Friday, March 23, 2018


Representatives from Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment
group, meet with youth group members at All Saints Episcopal
Church in Pasadena, California, for a training in political
advocacy and lobbying. The youth group members will travel
to Washington, D.C., this week for the March of Our Lives
on March 24. Photo: Juliana Serrano/All Saints Pasadena
This coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion, also known as Palm Sunday. The Gospel reading for the day depicts the events from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion and death on the cross. It would seem that this might be a sequence of events that should be spread over a period of several days rather than 20 minutes. In our “hurry up world” getting folks to church during Holy Week has become a challenge. So we end up with the “Cliff Notes” version of an essential part of our faith story. We have to get Jesus killed off on one Sunday so God can resurrect him the next. I invite us all to spend more than a couple of hours over the next week reading, praying and meditating. There is much to the story and it deserves more than skimming the surface.

This coming Saturday could rightly be termed “Passion Saturday,” but for a very different set of reasons. It will be the day when the passion of millions of young people will be exhibited as they try to influence society and our lawmakers to take some common sense measures around assault weapons, who can get them and what safeguards we need to prevent more mass shootings. They face a daunting task and need our involvement and help.

I cannot speak for any of the other 800 or so marches around the country, but here in Atlanta, this is being organized and lead by young people, students, those who have been the targets of such shootings. They are clear that they will lead the march. They are also clear that they will and have decided who will speak. All of the speakers in Atlanta will be young people except one. The exception is The Honorable John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District... where the march will take place. Nothing could be more appropriate. Congressman Lewis knows about student led demonstrations in a way that few know about them.

Where is our passion? Where is our passion in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes, we step outside our little “field of protection” when we engage with others about our faith. Our faith is lived out in community. Where is our/your passion when it comes to this march? Do we behave like Peter and claim that we do not know “them” or Him? Or do we step forward relying on our faith to carry us through and do our part in respecting the dignity of every human being?

As we explore the future direction of Integrity USA - of our Episcopal Rainbow - where is our passion in that endeavor? Will that passion for reaching those who still have not heard the good news propel us forward into a leadership role in the organization? Are there those among us who have the strength of conviction to walk out of their comfort zones to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? The teens and youth who will march on Saturday are looking for role models even as they are being models for engaging in leadership at a different level. Where are we in that picture?

Where is your passion?

Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, March 16, 2018

Faith for the Future

Seeing the thousands of young people walking out of their classrooms on Wednesday to honor the 17 killed at the high school in Parkland, Florida, gave me a little glimmer of hope for the future. It is sad that some continue to claim that these youth were manipulated into doing and saying what they did. It amazes me that so many adults will not give young people credit for thinking through issues and arriving at their own decisions. It’s not politics, it is morality. I looked back more than 50 years ago and recalled that I had formed positions on several moral issues that were at odds with both political parties in Georgia and at odds even with my family. I wasn’t coached or manipulated. I got there on my own. I learned how pushy the Gospel imperative can be.

I see the same strength of conviction displayed with the walkout that is needed for Integrity’s next national and provincial levels of leadership. We, as a board, have felt moved toward seeking out different models of leadership that work best at the local level, the “grass roots” level, the level where there is still so much to be accomplished. The national officers and board members will need to be facilitators, sources of guidance, resources for the work to be done. The next board will need to be gatherers of people under a common banner, a shared vision, a refocused purpose.

This is not to suggest that we toss out the old just to replace it with something new. On the contrary, our mission should be to retain a mixture of those seasoned by the struggles and victories of the past and add to them those with fresh ideas, different visions, and a clear strength of conviction. Our structures allow for such intermingling of resources, strengths and abilities. There was a method to having all officer positions, board positions and provincial positions “open” every three years with our election cycle. Some will have their names put forward again, others will not. New names will come forward. Our membership will decide the mixture of the next board. And it will be some of the seasoned past, some of the very new and what lies between.

So the question is: Do you have the strength of conviction to walk out of your own comfort zone to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? Will the courage of those teens and youth be a model for engaging in leadership at a different level….where the work most needs to be done?

Watch for the request for nominees... then step up for an adventure with the Gospel.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Need for Leadership

The Good

A transgender Muslim woman came out in the media in Atlanta this week. She had been hiding and was no longer willing to keep up that charade.  She and her husband were married in a local mosque. Her full story is in the link below.  Let me just say that it took serious guts to do that in Georgia.  Politicians are not fond of Muslims to begin with and even less fond of queer Muslims.

The Bad

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has announced that there will no longer be any attempts to secure safe communities, reversing years of progress.  He states that he didn’t depend on the government when he was growing.  Yet with a straight face he also states that they had food stamps, welfare and Section 8 housing.  Did he read that after he wrote it? Who finances those programs except the government?

The Need for Leadership

I suspect you  thought I was referring to state and national leadership.  Of course there is indeed a need for leadership at those levels.  However, I was referring to Leadership within Integrity USA.  We have a strong need for people to lead at the Provincial and National Levels.

Elections will be held between now and General Convention to elect the following:  Provincial Coordinators for all eight Provinces; a Vice President for National Affairs; a Vice President for Local affairs; a Treasurer; a Secretary/Communications Director; a Chair for the Leadership Council; and a President. The three year term starts October 1 after General Convention; the election is in the spring and the results announced before General Convention. The time in between is used for transition between the current Board of Directors and the new Board.

I will not be putting my name forth for President. While it has been a rare privilege to serve Integrity USA as its President twice and 25 years apart, it is time for a change in leadership.  The next President needs more energy than I have these days and certainly more stamina.  So it is time for me to step aside and allow someone with these traits to take on this role.

I invite you to pray, meditate and ponder how you might serve this organization.  When calls for nominations come out, please submit your name. If you would like to serve on the nominating committee, we need representatives from Provinces I - III and V - VII.  Send me your name if you are willing to serve on this committee: Email

I will not say goodbye now, but know that this has been a sincere privilege to serve you.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Opinion or Bias?

Our nation and our churches are divided right now... including The Episcopal Church. We are all asked to “reach across the divide” and try and engage with those who hold differing positions than we do. We are being asked to engage in graceful dialogue with those with whom we have significant disagreements. We are all asked to try and understand the positions of those on the “other side” of the positions we hold.

I don’t have any problem with engaging with those who hold different positions than I do. I don’t have any problem reaching across a divide. I don’t have any problem with engaging in respectful dialogue for the sake of our faith, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all called to that as followers of Jesus.

I am growing increasingly disturbed at being asked to reach across a divide when the difference is identified as an opinion. Opinions relate to whether we prefer Rite I or Rite II. Opinions relate to such points as hymns or readings or Psalms. Opinions relate to concepts where we are simply choosing between options. We like A over B. Our opinion supports X over Y.

What seems to be overlooked is that some issues are not opinions. My sexual orientation as a gay man is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of who I am as a child of God. A person’s race is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of an individual’s heredity and genetic make up and earliest origins. A person’s gender or gender identity is not a matter of opinion. Gender and gender identity are either a fact of birth, namely cis-gender or a fact of realization, namely transgender. I cannot and will not engage in an “across the divide” discussion with someone who claims a different opinion about my sexual orientation. Nor can I envision someone doing the same with regard to their race, gender or gender identity.

We are not engaging in differences of opinion when it comes to issues of race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Facts of existence are not opinions, regardless of who claims otherwise.

I will not engage with someone who is racist, sexist, gender or homophobic. They are not operating on opinions but on prejudices and biases. And hence, we have such a terrible divide in our society and to some degree in our church. Bias cannot be masked, hidden or excused under the guise of differences of opinion. Until we understand that truth, we cannot hold meaningful, redemptive, productive, and holy conversations.

Our current political climate is mired in non-productive and harmful discourses (not discussions) about biases being trotted out as opinions. We will remain at a stalemate, a harmful and potentially deadly stalemate as long as we cling to these fantasies.

As Episcopalians, we should also keep in mind that our canon laws forbid discrimination based on gender, gender expression/identity, race, sexual orientation, etc. Those are not opinions. Those are our canon laws. Continuing to debate as if they were opinions is both hypocritical and demeaning to both sides of the discussion. Let’s use a very simple example: If you have white skin or identify as Caucasian, is that an opinion or a fact? If you are honest you know it is not an opinion but a fact. So why would we treat someone who is Asian or Black or Latino/a as if that aspect of their identity was an opinion? Some will certainly attempt to cast sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as an opinion in their discussions. I see such as the last grasping at straws to support individual and/or corporate discrimination. Perhaps a good question to such folks is: “Is your sexual orientation as heterosexual your opinion or is it a fact of your existence?”

Who we are as children of God is not opinion. What we believe as children of God can be an opinion. Yet what about our baptismal covenant vows? We regularly renew our vows to respect the dignity of every human being, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Are those vows offering an opinion or expressing our commitment to the concepts? Do we really believe or do we simply give lip service? Or do we just plain lie?

Opinion or bias? We have work to do before we can have a meaningful conversation.

On a different but related note, I offer a recent item below from “Perspectives Journal” about how our society treats guns. We, as a group, have been among the victims of gun violence, the shootings in Orlando are permanently etched in our psyches. Dick’s Sporting Goods just took a very bold position in ending their sales of assault weapons. Ironically, gun violence and gun control are one area where we can engage in discussions involving opinions.

As we continue our journey through the wilderness of Lent, may we reflect on these issues that have such an impact on our lives and seek grace-filled ways to discuss and address them.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

Jonathan Drake/Reuters
While most who read this were going about our observances of Ash Wednesday, a disturbed young man killed 17 people with an assault rifle at a high school in Parkland, Florida. He injured many more. As the horror of yet another mass killing spread over the media, the usual reactions began to be expressed by those who proclaim to be leaders of our nation: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” It was stated various ways but that is the gist of it.
We seem to have gotten overly polite with our condolences at a broad level. Maybe we have become numb and complacent. Maybe we just have no words and blurt out what first comes to mind, which is that our thoughts and prayers are....not unexpected from people who profess a faith in God.
This time there was a very different response from those who witnessed this horror first hand, the survivors of the shooting. They were brutally blunt in making it clear they did not want our “thoughts and prayers”; they wanted action to end such acts of violence. They wanted those who allegedly represented their interests to do something to stop this. 
Those students, those kids, are organizing a response to put pressure on politicians to do something to stop gun violence. Some of the same politicians are dismissing the students and saying they are the pawns of “the left” or some such nonsense. Would they be as dismissive if they had been in that high school at the time of the shooting wondering if they were about to die? Would they be willing to ignore the calls for reasonable gun control legislation if one of their children had been shot? I leave it for them to decide. Maybe attending “Active Shooter” training at an elementary school would be beneficial to them? How do you teach a 6 year old child to survive an attack like this one? You should never have to be in that position, yet we are.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to do more than offer thoughts and prayers during times of intense pain and sorrow. We are called to be the face of Christ in working to find a true and effective response to gun violence and mental health issues as well as the rest of the ills that plague our society. We are called to act responsibly and proactively. In my opinion, the survivors of this latest shooting are doing just that. I support them and I join them in their work.
Thoughts and prayers are fine if they are followed closely by responsible actions.
A week after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, we learned of the death of the Rev. Billy Graham. Those of us of a certain age literally grew up knowing about his revivals, especially those of us from the Bible Belt. The Reverend Graham was indeed an evangelist. Thoughts and prayers for his family are absolutely appropriate.
But what about his views about us queerfolk, the place of women in the world, even racial issues. While I am not one to usually cut anyone much slack when it comes to such issues, I have to view the man in the context of his roots and the influences on his life. I am not going to “praise him to high heaven” but I am not going to excoriate him either. He was a flawed human being like the rest of us. He was a product of his environment, for whatever that may be worth.
Remember that he was brought up in a religiously conservative household. He attended the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace, Florida and was ordained a Baptist minister in Palatka, Florida, in 1939. Have you ever been to Palatka? I doubt it has changed much since 1939! Graham was a product of the Southern Baptist Church and that speaks volumes. It was from their theological tyranny that I fled as a teenager and found The Episcopal Church. Oddly, he would eventually be criticized by that denomination for his ecumenism and broad embrace of other faith expressions. He was also criticized for refusing to maintain racially segregated seating at his crusades. (It still baffles me how one can see and respond to one form of injustice and not to another form, but that is for another discussion. There is also speculation that his views on same-sex marriage were really those of his son Franklin. Who is to know now?)
Billy Graham did stick to what he felt was his calling and that was bringing people to Jesus Christ. That is our calling as well, whether we as Episcopalians want to own it or not! He spent most of his 99 years on this earth responding to that call. It is sad that he apparently never understood that “Just as I am” applied to all, us queerfolk included.
In looking at the broad picture, I can be critical but overall the view is positive. The same can be said of me, of each of us. It is my hope that, at the end of my life (and I hope it lasts 99 years!) what I have done will be viewed over the whole of my ministry and life and I will not be judged based on the times I’ve been a fool or a jackass. 
May you continue to have a holy and blessed Lent. May you also respond in a Christ-like manner to the call for action against gun violence in our society.
I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Great Equalizer: You are dust and to dust you shall return

Ash Wednesday was just two days ago and at every service there was the haunting phrase hanging in the background: You are dust and to dust you shall return, as ashes were smudged on the foreheads of the faithful.

The words were oddly out of place when the recipient was a child, even more so for a baby. The words were poignant when the recipient was mature in years. Yet no matter the age, the words are the great equalizer. And no matter the station in life, the wealth or poverty, gender, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation or other characteristic, we all return to the dust.

The words used when ashes are imposed are from Genesis 3:19, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin and eviction from the Garden of Eden: you are dust and to dust you shall return. No one escapes this fate. All of us eventually return to the dust. Obviously as “Easter people” we look to the resurrection, however and whenever that occurs. But that is on the “other end” of Lent.

I wonder how often (or even if) those in power, political power or otherwise, ever ponder those words that spell out their ultimate fate. I wonder the same of those who treat others so callously or badly. The great equalizer will be the fate of those who try to remove the safety nets from the poor - however meager those safety nets might be. The great equalizer will inflict itself on those who practice racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and yes even on those who perpetrate sexual assault - no matter how long or how hard they try to hide what they have done. The great equalizer will prevail.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned us that we must learn to live together as siblings or we would surely perish together as fools.

A former bishop of Alabama, whose name long ago escaped from my memory, was also brutally direct when he said: If we believe what we profess, we had better learn to get along because we will be with each other for eternity. Ponder that for a moment, both from your perspective and then from that of those who would treat us as second class members of the church and society. Eternity. Together.

The great equalizer: We are all subject to its declaration that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

If you have taken on my challenge to make your Lenten discipline contacting all who represent you in secular government and those who have been charged to be your pastor(s), you might, perhaps as an ice breaker, remind them that they, just like you, are from dust and they, like you, will return to dust.

Yes my kindred, there is indeed a great equalizer and all are subject to it.

Amid the somberness of Ash Wednesday, we endured yet another poignant example of our inhumanity to each other with the Parkland High School (Florida) mass shooting. Pray for the all the victims of that senseless tragedy: the dead, the wounded and even the perpetrator. And pray that we will come to our senses and stop allowing perversions of the intent of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution to cloud our judgement about controlling guns whose only purpose is to kill the children of God. I don’t think this was the time intended for the work of the great equalizer… it was far too soon, at least in my mind.

I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lent Approaches

This is the last Friday before Lent begins on February 14. As we approach the Lenten season, I am reminded of how Lent was viewed decades ago in my youth and young adulthood: The question was always “What are you giving up for Lent?” I sometimes did give something up for Lent. On the occasion of several Lents I vowed to give up profanity. Well that generally lasted barely until the Second Sunday of Lent. The colorful language just managed to slip in despite my best efforts.

At some point I became aware of another nature of Lent, namely that of taking on some discipline or activity for those forty days. It could be daily prayer, self-improvement, reading specific literature or pretty much any activity that could be considered productive and helpful for the season. I got “hooked” on the value of the Daily Office after a Lent when I took on the discipline of praying Morning Prayer each morning. It stuck.My day begins with prayer following that model.

We seem to be living in a time of little discipline, at least on the part of our elected leaders. Accountability seems to be a “nice idea” rather than something that should be expected and demanded. The wind blows and the position changes. The wind blows and another change. Little thought is given to the impact of such “flexible” thinking on the lives of millions of people.

I urge you to take on some discipline(s) during the upcoming Lenten season. I urge you to make one of your disciplines to be contacting your elected representatives on a very regular basis sharing your thoughts and ideas and how you honestly feel about some of their positions on issues that have a direct impact on you as an LGBTQ+ follower of Jesus Christ. And I urge you to use that language. Make sure they know that you are a person of faith, part of the Jesus Movement.Be persistent. Lent has 40 days. Contact your elected representatives at least one fourth of those days. (Each of the 40 days would be great, but hey, I will take what I can get!)

Elected officials do not hear from nearly enough of their constituents. Often they only hear the harsh meanness of the religious right. Let them hear a more moderate expression of faith. It helps those who need reinforcement. It might convict others to change their thinking. So get out your personal devices, laptops, and desktops and email, tweet, text or whatever form of communication gets you going. Who knows, some might even write an actual letter and mail it!

Don’t forget to include your religious leaders as well. If you are in one of the infamous non-marriage eight, contact your bishop during Lent and point out the pain his position is causing for you and those close to you. Make it a part of your discipline for the season to be in regular contact with your bishop… maybe even your commission on ministry or standing committee… whoever it is who needs to hear from you. Make it a discipline.

I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Done. Check the Box. Well, Not Really

Last week I wrote about The Episcopal Church’s short term memory once we have enacted legislation, especially when it pertains to issues of justice, inclusion and prejudice. There is another aspect of that concept that plays out in how well others really understand us as queer folk. Some folks “get” us and some do not… I’m inclined toward the numbers of those who do not being at least a plurality, if not a majority.

This mentality goes back to what I call the “check box” mentality of our church. That is the mentality that lets us get away with thinking such thoughts as: “We have women’s ordination, so we have addressed and resolved that “issue.” Notions about the deployment of women clergy are no where on the radar screen. The “glass ceiling” related to compensation and benefits didn’t get in the conversation either. How many women fill the positions of cardinal rectors? We changed the canons. Done. Check the box. Well... not really.

We do the same thing about issues of race. We tout our canons that prohibit discrimination in every aspect of the life of our church. But again, where are we on deployment? Having people of color in visible roles of leadership does not mean that we find the same allegedly welcoming attitude at the diocesan and parish level. Because we have passed our canons, we have resolved the “race issue.” So why do I still see the need for training and education on what it means to be the beloved community? Why do we still need to have anti-racism workshops and training? Why are the percentages of people of color, not to mention those in ordained positions way below the percentages of the general population? We passed the canons. Done. Check the box. Well… not really.

Now we come to issues about sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression. Again, we passed those canons prohibiting discrimination in all aspects of the life of the church including ordination and now even marriage. So….where does that put us? Yes we have some LGBTQ+ folks in leadership in the church at all levels. What does that mean? Did some of them “pass” to get where they are? Are some of them simply tokens to appease general opinion? Back to deployment: How many visible calls are made to LGBTQ+ clergy outside very large metropolitan areas? Two queer bishops is an indicator of the presence of LGBTQ+ people in our church. We passed our canons. Done. Check the box. Well… not really as is evidenced by the situation in the Diocese of Tennessee and seven others.

So why would I ever think that so many just do not “get” us queer folk (anymore than they “get” women clergy and people of color)? It isn’t a long journey to take to answer that question. Aside from the less than tolerant current political climate, having a cisgender white male wonder (sometimes aloud even) why the gays and lesbians and trans folks cannot and do not grow into a perspective other than that of who they are, namely gay, lesbian or transgender? Seriously?

You are going to ask me why I am not willing or not capable of viewing things beyond what you think is my limited perspective as a gay man? Would you ask a black person why they cannot view a perspective other than being black? (In reality many probably would, but let’s not go there for now). Would you ask a woman to view things from a male (invariably white) perspective? (I can pretty much guarantee that many would ask that question based solely on what has been going on for months now about sexual harassment.)

Kindred in Christ, we really do have some serious work to do! And it is not just for us queer folk that we need to do this work. It is for all who would claim to follow Christ and meet with an attitude that finds only one perspective, one race, one cisgender, one sexual orientation to be “the norm.” Our work is for everyone who encounters an attitude that they need to change their outlook and perspective to more closely align with those of the perceived majority. The work is not done. There is no box to check.

What will it take for us to rise up and say that it’s time that we as a church start learning more about what it is like to be the other instead of asking the other why their perspective is so limited? Again, I see this as the ministry of lay people. We have nothing to lose by asking pointed questions. Our ministries, our vocations, our salaries are not on the line. We CAN ask the difficult questions and continue to ask until we get real answers. I would hope that those answers would be based on the ministry given us in the Gospel and in the vows of our Baptismal Covenant.

Do you think we're done? Should we check the box?

So I will close with yet another (probably maddening) question: When will you start asking why the way things continue to remain the way they are for so much of our church? When?

Bruce Garner, President

Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Short Prophetic Memory

The Episcopal Church has been known for taking prophetic positions when it comes to issues of justice and inclusion. We did so about race, even though rather half-heartedly in many places. The same was true for the ordination of women, despite resistance from some of “the boys” who just couldn’t perceive of women clergy. We responded to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression/identity, or I thought we responded. Soon to be three years ago we changed our canons to allow for the marriage of same sex couples. Again, at least we purported to do so.

We seem to “get” the issues at the church-wide level and act accordingly to address issues of injustice and discrimination. Then, at least it seems so, our prophetic memory gets very short as we don’t seem to have the ability to address the problem of those dioceses and bishops that choose to ignore or refuse to enforce the canons of the church. We let things “slide” under some notion of “keeping peace and unity” even at the expense of justice.

The bishops of dioceses of Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands have not authorized use of the liturgies for the marriage of same sex couples. How they have addressed the need to provide for the pastoral needs of those couples is not clear.

The bishops of the dioceses of Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, Springfield, and Tennessee prohibit their use by clergy canonically resident in those dioceses, whether within or even outside of the diocese. That posture takes on a degree of arrogance that further promotes injustice and inequality and seems to be nothing less than some power play over the clergy allegedly in their care as chief pastors.

Some claim we did not do enough study or establish a sufficient theological basis for our position. I think 40-plus years represents a reasonable investment in prayer and study. After all, Israel only had to wander in the desert for 40 years to get to the promised land.

We take a prophetic position and then develop memory loss over helping insure that those intended to benefit from our prophetic position actually achieve those benefits. Reasons vary. Some seem reasonable. I am inclined to see our memory loss as hypocritical.

Unfortunately, clergy are trapped between the exercise of pastoral ministry and obeying unjust restrictions from their bishop. Their livelihood and exercise of their ministry must be weighed against disobeying for the sake of conscience. I doubt any of us want to find ourselves in such a place.

Those of us who are not ordained can generally afford to be prophetic in action and in challenging unjust authority. Short of ex-communicating us, there isn’t much that could happen. (And I haven’t heard of any excommunications in many years!) Accordingly, we CAN speak out. We CAN raise questions. We CAN be a prophetic witness in the face of injustice and discrimination. We CAN show the face of Christ to those who may not yet understand the unconditional love of all God’s children, who may not grasp the concept that all of God’s children belong in the Beloved Community.

There is a group of lay folks in the Diocese of Tennessee -- that is the middle one of the three dioceses in the state -- who are challenging the stance of their bishop over same sex marriage. They share their own very personal stories. Their experiences will tear your heart out. I cannot comprehend how their bishop or any other bishop could justify inflicting such pain on those under their care. It flies in the face of the vows bishops take at their consecrations.

The extremely compelling story of those brave folks in Tennessee is told in a video. I urge you to watch.

You have endured me asking you for many weeks who you contacted about what matters to you, how you feel about injustice and oppression. Let me bring those questions closer to home. Have you contacted your own bishop about addressing his refusal to allow same sex marriage in your diocese? Have you witnessed to the power of Christ in your relationships and those you have witnessed that the church has said should be honored but he refuses to acknowledge? As a lay person, as one who experiences his prejudice or witnesses it in others, you have no reason for not sharing how you feel. Have those of us who live in the dioceses that do permit same sex marriages asked our bishops what they are doing to help insure that all have access to what the church has said they should?

How about we all do what we can to lengthen the memory of our church in its prophetic witness? I will ask again…

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, January 19, 2018

Paying Attention


I wonder how many of us are indeed paying attention. It seems that this administration continues to quietly (sneakily??) try and make changes to important regulations while most people’s attention is focused on what appears to be a larger and more newsworthy event.

If you do a little research, you can learn that the Census Bureau was directed to change questions that might identify LGBTQ people. Another change was to do away with specific questions in a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) program about LGBTQ seniors. The list is longer than I can or want to cover here.

It now seems that, at least according to sources identified by several newspapers, that the newest attempt to undermine progress made by us queer folks, is to create an entire division within DHHS to support the right of health care providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ folks based on the religious beliefs of the provider. Also included in that “cover” is the right to refuse to provide abortion services.

Where is this coming from? It is more of the ultra-conservative religious right’s attempt to impose their particular brand of Christianity on the entire nation. Aside from potential constitutional issues that involve the government dictating religious issues, why should one part of Christendom be allowed to overrule the beliefs and practices of any other part in this multicultural nation of ours?

Have the rest of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ lost our voices? Have we already succumbed to attempts to disenfranchise us? I have to wonder, I really do. Are those of us who take a different view of these issues, of all religious issues, afraid to make our voices heard? Are we afraid to let those in this administration hear us and know that there is no single voice of Christians in this nation and all of us must be heard?

There was a saying, from the sixties if I recall correctly: If you are not pissed off, you are not paying attention. Seems applicable to the current situation. Perhaps our various bubbles just keep us insulated from the attacks on us as full fledged members of our society.

Integrity began its life in response to injustice against one gay male, interracial couple. Have we lost that edge? Our church has come a long way. Society has lagged behind. Our roots should give us a voice. Are we paying attention?

I keep asking the following questions thinking it might shake some out of their complacency: Whom have you contacted among those who represent your interests to express your concerns and disagreement with current administration policies? Have you emailed, tweeted, texted, called, used carrier pigeon or any other means of communication? Look in the mirror and ask yourself why not? Look in the mirror and ask yourself why you, deep down, still consider yourself a second class citizen?

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow