Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Woman & First Openly Gay Dean at Grace Cathedral

From the New York Times

Making History, Twice, at Grace Cathedral

The installation of Jane Alison Shaw as the eighth dean of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill on Nov. 6 is a milestone — she will be the first woman to lead the cathedral, which was founded during the Gold Rush in 1849.

Dr. Shaw will also be the cathedral’s first openly gay dean.

“I’m glad I live in a moment in history when I can answer the call,” Dr. Shaw said in a telephone interview from England, where she is finishing work as the dean of divinity at Oxford University.

While one’s sexual orientation rarely raises an eyebrow in San Francisco these days, the Episcopal Church has been torn apart over the issue of full inclusion for gay men and lesbians. Dr. Shaw’s elevation to lead one of the denomination’s most prominent churches is “a signal moment,” said The Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California. “We seek to be a house of prayer for all people.”

The bishop, whose diocese comprises churches in the Bay Area, said Grace Cathedral was one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States and was “ scrutinized worldwide” by the greater Anglican Communion’s 80 million members.

The appointment has some predicting that Dr. Shaw’s high-profile position could make her a significant presence in the Bay Area’s gay and lesbian community — should she choose to take that role.

“Having someone in that position who is a living example of our community is going to broaden perspectives,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the organization that campaigned against Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage. Mr. Kors noted that many Christian churches supported the ban, and said he hoped that an openly gay Christian religious leader could change minds, or reach across pew aisles.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Integrity Leader Challenges Archbishop: "Enough, Double Talk"

 From Integrity Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki.......

A September 25th article in The Times  quotes Archbishop Rowan Williams as saying, "[T]here's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe." According to the Archbishop, gay and lesbian people are just fine – but unless they abstain from sex with members of their own sex, they should not be bishops.The Archbishop goes on to say that "The question about gay people is not about their dignity or the respect they deserve as gay people, it's a question about a particular choice of life, a partnership, and what the church has to say about that.”

The Archbishop, who serves as the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is clearly an intelligent and well educated person. This makes it especially difficult to understand how he can say that gay people deserve respect, and at the same time require that their opportunities for leadership in the Church be limited if they make the same choice as the vast majority of bishops and other good Anglicans, including Mr. and Mrs. Williams – that is, to live in committed, loving, intimate relationships with adults with whom they share mutual attraction.

Maybe the Archbishop doesn’t actually think that gay (and lesbian, bisexual and transgender) people deserve respect, or that God really loves them. Or maybe, against mountains of scientific evidence, he thinks that people choose their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The most common way of making sense of the Archbishop’s argument, at least among the people who pay attention to Integrity, reflects rather badly on him as a moral leader. Perhaps he really has nothing in particular against gay (or lesbian, bisexual or transgender) people, but he simply doesn’t think that their freedom to live in loving, intimate, and committed relationships is as important as keeping the Anglican Communion together. Keeping the party going with its current guest list is the important thing, even if it means that some people need to be blocked by bouncers at the door.

Assuming that is the case, my gut response is to say I don’t want to go that party anyway. But the truth is, I do want to go to that party, and I think everyone should be able to go. Because no matter how grandfatherly the Archbishop might seem, or how venerable his office might be, or how pointy his hats are, it’s not his party. This is God’s party, and the Archbishop should be the Coordinator of the Welcoming Committee. His job should be to make sure that every guest gets a hug and a drink within ten minutes. (He might also bring me a sandwich while he’s at it – cultural polemics make me hungry.)

There are plenty of parties that should be God’s parties – a.k.a. places of worship – that are being run by people who want to keep “the wrong kind of person” out. The Archbishop, Church of England, and Anglican Communion are hardly the worst offenders. But here is what I would say to the Archbishop if I had the chance to speak with him for just half a minute: Archbishop, there are already plenty of churches and other places of worship that limit people or make them feel like dirt because they are born to fall in love with members of their own sex. Let the Episcopal Church be different. If you really believe that we all deserve to be treated with respect, then stop the double-talk, be a brave leader, and trust God with the rest.

Max Niedzwiecki became Integrity's Executive Director in September, 2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Integrity VP Albert Ogle named "Interfaith Partner of the Year"

Integrity VP for National & International Affairs, the Reverend Canon Albert Ogle, was named Interfaith Partner of the Year by the Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC) at awards ceremonies held September 25 in Irvine, California.

Also in attendance were Integrity's Director of Communications, Louise Brooks; Past-President, Susan Russell; and Diocese of Los Angeles Network Coordinator, Jim White.

The event not only honored Albert for his tireless work for LBGT justice it was also a benefit to support the work and witness of Bishop Christopher in Uganda. To find out more about OCEC visit their website ... and to make your own donation to support Bishop Christopher through Integrity Uganda click here.


Stories from the Pews: Welcoming Immigrants

Why People of Faith Should Welcome Immigrants
By Erwin de Leon

At the March for America rally in DC, earlier this year, members of the LGBT and religious communities joined immigrant and minority groups calling for immigration reform. I stood alongside other LGBT activists who support an overhaul of the immigration system and demand that LGBT families be included in any reform effort.

It was a defiant, electric and hopeful moment but I was dismayed to hear a gay man emphasize – without being prompted – “I’m not here to support these illegals, I’m here for my husband.” His husband is a foreign national whom he cannot sponsor for legal permanent residency because the federal government does not recognize lesbian and gay unions.

Aside from the fact that most immigrants are NOT undocumented, the man does not realize that he should protest not only for his husband and for the inclusion of binational couples in immigration reform legislation but for all immigrants.

I would argue that one does not even have to have a foreign-born spouse or partner to support an inclusive and truly comprehensive immigration legislation.

Strategically, it is makes sense for minority groups such as LGBTs and immigrants to support each other - strength in numbers. By showing up for other minorities, they will also show up for us. And it is an effective way to gain visibility and challenge prejudice within ethnic communities.

But I believe that there are more profound reasons to welcome strangers.

As Americans, we need to remember that this nation was founded by immigrants and continues to thrive because of newcomers who only want to better their families’ lives. We should recall our core principles of equality, freedom and justice not for a select few but for all.

As people of faith, we believe that all people are created in the image of God and that we are all called to love one another. Let us not forget our mandate to welcome the stranger – LGBT, of color, immigrant.

I urge my fellow Episcopalians – gay, straight, native-born, foreign-born – to live up to our ideals as citizens and as Christians. Please support comprehensive immigration reform which includes LGBT families.

Erwin de Leon is a parishioner at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.  His immigrant story was recently told in the Washington Post . You can read his blog  and follow him on Twitter .

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Tools and New Leadership from Believe Out Loud Workshops

From Neil Houghton, Integrity Vice President of Local Affairs

This summer there were 8 Believe Out Loud Provincial Workshop and the evaluations reveal that they were helpful to many different people in many different ways.

As Vice President for Local Affairs, I was privileged to be a co-facilitator with the people identified below. It was our intent to have the Provincial Coordinators (PC) serve as the other facilitator. In places where the PC was unavailable or the position vacant, David Cupps, Inetrgity's Treasurer stepped in.

These workshops happened in:
San Diego, CA (Pilot of Program,Province 8, Matt Haines)
Portland, OR (Province 8, Matt Haines)
Danbury, CT (Province 1 and 2, John-Albert Moseley and Chap Day)
Martinsburg, WV (Province 3, David Cupps)
Atlanta, GA (Province 4, David Cupps)
Austin, TX (Province 7, David Cupps)
London, OH (Province 5, David Cupps)
Denver, CO (Province 6, Matt Haines)

Participants were equipped with a set of tools to help make our legislative successes at General Convention, living realities at provincial, diocesan and parochial levels. These included, graceful engagement, framing and how to effectively share our stories.

One of the most tangible benefits for attendees and facilitators alike was a renewed sense of work for the full inlcusion of all the batized in all the sacraments. Many of those who attended were newcomers to Integrity. We talked about Integrity's structural and strategic plans which are aimed at empowering leaders in provinces, dioceses, chapters and parishes

These BOL workshops produced several exciting action plans. These ranged from a committment to increase the number of BOL/Proud Parish Partners in a diocese to strategies for an Integrity presence at Diocesan Conventions. Some groups were ready to draft convention resolutions, others needed to network with fellow leaders and potential members to assess needs to help to build/rebuild Integrity structure. Many wanted to replicate the BOL toolkit presentation at local venues. Integrity is already considering ways in which we can support this.

One exciting outcome was that we identified new Coordinators for Province 3, 7!

Here is the list of  Provincial Coordinators at present:
Province 1: John-Albert Moseley, Hartford, CT
Province 2: Chap James Day, Astoria, Queens, NY
Province 3: Dean Donovan, Lewes, DE
Province 4: currently vacant
Province 5: currently vacant
Province 6: currently vacant
Province 7: The Rev. Lauren Gough, Fort Worth, TX
Province 8: Matt Haines, Salem, OR

If you are interested in leadership in Integrity USA, we would love to talk to you!

Neil has served on the Integrity USA board for seven years. He lives in Rochester, N.Y. with his partner, Kyle. He is long time activist in his Diocese.

A Call for Prayers: Trial today over the ordination of Presbyterian Lisa Larges

The National Board of Directors and staff of More Light Presbyterians stand in solidarity with Lisa Larges and wholeheartedly support her gifts, preparation and call to ministry. Lisa serves as Minister Coordinator, That All May Freely Serve and her home congregation is Noe Valley Ministry, a welcoming and affirming More Light Presbyterian church in San Francisco, CA. Rev. Keenan C. Kelsey serves as pastor at Noe Valley Ministry.

Lisa has been seeking to be ordained since 1986. In 2009, the Presbytery of San Francisco approved Lisa for ordination and TAMFS as a validated ministry. However, an anti-LGBT minority continue to oppose Lisa's ordination and filed remedial charges against the presbytery. Their action has prevented Lisa's ordination. It has not stopped her ministry of love, justice and reconciliation.

The trial is today, 9 AM to 5 PM, at the Park Plaza Hotel, 150 Heggenberger Road, Oakland, CA. This trial about the Presbytery of San Francisco's approval of Lisa for ordination is Remedial Case 09-04: Parnell et. al. vs. Presbytery of San Francisco.

"Lisa has had the integrity to integrate her sexuality and her spirituality since she embarked upon adult life. She was clear to her original ordination committee twenty years ago that she is a lesbian and a Presbyterian convinced of God’s call to her to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. She said the same thing to the San Francisco Presbytery last year and now the presbytery must defend its vote to approve her call to ordained office in the Presbyterian judicial system," said Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator, More Light Presbyterians.

Michael J. Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer said, "It is absolutely inconceivable how anyone who has met Lisa could fail to recognize her heart and gifts for ministry. Our hurting world needs as many loving, caring and faithful pastors as possible. In July, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirmed one ordination standard for all Presbyterians in Minneapolis. The time for discrimination is over, the time for embracing qualified LGBT persons for ordination has come. We look forward to celebrating Lisa's ordination."

We hope and pray that the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of San Francisco will uphold the presbytery's decision in 2009 that approved Lisa for ordination. We call upon all Presbyterians to join us in prayer for Lisa, her family, her Noe Valley Ministry church family and for this commission. May the Presbyterian Church (USA) reflect the heart of God.

For news & updates on the trial go to and More Light Presbyterians on Facebook & twitter.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Intergity USA Disappointed in "No Vote" on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)

"The time to repeal DADT is long overdue. The U.S. Senate's decision 'not to vote' on a military bill that would allow the repeal of DADT is a great disappointment to Integrity USA and all Americans who support equality and justice for all," said Max Niedzwicki, Executive Director of Integrity USA. "It denies gay Americans the right to serve their country because of who they are. The time to end discrimination is now. We call for our elected officials to quit playing politics with the lives of the LGBT community."

Inetgrity's past president, the Rev. Canon Susan Russell, a priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, has a son on active duty in the military. She had this to say: "As a mother of a son in the US Army, I'm deeply saddened the vote to end DADT failed today. We have lost over 14,0000 members of the military due to DADT. I want my son to have the best possible colleagues in the work of defending this great country, regardless of their sexual orientation."

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Integrity's Vice President of National Affairs said, "As a priest and pastor, I believe in respecting the dignity of every human being. DADT does not do that. We must pass legislation which will make our military more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

Call or write your senator today and request he or she vote to repeal DADT.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amazing Day, Amazing Witness

Over the past weekend, members of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) made a presentation about their work implementing CO56 to the House of Bishops meeting in Phoenix, Airzona. Past Integrity President the Rev. Canon Susan Russell was one of the presenters. Here, reprinted with her permission, is her reflection on that event from her blog .

Morning came early today. A four o’clock wake up call to get a 4:30 a.m. cab to the airport to check in for a 6:00 a.m. flight back to L.A. from Phoenix where I had the extraordinary honor of standing with my SCLM (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) Task Force colleagues to address the House of Bishops yesterday about our work implementing Resolution C056.

We had forty-five minutes yesterday morning to present an overview of how we propose to move forward with our charge to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” for the blessing of same sex relationships. An additional part of that charge is to do that work in “consultation with the House of Bishops” and to “devise an open process” bringing dioceses, congregations individuals engaged in that work.

There’s much to write and reflect about the content of our work … and I will link up the resources I know will shortly be posted to the SCLM website. But as I’m waiting to fly home I wanted to capture not the data and details but the tone and timbre of the meeting.

It was “most an amazing day.”

We met for breakfast with the bishops on the SCLM to go over the details of our presentations and to just all get to know each other a little better. I think it’s fair to say we were all a little anxious.

Now we were three seminary professors and two not-unaccustomed-to-public-speaking priests – and between us we probably knew 90% of the bishops in the room down the hall. But the importance of the work we have been given to do for the church combined with the time pressure of “launching” a process of this depth and complexity ALONG with worrying about the technical details in an unfamiliar space -- (Will the PowerPoint work? Do we have enough copies of the handouts? Who’s going to hand OUT the handouts?) – all as we stepped into the moving sidewalk that is the House of Bishops meeting in progress … suffice to say there was some nibbling at the bread of anxiety in the morning over breakfast.

At the appointed hour we headed down to the HoB meeting room where they had just finished Morning Prayer & Bible Study. First the house heard from two bishops reflecting on the question “What is God up to in our midst concerning same sex blessings?” Those bishops were Tom Ely (Vermont) and John Bauerschmidt (Tennessee) -- +Ely in a state where blessings and civil unions pre-date his consecration and +Bauerschmidt from what he called “the buckle of the Bible belt.” And both bishops stressed the commitment of their dioceses to working together through differences.

Then Ruth Meyers (the SCLM chair) presented an introduction to our project and process was clear, concise and (as I told her afterwards) “professorial without being condescending.” Key to that introduction was reiterating that what we’ve been charged to do by General Convention in this resolution is to resource the church in those contexts where the blessing of same-sex relationships are – or will be – happening; not to debate whether the blessing of same sex relationships should happen.

Jay Johnson and Patrick Malloy presented the overview of the principles undergirding the work their theology and liturgy task forces are engaged in and Thad Bennett and I introduced our work on the pastoral care and teaching resources. Then we turned it over to the bishops for 40 minutes of “table discussions” on five questions looking for feedback on both the content and process of the work going forward.

The conversation in the room was lively and energetic – and at the end of the session Bishop Kee Sloan (Bishop Suffragan, Alabama and a member of the SCLM) invited those who wanted to continue the conversation with us to grab some lunch after Eucharist and come back to the plenary room. About a dozen folks chose to do that and we had a great opportunity to clarify some questions, engage in some very interesting dialogue and get feedback on both process and content.

One comment that really stood out for me was a bishop’s challenge to us to add “Missional” to the list of opportunities the blessing of same sex relationships offers the church – a list that already included “Sacramental” and “Eschatological.” And of course I agree. This work isn’t just about the couples whose relationships will be blessed. It’s also about the mission of the church that will be blessed by a more expansive opportunity to incarnate God’s inclusive love.

I had no idea how soon we would get a chance to experience one of those missional opportunities in action.

So – having concluded the presentation part of the day we had a late lunch and then took some time out (AKA “naps!") and then reconvened to debrief our work over dinner in the hotel dining room. There was a lot to talk about – and we settled into a long, lively dinner that included a dessert course with a side order of evangelism as three young hotel staff members came up to the table and individually engaged with us about the work the Episcopal Church is doing.

The first one was a waiter – “Michael” – who said as a gay man it had never occurred to him that there were churches that would welcome him rather than condemn him. He thanked us for giving him hope that hadn’t imagined he’d ever have with an earnestness that was deeply moving.

A few minutes later “Amanda” … our waitress … came up to the table to say that she’d encouraged Matthew to come talk to us because she’d found him crying in the kitchen after listening to our conversations. She was raised Catholic but it “didn’t fit” anymore and she wanted to know where she should go to find an Episcopal Church. I gave her my card and told her to email me and I’d hook her up with folks in Phoenix.

The third was “Vanessa” … their supervisor … who thanked us for connecting with them and told us about her experience of finally finding a church home that helped her claim a relationship with God … and then being devastated when that church family rejected her gay friend. She’s going to email me, too.

It blew us away.

While we were obsessing about perfecting PowerPoint slides and refining our messaging about the SCLM project, these earnest young people responded to the few crumbs of conversation they overheard at our dinner table like they were starving for hope. And if those crumbs gave them that hope and energy – and gave them the courage to come up to a table full of “church people” and say, “Wow … we want to know more about what you’re talking about!” then imagine how they and countless others like them are yearning for the banquet we set every time we gather to witness to God’s inclusive love.

It is about mission.

It is about the building of the Body.

And it is about the vocation of the Episcopal Church to be the voice of love, justice and compassion to ALL those yearning for what Michael and Amanda and Vanessa came looking for at our dinner table last night.

It’s something some of us have been preaching for years. But it never hurts to have a little more empirical evidence to affirm the truth we hold in our hearts. And yesterday we got it. In a hotel dining room in Phoenix at a meeting of the House of Bishops. Go figure. And thanks be to God!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Got a question about the House of Bishops meeting?


The House of Bishops gathers for its annual meeting this week, this year in Phoenix, Arizona. The meeting starts tomorrow. The topics they plan to tackle are immigration and evangelism. The theme of this meeting will be "Changing Contexts for God's Mission: What is the New Invitation?"

While there has been some controversy about the wisdom of meeting in Phoenix after the passage of the state's draconian immigration law, Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona told Episcopal Life Online that he is pleased that the House of Bishops has come to Arizona "to experience first hand the immigration crisis by visiting the border, talking with people involved on both sides of the issue, and by praying with those most affected. It will be a time to put human faces on justice issues."

At the close of the House of Bishops meeting there will be a Press Conference, via phone, in which usually the Presiding Bishop and two or three other bishops take questions. Participants will be announced later. Integrity USA will be represented on that call on Septemebr 21st. If you have a question you would like us to ask, please send it in BEFORE September 21st and we will do our best to get you an answer.

Questions are limited to what happened at the HOB meeting, so if you want to follow the coverage, go to Episcopal Life Online for daily updates.

Send your questions to:
Louise Brooks
Integrity Director of Communications

Don't miss out on an opportunity to be heard.

Diocese of W. VA Passes Resolution to Bless Same Sex Relationships

Very good news from the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia with analysis and comment from former Integrity Board member, the Rev.Elizabeth Kaeton reprinted from her blog, Telling Secrets. A must read.

As, Ed Bacon, one of my favorite Giants of Justice, is of't heard to say in these situations, "My, my, my." My friend Jim was surfing the net, looking for the latest stats about his favorite sports team and came across this in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette

September 14, 2010
W.Va. Episcopalians consider blessing same-gender relationships
By Kathryn Gregory
The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia's annual convention voted this week to allow the church to bless same-gender relationships.

resolution was submitted by the Rev. Ann Lovejoy Johnson, associate rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston. It "urges our Bishop to honor same-gender relationships by supporting public rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships in congregations where such blessings are supported and so desired.

"It would appear, however, from what one reads in the paper anyway, that the Bishop is less than pleased.

The newspaper reports this:

The final decision rests with the diocese's bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, who responded with a prepared statement when contacted by the Gazette on Tuesday.

"Thank you for your interest, but I wonder where your interest was when wonderful things have happened in the past in the Episcopal Church? And try as you like to make us one, we are not a one issue church," he said in the statement. He would not comment further, and calls to St. John's were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

There is, of course, more to the story, which one gets from reading a report from the action on the floor of convention during the vote on the resolution:

Klusmeyer asked delegates to vote on the resolution's withdrawal, and delegates voted 82-58 to reinstate it, Michelle Walker said. The bishop then asked people who were not in favor of the resolution to stand.

"It was about three dozen people who stood," Walker said. "It was clear ... the resolution passed."

The passed resolution notes that "not all congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia support the blessing of same-gender relationships," but says, "We pray that our Bishop and representatives to this convention will recognize and honor the desire of those congregations and priests who wish to honor same-gender relationships through sanctioned same-gender blessings.

"A six-month task force will be established to develop the procedures, requirements and rites that would allow same-gender blessings to become a reality in "those congregations where such blessings are desired."

A task force. Of course. To study "the issue". Because, of course, the "theology has not been done". You know, like the theology of the ordination of women.

As Ed Bacon has also be heard to say, "I'm so glad Mary said 'yes' to God before the church developed a Doctrine of the Incarnation.

"Okay, can I just say? THIS IS HUGE, folks.
I mean, last time I checked, the fine State of West Virginia wasn't even close to marriage equality.

We've come to expect this from progressive diocese like Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Newark - all those places which asked General Convention, 2009, in resolution C056 to allow bishops to provide "a generous pastoral response" to meet the needs of members of this Church, including those within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal.

Resolution C056 passed by a large majority.

Even more recently, Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, has begun authorizing same-gender blessing as of Easter, 2010, following a six month Task Force he called together in November, 2009, which worked with him to craft procedures and requirements to make the blessing of same-gender couples a reality in that diocese in 6 short months.

So, you'll excuse me if I express an unabashed, enthusiastic, 'Woo hoo'.

The article about West Virginia, however, ends on a cautionary note:

Retired Rev. Jim Lewis, a previous St. John's rector, said Klusmeyer could go either way in his vote.

"He is either going to go by the will of the convention or he can pull the authority game here and he could play with it," said Lewis, an activist minister who recently had his Episcopal license revoked and then reinstated.

There is no time limit in which the bishop must make a decision, according to the resolution.

I want to be Very Clear: I'm THRILLED for the people of West Virginia. I'm especially pleased to see the leadership of Ann Lovejoy Johnson, a woman I met in Michigan more years ago than I care to remember, when that diocese was looking to start up a chapter of The Oasis (Wait, wait, wait. That had to have been 12 or 14 years ago. Time flies when you're working for justice). That was long before she entered the ordination process, and feared she would never be ordained because she could never be in the closet.

My thoughts keep turning to the bishop and those three dozen or so people in the room who stood in opposition to the resolution. I don't know how many people were in the room, but the clear implication is that the 'faithful opposition' were clearly in the minority.

We all love the idea of "majority rules" - when we're part of the majority. I guess I've been in the minority on so many issues that it's tempting, when the tables turn and "our side wins," to let our rejoicing turn into a form of tyranny.

It's hard to demonstrate a "generous pastoral response" when you feel that your theological toes are being stepped on. It's easy to be stingy when you feel something is being taken away from you - especially when that "something" is one of the foundational beliefs on which you stand.

Even in the midst of our rejoicing about the progress made in the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, I hope we'll keep all the good people there - laity, deacons, priests and bishop - in our prayers.

The graciousness and "generous pastoral response" of those on "our side" will help to form the same kind of response from "their side.

"Long time activist and priest, Susan Russell, reminds us in her blog of the words of Sr. Joan Chittister, "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.

"Everyone there - especially the bishop - may not know it quite yet (and may not believe it), but the Diocese of West Virginia helped the church move forward another inch toward living into the vision of the Realm of God which was given to us by Jesus, himself.
Let's keep them all in our prayers. Comfort those who morn. Shield the joyous.

If you are from a state that does not yet embrace marriage equality or live in a diocese that allows the blessing of the covenants made between two people of the same sex, take heart.

It will happen. It may not happen "soon enough," but it will happen. We live in "sure and certain hope" that Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr., was right when he said, "the arc of history is long, but it always bends toward justice."

Mercy. Justice. And, peace. For everyone of God's children. It has been promised.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Keaton for this blog.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stories From the Pews: Outreach After Google

Ann Turner who is a member of Eastern Shore Chapel and the Board of Integrity Virginia Beach sent us this story from her pew......

Eastern Shore Chapel Episcopal Church is a large, lively parish in Virginia Beach. We are near the oceanfront as well as a number of large military bases. The church is over 300 years old, and while you might expect such an historic parish to be a little stiff and stodgy, quite the opposite is true of Eastern Shore Chapel. We have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming. Attracting visitors and retaining newcomers has always been an important part of our ministry, probably due to our location in a resort area and the large number of military families moving in and out of the area on a regular basis.

Not quite 10 years ago Eastern Shore Chapel’s first Web site went live. Now almost every visitor and newcomer we ask tells us that they found us online. Now the question has become, “How did they find us online?” Were they searching for a conveniently located church? A church that offered evening services? A church that offered children’s programs? What were people searching for? Google Adwords and Google Analytics are giving us some answers to that question.

Google Analytics is a free service that provides data on Web site traffic. It tells us how many visitors we get, how they got there, how long they stayed, and much more. This is important information that we can now gather from not only our Web site, but also our Facebook pages. Facebook is a vital part of Eastern Shore Chapel’s communications program. The interactive nature of Facebook provides loads of great information, but only from the visitors you can see. What about the visitors you don’t see? Google Analytics helps us capture some of that data.

Google Adwords are those little four-line ads that appear on the right side of your screen when you do a Google search. When someone clicks your ad, they are directed to your Web site. The beauty of these little ads is that you can tell Google what you’re willing to pay for them. You set the budget and you only pay if someone clicks your ad. More importantly, you determine the keywords that trigger your ad to appear. This is how you start to find the answers to the question, “What are people searching for?”

Every month, Google sends Eastern Shore Chapel a report on our Adwords ads. It tells us how many times our ad appeared and how many times it was clicked. It also tells us what keywords received the most clicks – that is, what people were searching for. Of all the keywords with which we tag our ads, one in particular appears on every monthly report: social justice.

What do you do once you know how people are finding you? You use that information to tailor your communications, programming and even worship. This information is one of the things that prompted Eastern Shore Chapel to become a Believe Out Loud Congregation. We needed a way to communicate to our community that we were a church that not only valued social justice, but also took action. Believe Out Loud is one way – an important way – that we are doing that. What we've found is that Believe Out Loud speaks volumes to folks (straight and gay) who are looking for a church that offers progressive theology, emphasizes social justice for all people and is actively serving its community.

Believe Out Loud could be a useful part of your church’s communication plan as well. Take advantage of the data you can gather using Google. Find out who’s looking for you, how they’re looking for you and then give them something to find!

Ann Turner just became the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stories From the Pews

Integrity USA is launching a new series on this blog titled "Stories From the Pews". We want to hear from you about what is happening in your parish and in your diocese. What has changed? What would you like to see changed? Share your thoughts with all Integrity members so that we can learn from one another. Email your stories and headshot to Integrity's Director of Communications, Louise Brooks at We look forward to hearing from you.

Chad K. Willingham of Tulsa, Oklahoma originally posted these thoughts on our Facebook page and agreed to help us launch our series with these thoughts.......

I feel blessed that we have groups like Integrity USA. Evidently there are still people in our Episcopal Church that haven't found a place in their heart to be accepting of LGBT Episcopalians. I say this based on recent experiences with Episcopal Church/Episcopalian centered forums such as Facebook. I respect the fact not all Anglicans and Episcopalians are in agreement when it comes to the role of LGBT persons in the church. It troubles me, though, that some believe so strongly against homosexuality that they lose polite discourse.

The Episcopal Church has been my safe haven. I left Orthodoxy because of the issue of my being gay. It was a heartbreaking choice because I so love the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and Byzantine Spirituality. Still, I have fallen in love with the Episcopal Church and my local parish has welcomed me unconditionally and opens their hearts and arms to ALL the same way. The Episcopal Church saved me from going down a path of either atheism or apathy.

After reading unkind things buy people who oppose LGBT clergy (usually women clergy as well), I admit it causes a bit of trepidation. I am happy we have groups like Integrity that organize our collective VOICE to stand firm on our prayer-filled belief that we are equal and equally deserving in God’s eyes. Maybe our continued prayers will bring more change in the church as a whole. I have faith that LOVE will always win over hatred.

I pray that we will soon see full equality in our church. As well, my prayers are with Integrity as they continue their mission. We don’t have Integrity here where I live but would be active if we did. I do thank you all deeply.

Chad attends St. Dunstan's Church in Tulsa.
Where do you attend and what is it like for you? We would love you to send us a story from your pew.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TEXAS: House of Deputies President to Headline Inclusion Conference

[From Episcopal News Service]
September 8, 2010

Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will be the featured speaker at an October conference about the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church.

The "Moving Forward: Exploring a New Path to Full Inclusion" conference will be held at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston Oct. 1-2.
The conference comes in response to what a press release called "longstanding calls from church leadership for deep theological conversation" about inclusion.

The free conference is sponsored by the cathedral and includes parishes that are "conversation partners" from across the Diocese of Texas who may, or may not, support full inclusion, but who do support conversation, according to the release.

Anderson will preach during the conference's opening Eucharist at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1.

On Oct. 2, the conference will include three panel discussions. In the first session, Anderson and her chancellor, Sally Johnson, will discuss the effort towards full inclusion and what the future holds. Their presentation will include opportunities for conversation about the proposed Anglican Covenant and a "local option" proposal made by former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker in March to allow individual parishes to vote on the position that they would take on sexual issues.

The second session, titled "Home by Another Way, Inclusion Conversations that Work," will feature the Rev. John Bedingfield, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Silsbee, who has provided leadership for inclusion conversations in east Texas; Anne Brown, whom the release calls an "inclusion conversation veteran" who serves as the communications director for the Diocese of Vermont; Tamika R. Caston, an African American educator and spiritual director from Houston, who will discuss her experiences finding common ground in potentially hostile environment; and Jason Sierra, who will offer a youth perspective based upon his work in campus ministries for the Episcopal Church.

The panel for "Exploring the Theology: Liturgical and Pastoral Implications of Full Inclusion," the final discussion, will include the Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, a New Testament professor at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin and member of the House of Bishop's Committee on Theology Committee, the Rev. Ruth Meyers, a liturgy professor at Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the chair of the church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and the Rev. Lowell Grisham, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas and co-convenor of the Chicago Consultation.
"This conference will be an opportunity to affirm the ministry and contribution of all members of the Diocese of Texas as well as hear a perspective from the larger church," the Very Rev. Joe Reynolds, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, said in the release.

More information about the conference is available here.

Have you registered for the Believe Out Loud Power Summit?

Almost 30 Episcopalians have registered for the Believe Out Loud Power Summit that will be held October 9-11 in Orlando FL.  More than 500 national and local leaders of the welcoming church movement are expected to participate. Christians from all denominations who support full inclusion will be present. Hosted by the Institute for Welcoming Resources, this event is designed to provide advanced knowledge and skills to those who are already working for LGBT equality in their faith communities.  Click here for more information about the Power Summit

The deadline for hotel reservations is 5 pm today [September 8th].  Click to make a hotel reservation.  After the deadline, the group rate of $119 per night will be available until the room block is full.

Sunday afternoon of the Power Summit is set aside for denominational caucuses; Integrity will hold its annual Stakeholders' Council meeting during this time. Click here for more info about the Stakeholders Council meeting.    

In order to help as many people as possible attend the Power Summit, Integrity USA is providing meal plan reimbursements to Episcopalians who register. To take advantage of this offer, please register for the conference first [with the meal plan option], then send your receipt [via email or mail] to Integrity USA, 620 Park Ave #311, Rochester NY 14607, info@integrityusa.orgClick here to register for the Power Summit.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

God No Longer Male, Scottish Episcopal Church Rules

From the

September 7, 2010

A new order of service produced by the Scottish Episcopal Church has caused controversy by removing masculine references to God.

The new form of worship, which removes words such as "Lord, he, his, him" and "mankind" from services, has been written by the church in an attempt to acknowledge that God is "beyond human gender".

Episcopalian bishops have approved the introduction of more "inclusive" language, which deliberately removes references suggesting that God is of male gender.

The new order of service, which can be used by priests if they have difficulties with a male God, has been produced by the church's Liturgy Committee in consultation with the Faith & Order Board of General Synod and the College of Bishops.

The controversial changes were discussed at the church's General Synod recently. The minutes of the synod reveal that female priests had asked why God was still referred to as a man.

The altered version of the 1982 Liturgy sees masculine pronouns removed when they refer to God and the new approach has even been extended to humans. For example, the word "mankind" has been taken out and replaced with "world".

Some senior religious figures have objected to the new form of words. "It is political correctness," said Rev Stuart Hall of the Scottish Prayer Book Society and Honorary Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews

"It is quite unnecessary. The word man in English - especially among scientists - is inclusive of both sexes.

"Those who try to minimise references to God as the Father and Christ as his Son have great difficulties, because the New Testament is shot through with these references."

Direct quotations from the Bible have been spared change, because of a reluctance to interfere with the word of God. However, the blessing at the end of services has been changed by some ministers from "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" to "Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier".

"The changing of God language is a little tricky," admitted Rev Darren McFarland, convener of the church's liturgy committee.

"It is then that opinion is much more divided. We have really tried not to mess around with the descriptions of God in the biblical text. But what we want to see is generous language when it comes to gender. God is above and beyond human gender.

"We are not saying God is not masculine. God is also feminine. The problem is trying to use human language to describe the indescribable.

"The bishops have permitted these changes, people do not have to use this form. But we are trying to honour the breadth of descriptions of God in a way that's helpful to the church and its membership."

Should the US Episcopal Church do the same thing? What do you think?