Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Integrity USA Supports Obama's Call to End DADT

Integrity USA applauds President Obama's call today for the US Senate  to follow the House of Representatives' lead and vote for a repeal of the DADT law. Here is what President Obama said:

As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.

Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.

With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.

And we take heart in the study released by the Pentagon today which found that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would do little harm overall to the country's armed forces.

Specifically, the study found that : 70 percent of troops surveyed believed that repealing the law would have mixed, positive or no effect, while 30 percent predicted negative consequences. Opposition was strongest among combat troops, with at least 40 percent saying it was a bad idea. That number climbs to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles.

The study also draws a strong correlation between troops who have worked with a gay service member and those who support repeal.

Those of us in the LGBT community know that telling our stories and being open about who we are changes hearts and minds. We agree with President Obama that there is no credible reason to delay ending DADT. There is also no doubt that the military and the nation is ready, if not long overdue, for change.Contact your Senators and urge them to take action and do away with the discrimination of DADT today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Anglican Covenant - Part 2: What's in it?

This is the second installment of Integrity's four part series on the Anglican Covenant, written by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.

If you missed Part 1: Where Did it Come From? Click here.

What makes Episcopalians “Anglicans”? What makes someone in the Church of Uganda “Anglican”? Anglican is a nebulous term and it’s difficult to define exactly what we mean. You can come up with a historical definition – those churches that grew out of the Church of England - but there are always exceptions, like the Anglican Church of Mexico which chose to become Anglican. You can argue that we all use the same prayer book, except that we don’t. The 1789 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was modeled on the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but it wasn’t the same, and the differences have increased since the liturgical renewal movement of the 1970s. Unlike other Protestants, Anglicans don’t have a separate “confession” of faith which defines what we believe – in keeping with the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, we retain the ancient creeds.

The Anglican Covenant is partly an attempt to specify what makes Anglicans Anglican. This wasn’t an issue until the 1970s with the ordination of women and then the resurgence of evangelical thought within the English and Episcopal churches which coincided and conflicted with the greater inclusion of LBGT people. The loose consensus of what it means to be Anglican fell away gradually, accelerated by the orchestrated response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and then the election of Bishop Katharine.

According to the introduction to the Covenant, “we covenant together as churches of this Anglican Communion to be faithful to God’s promises through the historic faith we confess, our common worship, our participation in God’s mission, and the way we live together. “

Section One describes our inheritance of faith in the format of the so-called Chicago- Lambeth Quadrilateral which was originally adopted by our own HOB in 1886 as the basis for ecumenical talks. It has four parts:

1. The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;

2. The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;

3. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;

4. The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

The proposed Anglican Covenant adds two more points: the shared pattern of liturgy, and participation in apostolic mission. Section One also focuses on continuity with catholic tradition and with the Scriptures in teaching, theology and moral reasoning.

Section Two commits covenanters to common mission, including the Anglican understanding of the five marks of mission which makes “mission” much more than evangelism.

Section Three deals with how the Anglican Communion works together. It affirms a Communion of Churches which co-operate “in communion with autonomy and accountability”. Bishops are important as are the four “Instruments of Communion” – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. The proposed Covenant does not change the current power (or lack of it) that the “Instruments” have, and does not define the relationship between the four, but does say that “Each Instrument may initiate and commend a process of discernment and a direction for the Communion and its Churches.” Presumably the Instruments will play well with each other, as the rest of this section commits covenanting churches to, and “in situations of conflict, to participate in mediated conversations”.

Section Four is the controversial one. How is the Covenant policed? The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (until recently the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates) will act as monitor. If a church steps out of line and does something on which the churches of the communion are not “of a shared mind”, there may be “relational consequences”. Go and stand in the corner.

Coming up next, Part 3: Who Wants It?

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall is priest-in-charge at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California. She is a former Integrity Board Member where her portfolio included international affairs and a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving: Max Niedzwiecki

What do we have to be thankful for?
Max Niedzwiecki ~ November 24, 2010

I love Thanksgiving. Food, family and fun are all great parts, but the most important part of the holiday for me is that it helps me refocus. I have worked as an activist for the past two decades or so – for refugees, immigrants, and now the LGBT community – and my work focuses a lot on the future, what needs to change about the church and the world, especially the call to live into Jesus’ commandment to put love before all else. Those of us who are activists find ourselves constantly “fighting the good fight,” looking forward, not always cued into the present moment. Except during Thanksgiving. That's when I take a deep breath, refocus and give thanks for what just is.

Here’s a short list of what I am thankful for:
• The thousands of Integrity members I have begun to meet, and excitement about what we will achieve together
• Louie Crew, who founded Integrity in 1974 and continues to inspire so many
• Hope and confidence that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s work will bring us a new edition of Enriching Our Worship in 2012, and the blessing of same-sex relationships in every diocese
• Ice cream
• The Grace that makes it possible for us to embrace people who are “different”
• John Clinton Bradley, Integrity’s Administrator
• My friends and family, who love me even when that’s not easy
• My new puppy, Dewey, who woke me up at 4:00 a.m. by kissing my nose
• My home church, St. Anna’s in New Orleans
• My growing bond with the transgender community
• The ministries of Bishops Gene Robinson, Mary Glasspool, and all of the LGBT bishops yet to come
• Straight people who show God’s love to all kinds of people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity
• Integrity’s dedicated board members, Provincial Coordinators, Diocesan Organizers, and other fantastic volunteers
• The fact that you don’t have to be a straight, celibate man to be an Episcopal priest
• Bishop Christopher Senyonjo’s bravery in standing up for the basic rights of all people in Uganda despite great hardships
• The fact that understanding the Bible literally is not an Episcopal tradition
• Meeting the love of my life just over 23 years ago

What are you thankful for this season? Write a comment on this blog or email us and we'll post it for you.

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Anglican Covenant: Where Did It Come From?

Breaking News: The General Synod of the Church of England has voted in favor of continuing the process towards adopting the Anglican Covenant.

Today we start a four part series written by the Reverend Caroline Hall, Integrity's resident expert on the Anglican Communion.

Part 1: Where did it come from?

If you look at the official Anglican Communion website, you’ll read that the Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the 2004 Windsor Report. The Windsor Report was the report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion which was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make recommendations following the “emergency” in the Anglican Communion created by the response to Gene Robinson’s consecration as the first openly gay bishop.

In fact, the concept of an Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the Dallas Statement in 1997. This was the statement from a conference attended by 45 conservative bishops and 4 conservative archbishops from 16 nations to develop an anti-gay strategy for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They outlined what they saw as “a shared and coherent orthodox Anglican framework” and called for discipline as a “necessary corollary of accountability” in keeping to the “bounds of eucharistic fellowship within the Anglican Communion”.

Within a few years this idea had developed momentum and in 2001 Archbishops Maurice Sinclair of the Southern Cone and Drexel Gomez of the West Indies published a small book titled: To Mend the Net. This document outlined a series of steps by which a province considered to be ‘erring’ might be encouraged to repent and return to ‘orthodox’ faith and morals. These started with an initial request not to allow changes considered to be outside the limits of diversity and led on to ‘godly admonition’, then to ‘observer status’ for the non-cooperating diocese or province followed by suspension of communion and finally the establishment of a new province or diocese. To the disappointment of many conservatives, To Mend the Net was not immediately adopted, but neither did it go away. It was considered by the Primates Meeting and, in 2003, the InterAnglican Theology and Doctrine Commission.

In 2004 the Windsor Report called for “a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity; the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes).” (paras 117-120).

As a result a Covenant Design Committee was created in 2006, chaired by none other than Drexel Gomez, one of the authors of To Mend the Net (Sinclair had retired). The first draft of the Anglican Covenant, called the Nassau Draft, was produced very quickly by a largely conservative group. After a process of feedback a second draft was produced in 2008, called the St Andrews Draft. This was discussed at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and led to a third and final draft, the Ridley-Cambridge Draft.

The Anglican Consultative Council which met in May 2009 basically approved it except for Section 4 which had to do with discipline. In a move which was broadly seen as supportive of the Episcopal Church, Section 4 was referred back to the provinces for more discussion. After some revision a final text of the proposed Anglican Covenant was sent to the provinces for adoption (or not).

So the Covenant is the result of a process which began to try to make the Episcopal Church exclude LGBT members. Not surprisingly it still seems to many people to be a big stick clothed in fancy words intended to prevent innovation in response to God’s continuing revelation.

Coming Next: What does it say?

The Reverend Dr. Caroline Hall is priest-in-charge of St. Benedict's Church in Los Osos, California. She is a former member of the Integrity Board of Directors where her portfolio included international affairs. She is a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Anglican Covenant: a tool for the strong to oppress the weak

The Church of England will be voting on the Anglican Covenant at it's Synod this Wednesday, November 24th. Integrity USA joins many other allies in opposing the covenant.

Jim Naughton wrote a great article on the covenant posted on today's Episcopal Cafe in which he summarizes the greatest failing of the covenant................

Perhaps the greatest failing of the covenant, however, is not technical but spiritual. The covenant is blind to evil within the church, and the extent to which the church participates in the evils of the world. Put aside for the moment the fact that at a time when poverty and disease are rampant, the earth is warming at a potentially cataclysmic pace, and war ravages much of the planet, the leaders of our Communion are unwilling to move on until the Americans are brought to heel on the issue of homosexuality. Focus instead on the simple fact that much of the evil in our world exists because it serves the self interest of powerful people and powerful institutions. These are people who can always arrange for a fuss to be made on their behalf—who can always claim that any attempt to rectify the balance of power in this world “tears at the fabric” of whatever community has summoned the fortitude to challenge their dominance. The covenant is a handy tool for maintaining the status quo—for making certain that the meek never come into the inheritance that Jesus promised them. The issue may be homosexuality today, but what is at stake is the ability of churches in the Anglican Communion to challenge injustice when it is in the interest of other churches in the Communion to support it.

Click here to read the entire article

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Light Shining in the Darkness: Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston

Early yesterday evening, as the nearly full moon rose above the Boston Common, my partner, our thirteen-month-old and I headed to dinner with a friend and then wandered around the corner for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Upon arriving at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, I was amazed at how many people were already there, even a half hour before the start of the event. Before the night was over, between 325-350 people would crowd into the space, including the balcony (and I got those numbers from the ultimate source, Jim Woodworth, one of the cathedral’s longtime sextons).

One of my favorite things about TDOR is the way it draws people together—I love touching base with people I haven’t seen in a while, and this year I was struck by the variety of contexts from which I knew people: from the Greater Boston trans community, current and former students, and Episcopalians from the Diocese of Massachusetts. In the latter category was the Reverend Stephanie Spellers, priest and lead organizer of the Crossing, and Penny Larson, drummer for the music team of the Crossing, which for the second year in a row hosted an open mic on Thursday for the local collaborative “Transcriptions.” Penny gave some very moving remarks later in the event, which are reposted below.

Also present at TDOR for the first time this year was my bishop, the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw III. He had just come from a eucharist celebrating the 100th anniversary of the clothing of the sisters of St. Anne-Bethany, and was present to deliver a welcome message.

When the MC for the evening, Mesma Belsare, called Bishop Shaw forward, I have to say my heart was absolutely pounding, and I found myself wondering why. I think it was because of the intense way my worlds were intersecting in that moment. And while TDOR was hosted by my congregation over the last two years, and I myself spoke in the slot that +Tom was now occupying, last night’s intersecting worlds felt more intense to me. This was probably because the event was unfolding in this same space in which I was ordained in 2004 and 2005-- actually, as I write this, I’m realizing that last night I was sitting just about where I sat and then stood during my ordination to the diaconate, which +Tom did. But mainly I think I was nervous because I know that members of the trans community have been hurt very badly by people of faith, and especially by churches—in the name of my God. And I was, I admit, concerned that Bishop Tom not say anything to exacerbate that hurt.

He started out by saying that before he welcomed everyone, he wanted to offer an apology. He wanted to apologize for the way in which Christians in particular have hurt transpeople, how Christians have, as he put it, “misrepresented God” to transpeople. Then he went on to reference the work of trans people in this diocese, at which point he referenced me and my colleague Chris, both of us transmen and priests here. I was very moved and humbled by what he had to say about us. He went on to say that both the church(es) and the world are made more whole by the full participation of transpeople in their midst and in their lives. He closed by saying it was therefore a particular honor for the Cathedral to host TDOR.

The applause for +Tom was sustained and, I sensed, at least from those sitting around me, that people were quite moved and perhaps even a little surprised by their positive response to +Tom’s remarks. Of course I can’t know how anyone other than myself, and those who later commented to me, felt—but that was the sense I got.

A number of speakers got up and spoke from their hearts throughout the event, ranging from transpeople to non-trans allies. There were people who spoke of having avoided coming to TDOR in the past because it was too scary, or felt too potentially victim-oriented to them, but who now felt differently. Particularly moving to me were the remarks of young people—one non-trans twelve-year-old spoke of one of her parents, a transwoman, and how lucky she felt to have her as a parent. Two young transmen spoke about the importance of reaching out to trans youth, and to watch especially closely for warning signs of suicidality. Two parents of a young man who died here in MA a few years ago spoke very movingly about their commitment to and love of the community. Several people spoke of people they knew who had taken their own lives, or attempted suicide, and several people came out as suicide survivors. In the wake of the intense reflection in this country about LGBT suicides this fall, this sequence of speakers gave a very important reminder that the T is very much part—indeed, likely even more at risk – of this wider pattern. But risk and loss were counterbalanced by resilience: people spoke of how they have reclaimed their lives, and of how important it is to protect and nurture one another’s unique humanity. One person spoke of this need with beautiful metaphors of light.

That image resonated yet more at the conclusion of the event, when the huge group split into two for the candlelight vigil. One group went across the Boston Common to the State House to read the names of the dead and then walked to the gazebo at another spot on the Common for a final gathering, while the other group went directly to the gazabo. As the groups left, my partner and I decided we needed to take our wiggly little guy home, so after chatting with other stragglers for a few minutes, we gathered our things together and made our way to the back of the cathedral. As we exited the swinging glass doors and stood with Jim out on the cathedral steps, we watched a long train of candlelight slowly make its way across the common, majestically moving from the State House to the gazebo.

The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge


Penny Larson’s remarks, which are also posted at her blog are below:

Good evening. Thank you for coming, and welcome to my home.

I showed up on these steps four years ago, less than six months after my transition, and I was welcomed as an equal sister. I drum here, and I worship here. The Crossing community has prayed for me and laid hands on me during my process. They have marched with me and lobbied with me. This past Easter Bishop Shaw received me into the Episcopal Church as I delivered the sermon during the Cathedral’s Easter Vigil. I feel blessed and humbled to be a part of The Crossing community, and I am profoundly moved that my family is helping to host this Transgender Day of Remembrance.

As you know, this is a somber time, when we remember those that have been lost in the last year to violence. Sometimes the price is high when one lives an authentic life. There is fear, and misunderstanding, and hatred. Whatever the number of people we recognize this evening as lost during this last year, I suspect that the true number is higher. We simply are the victims of violence far more often than could be explained by mere random chance. We are targeted.

I have a dear friend who wonders why we do this every year, I believe she says something to the effect that we are celebrating our victim hood. And I admit that the heaviness of this day weighs upon me, even though this is only my fifth Transgender Day of Remembrance. It might be easier to just let this day slide by with barely a notice, to pretend that a day to remember our dead was unnecessary. But then the easy thing isn’t always the right thing. So while I’m very happy to have been involved with a special open mic night co-hosted by The Crossing and Transcriptions as part of Trans Awareness week, which was far more positive and celebratory, I think the importance of this night can not be overstated.

This past August, I volunteered at the inaugural season of Camp Aranu’tiq, a camp specifically for trans and gender-variant kids between the ages of 8-15. I got pretty attached to those kids, and I’m sure I’ll be back next year. Those kids were amazing, and it was a joy to be around them. This is our next generation. Many of them were experiencing the thrill of being themselves for the very first time at camp. Those kids just want to live happy lives being the people they truly are.

But the reality is stark. And the world that exists presents all sorts of difficulties for those who are perceived as different from some arbitrary standard. I want the world that those kids grow into to be so much closer to perfect than the world I grew up in, and yes, even the world as it stands now. I want those kids to grow into a world where they won’t have to go to a camp to be met with unconditional understanding and acceptance. My mother, when I was very little, taught me to always know that I am no better than anyone else, and I am no worse. I believe that we can all live together, celebrating each others similarities while basking in our uniqueness.

And so it is on this night, more than any other, that it becomes of paramount importance that we stand to fear and hatred, whether from within or without, and refuse to be anything less than our full selves. It is on this night that we should embrace the rich diversity that exists within our world of community, allies, supporters, friends, family, and loved-ones. It is on this night that we must change the world.

Thank you for joining us!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Signs of Endings All Around Us: Transgender Day of Remembrance

This is a strange, liminal time in the liturgical year, when signs of endings are, as the hymn puts it, all around us, even as we look forward to the harbinger of hope and new birth soon to be announced in Advent.

For those of us in the trans community, this is a liminal time in another way—a time when we actively remember and face the ongoing reality of our vulnerability to violence and death, particularly for transwomen of color. And it is a time when we seek to galvanize ourselves and our allies, to take our horror, grief, and outrage and harness it for change. To that end, this Saturday, November 20th, marks the 11th annual, International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).

Brief History

As it so happens, TDOR started with a local murder here in Boston. On November 28, 1998 Rita Hester was found dead, having been stabbed multiple times by an assailant who has never been identified. In the days following her murder, a vigil was held down the street from my former parish, St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s in Allston, MA, where Rita lived. Across the country, San Francisco activist Gwen Smith then started the Remembering Our Dead website, which began keeping track of transpeople around the world who had died due to transphobic violence (that work is now carried on by Ethan St. Pierre at this site). Gwen also organized a vigil in San Francisco in 1999 that inspired similar events around the world. The most common date for holding TDOR, November 20th, marks the death of another Boston transwoman, Chanelle Pickett, who had been murdered on that date in 1995. TDORs now happen around the globe, and in some cases expand to include educational events. Here in Massachusetts, this is Trans Awareness Week, with multiple activities happening across the state.

What Your Congregation Can Do This Week

* go to a TDOR in your community--listen, support and simply be present as an ally.

* host a TDOR in your community—more and more churches are opening their doors in this way, though the events themselves are not usually religious services. Indeed, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that many members of the trans community feel deeply alienated from religious traditions and communities. Simply opening your door, making space for the trans community to come together and organize its own event, is incredibly powerful. More and more Episcopal parishes and cathedrals are hosting these events-- here in Boston, for instance, TDOR will be hosted by the Crossing and the Cathedral Church of St. Paul this Saturday at 6pm). In Sacramento, California, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (@ 27th & Capitol) will be hosting the city's TDOR with a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m.

* Host another event in trans week (or at another time of the year), like an open mic night, or a film viewing.

* Consider making a special space in your service this Sunday to honor the trans community. Perhaps in your Prayers of the People, for instance, you might name those who have died this past year and/or compose a special collect; perhaps you might mention this event in a sermon—be creative, open and compassionate (and if you’re willing to then share what you did and how it went, it would be great to include such vignettes in future blog posts).

* However and whenever you are able, please pray for the trans community. Pray for our strength and stamina in this newly challenging political climate, as we continue to fight for basic nondiscrimination and anti-violence legislation, as we strive for equal access to health care, as we make our way in all sorts of vocations, families, and faith communities.

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Arianna Huffington: The Split-Screen Struggle Over Gay Rights

Such a fabulous post by Arianna Huffington on HuffPost today that it deserves reposting in full.

Protesters chaining themselves to the White House gate today, objecting to what they called the "silent homophobia of those who purport to be our friends and do nothing," capped a tumultuous few days in the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- and the larger fight for equality.

There was the one step forward represented by the leak of a Pentagon study showing that 70 percent of active-duty and reserve troops surveyed thought lifting DADT wouldn't have a negative impact on America's armed forced. Followed by the two steps back of the Supreme Court's order on Friday allowing the ban on openly gay soldiers to remain in effect while the Obama administration fights a federal appeals court ruling that the policy is unconstitutional, and John McCain -- who has said in the past that he'd be open to repealing DADT -- making it clear that, in fact, he wouldn't. Not now. Not yet.

America finds itself at a real turning point in the struggle for gay rights. And, as during all turning points, it's as if we are watching the struggle unfold on a split screen: progress on one side, setbacks on the other.

Joining the Pentagon study on one side of the screen is the fact that, in the elections earlier this month, more openly gay candidates were elected to office than in any other election in our history.

On the other side, right beside McCain and the Supreme Court order, is the fact that three judges on the Iowa Supreme Court, justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit, were voted out of office as payback for their 2009 decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry.

On one side, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is urging the lame-duck Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" before the new congress is seated in January.

On the other, General James Amos, the new commandant of the Marine Corps is arguing against repeal, using the old canard, disproved in the armed forces of many of our allies, that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would somehow hurt "combat effectiveness." What does that mean anyway, that gay soldiers can't shoot straight? That straight soldiers can't shoot gay?

As we feel the exhilaration of watching our country make progress, and then feel the despair of watching it lurch back, it's worth remembering that not a single civil-rights milestone in our country has been achieved without a struggle -- and many setbacks.

Our union will never be perfect, but, as the framers wrote in the preamble to the Constitution, it is designed to constantly become more perfect. When they wrote those words, the rights and protections of women and African Americans were not yet recognized.

Then came the Emancipation Proclamation. The 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote. Brown v. the Board of Education. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Rights Act of 1965.

We look back at those achievements now and they seem so natural, so obvious. Indeed, it's hard to imagine the United States without them.

But for the men and women who fought for these achievements, the struggle must have looked a lot like the current split-screen world we're watching.

Today, the forces of regression know that the gay civil rights movement is on the cusp of victory and that once victory is achieved, the next day we will find it hard to imagine that it was ever in question.

Those who oppose equal rights for the LGBT community are not just standing against the right of gays and lesbians to marry the person they love, or to openly serve in the military -- they are standing against the inevitable.

It's inevitable, and an issue that can't be dismissed as belonging to the left or to the right. This was demonstrated by the legal dream team of David Boies and Ted Olson, who were on opposite sides in Bush v. Gore in 2000 but joined forces to overturn Prop 8 in California -- proving that the issue isn't a question of liberal vs. conservative, but a matter of civil rights.

Of course, just because it's inevitable doesn't mean that it won't take a fight to make it happen. It will. It's the same old fight to make sure that America stays on the path leading to a more perfect union.

Stories From the Pews - 10 Years Closer to the Light

John Miers lives in Bethesda, Maryland and is a member of the Diocese of Washington (DC), where he is on the Diocesan Council and serves as the Diocesan Jubilee Officer. He has been on the Vestry and served as the Senior Warden in his parish.

He wrote this story from his pew.................

I am extremely optimistic about the future of the LGBT movement in the Episcopal Church. TEC is truly a wide tent, where all are welcome. This has become more and more evident over the past decade, and I have every confidence that this will continue.

Looking at the demographics in both our church and in society itself, there are significant changes happening. This was evident in 2003. At that time, there were many ideas in our church concerning homosexuality. I looked around our parish, and mentally broke it down into the deciles – those who were 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, etc. It was fascinating to see how each of these groups reacted to this potential split in the church. Those who were 70 (and beyond), would not let it get in the way of the church they loved and from which they were going to be buried. Those 50 and 60 were the most virulent and outspoken, mostly opposed to the actions of the church. They were also the LOUDEST. With one major exception: those who had gay children; they wanted the church to be a church to their children and to themselves. As I noted, my wife and I had a Sunday night supper for parents of gay children. We met, prayed, and ate. After 3 or 4 months, we didn’t need to meet any more (but that’s getting ahead of the story).

For people who were 30 and below, it was a non-issue. Those in their 40s were the most split – they had friends in their 50s, and friends in their 30s. Someday, someone is going to write a sociological study on this.

But that was almost 10 years ago, and we have moved on. Some of those who wanted to be buried from the Episcopal Church have done so. Many of the loud and virulent ones have moved on, and only come back for funerals. (Sometimes their own.) The younger ones are still here, and are making up the growing center of the church, along with the young ones who are still here, again wondering “what is the issue, anyway?”) I see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are 10 years closer to the light.

Secondly, while there are many churches openly with gay-friendly symbols on their websites, programs, and doors, there are just as many who don’t need to make that overt statement. Sure, there are some that are not particularly gay-friendly, but they are a minority. My own parish has two gay (and partnered) members of the Vestry. I’m not sure that would have occurred before 2003. but we are 10 years closer to the light.

Third, I belong to a group here in Washington called PFLAG. The P is for “Parents” and the F is for “Friends.” I count myself in both of those categories. These Ps and Fs are where Integrity should invest its effort. These are the ones who are going to enable you to make the difference in the future. We are 10 years closer to the light, and 10 years away from the darkness.

May God bless us in our efforts. It is right to help guide the Episcopal Church to the light and away from the darkness. I stand ready to assist in any way that I can.

John G. Miers

John has three daughters and three grandchildren. He is retired from the Federal Government where he was in management, and then in diversity. He sings in the choir and enjoys gardening.

Do you have a story from your pew that you'd like to share? Email your story and a headshot to Integrity's Diector of Communications, Louise Brooks at tvprod@earthlink.net

Monday, November 15, 2010

What are we waiting for??????

Survey: 70 percent of military supports repeal of DADT

From Yahoo News

The Pentagon released part of its study on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military. Findings show 70 percent of troops participating in the survey said permitting gay and lesbian servicemen and women to serve openly would have positive, mixed or nonexistent effects on the military.

The survey comes after much opposition to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," from Republicans in Congress as well as top brass in all branches of military service. The Obama administration has promised a repeal of the 1993 ban on gays in the military.

The entire report will be made public Dec. 1. A significant minority, including 40 percent of the Marine Corps, opposes the repeal.

President Obama favors Congress changing the law. U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of California was prepared to throw out the law as unconstitutional in October, however the Justice Department filed papers asking her to delay ruling on the case until after the military survey was made available to Congress.

Obama told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he wants the repeal passed during the Congressional lame-duck session in December. Democrats are unsure they will have the votes to pass the measure.

One of the staunchest opponents to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," is Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain. The House already passed the measure, but in September the Senate failed to follow through thanks to McCain and a handful of dissenting Democrats.

Gay rights advocates hope the military survey will change the minds of Senators but McCain has promised a tough fight. McCain is already in talks with the Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, to take the measure out of the defense reauthorization bill that funds the Department of Defense.

McCain voted against repealing the law because he wanted to wait and see the results of the military survey. Critics of McCain are doubtful this new information will change his mind. If the lame-duck Congress is to do anything before Republicans take control of the House in January this may be the best time to repeal the ban.

Ironically, McCain's wife, Cindy speaks out in a public service announcement in favor of allowing military recruits to be openly gay. Equally, McCain's daughter, Meghan is openly gay and has continuously stood up in favor of gay rights alongside her mother.

If Congress fails to repeal the law, there are several avenues open to the Obama administration as a viable alternative to getting the job done.

The Pentagon promised to follow the law should the Federal court overturn the ban. Judge Phillips would merely need to announce her ruling, stating the law in unconstitutional.

Another way to get around the law would be for Obama to order the military to allow openly gay service members to be admitted. As Commander-in-Chief he would have the authority to do so but Congress would have to appropriate additional funding to take on more recruits.

If Congress fails to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," there may be a three-way tug-of-war between the separation of powers--the President, Congress and the Judicial Branch.

It is unfortunate it may come to that. However the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s operated in much the same way. The military became racially integrated during World War II and then courts ordered the integration of schools and desegregation of communities. Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Ideally America has learned its lesson from history and the guarantee of equal rights for all Americans to pursue life, liberty and happiness will be ensured.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Finnish Church Ok's Prayers for Gay Couples

From Advocate,com

Finland's state church will permit a "prayer moment" for registered domestic partnerships, bringing religious leaders one step closer to recognizing gay relationships.

The General Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church's highest administrative body, issued a statement Friday saying it would allow clergy to minister to LGBT church members. A spokesman for the synold told Agence France-Presse that Lutheran ministers will have a choice as to whether they will perform the prayer with gay couples entering a legal partnership. Allowing of a prayer, however, does not constitute the church's blessing of same-sex relationships, or marriage equality.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Out Lesbian New Head of SF's Grace Cathedral

From the Bay Area Reporter
by Seth Hemmelgarn

An out lesbian has become the dean of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, making her not just the first lesbian, but the first woman ever to head the church.

The Very Reverend Dr. Jane Shaw showed her humor when asked what exactly her duties are.

"I think I run the cathedral," she said. "I have oversight of everything that goes on here."

That includes presiding at services and overseeing a staff of about 80 people, including those who run the preschool and cathedral school. Shaw estimated about 800 people come to services at the cathedral each Sunday.

"I'm myself and people can take me as I am," said Shaw. "I'm many things, not just a lesbian, not just a woman. I'm an intellectual, I am a new immigrant in this country, I love music ... . I'm happy they called me to Grace Cathedral."

Shaw, 47, who holds a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley, previously served as dean of divinity at New College, Oxford University.

She was installed to her new position Saturday, November 6, becoming Grace Cathedral's eighth dean since it was founded in 1906. She follows Alan Jones, who was dean for 25 years until February 2009, when he retired from the position. Jones is now the cathedral's dean emeritus.

Shaw was named dean June 25, after being nominated by the Right Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal bishop of California. The cathedral's board of trustees unanimously approved her nomination that day.

Heidi K. Zuhl, a Grace Cathedral spokeswoman, declined to state Shaw's salary.

In a phone interview this week, Shaw said she's building on Jones's legacy.
"He really made the cathedral very important in the city," she said.

She said she wants to make Grace a place "people absolutely come to for discussion of key ideas." The cathedral will re-launch its Forum program, a series of panel discussions and speakers, in 2011, said Shaw.

She hopes the church will keep working on social justice issues and continue outreach to people including seniors, people who are unemployed, residents of single-room occupancy hotels, and residents of the city's Bayview neighborhood.

Shaw also said, "I want to take a role in many communities," including the LGBT communities. She said she's "in the process of beginning to talk to people," although she hesitated to say what she'd do specifically because "it's important I hear what people need."

"I'm looking forward to talking to lots of people" in and out of the congregation, she said.

Shaw said that sometimes "inclusion" is "a codeword for LGBT, but there are other forms of inclusion too."

She added, "I hope we would have inclusion mean that we genuinely include everybody."

That hasn't always been the case with the Episcopal Church. There's been unhappiness in the church since at least the 1970s, when women were first allowed to be ordained as ministers. The national Episcopal Church has recently been supportive of gays, lesbians, and women, sparking rebellion from some churches.

The Episcopal Church, which had more than 2 million members in the United States as of 2008, is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In 2003, openly gay Gene Robinson was elected as the bishop of New Hampshire. That helped lead to a call from some Anglican Church leaders for the Episcopalians to stop authorizing same-sex unions and stop allowing lesbians and gays to take high positions in the church.

Robinson announced over the weekend that he would retire as bishop in January 2013.

Asked about Robinson, Shaw said, "I think he'll go on working in all kinds of important ways in the Episcopal Church" and "I think his important voice will continue to be heard" even after he leaves his position.

She also said, "The Episcopal Church has taken the lead on inclusion, compared to the rest of the Anglican Communion, and that's fantastic, and of course we're going to keep building on that."

Shaw is domestic partners with Sarah Ogilvie.

Louise Brooks, a board member of the LGBT Episcopalian group Integrity, said she doesn't know Shaw personally, but she spoke favorably of Shaw's reputation.

"There's been very little press hoopla around the fact that [Shaw] is an open lesbian," and that "speaks to the fact of where the Episcopal church is today, that sexual orientation has little to do with the choice of people for this position," said Brooks.

She said Shaw "will be the voice of a different type of Christianity ... conveying a message that everyone is a beloved child of God, and that there is no asterisk that says 'unless you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.'"

Bishop Gene Robinson Announces January 2013 Retirement Date

In his address at today's New Hampshire's diocesan convention, Bishop Gene Robinson announced he would retire as the 9th Bishop of New Hampshire in January 2013, saying:

"I wanted to make this announcement to you in person. While I might have delayed this announcement a few more months, I could not imagine doing so by letter. I have been in the Diocese of NewHampshire 35 years, the last 24 of which have been in a diocesan position. Our time together has always focused on "relationship," and I could not imagine changing this relationship without telling you so personally."

The full text of Bishop Robinson's address is available on the diocesan website.

"I make this announcement with nothing but praise and thanksgiving to God for having the privilege of serving you. While I know that I have not been God's perfect servant during this time, I will leave in early 2013 knowing that I have given this ministry my best efforts. YOU are, and will continue to be, the reason I have not only survived, but thrived, during this tumultuous time in the wider Church. New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, "the Bishop." This is the one place on earth where I am not "the gay Bishop."

Integrity joins with the Diocese of New Hampshire in celebrating the work and witness of Bishop Gene Robinson as we enter a time that is arguably the beginning-of-the-end-of-an-era. And we look forward to moving more fully into God's future, to a time when all the baptized are fully included in the Body of Christ!

Bishop Robinson is a profile in courage

An Editorial From the Concord, New Hamphire Monitor

Technically speaking, Gene Robinson is the spiritual leader only to New Hampshire Episcopalians, a relatively small population in a relatively small state. But since his consecration in 2003, he has stood as a worldwide challenge to discrimination, to violence rooted in bigotry, to go-slow liberalism that dares not rock the boat.
Robinson emerged as one of the bravest leaders of our time, but he didn't do it on his own. His New Hampshire flock, those who voted for his ascension to bishop, took an enormous risk - for themselves and for their global church. We are all the better for it.

Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, announced this weekend that he will retire in 2013. His tenure has been so relentlessly tumultuous that it is not hard to believe he's already thinking of retirement. Seven years on, the battles that his tenure sparked are nowhere near resolved. Yet he stands as a role model for those within and without the church who would put their very lives on the line for what they believe.

For Robinson, death threats were present from the beginning. When he was consecrated in Durham back in 2003, undercover police officers were part of the entourage. And it wasn't just his personal safety at risk. When Robinson became a bishop, it cracked a fault-line in his church wide open. Would all Anglicans embrace openly gay priests and bishops - or even female priests and bishops? The question was no longer hypothetical. The Americans who gave Robinson their blessing were at odds with more conservative branches of the church elsewhere in the world - and even here at home. Some U.S. congregations left the Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with bishops in Africa. The Anglican Church in North America was created as a conservative rival to the Episcopal Church.

To the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the Anglicans worldwide, Robinson presented a challenge to his ability to hold his church together. In 2008, he specifically did not invite Robinson to a once-a-decade meeting of the world's Anglican bishops. Robinson flew to England anyway, speaking at local churches while the other bishops convened. The next year, when Mary Glasspool - also openly gay - was elected bishop in California, Williams urged Episcopalian bishops not to seat her for the sake of unity.
If Robinson became a symbol of gay rights, he was also an advocate, using the stage that his position afforded him to push not just Episcopalians but all of us to treat each other with dignity and equal justice. In 2007, he was featured in a documentary about religion and homosexuality called For the Bible Tells Me So. In 2009, President-Elect Obama invited him to deliver a prayer at the Lincoln Memorial as part of his pre-inauguration ceremonies
Equal rights for gay men and lesbians remain tenuous around the globe, certainly, and in our country as well. The military's Don't Ask Don't Tell rule remains in place as squeamish politicians delay doing the right thing. Iowa voters last week ousted three judges who had ruled in favor of gay marriage. Here in New Hampshire, the gay marriage law is imperiled by newly elected politicians eager to reverse it. For progress to continue, brave leaders are needed. Robinson has shown the way.

Please send us your thoughts about what Bishop Robinson's ministry has meant to you. tvprod@earthlink.net

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Integrity President David Norgard on the Resignation of Bishop Gene Robinson

It is with respect and affection that we receive and acknowledge the announcement of the retirement of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2012. Bishop Robinson has been a true pioneer in the Episcopal Church and deserves both our admiration and our profound thanks for walking a path no one has taken before with courage and perseverance. As a gay man, as a priest of this Church, and as President of Integrity USA, I have been deeply honored to know him personally. More importantly however, his ministry has set an example that has inspired, comforted, and challenged more people of good will than he or any of us will likely ever be able to accurately estimate.

Throughout his entire episcopate and even before – stretching back to the intensely contested confirmation of his election at General Convention in 2003 – he has conducted himself toward supporters and detractors alike in a manner that can only be described as “consistently gracious engagement.” Unflagging in his chief am to preach the Gospel of a God who loves us all, he neither sought controversy nor shirked it for his own sake but has walked the path of a servant of the Gospel with unflagging devotion and diligence.

We at Integrity give thanks to the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire for sharing the ministry of this singular figure so generously with all of us over the past seven years and we again commend them for taking the bold and wise step they did when first electing him. As for the bishop, we pray for and wish him the best along whatever new path his journey of faith takes him, knowing full well that, as the Psalm says, “no good thing will God withhold from those who walk with integrity.” --The Rev, David Norgard

Our friend and colleague, Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, has and will continue to have great meaning to those of us in Integrity. If you'd like to send in thoughts or reflections on what his ministry has meant to you, we'll be happy to post your comments. Send them to Louise Brooks at tvprod@earthlink.net.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall on "AAC Scare Tactics"

I was startled today to read that under the new Title IV disciplinary canon which will come into effect in July 2011,

if a clergy person is asked to officiate at a same-gender marriage or blessing, and cannot because he or she has theological and spiritual objections or concerns, if it is a matter of conscience, the offending clergy person can be charged and tried, and furthermore if a cleric confidant knows about the priest declining to do the service, and doesn't turn them in and report them, that cleric could also be charged and tried.

I learned this from David Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council and suffragan Bishop in the Province of Kenya.

When penning his remarks he apparently relied on a document titled, Title IV Revisions: Unmasked by C. Alan Runyan and Mark McCall, and published by the Anglican Communion Institute. I didn’t find anything in Title IV Revisions: Unmasked that even mentions same-gender marriages or blessings and I know for sure that they’re not mentioned in Title IV. Clergy are not required to marry every heterosexual couple who approaches them, let alone every gay couple.

Did David Anderson have a bad dream?

I would like to think this strange statement is the result of some unfortunate nightmare, but alas I have to think that Anderson is resorting to fear tactics. Particularly as he adds:

Bishops may be indicted if they refuse to sue congregations that wish to leave, charging them with failure to protect church property. I want our friends in the UK and the Global South especially to note this: the bishop will have to sue or he (or she) will be tried and deposed.

Anderson is missing a couple of key points here. First, “protecting church property” does not necessarily mean suing the congregation (or anyone else) and second there’s a long and circuitous route in the new Title IV from an initial complaint to a hearing.

Runyan and McCall make some cogent points about the new Title IV which should be discussed – have we given the bishop too much power? When there is an adversarial polarity between Bishop and the clergyperson facing discipline the answer may well be “yes”.

But Runyan and McCall have a fatalistic air about it all. They say that Title IV was rushed through Convention with inadequate discussion, the Rules of Order were not followed, and now the sky is falling in. Would someone in South Carolina please explain to them that they can bring resolutions to the next General Convention to change the rules, again.

Conservatives have done it before. Ask Bishop Wantland, who in 1994 proposed a resolution that radically reduced the consents needed to bring a bishop to trial. No-one really took much notice at the time, but it paved the way for Bishop Walter Righter to be brought to trial for ordaining an openly gay man.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so worried – conservatives having once or twice changed the rules to suit themselves they think there’s a conspiracy to make General Convention do the same.

The letter from Anderson appears in this week’s AAC email update which will soon be available here. It is, in my limited perspective, yet another attempt to scare the “orthodox” by disseminating lies.

I wonder whether lying in order to instill fear and gain power is a cause for discipline in the ACNA or the Church of Kenya?
The Rev. Dr. Caroline "Caro" Hall is priest-in-charge of St. Benedict's. Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California. She is former board member of Integrity USA and a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Louie's List

It was exactly seven years ago today the Holy Spirit and the Diocese of New Hampshire made a bishop out of V. Gene Robinson -- in a hockey arena in Durham, New Hampshire surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses ... along with a few media trucks and couple of security guards.

And since seven is such a nice biblical number we were casting about for ideas on how to celebrate this Happy Anniversary -- and we turned to Integrity founder Dr. Louie Crew for some inspiration.

"Let's look ahead to the NEXT seven years," said the always forward thinking Dr. Crew. And here's the result ... what we're calling "LOUIE'S LIST" of LGBT priests to keep-an-eye-on as the Holy Spirit continues to work and call forward the next generation of bishops for this church we love and serve.

We're offering Louie's List today in both celebration and expectation. Celebration of all that has been accomplished in these last seven years as The Episcopal Church continues to grow into the more inclusive Body of Christ we believe God is calling us to be. And expectation that God will continue to call the leaders we need to do the work we have been given to do.

Whether or not these servants of God are called to the episcopate is between them and the Holy Spirit ... and the dioceses that can and may call them into that vocation. But whether called or not, they're on Louie's List -- and that is something to rejoice and be glad in today!


Mark Asman
Michael Barlowe
Cynthia Black
Thomas Brown
Lee Crawford
Horace Griffin
Caroline Hall
Tobias Haller
Michael Hopkins
Elizabeth Kaeton
John Kirkley
Mark Kowalewski
Tracey Lind
Cameron Partridge
Altagracia Perez
Bonnie Perry
Katherine Ragsdale
Blake Rider
Susan Russell
Jason Samuel
Jane Shaw
Mac Thigpen
Winnie Varghese

And are there others?????

Monday, November 1, 2010

Uganda: Court issues an interim order restraining the "Rolling Stone"

Yesterday gay activists sued the Rolling Stone tabloid in Uganda. .....

Here's the press release:

The Ugandan Rolling Stone tabloid published an article entitled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s

Top Homos Leak” calling for “the hanging of homos” in Uganda in its issue of Vol.1, No.

5, 2 - 9 October, 2010. This article shows pictures of some of the 100 alleged homosexuals

and other Human Rights Activists, alongside their names and a description of their

professional jobs and private life, including where they live or work.

The publication has affected the day to day lives of the individuals mentioned and the

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBTI] community as a whole. Therefore

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender human rights activists have taken the tabloid to

the High court.

Through this litigation the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community is seeking

to bring to an end the violations. They will also educate and raise awareness that everyone

in this society deserves and should be protected by the government and the law irrespective

of race, age, color, tribe, creed, sexual orientation and gender identity.

We call on;

1. The MEDIA to immediately desist from using press freedom to incite violence

against any person.

2. The Government of Uganda to intervene immediately and take all appropriate

measures to put an end to this blatant incitement to public violence against a

particular group of citizens.

3. The Government of Uganda should recognize and seize the opportunity to ensure

the protection of human rights, which is entrusted to its authority, and uphold the

Ugandan Constitution as well as the international and regional Human Rights

Instruments to which Uganda is a signatory.

For further information please contact:

Frank Mugisha - fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org
Today an interim restraining order was issued.  Today activists spoke truth to power and the courts supported them. Pray that the order will stand the stand up long term. Pray human rights will prevail.