Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Flash June 23

June 23, 2017 Friday Flash ________________________________________ Support our Mission This week brought us the US Senate’s version of the revised health care plan that is supposed to replace the the Affordable Healthcare Act with something “better.” I’ve come to the conclusion that “better” actually means more beneficial to the profits of the health insurance industry. I see nothing in the Senate proposal that is helpful to those most in need of healthcare insurance: The poor and marginalized, including LGBTQ+ citizens of this nation. The group that will benefit most from the Senate proposal is the so-called “1 percent” of our population. Why would I bring this up here? Well so many members of Congress are very clear and concerned that people see them as having solid Judeo-Christian values. It baffles me how they could support either the House or Senate version of healthcare reform bills. Both versions are about as far from Judeo-Christian values as one could get. This is where I urge you to write to your elected representatives and express your opinion on this matter as the Senate prepares to vote next week. I wrote to both Senators from Georgia, even with the full realization that neither really cares. Both are rich and have little contact with any constituents who live at or below the poverty line. If you want to see what I said to them, please go to my Face Book page…..I posted the body of the letter there. The question continues to come up about whether or not the work and ministry of Integrity is still needed. The above is one example. Politicians need to hear something other than the religious right on issues of substance that reflect how we treat members of our society. Another reason for the ongoing need for Integrity is in the article below repeated from last week. Who would have thought that a conference on so-called “conversion therapy” would be taking place in California….in the Diocese of San Diego. The voice of Integrity needs to be heard in both faith and secular settings to debunk the myth that someone can change their sexual orientation and provide pastoral care to those who have been victimized by the practitioners of this obscene process According to a report noted in an article below, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that it is permissible for people in Mississippi to discriminate against others because of their religious beliefs. People who profess to be Christian can refuse services to LGBTQ+ folks, Muslims, people of color….essentially anyone at odds with the narrow beliefs of the service provider. The voice of Integrity is still needed in Mississippi. Presuming this case gets appealed to a higher court, the justices need to hear a voice other than the religious right. In Province IV at least two dioceses continue to refuse to marry same sex couple and will not allow LGBTQ+ members of our church to hold some positions of violation of several articles of canon law. Even in the state of New York there is a diocese that will not marry same-sex couples and has refused to allow legally married same sex clergy to carry out their ministries in that diocese. Is there a doubt that the voice of Integrity and the voices of LGBTQ+ Episcopalians needs to be heard in the church and in secular society? Are you a member of Integrity? If so, make your voice heard and contribute to our operations. If you are not a member, we invite you to join….regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. No matter your relationship to Integrity and/or the church, the voice of more moderate people of faith needs to be heard in the deliberative processes at the national and local level in our nation. Our silence really could mean our death. So, who have you written, called, texted, emailed, or contacted to express your views? If the answer is “none” then look at yourself and ask why you are so complacent. Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ________________________________________ Integrity Houston Pride Parade Integrity Houston is hosting a Pride Street Eucharist and Pride Parade, Saturday June 24th from 6 pm- Midnight. Click here to see the Facebook event for more details. ________________________________________ Integrity San Diego Protests Conversion Therapy Conference Integrity San Diego was present to protest the Restored Hope Network national conference. There was a vigil on June 15 at 5:30pm. Demonstrations of love and acceptance organized by a group of San Diego LGBTQ organizations will follow on June 16 and 17 at the sites of the hotel and conference. All are welcome to join! You are also invited to participate with St. Paul’s at San Diego Pride on July 15. And read the Integrity blog post regarding this protest, written by The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk . ________________________________________ Appeals Court Upholds MS Religious Freedom Law A federal appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that protects merchants and government employees from being forced to participate in activities that run contrary to their religious beliefs about sexuality. ________________________________________ 12 Year Old Girl Comes Out to Her Mormon Congregation Savannah, 12, made a decision this January; she was going to come out as lesbian at her Mormon Church. Nothing was going to stop her….Official church policy welcomes members of the Mormon faith that have same-sex attractions. Church teaching, however, mandates that members with same-sex attractions cannot act on those feelings. They must remain celibate and they cannot get married to members of the same sex. ________________________________________ Celebrating Pride? If your organization is celebrating pride this month or this summer, post it on our Facebook Group page or share it with ________________________________________ Once in a Lifetime Conference Prophets young and old will tell the stories of our history and explore our future at Rolling The Stone Away conference, this October 31-November 2, 2017 in St. Louis. Rolling The Stone Away will honor elders, saints and prophets from all generations, from many Christian denominations, and mark the ground-breaking achievements, relentless commitments, and often painful sacrifices these leaders have made in religious organizations over the past five decades. Moreover, the next generation will be in the house and will shine a light on what comes next. Integrity USA has been on the planning team for this event and look forward to being with as many of you as possible who can join this gathering. We are considering a small “reunion” during the time of the conference for our family and friends. ________________________________________ We Are Orlando ________________________________________ 800-462-9498

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Conversion Therapy

I last wrote for Integrity USA nearly a decade ago when I was on the Board. We were coming out of a church-wide conversation about how we were going to treat LGBT people, and those of us in Integrity were both excited and curious - excited about the Church growing more fully into the love of Christ as and curious what the future of Integrity would be. Ten years later, as a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego (a Proud Parish Partner of Integrity), my experience is that we still question what direction Integrity is going. Here in San Diego, we often ask whether we still need Integrity, given the rapid change and acceptance of LGBTQ people in the life of the Church.

Recently, though, I have been reminded how shortsighted we are being when we ask if Integrity still has a role. Later this month, a Christian church in San Diego will host a national conference on conversion or reparative therapy. The “Restored Hope Network” will bring people from all over the country to offer "hope for those struggling with sexual and relational brokenness." They claim to offer a "cure" for homosexuality.

I must admit I was shocked when I learned that this conference was happening. For one, I thought reparative therapy died a few years ago with the dissolution of Exodus International, which closed in 2013 after its president apologized, acknowledged that conversion therapy does not work, and that changing sexual orientation is not possible. My understanding is that his ex-wife and a few other remnants of Exodus formed the “Restored Hope Network.”

I was even more surprised that such a conference would be held here in San Diego because in California and seven other states, so-called “conversion” therapy is illegal for minors, an acknowledgement of its dangers and lack of efficacy.

I have never been a victim of conversion therapy, but after seminary I spent several years working in a mental health inpatient hospital as a chaplain. I heard firsthand the awful stories of people who had their identities stripped away from them at the most tender moments of their lives. I met too many people who had attempted suicide because they had become deeply convinced by religious authorities that they were flawed and had no hope for a meaningful future.

When I was on the Board of Integrity, I toured churches as a representative of Integrity. Again, I heard stories of rejection and pain caused by conversion therapy. I listened to stories of struggle with self-acceptance and acceptance by God after religious abuse.

The damage caused by religious abuse, which includes conversion or reparative therapy, is real, is tragic, and pains the heart of God. Conversion therapy simply does not work and, in fact, causes damage. LGBTQ young people who experience rejection because of their identity are more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide as those who are accepted.

What is the future of Integrity? I do not know what it will be, given that the Church now has canons on the books to welcome and affirm our unique and God-given gifts - thanks be to God! Still, it is easy to become complacent once we have gotten for ourselves what we have sought, even when we know there are parts of the Church where those canons have yet to be fully realized.

Still, for me, Integrity has never been about only you and me.  It has always been about all of us; everybody; the whole human family. So I can tell you this: Integrity San Diego will be present to protest the Restored Hope Network national conference, and if you are in Southern California I hope you will join us. Because no child of God deserves to hear that they are anything less than fully loved by their Creator, that their gifts are a treasure to be cherished, and that they are themselves a part of this wondrous creation.

We will follow that up a month later with a fabulous pride celebration, where the Cathedral is an official stop for Pride week festivities when we will host an Interfaith prayer service featuring MCC founder Troy Perry. We will also take the lead on an interfaith “Pride with Prayer, Pride with Purpose” sub-theme in the official parade delegation. We will participate because Integrity, the Church, and all of us need to remind the whole world that LGBTQ gifts are meant to shine, and shine brightly!  We, all of us, are a part of this multi-colored rainbow body, straight and gay and genderqueer and trans. All of us, with our different functions and gifts and skills, are necessary to make this Body of Christ work together in harmony for love.

Wherever you are this pride season, I pray that you will live it fabulously in the unceasing love of God, and mindful of the justice that seems to be more and more needful every day.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk
St. Paul’s Cathedral San Diego

All are welcome to join us in this protest.  There will be a vigil on June 15 at 5:30pm, followed by demonstrations of love and acceptance organized by a group of San Diego LGBTQ organizations on June 16 and 17 at the sites of the hotel and conference. You are also invited to participate with St. Paul’s at San Diego Pride on July 15.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Where is the Fire?

Pentecost took place: Where is the fire? Where is the Spirit that should be igniting us?

The latest issue of Time magazine to land in my mailbox is dated June 12, 2017. Exactly one year prior to that date, June 12, 2016, we learned of the massacre of 49 children of God in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I remember the date of course, but for additional reasons: I was handed the information about the tragedy just minutes before I stepped into the pulpit to deliver the sermon for the 25th and final Province IV Network of AIDS Ministries Annual Retreat at the Kanuga Conference Center. I changed the beginning of what I had planned to preach… we prayed and observed a moment of silence for those murdered in a place where they went to celebrate, not die. The meaning of that horrendous event would continue to sink in as the day progressed.

I scanned that Time magazine to see if there was any mention of the largest mass killing of its kind on the first anniversary of that killing. I found nothing. A year after the murder of 49 innocent people and Time makes no note of it. My most cynical self says that it was because most of those killed were queer and/or people of color. My heart tries not to have such feelings. My brain looks for other explanations. None come to mind.

The bottom of page 9 of the June 12 Time has an article under the heading of “Human Rights” about the purge of gay men in Chechnya. My spine shivers when reading about what has been going on there. I find myself a bit lifted by the offers of asylum to gay men, many of whom are Muslim. The last sentence is the response of the United States government to the issue of asylum here: “The U.S., however, said no visa exists for this kind of ‘humanitarian relief’.”

The response by my own government just plain pisses me off! If it doesn’t invoke the same reaction among all of us, then we clearly are not paying attention. Our government’s response essentially says that queers do not matter enough to be considered for asylum from nations that torture and kill them. What else could “this kind” imply?

I have been beating the same drum for weeks now: Who have you written, called, emailed, texted, tweeted, written to about the things that impact your or someone else’s life in a negative way? As long as we remain silent and complacent and complicit, we risk death… if not of the body, then the spirit and perhaps the soul. Silence equals death. Complacency equals death. Complicity equals death.

If you have taken no action then I invite you to go and stand before a mirror and ask yourself this: Why am I not worth having myself or others strive for justice and peace for me? Why am I not worth having my dignity respected? I would love to be wrong, but taking no action implies to me that we don’t consider ourselves worthy enough even to expect the basic premises of our Baptismal Covenant vows to be applied to us.

My beloved kindred: The Day of Pentecost brought us the flaming fire of the Holy Spirit to build a fire under us and prod us into action. Will we use that gift as a way of proclaiming justice and equality for all? Or will we just hide away somewhere and wring our hands in fear? The 49 who died a year ago deserve better. Can we offer it?

May the Orlando 49 continue to rest in peace. May the memory of their deaths move us to action.

Bruce Garner, President

Integrity USA

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

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… 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… 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… 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