with you about “LGBTQ life” in this country. (And be forewarned that this is a longer than usual column, but I ask you to keep reading.) Please consider the following:

There are still dioceses in The Episcopal Church where priests are forbidden to marry same gender couples. The Diocese of Central Florida comes to mind, but there are some in Province II and other provinces as well.

In my own diocese there is a rector who refuses to officiate at same gender marriages, which is his prerogative under our polity, but he also refuses to allow same gender marriages to be performed at all in “his” church. Dear friends of mine have finally left after serving there for 25 years because they could not be married in their own church.

Openly LGBT clergy have greater difficulty finding employment that fulfils their calling as ordained persons in many dioceses in our church. Deployment is not bias free in our church.

In some jurisdictions of the secular world, a same gender couple who marries on Saturday can be terminated from employment on Monday just because they identified as LGBT, despite the likelihood they were model employees. We may now have an openly gay man as Secretary of the Army (Eric Fanning: An Openly Gay Man Runs the Army ) but that doesn’t suddenly make life good for all of us.

One need only look to the State of North Carolina to see that the quest for full equality as LGBTQ persons is alive and well. Mississippi has tried to enact similar legislation. We would have had the most discriminatory laws in the nation in my home state of Georgia had not the Governor vetoed the bill. (Supporters of the bigoted legislation have vowed to bring it up again next year.)

As much as we might stereotypically believe, such attitudes are NOT limited to the southern portion of the United States! Consider the story of a Vermont teen who is a transgender male and what he had to contend with in his high school. The following link takes you to the story in the NY Times: Transgender Bathroom Debate Turns Personal at a Vermont High School


Consider also how things differ based on just being in a particular city in a state. In a large city, LGBTQ folks can often be themselves without fear of harassment. They can also get involved in the political process and express themselves accordingly. Such is not the case in smaller towns, even in the same state.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would allow for discriminatory practices based on one’s sincerely held religious beliefs. It is the First Amendment Defense Act, also known as FADA, but is in fact a thinly veiled means to allow discrimination.

If you have followed LOGO TV’s show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” you have witnessed the pain some contestants have suffered because they are LGBT. The creator of the show has made it clear that he intended to show how life was in different places and highlight the pain contestants had borne. (There is more than one way to educate people…..even subliminally!) Take this link to RuPaul’s own comments about the socially enlightening nature of the show and how it highlights the vast differences in where people live: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Highlights the Struggle for Acceptance

Where one lives, works and worships has a direct influence on how or if that person can be the person God created them to be.

The forces behind these discriminatory actions, at least in the South, are faith communities and how they influence the political processes in their respective jurisdictions. This is clearly so in Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi. The loudest voices of discrimination come from churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelically oriented faith communities. This does not always mean those faith communities have the largest numbers in terms of support, but it does mean that they are being the “loudest” about the issues.

How many among us are equipped to, willing and able to share our own faith community’s perspective on LGBTQ issues? Do we know how to witness to our own faith in one-on-one settings much less in a legislative committee hearing? When was the last time any of us gave witness to the power of Jesus Christ in our own lives? It isn’t easy, but it is something God has asked of us. It’s time to get “quietly loud” about our own faith.

If we live in certain places, the issues of being discriminated against may never cross our radar screens. Most of us do not live in those certain places. Most of us live in a place of uncertainty about how much of who we really are can be shown to the world at large and even to our own faith communities. It is all a result of the lens through which you see your own life and the life of others, especially those who do not live where you live.

The answer to the questions about a continued need for the ministry of Integrity might be coming more clear by now. From my own perspective, there absolutely remains a strong need for our ministry…..perhaps more so than other times in our history. I would ask you to ponder the question yourselves.

Integrity has a role in equipping the saints to share a different faith story about LGBTQ issues than lawmakers and policy makers in the secular realm have heard before. We can help provide the resources LGBTQ folks need to go into a hearing room and speak about a potentially discriminatory piece of legislation and do so from their own faith based perspective. We are blessed to have non-LGBTQ allies who stand up for and speak for us. But it is time we used our own voices to combat discrimination.

Integrity has a role in working with parishes and dioceses to help others understand first and fore most that LGBTQ members of our church are not very different from themselves…..we are all blessed by the same God, feel the rain from the same sky, enjoy the warmth from the same sun…..we have lives often just as boring as their own!!

Being able to marry the person we wish has not resolved all of the ills of discrimination and bigotry in the church or wider society.

Integrity has a role in helping create safe spaces for our own LGBTQ youth to exit their various closets and take their places in the warmth of the God who created and loves them…..exactly as they are. Those of us who are in leadership roles in our parishes do well to remember that young people are always observing us and that they are likely aware that we are LGBTQ ourselves. We teach when we do not always know we are teaching.

So, in response to the questions about whether there is still a need and purpose for Integrity, I must profess a very loud and firm YES!

I hope you agree….even if you live in the most LGBTQ friendly and safe space on the planet. I hope you agree and will join Integrity if you are not a member. I hope you will be even more supportive if you are a member by sharing your time and financial resources. I hope you will be an advocate in seeking new members of Integrity to join you/us in what is an important and lifesaving ministry.

We all pray and hope that there will be a time when there is no need for Integrity or any other organization seeking justice for all of God’s children. That time has not arrived. We continue to pray and work with the resources God has blessed us to use in the form of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA