At the Celebratory Dinner on the Occasion of the Consecration of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles
15 May 2010
Good evening. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is David Norgard and I have the privilege of serving as the President of Integrity. On behalf of all of the members of the Board of Directors, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this celebratory dinner following Mary Glasspool’s consecration as a bishop suffragan for Los Angeles. As I look around the room tonight, it is like an Episcopal version of a Hollywood red carpet event. The room is filled entirely with very special guests.
The trailblazer of the LGBT community into the House of Bishops is here, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire. Gene, if you did have any real idea about what you were getting yourself into as the first openly gay person to be elected a bishop, then probably you shouldn’t have done it because you must have been crazy! Nevertheless, the exemplary manner in which you have held your office has been an inspiration to more people than any of us will ever know. Mary will be blessed to have you as a brother in the house. Would you please stand and accept our love and appreciation on this happy day?
The Most Rev. Martin Barahona, the Primate of El Salvador, is with us. He has expressed his desire to launch the ministry of Integrity within his jurisdiction. Welcome, Bishop Barahona. Author and priest Malcom Boyd is here along with his partner and fellow author, Mark Thompson. Their works have inspired thousands. Welcome to you both. I want to acknowledge the current President of Oasis California, Tom Jackson, Cameron Partridge of TransEpiscopal, and Integrity past President, Kim Byham. Now, if I have inadvertently offended anyone by not recognizing their ecclesiastical celebrity, please forgive me. As we are wont to say in Hollywood, chalk it up to youthful naïveté. Your publicist can call me after the show. And thank you all for being here this evening but far more importantly, for doing what you do to advance LGBT equality and understanding.
Before I move on, I also want to acknowledge someone who was planning on being here but could not travel right now due to medical reasons. He is doing okay. I speak of Dr. Louie Crew who founded Integrity thirty-five years ago now. I have never asked him what he imagined he might accomplish when he published that very first edition of INTEGRITY but we can all agree that it has been nothing short of transformational. Speaking as a former chair of not one but two evangelism commissions, I dare say that his good work has brought more good news to the people and more people to the church than any number of committees or commissions.
This is not a fundraising speech but I do want to mention that Integrity is presently underway with a fundraising campaign called 100,000 Blessings. That Integrity needs to raise money is hardly news. Like any other advocacy organization, we incur expenses to do what we do. And so we rely on our members and friends and church partners for support. What is new in this particular campaign is the theme. Previous campaigns have all focused on what General Convention or the Lambeth Conference might say or do, usually with some foreboding. This current campaign is different. While the funds raised obviously go to support future work, the campaign appeals to a sense of gratitude for what has been done. It is a campaign of thanksgiving, if you will. Thus its motto, taken from Dag Hammarskjold, a past Secretary General of the United Nations: “For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, yes.”
I realized recently that I have been a member of Integrity for nearly as long as Integrity has existed. I joined during my college days, shortly after I joined the Episcopal Church. The landscape was very different then. I belonged to a parish whose leadership believed in healing homosexuals of their identity. When the Denver General Convention (the first one that is) magnanimously voted to recognize homosexual persons as “children of God,” those of us whose ontological validity had hung in the balance were relieved. Existence was a victory.
It was also a beginning – a beginning, to borrow Nelson Mandela’s title, of “a long walk to freedom.” Consider what we have been through. Educational materials were prepared that put lesbian and gay people in a good light and then later pulled from distribution. Theological reports were commissioned that concluded that gay people were nice, indeed very nice, but nonetheless not suitable for ordination or marriage, especially to each other. Some diocesan bishops took bold moves and started to ordain persons who identified openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Others, however, made equally bold moves in the opposite direction and stopped issuing chalice bearer and lay reader licenses to persons known to be practicing homosexuals.
There was pain. There was confusion. There was frustration…and anticipation. There was sweat and tears and work and prayer and moments of elation and moments of despair, moments of koinonia, that is of a profound sense of community, and moments when the words of the psalmist came to mind: “Had it been my adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it…but it was you…my own familiar friend.” There was one constant. Through it all, Integrity was always, always there. And ultimately, there was also progress – progress toward that most basic principle of respecting the dignity of every human being. After B033 in Columbus, there was D025 in Anaheim. After an exhortation to restraint from Canterbury, there was an orderly and joyous election in Riverside.
Ironically, although perhaps understandably, there has been enough good news that some say the struggle is over, the work is done. As I meet people hither and yon across the church I hear some say with regard to Integrity’s mission, “Yes, there is much to be thankful for but not all that much more to work for, is there?” Legislative victories tend to ring with a definitive air in an era of 24-hour news cycles.
But if legislative victories are the end of a journey of a thousand miles, turning those victories into living realities surely requires an expedition of double that length. I say this not to diminish the joy of this day but rather to strengthen our resolve for the days to come.
Friends, of course we have much to celebrate. Yet we also still have much to do. We are at a milestone – a major one, a glorious one – but it is does not mark the finish line. The work must go on. In congregations where a mother is still afraid of coming out as the parent of a lesbian daughter for fear of being shunned, the work must go on. In dioceses that have never yet had a real conversation with – or even about – transgender people, much less respected their dignity, the work must go on. In the military that still operates under the insidious policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ruining lives and diminishing the armed forces’ own capabilities, the work must go on. In the thirty-one states with anti-gay marriage laws now, the work must go on. In a society and its media in which the negation of our humanity is labeled as “conservative” and not as “unjust and unacceptable,” the work must go on.
Friends, it is meet and right that we rejoice tonight and enjoy our fellowship with one another. It is good to give thanks. It is good to praise Mary and rejoice with her. “For everything that has been, [let us give] thanks.” Yet it is also a time to ask her to continue to work with us in a new way. Our prayer today has been that she might receive power and strength and encouragement for the road ahead. May it be the prayer we offer for every one of us here tonight…because the work must go on. “For everything that will be, [let us say] yes.”
Friends, I mentioned that we are underway now with our 100,000 Blessings Campaign. We are looking to raise $100,000. At the same time, we are collecting something else just as important. We are gathering stories about how the work of Integrity has been a blessing in the lives of individuals and families and congregations over the past 35 years. As I mentioned, I have been a member for a very long time. I have an abundance of stories I could share myself but I would like to share just one with you now.
I entered the Ordination process during the late seventies, while I was in college. At that point, I was rather new to the Episcopal Church but, through fortuitous circumstances, I had joined Integrity almost concurrently. Not long before the process moved from the parochial to the diocesan level, my sponsoring rector posed a question to me that, in my naïveté, was totally unexpected. Out of genuine care and concern for me, he gave me a choice: I could proceed without identifying as a gay man, in which case he anticipated that the process would go smoothly. Or, I could be out, in which case the outcome was uncertain. Knowing what I knew, though – about myself, about my new gay friends in the church, about ministry being a matter of telling the truth that leads to the way and the life, I felt there was no decision to make. To be other than out was too much of a compromise of myself, my friends, and what I knew to be real and good. And so that is how I proceeded. I paid a price in those early years for being out as a priest. There were search committees who said they just couldn’t talk to me and others who could not imagine me being in their social circle. One even compared me to a murderer. More than one bishop told me I would never work in his diocese (which I later did, by the way). Yet overall, after twenty-five years of ordained ministry, gratitude for what has been has far surpassed regret over what might have been. The people I have been privileged to know, including some in this very room, have been among the profoundest joys of my life. Truly, I have come to believe what the psalmist has always said, “No good thing will God withhold from those who walk with Integrity.”
That is my story of blessing. In the spirit of 100,000 Blessings, I invite some of you now to name that for which you give God thanks.