Monday, March 14, 2011

Making “All the Sacraments for All the Baptized” a Reality in 2011 and 2012

A Three Part Series on Integrity USA

Part One: What We Have Achieved
Max Niedzwiecki
Executive Director Integrity USA

Integrity USA was founded in 1974, and has been in the forefront of the fight for equality within the Episcopal Church ever since.

In 1976 the Episcopal Church first declared in a resolution by General Convention that “homosexuals” are “children of God” and “entitled to full and equal claim in the pastoral care, concern, and love of the church,"
Since then, Integrity and our allies have advocated for the Church to follow through on that declaration primarily in two major areas: the blessing of same-sex relationships, and equal access to ordination. We have championed the motto “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” and lobbied for it become a living reality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socioeconomic status, and other factors. We have worked to grow the Episcopal Church by spreading the good news that it is rapidly moving towards a full welcome for all people. And we witness to that the vision for equality to the wider world.

We have made great progress with respect to ordinations. In 2009, the Church determined at General Convention that people should not be barred from ordination as deacons, priests, or bishops simply because they are in “lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God” (D025). This lifted a ban on the ordination of people in same-sex relationships that had been imposed in 2006. We now have one openly gay bishop, The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and one openly lesbian bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles, and we expect to see many more in the future.

We have also made great progress with respect to the blessing of same-sex relationships. The church has stated that these relationships can enable people to “see the image of God” in their partners. In terms of the practices of the Church, General Convention arrived at two major decisions in 2009. First, Resolution C056 stated that individual bishops could decide whether they will allow the blessing of same-sex relationships in churches within their dioceses, “particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal.”
Secondly, General Convention charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to work with the House of Bishops and others to “collect and develop theological and liturgical resources” on the blessing of same-sex relationships, and report on those resources at General Convention in 2012.

The opening of the ordination process and the blessing of relationships to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have moved the Episcopal Church to a position of national and global leadership with respect to the embodiment of God’s inclusive love for all people. In many of the 110 dioceses of the Church, changes have taken place at the parish level: openly LGBT priests and deacons have been and continue to be ordained and placed, LGBT candidates are visible in bishop elections. In many dioceses, priests bless the unions of two men or two women.  We have come a long way since the inception of Integrity where in its early years Integrity chapters were places of refuge for people who felt they were not even safe to come out. It is truly an achievement that today, more and more, openly LGBT people feel welcome as full members of their congregations.

We celebrate these achievements and know we could not have done this without a wide range of collaborative partners, members and friends that have transcended boundaries of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and other aspects of diversity. We worked in partnership with other social justice groups, including  the coalition known as The Consultation to promote a shared agenda centered on inclusion and equality. We worked with these partners on all justice issues, not just those of interest to our community alone.

Integrity believes this broad vision for justice and  radical welcome for all people is one of the most effective tools for building the Church. Our chapters, partners, and members have been visible in Pride Parades and other community events. We have encouraged our allied parishes to proclaim their welcome boldly throughout the community. And we have offered communications support to members who give witness to the ways in which the Episcopal Church’s radical welcome has transformed their lives.

While Integrity’s work in the past has focused on transforming the Episcopal Church into a truly welcoming community, we have a growing vision for equality with the wider world. Our members and leadership have spoken out in favor of civil marriage equality, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the repeal of DOMA, ENDA and immigration equality (all of which are in keeping with the official positions of the Episcopal Church). We continually educate our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion about the importance of recognizing LGBT people as children of God. Our great witness at the 2008 Lambeth Conference truly changed hearts and minds and we continue to support people who are fighting for basic human rights in other countries such as Uganda through fundraising drives, advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns.

We have come a long way, baby! Tomorrow's blog will focus on where we go from here.

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