Acting Executive Director
I had the privileged this week of attending an annual retreat for the executive directors of LGBT Christan organizations. It was hosted by the Institute for Welcoming Resources and was held on the campus of California State Polytechnic University in warm and sunny Pomona. We spent two full days learning about effective movement building from LGBT activist and organizational development expert Beth Zemsky of One Ummah Consulting. Below are a few gems of wisdom I gathered from Beth. [WARNING: Some of these insights may be contrary to your current believes and actions!]
Good intentions do not necessarily equal effective impacts. For example, the recent Fight the H8 rallies held across the country may have given us an outlet for our anger, but did they actually advance marriage equality? We must wisely engage in campaigns that will move our social goals forward.
Social movements are like waves--with beginnings, peaks, and troughs. After being in a trough for several years, the progressive movement in general and the LGBT rights movement in particular is currently at the beginning of a new wave. We must recognize and leverage this "movement moment" to achieve our social goals.
Every social movement wave is defined by a "frame," or an overarching message that articulates a world view. "Rights" was the frame for the last wave of the progressive movement. Over the last 50 years this frame has been used by every group that is part of the progressive movement—civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, animal rights, environmental rights, etc. However, the effectiveness of the rights frame waned along with the last progressive wave. That is the main reason why Prop 8 passed in California. Continuing to use the rights frame will not grow our movement.
The new progressive wave needs a new frame. That frame will be defined by members of the movement. However, the emerging frame is likely to stress the common good, interdependence, and community. For example the Renew America Together website says, "President-elect Obama believes that we, as Americans, have a responsibility to help our communities and fellow citizens. In summoning a new spirit of service, he is calling on us to make an enduring commitment to our neighborhoods." In another example, the theme for General Convention 2009 is "Ubuntu," which is an African philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other. Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines it this way: "A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed." Using the interdependence frame is likely to grow our movement.
Every social movement has "we" and "they." There are those who are part of the movement and those who are not. "We" must include not only the oppressed, but the allies of the oppressed. To grow our moment we must increase the size of "we" and decrease the size of "they."
Every individual has multiple social identities. For example, I am a middle-class, gay, white, male, Episcopalian [among other things]. Environmental context and stressors influences which social identity is most important to me any particular time. For example, when I am preparing my tax return, my middle-class identity is paramount; but when I am attending diocesan convention my Episcopalian identity is foremost. Our movement's definition of "we" must be broad and flexible enough to encompass multiple and fluctuating social identifies.
There is a dynamic relationship between a social movement and each constituent. Communication and action must be circular and continuous in order for an individual to remain connected to the movement. Networking sites like Facebook are a great tool for maintaining such a dynamic relationship. Our movement must keep constituents informed and provide opportunities for action; conversely the constituent must provide our movement with information and participate in movement activities.
Increasing the power of a social movement is a spiral process. Step 1 is to organize and win a campaign. Step 2 is to build and maintain infrastructure resulting from step 1. Repeat as often as possible. Our movement must be constantly in the process of winning and building, winning and building.
I will be discussing these insights with national Integrity's board and staff and identifying concrete ways our organization can make the most of this movement moment. I encourage local Integrity leaders to do the same.
Ask Obama to support the Blueprint for Positive Change
From the Human Rights Campaign...
President-elect Obama's inclusion of Rick Warren at his inauguration prompted outrage in the LGBT community.
President-elect Obama has most recently reasserted his commitment to LGBT equality. He invited the Episcopal Church's first openly gay Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, to speak at the opening inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial.
Help Bishop Robinson ensure that his historic appearance tangibly advances LGBT rights by declaring your support for HRC's Blueprint for Positive Change, and help keep the new administration focused on equal rights for all.
Don't Forget To Vote On National Bylaws
On December 15th an electronic referendum began on proposed amendments to Integrity's national bylaws. If approved, these changes will significantly alter the structure of the board of directors and add a "stakeholders" council." Visit www.integrityusa.org/bylaws to learn more what what is being modified and why.
To date, only about 13% of eligible members have cast their ballot. We need your vote! Polls close on February 15th.
If your membership dues were current as of November 25th, you should have received voting instructions by email or postcard. If you believe you are eligible to vote but did not receive voting instructions, please contact John Clinton Bradley at email@example.com.
New Transgender Resources
The Human Rights Campaign recent launched two new faith-based transgender resources...
The first is a curriculum titled "Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities: A Congregational Guide for Transgender Advocacy" based on the contributions of transgender people, their families and clergy. The curriculum is edited by Rev. Chris Glaser with contributions by transgender educators. Drawing on a wide array of personal experiences, religious and cultural analysis, and diverse faith journeys, our hope is that this curriculum will empower people of faith with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform their communities and congregations into welcoming environments and will turn participants into advocates for transgender rights.
The second is commentary tiled "In Season: A Transgender Encounter with the Church Year." Through the Church Year, Christians - as individuals and communities of faith - remember and celebrate God's holy time of healing, freeing and reconciling. Year after year, Christians journey from the longings of Advent, the joy of Christmas and the depths of Lent to the good news of Easter hope. Here we explore that journey with transgender sisters and brothers. Through these commentaries you will discover fresh perspectives about the seasons of the Church Year from a wide-range of transgender experiences. Included are stories and reflections by eleven transgender laity and clergy. Together, prayerfully and imaginatively, they listened to their hearts and now let you in on what these days and seasons mean to them.
- Read more and watch a video conversation between the editor and an author
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Bishop: 'Church is starting to get it right'
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The Living Church
Separate Rights from Rites, Bishop Robinson Urges