Saturday, October 31, 2009


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Minneapolis, Minnesota - October 31, 2009


Today, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota have ended a very complex discernment process and chosen the Reverend Brian Prior as their IX Bishop. Integrity rejoices with the Diocese of Minnesota at the election of an able pastor and joins with the whole Church in praying for continued joy in mission and ministry for this trailblazing diocese.

“What we have seen in the Diocese of Minnesota during these weeks and months of discernment is our church at its best,” said the Reverend David Norgard, President of Integrity. “By including an openly gay, partnered candidate, they have led the Episcopal Church to one step closer to reaching the reality of  'all the baptized in all the sacraments' in the Episcopal Church – not just a resolution of General Convention. We owe them our thanks and gratitude for their visionary leadership.”

Integrity looks forward to the day when the inclusion of qualified LGBT candidates for the episcopate will be the norm whenever slates for the election of a new bishop are presented to diocesan conventions. We are grateful for the legislative progress made at our last General Convention that opens the way for each and every diocese to choose from all the qualified candidates the best bishop for as the chief pastor for their diocese – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin or gender identity.

When asked about ministry with the marginalized, including the LGBT community, bishop-elect Prior once said, "The amount of work and witness still needed to combat the lack of respect for the dignity of every human being is unquestionably clear." He added, "I have worked to challenge systems that at best marginalize, and at worst outright exclude others based on race, gender, sexual orientation or age. The foundational question that I always ask those I serve with is this: who is not, and why are they not, at the table."

Norgard concluded, "We look forward to working with bishop-elect Prior as we continue to work together toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments as we live out our baptismal covenant commitment to respect the dignity of every human being."

The Reverend David Norgard, President


For further information contact:
Louise Brooks, Communication Director
Integrity USA -- 626.993.4605

Friday, October 30, 2009

Showing the Truth Openly: A sermon on the Eve of the Diocesan Convention for Minnesota

It was a windy, rainy but joy-filled night here in Minnesota. At St. Paul's on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN--many gathered to pray, listen and break bread together in anticipation for this weekends Diocesan Convention. 
As many of you know, the Diocese of Minnesota will be electing its ninth Bishop, sometime on Saturday. So tonight many gathered to hear the newly elected President of Integrity, The Rev. David Norgard, deliver the homily. 

#13: For a Church Convention 
Isaiah 55:1-13 
Psalm 19:7-14 
II Corinthians 4:1-10 
John 15:1-11 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

“It is not our way to be devious, or to falsify the word of God; instead, in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every human being with a conscience by showing the truth openly.” – From the epistle appointed for the evening (NJB).

We gather here on the eve of the whole Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota gathering to elect its next bishop.  It is a time of anticipation for, as elections of leaders always go, whatever the outcome, we are about to embark on an adventure.  We can only pray that it will be an adventure in faith.  Recognizing the time and place, the moment in which we stand, I would like to begin with a personal story – my own.

I was the first openly gay person to be ordained in the Diocese of Minnesota.  I “entered the process” (as people say) shortly after the General Convention of 1979.  (You can do the math in your heads, if you like, but I’m not going to do it for you.)  It was the convention that declared – in typical Episcopalian fashion – that it was “inappropriate to ordain practicing homosexuals at that time.”  The good people advising me and supporting me then were determined not to let that non-binding resolution transmute into a concrete barrier.  So the question put to me was: Should I tell the truth about being gay?  Or, in the interest of being expeditious, should I rather wait and let the truth about who I was come out, as it were, later?  At the time, it was not courage but simple naïveté that prompted my question in response to the question: How could I build a solid Christian ministry upon the foundation of a deception?  I just could not get past the simple reasoning repeating in a loop in my mind to any of the much more sophisticated theologizing others were proposing.  As I understood it, Christian ministry meant adhering to a twin ethic of love and justice.  Justice is always built on the truth.  Therefore, Christian ministry also must be built on the truth.  It would occur to me much later, by the way, that justice and truth together equate to integrity.

Well, as is evident, I suppose, it turned out okay for me.  In due course, I started wearing the collar I had passionately desired from an early age.  By being both out and ordained in those days, though, I also earned the poignant privilege of hearing from many whose stories had turned out or were turning out very differently.  I heard hard truths about individuals coming out and being disowned by their families…fired by their employers…ostracized by their colleagues…shunned by their churches…inhibited and dismissed by their bishops.

Now, happily, it is a new day.  Whatever the outcome of the election, the Diocese of Minnesota has come out as a church.  It has said, “In our family of faith, we have gay brothers; we have lesbian sisters.”  That is also essentially what happened at General Convention last summer.  The Episcopal Church finally and unequivocally came out.  It came out to its mother, the Anglican Communion (and she was not amused, but I digress).  It came out to its sisters, the other Christian denominations (particularly the Lutherans…and commendations to them!).  It came out to the country and the world at large.

As many of you know from your own personal experience, life is inevitably different after you come out.  First, of course, there is no going back once you do it.  The die is cast.  Just as certainly, enormous new challenges begin to loom because homophobia and heterosexism aren’t just terms of leftist political rhetoric.  They are the living realities of all too many people still across the country, across the Communion, around the whole world.

Coming out does not make life easier…but it does unequivocally make life better.  Telling the truth and seeking justice, while painfully difficult at times, are inherently better options for living than their alternatives because they are the constellation that leads us on the path toward integrity.  And as the psalmist says, “No good thing will God withhold from those who walk with integrity.”

So we learn to live in an in-between time.  Joy abounds but it is not yet complete.  Times, they are a-changing, but they still lead us through valleys of shadow and –as Matthew’s mother knows all too well – even death.  We know that while our own diocese has nominated for election to the episcopate someone who is out there are other dioceses, some near here, whose bishops will not permit the good news from Anaheim even to be announced, much less celebrated or acted upon.  Prejudice, the antithesis of integrity, really is a malignancy of the soul.  It is no mere intellectual error.  So, it will not be excised by a single brave act or legislative victory, however definitive.  It will only die out gradually through a constant application of truth and justice. 

We see this mirrored in the continuing saga of racism in our country.  In 1954, in its decision on Brown versus Board of Education, the Supreme Court of the United States held that separate is inherently not equal.  Still, over fifty years later, half a century, schools across the land barred the country’s first black President from speaking to their students about staying in school.  Times, they are a-changing, but in matters of the heart, they do not always change fast.

Paul, the patron both of this church and of this city, understood that.  That is why he said what he did in writing to the Corinthians: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”  And that is why he also said: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

This year the General Convention of the Episcopal Church came to the same judgment, more or less, that the Supreme Court did all those many years ago: Separate is not equal.  All the sacraments must be open to all the baptized.  We took heart and it was meet and right so to do.  We had labored long and hard for those legislative victories…but now comes the really long haul, that of turning them into living realities.  …And that, that one of truth and justice given to us out of God’s mercy, is changed but hardly ended.

Over twenty-five years ago now, a quarter of a century, a naïve young gay man sat in the office of the Bishop of Minnesota and decided that it was just not the way to go to deceive people about who he was in order to minister in the name of One known as the Way and the Truth and the Life.  The truth was that he had fallen in love with a person of the same gender and everything about it felt right and good.  And by the way, after thirty years, he is still with that same good man today. 

But as he quickly learned and not just once but time and time again, as gay and lesbian people, our ministry has never been about proclaiming ourselves.  Rather, it is a matter of being unwilling to hide the truth, particularly the truth about the way God has made everyone, including us – we who are at once very much the same and a little different from our straight brothers and sisters.  And that must continue always to be the essence of our message, the truth we must both tell and seek, proclaim and honor…that a loving God, out of love (and with some good humor and good taste) created all things…and behold, without exception, they are very good.  Amen. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Woman Priest to be Ordained in Diocese of Fort Worth

Katie Sherrod Reports:

It is with great rejoicing that we make the following announcement.

Thirty-three years after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, the first woman will be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

At 5:00 P.M. on Sunday Nov. 15 in St. Luke's in the Meadow Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick Jr. will ordain Deacon Susan Slaughter to the priesthood.

She will be the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the history of the Fort Worth diocese, which was founded in 1983. The Rev. Ms. Slaughter also will be the first woman rector of a parish in the diocese. The Episcopal Church approved women's ordination to the priesthood and episcopate in 1976 and the first women were ordained priests in January 1977.

Read the rest on the diocesan website:



October 27, 2009

The White House announced President Obama will sign the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act on Wednesday, October 28th. To mark that historic act, Integrity calls members, friends and allies to join in a moment of virtual common prayer at 4:45 p.m. EDT--the time announced for the signing.

"For over thirty years, Integrity has been committed to both prayer and political action," said Integrity President David Norgard. "On Wednesday when President Obama signs the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, we will give thanks for a major milestone even as we remember those we have lost due to hate crime violence."

The Episcopal Church has been a long-time advocate for hate crime legislation, since at least 1988 when it passed resolution D055, entitled "Condemn All Hate Crimes." In 1998, then Integrity President Michael Hopkins attended the Wyoming funeral of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard. "At Matthew's funeral, we experienced hate first hand in the protestors led by the Fred Phelps family. I am gratified now to have this legislation.”

For details -- including this prayer suggested for use to mark the signing -- visit Integrity's blog, "Walking With Integrity" at

Loving God,
We pray for victims of hate crimes;
for those who have been targets of violence
just because of who they are;
for their families and all who grieve for them.

We give thanks for all those who have
labored, lobbied and prayed
for inclusive federal hate crimes legislation
and for the Hate Crime Prevention Act
signed into law today.

Bless us, we pray, with the knowledge
that we are secure in your love;
that we can make a difference;
that you call us always to seek and serve Christ in all persons
and to respect the dignity of every human being.
And may the peace the world cannot give
reign in our hearts always.

Some history on resolutions passed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church on hate crimes:

Resolution Number: 1988-D055
Title: Condemn All Hate Crimes

Resolution Number: 1988-D100
Title: Decry Violence Against Homosexuals

Resolution Number: 2000-D009
Title: Condemn All Hate Crimes

Resolution Number: 2000-C029
Title: Urge Congress to Enact Hate Crimes Legislation

Also this 2002 report on Episcopal support for the legislation:


For further information contact:
Louise Brooks, Communication Director
Integrity USA -- 626.993.4605

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Minnesota? You are invited!

Dear IntegrityUSA:

We would like to invite you and your readers to this Eucharist in preparation for the Diocesan Convention for the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota coming up this weekend. If you can't join us in person, please do join us in prayer!
For more information go to

Integrity Eucharist
Thursday, October 29, 7:00 pm
St. Paul's Episcopal Church on-the-Hill
St. Paul, MN

St Paul’s on-the-Hill will celebrate Holy Eucharist with LGBT people and their friends, in preparation for the upcoming Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota--in anticipation for the election of the IX Bishop of Minnesota.

This special Eucharist celebrates the diversity of the created order, called to a common faith in the Creator.

The Rev. David Norgard, incoming president of Integrity will preach.
The Rev. Mark Thompson will preside.
Jacob Manier and singers will provide music, including pieces by the late Calvin Hampton.

A festive reception will follow the liturgy.
Persons of all faiths are welcome and invited. Please share.

A Message of Hope Amidst the Vatican Hullabaloo

Well said Jim. Well said. (from Rev. Susan Russell's blog, An Inch At A Time)

Yesterday Jim Naughton spoke to NPR's "All Things Considered" about the announcement last week that the Vatican is setting a place at the table for "disaffected" Anglicans to come home to Rome.

You'll want to click here to listen to the interview and hear Jim be his usual faithful, on-message-for-Jesus self, but if you need to save that treat for a little later, here's the core message we all would do well to internalize:

I think for Episcopalians, what we need to do in the wake of this announcement is to continue going out there and saying, look, we do offer very traditional liturgy, beautiful music, a style of worship that many people like. But we are a democratically governed church. We think men and women are equal at the altar, and we respect the dignity of gay and lesbian Christians. If that makes us outcasts, I think that that's a status that we embrace happily. So if what we're talking about here are people offering alternatives, I think Episcopalians offer that alternative to their Catholic brothers and sisters.

And (I would add) to ANYONE seeking a community of faith committed to traditional values of love, compassion, peace, justice and equality.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Witness For 23 October 2009

Last Issue

After an 18-month run, the Weekly Witness is being retired.  It will be replaced by the Friday Flash, which will be sent to members only via Vertical Responset.  If you are not a member, click here to join now.  If you are already a member, please add as a safe sender on your spam filter.

New Lead Blogger

Rachel Swan of Minneapolis has graciously volunteered to serve as the lead blogger for Walking With Integrity.  Rachel set up Integrity's Facebook fan page and Twitter presence just before General Convention and has been managing them every since.  Rachel was also the primary blogger for Integrity's General Convention team.  If you see something you think should be shared on Walking With Integrity, please email Rachel.

Prayers for the Diocese of Minnesota

The Diocese of Minnesota will be electing its next bishop on Saturday, October 31st.  For the first time since General Convention 2009 passed Resolution D025, a partnered LGBT candidate--the Rev. Bonnie Perry--is on the ballot.  Please keep all of the candidates and electors in your prayers.

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Guest Post: An Invitation to an Inclusive Church

Here at the Walking With Integrity blog, we know we have a whole variety of readers, friends, members, Proud Parish Partners as well as many allys who are thinking about some of the same things we are. Today, a guest post from Rev. Paul Bresnahan, crossposted at his blog Heaven and Earth, a reflection about the recent news out of the Vatican. What do you think? 

We have now received an invitation from Catholicism to return to the Mother Church. For those unhappy over The Anglican/Episcopal Church’s “liberal” stance on the ordination of gays and their inclusion in our leadership and membership, there is room in Rome. For those unhappy about the ordination of women, there is spiritual refuge in the purview of the Holy See. Curiously enough, the church that brings you celibacy, will allow married Anglican/Episcopal Church clergy to return as well.

I must respectfully decline that invitation. While I am only one Episcopal Priest, and retired to boot, I find it a curiosity that this invitation comes as it does at a time when it is becoming more apparent than ever that folk are folk; whether gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor, black or white and so on. How startling that something as obvious as this would be such a matter of controversy. Alas, this is not the first time when the church has been a safe refuge for bigotry. (sorry for the harsh language; but I cannot find another word for the behavior)

Even in Biblical material we are “one in Christ” as the blessed Apostle put; it without respect to classification by sex, gender, orientation, class, or ethnicity. In his very own words, he put it this way, “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)

This is not at root a liberal/conservative issue it is a biblical one. It has its traditional dimensions as well. For instance, we figured out 600 years ago that it is a good idea to allow the clergy to marry. This is a splendid way to channel clerical libidinal energy. It is no assurance of rectitude, but the instances of clergy misconduct are far more likely to be held in check if there is a marriage within which to practice intimacy than if there is celibacy with no such outlet. Terrible things can happen to a church with celibacy as the only libidinal outlet as we well know, and the Anglican/Episcopal Church figured that out a long, long time ago.

The great question before us is this; are we a house of prayer for all people or not? Jesus made it clear by his courage in seeking out the lame, the halt, the blind, the prostitute, the tax collector, the leper and all the other outcasts that his church was to be a house of prayer for all people. This he did when he overturned the tables in the Temple in a radical revolution that continues to reverberate throughout the church.

There was a special place in his heart too for the “eunuchs” of his time. I wonder what he meant by the following startling saying; But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (Matthew 19:11-12) You can define that term as you like, but they clearly were not a threat to folks of the opposite sex. There is considerable evidence that when the biblical material refers to “eunuchs” we were talking of folks whose interests lay with folks of the same sex. We now refer to this group as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered, LGBT for short. And isn't it interesting to note that even Jesus realized that there were those who would find this teaching a hard one to accept. The radical love of Jesus is often hard to take because it includes our enemies.

I believe that Jesus stood up for this crowd too as he stood up for us all, and I am convinced that is why they put him to death on the cross. Jesus was not a liberal. He merely loved everyone! That’s why God died. That’s why God is Risen. That’s why God will come again!

Therefore, I would like to extend an invitation to all you fine folks who have wondered all along why Rome won’t allow her priests to marry. You might find an Episcopal Church to your liking. We have bishops, priests and deacons, and the sacraments to boot, and the clergy can marry and all of us have to have background checks from an outside agency to be sure that we can comfortably call ourselves a “safe church” for children and others. We also figured out that women could take their place at the highest places of the church as bishops, priests, and deacons. Our Presiding Bishop is Katharine Jefferts Schori! Now we are more and more convinced that ordination and membership transcends sexual orientation as well. There are those who differ with us and cite passages in Leviticus and Paul that prescribe such a teaching.

I can cite passages in the Gospel, in Paul, in the Prophets that support a much more compassionate and loving interpretation on the faith tradition. Why anyone would use the bible to exclude people because of gender and orientation is puzzlement to me. But race, was used at another time to justify slavery and the bible has been used to thwart scientific advance as well. The same folks who want to exclude gays refused to look into Galileo’s telescope for about 600 years as well. Many still refuse Darwin's help in advancing us toward fuller understanding of the nature of human nature. They refuse to encourage scientific advancement in stem cell research that could help lead to important cures for so many diseases and ease human suffering. You can add to the list as your leisure.

So, by way of rejoinder to Rome, and some others who have parted company with us; allow me to invite you here; namely to the Episcopal Church; “A House of Prayer for All People”. We have lost quite a few members because of our love for the outcast. So there is plenty of room in most of our churches. More importantly there is plenty of room in God’s heart for you here too. The church has sent out too many chilly messages lately. The church has said terrible thing to gay folk and women. I thought you might like to hear one that proclaims the Good News of God in Christ...the news of a loving compassionate and inclusive church.

Rev. Paul Bresnahan is a now semi-retired in Salem, MA where he works part-time as Priest-In-Charge of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, a historic 275 year old congregation called to be a "House of Prayer for ALL People."

He is the author of "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven"--a satirical/serious/humorous poke at the church, that suggests it is time for it to face the facts; our sisters and brothers of the LGBT community are here to stay, and it is time to embrace all in a kinder gentler way.

Also published today in the Salem News about our author: Local Episcopal Priest Slams Vatican

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HHS To Create National Resource Center for LGBTs 60+

This news release comes from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. You can read the full release at


October 22, 2009
For Immediate Release

LOS ANGELES, CA--Integrity applauds the passage today of the groundbreaking legislation making it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Since 1988 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church as been on record supporting legislation protecting all Americans from hate motivated violence," said Integrity President David Norgard. "And so we rejoice today with all who have worked so long and so hard to move this legislation forward. Our prayers are particularly with Judy and Dennis Shepard and their family, who turned the tragedy of the death of their son Matthew into advocacy on behalf of all those vulnerable to hate crimes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

In her 2007 letter in support of the bill passed by the Senate today, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori included this quote from former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold: "The fact that Matthew was an Episcopalian makes our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a particular responsibility to stand with gays and lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against them - from verbal to physical, and to encourage the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead to new appreciation for their presence in the life of our church, and the broader community."

Integrity is grateful for the work and witness of ALL those who have stood with the most vulnerable down through the years -- and is committed to continue that advocacy as we follow the Lord who called us always to remember that it is in service to "the least of these" that we live out our call to seek and serve Christ in all persons.


CONTACT: Louise Brooks

Director of Communications



October 22, 2009
For Immediate Release

LOS ANGELES, CA--The recent announcement that the Vatican would set up a special canonical structure to accept disaffected Anglicans, choosing to leave over the inclusion of women and the LGBT faithful, is viewed by Integrity as another sad indicator of the church hierarchy’s misguided commitment to staying on the wrong side of history.

"There is some clarity in all of this, however," said Integrity President David Norgard. "Anglicans will now have a clear choice: a church that welcomes all or a church that excludes some.

"It is also ironic that this announcement comes just days after the Vatican unveiled plans for an exhibit honoring Galileo--who was condemned by the church 400 years ago," said Norgard. "Let us hope for the sake of the gospel we share, that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters don’t have to wait 400 years for their church to get on the right side of history on the full inclusion of women and the LGBT baptized in their work and witness.

"Integrity will continue to work for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments within the Episcopal Church and to offer the good news of congregations and dioceses whose welcome to all is growing the church.

"God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet. But we are deeply grateful to be part of a church working toward full inclusion.”


Press contact:

Louise Brooks, Director of Communications

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ugandan Parliament Considers Draconian Anti-homosexuality Bill

A bill has been introduced to the Uganda parliament that would, among other things, provide a three year prison term for anyone who fails to report the names of those they know to be LGBT (and those they know who are heterosexual who support human rights for LGBT people) to authorities.

Sound crazy? It is. The same bill would make it a crime for any Ugandan citizen, whether or not they live in Uganda, to be gay.

The new bill calls for life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply "touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality." It also punishes "aggravated homosexuality" – including activity by "serial offenders" or those who are HIV positive – with the death penalty.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is urging a letter writing campaign to President Museveni and others.

Please take a few minutes of your day, read more about this unfolding story, and get involved.

More info is available here:
The actual wording of the bill
International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Watch
New Vision article 
• From Truth Wins Out: American Evangelicals Play Role In Uganda Effort To ‘Wipe Out’ Gays
• Daily Monitor: Anti-gay Bill: Why we should all be very afraid
Other Sheep Press Release

And perhaps most powerfully
• A gay Ugandan, who writes anonymously

Article by Cynthia Black (Producer, Director, Videographer, and Photographer of the Voices of Witness Africa.)

Cynthia is an Episcopal priest who has served parishes in New Jersey and Michigan, and most recently was Dean of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She is an award winning photographer, and enjoys using videography to encourage others to interact with Gospel values of peace and justice. She has produced videos for various non-profit organizations, including the Episcopal Church. She has been a member of the Episcopal Church’s governing board--the Executive Council, president of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, and a member of the Claiming the Blessing collaborative of the Episcopal Church.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A manifesto from our friend Bishop John Shelby Spong

Friends of Walking With Integrity,

Perhaps many of you are already subscribed to "A New Christianity For A New World: Bishop John Shelby Spong on the News and Christian Faith." If so you received this note a few days ago, and perhaps shared it far and wide already. We hope that if you haven't, maybe now you will. As you may know, Bishop Spong is one of the most vocal and passionate advocates of LGBT people everywhere. So when this article came across our inbox well, we knew we had to share it. We do so by permission of Waterfront Media, Brooklyn, NY, Website

Thursday October 15, 2009
A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

– John Shelby Spong

So, friends--what do you think? Have you written your own manifesto? Does this resonate with you?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winnie On Executive Council

Last Friday we posted an article titled Executive Council May Not Meet In Utah.  This story generated debate in some corners of the online Integrity community.  So, we invited member Winnie Varghese to more fully explain what happened during Executive Council and why she took the position that she did... 

At the 2009 General Convention, we passed a resolution asking that “All Episcopalians” work for the full civil rights of gay and lesbian people.  That was a thrilling moment.  Last week at the Executive Council meeting, I raised the issue of how that resolution intersects with the our decision making regarding meetings arrangements for the Executive Council.  Does our spending reflect our commitment to the civil rights of gay and lesbian people? 

On the final day of the Executive Council meeting in Memphis a resolution came to the floor proposing Salt Lake City, Utah as a site for the majority of meetings of the current triennium.  It has been the practice of the Executive Council to hold one meeting in every Province of the Church each triennium.  We have nine provinces and nine meetings, so this works well.  This triennium we are faced with a significant budget cut, and the resolution proposed was an attempt to streamline costs by arranging a long term contract with one hotel or conference center for 7-9 meetings in a city that is also a hub for major airline.  

The General Convention Office selected an assortment of cities that are within dioceses that pay their full 21% asking to The Episcopal Church.  It is a resolution of General Convention that The Episcopal Church refrain from holding its meetings in dioceses that do not pay their full asking.  This is also a difficult resolution to abide by, and I believe it is a priority of the group in this triennium, particularly if we are to commit so much of our resources to one city.  

It presents an interesting resolution in that we do not generally stay in properties owned by a diocese.   Because of the size of our meetings, we stay in hotels or conference centers.  Therefore, it is of no economic benefit to a diocese for Executive Council to meet in a city within a particular diocese, and because of our work schedule, we have very little interaction with the ministries of the diocese in which our meetings are held.  It is also interesting to consider the fact that it might be encouraging to those Episcopalians who wish to support the work of the larger church but whose diocesan leadership does not pay its full asking for the Council to meet in a city within such a diocese.  However, as Executive Council I believe we are obliged to attempt to follow the word and spirit of a resolution as well as possible.  If we do not follow our own governance structures, it seems a bit empty to ask others to do so.  

There are other resolutions of General Convention that govern how and where we meet, among them is a resolution passed at General Convention 2006 that requires all meetings of our church that are in hotels to be contracted with hotels that allow unions for their workers.  It has been reported to us at Executive Council meetings that we are not actually budgeted enough money to fulfill that resolution, so we try to live within the spirit of it as well as we can by attaching riders to our contracts and by avoiding hotels that are in the midst of labor disputes.

I believe we are in a similar place with the resolution passed at the 2009 General Convention asking that "all Episcopalians" work for the full civil rights of gay and lesbian people.  This resolution was a result of communion wide resolutions asking Anglicans to work for the Human Rights or Civil Rights of gay and lesbian persons.  It is the compromise--these bodies denied the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church, but did commit us all to work against persecution and discrimination in civil society.  

I did not oppose the proposal of Utah as the site for the next seven consecutive meetings, however I did raise issues about how that choice intersects with our priorities.  As a practical matter, this location causes difficulty in travel for our members coming from the Carribbean, Central and South America.  It is also not the least expensive option or the most convenient travel for the majority of the council.  But the issue raised that sparked debate was that Utah has one of the most draconian state laws regarding gay and lesbian persons, which could pose serious hardship for any partnered gay or lesbian person who must attend the meeting.  , If we have resolved at General Convention to support the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, how would we do that in Salt Lake City, Utah?  I raise the other issues, because I think the last issue would be less significant if we were to choose the cheapest place that is also the easiest travel time and cost for the majority of people on the Council.  That might be a grim choice, and probably not one that I would look forward to, but it would be a different thing altogether if it was simply an issue of cost.  

I was very clear that I did not expect the committee reporting to change it's work.  I did not ask that we not go to Salt Lake City.  I was also honest about the impact it will have on me. My parents live in Dallas, TX.  I know about cities and institutions that get around oppressive state law, and I also know I essentially undo my family when I go to visit my parents.  That is our legal reality.  That is the fine line many of us walk daily and are accustomed to working around.  It is not legally safe.  It is not just.  I negotiate those spaces by insuring that I have well placed friends that can help me work around the law.  I am a healthy person.  I am lucky and privileged, but I've put on a priest's collar many times to get into a hospital room when a partner is not recognized.  I know how fragile these constructed safety nets are.  I live in a state in which my partner and I can build some protections for our family.  We think very carefully about it when we leave. 

In this age of Marriage Amendments, new state laws defining marriage and wonderful new laws opening up the institution to more of us, we are in a new place.  There are many reasons to go to locations like Salt Lake that have energized leadership around changing harmful state laws and provide support to those efforts.  The issue is not whether the Council can or should meet in locations with discriminatory laws aimed at gay and lesbian persons.  The issue is that the council ought to be deliberate about its planning when it chooses a location that is governed by particularly hostile laws.  At the Council meeting, no one in the room was able to generate a resolution to the proposed resolution to meet in Salt Lake City that worked for the group.  It might have just been that we are a new group tired at the end of a four day meeting.  For the sake of time and contract negotiations, we will have to make a decision on this issue before our next meeting.  It is my sense that everyone involved is taking all of the factors in question seriously.  

Salt Lake City is a beautiful place and one that would be much more comfortable and interesting for many in the group than meeting in a more spartan setting for a lower price.  I wouldn't be surprised or unhappy if that is the choice of the Council.  Personally, I have heard wonderful things about the social justice witness of the Diocese of Utah, and I have great friends who live in the area. 

But let me be very clear, in my opinion this is the mistake made in the 21% resolution, the diocese is a different entity than the state.   We are giving our business to a city, county or state.   We are governed under the laws of the city and state. The good will of a vibrant and important diocese of the church is equivalent to the city, county or statewide laws that govern us while we are there.  The state of Utah has made it very clear that I enter their state at my own risk.  It is not just that I cannot be married there, I hadn't planned to be married at a meeting of Executive Council.  It is that the Marriage Amendment states that "no other type of domestic union or arrangement will be recognized."  Texas, where I grew up and where my family lives passed a similar amendment to its constitution.  I think the Dallas/Fort Worth area would greatly benefit from regular meetings of the Executive Council.  I would love to support those working for full equality in that part of the church.  I know what it feels like to be "the church out there."   Those are all relevant considerations.   AND the Council needs to be aware of what they are asking of some of us. 

Finally, the Council is in meetings all day when it meets.  The work is overwhelming and consumes all of our time together.  At the meeting in Memphis it could not be arranged for us to make a collective trip to the Civil Rights Museum.  I wonder if we could have resolved this issue differently if we had, but we could not I assume for issues of time and expense.  At this meeting as in previous meetings someone in our group was hospitalized during the meeting. 

There are always compromises when dealing with hotels and meetings arrangements.  I'm happy to bear the weight of some of those compromises as others do, but they need to be stated aloud.  Regardless of the outcome of this particular issue, please know that I have enormous respect for your work and witness in the church and in the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daily Scan

Another View: Episcopal church has no clear doctrine on same-sex marriage
Portland Press Herald, ME

Obama nominates openly lesbian for US Marshall

AP reports:
President Barack Obama has nominated a Minnesota policewoman to become the first openly gay person to serve as a U.S. marshal.

Sharon Lubinski is an assistant chief in the Minneapolis Police Department, where she has worked for 20 years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Report From The National Equality March

On Sunday October 11th 2009, Josh Blackwood, chair of the stakeholders council for Integrity USA attended events leading up to and participating in the National Equality March and Rally held in Washington D.C. Mr Blackwood first attended the Official Interfaith Service held at Plymouth Congregation UCC Church in Washington before going on to organize some local Episcopalians for the march itself. The group organized and after a prayer and blessing from a priest joining from Integrity Chicago, the group joined the other thousands of people to march through the streets fighting for full equality.

Mr Blackwood could not join the march as he was due over at the rally site for check-in. Mr Blackwood participated along with Neil Houghton, VP for Local Affairs for Integrity USA as part of the 30+ group of Clergy and Religious leaders who joined the Rev Troy Perry, founder of MCC and Rev Nancy Wilson, MCC's current moderator to deliver the invocation at the start of the rally.

While in attendance at the stage area, Mr Blackwood and Mr Houghton both had the opportunity to meet and briefly talk to Judy Shephard, whose son Matthew was the victim of a hate crime that took his life. "I heard a rumor that you are an Episcopalian" Blackwood said to Mrs Shephard, who replied "yes, and so was Matt. My parents allowed us to choose and I did so at 15 and we did the same for our kids and Matt also made that choice.

During the course of the day, Mr Blackwood also met with several other people of note including Dustin Lance Black, Martina Navratilova, Fr Geoff Farrow, Lt Dan Choi, Cynthia Nixon, Kate Clinton and many others.

The highlight came when Mr Blackwood had the to meet Urvashi Vaid, the Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation. On behalf of Integrity, Mr Blackwood thanked Ms Vaid and Arcus for their continued support of Integrity and its work to which Ms Vaid responded, "we are glad to support Integrity and its work in the Episcopal Church.

For photos you can go to

And In Hawai'i...

About 150-259 people symbolically marched on the Hawaii State Capitol for equal rights for all citizens’ especially gay lesbian bisexual and transgender citizens. This was sponsored by Pride-Alliance Hawaii, a group dedicated to coordinating the efforts of all gay and civil rights groups in the islands in order to coordinate and strengthen our responses and political action. We did this March in unity with the March on Washington. We had participants/planners/workers/volunteers and attendees from Integrity, Dignity, The UCC, The civil rights commission, military activists against don’t ask, don’t tell, ACLU, Family Equality Coalition of Hawaii, a large group of students from the Universities of Hawaii, a great group of high school kids who are out and we had entertainment by Blazing Saddles, a gay line dancing club, and some Melissa Ethridge covers done by a local artist. You can see a picture of someone holding a Jesus Loves Equal Rights for Everybody sign with the official Episcopal Integrity T-Shirt for the March on Washington in the article in the link below. Thanks be to God for the blessings of this day. We had Episcopal GLBTQ members, allies, clergy and lay ministers focusing on equal rights for gay people come to the march and we are so grateful for their time and effort to help out and bear witness. We also have three proposed resolutions of the Diocese of Hawaii website for our convention in late October. Please feel free to check those out as well.

The link to the morning paper’s story is:

Troy Perry's Invocation At National Equality March

Below is video and text of the invocation. Neil Houghton, Vice President for Local Affairs, is mentioned at the beginning of the video as representing Integrity USA.

National Equality March . October 11, 2009
Delivered by Rev. Dr. Troy D. Perry
Permission granted to reproduce, reprint, or repost, in whole or in part.

As we gather in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol,
let us, together, invoke the spirit of those who came before us,
and the spirit of all who prepared us
for the journey toward justice and equality.

I invoke the spirit... of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin,
who founded the first national lesbian organization in America in 1955,
and who published the Ladder, the first lesbian magazine in American history,
and whose relationship of more than five decades inspires us all;

I invoke the spirit... of Harry Hay,
Father of the Gay Rights Movement,
who gave expression to LGBT spirituality
through the founding of the Radical Faeries;

I invoke the spirit... of Christine Jorgenson,
who in the early 1950's for the first time
gave a public face to the transgender community
raised consciousness around transgender issues
and taught us to recognize gender as well as sexuality.

I invoke the spirit... of Jose Sarria,
the World War II veteran who in 1961
became the first openly gay person in the U.S.
to run for political office
as a candidate for mayor of San Francisco;

I invoke the spirit... of Bayard Rustin,
the openly gay African American
who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King
and who organized 1963's March on Washington,
providing a platform for Rev. King to proclaim,
“I have a dream today!”

I invoke the spirit... of Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny,
who took the cause of justice public in 1965
by demonstrating for LGBT equality at the White House;

I invoke the spirit... of Robert Martin,
the bisexual founder of the Homophile Students Union at Columbia University,
the first LGBT student union in America,
and founder of Stop Prison Rape;

I invoke the spirit... of Harvey Milk,
our Martyr;

I invoke the spirit... of a new generation of young activists,
whose energy and passion advance the cause of LGBT equality and justice;

I invoke the spirit... of each of our brothers and sisters,
who died of AIDS and breast cancer,
and all who today live with the reality of disease and illness;

I invoke the spirit... of each of our brothers and sisters,
who died too soon at the hands of anti-LGBT violence,
and all whose lives have been touched by anti-LGBT hate crimes;

I invoke the spirit... of every gay father,
who through adoption and foster care
has provided love and nurture to a child in need,
and I invoke the spirit of every lesbian mom
who has lost a child to society’s ignorance and prejudice.

In this moment of history...
...and in the history of this moment,
– surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
– surrounded by the spirits of all who prepared our path,
– and joined by that Spirit who unites us as one,
We reaffirm our commitment to work for that day
when justice rolls down like rivers,
and righteousness like a mighty stream.
And all the people,
from East and West, from North and South,
Both young and old,
From the diversity of God’s rainbow, said:
Let it be so!