Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Past President Susan Russell's Speech at Clergy Call to Justice

Clergy Call to Justice took place in Washington, DC on  May 23rd and 24th where 296 clergy from 48 states gathered to pray, preach and lobby for justice for LGBT Americans in our nation's capital. Longtime advocate and spokeperson for justice, the Rev. Canon Susan Russell spoke at the interfaith celebration at Mt. Vernon UMC on Monday night.

 Here's what she had to say...................

The Tide Turns One Wave At A Time
The Rev. Canon Susan Russell
Past President Integrity USA
Senior Associate, All Saints Church, Pasadena CA.

What an honor, delight and privilege it is to be part of this Gathering of Gratitude ... of this great cloud of witnesses! And if this is what “Left Behind” looks like then may I just say we’ve been left in very good company indeed! And it’s a good thing because, my brothers and sisters, we have some work ahead of us.

It’s easy to make light of last week’s example of what I’m calling “Eschaton Abuse” and others “the Rapture-that-Ruptured.” Yes, we can roll our eyes at yet-another End of the World prediction gone bust -- but what I want to say tonight is that we cannot dismiss the damage that is done when the airwaves are dominated by voices of judgment claiming to speak for the God of justice. We cannot ignore when the core values of our faith traditions – love, peace, justice and compassion – are hijacked by those who want to turn the clock back … not move the kingdom forward.

But here’s one thing I know: The tide turns one wave at a time. And the tide is turning.

It’s turning in this country of ours as we watch poll after poll now show that for the first time marriage equality is supported by a majority of Americans. It’s turning in our denominations and congregations as we watch bars to ordination and blessing finally fall in some places and begin to be challenged in others. And so we stand tonight in the tension of so much to be grateful for … and SO much work left to do. But we stand knowing that the tide turns … one wave at a time ... and that we’re also standing on the shoulders of those who have led us thus far on the way.

We know their stories from the particularity of our own traditions – mine is the Episcopal Church. I grew up in a church where girls couldn’t be acolytes. Women couldn’t be ordained. And LGBT wasn’t even in the vocabulary, much less on the agenda. And I was inspired by those who were agents of changing all of that. I remember like it was yesterday the moment when Bishop Barbara Harris in put her hand on mine -- in the cocktail lounge of the Red Lion Inn in Ontario California in 1992 -- and she said “I want you to remember that the power behind you is greater than the challenge ahead of you.” And her words are as much for us tonight as they were for me that day.

Because behind us is the power of the arc of the moral universe that we have been promised bends toward justice. And justice -- Bishop John Hines famously taught us -- Justice is the corporate face of God’s love. The arc of the universe bends toward that love ... and so doing justice is an integral part of what we do as people of faith created in the image of the God of love and compassion. We do justice because of our faith … in response to our call … as part of our vocation ... as part of our historic response to making God’s love tangible. And some of us have been at this arc bending stuff for a VERY LONG TIME.

And so tonight I want to nominate someone as a poster child for this work we’ve been called to do. She’s spiritual ancestor for many of us and her story is found in the 18th chapter of Luke’s gospel. We know her as the Persistent Widow … the one who went again and again demanding justice and who eventually got it from the unjust judge. Not because she warmed his heart. Not because she changed his mind. But because she wore hims out.

And so we -- like her -- come back again and again. Yes, we want to change hearts. Yes, we pray change minds. And yes ... if it what it takes is making a way where there is no way by wearing away the injustice we're gonna keep on comin' back. Just like she did. And the arc will bend. And justice WILL roll down.

Do you have your list of persistent widows? I have mine: Louie Crew … who in 1974 called Grace Cathedral asking about a ministry to gay people ... and when they laughed at him he started one. The deputies who stood up at our General Convention in1991 and said “you’re not talking about an issue … you’re talking about us.”

George Regas who blessed the first same sex couples at All Saints Pasadena in 1992 ... twenty years ago in January.

And Ed Bacon who led us in marrying 46 couples between June and November in 2008.

Walter Righter. Carter Heyward. Michael Hopkins. Gene Robinson. Mary Glasspool. My list could go on and on. And so could yours.

As so as we stand tonight on their shoulders in the tension of so much to be grateful for … and SO much work left to do … let’s remember that the tide turns one wave at a time ... but first we have to make some waves.

And like the Persistent Widows who went before us, that’s what we’ll do when we head to Capitol Hill tomorrow. As we do so I want to leave you with some words Bonnie Anderson – the president of our Episcopal Church House of Deputies – offered after her visits to Capitol Hill last week:

It is tempting to believe that a church with our membership cannot influence the course of legislation. Those who disagree with our political choices say so all of the time. But last week a legislative assistant told me that he loves it when faith-based organizations come to Capitol Hill. "It brings us good luck," he said.

Well, I don't think it is luck. I think that what faith-based organizations bring is moral courage. We reinforce the notion that it is essential to speak up with passion and commitment for all of those neighbors whom we strive to love as deeply as we love ourselves. I saw a lot of people with heart in those Capitol Hill offices, but they need encouragement. I met people who are bringing all that they are, and giving everything they've got, to the task at hand. They need to see the rest of us doing the same.

The soul of America is at stake … The people of God need to speak up, now.

And so tomorrow, my brothers and sisters, we are the people of God who are going to be speaking up. We’re going to speak up for Family Values that value all families and for a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriages. For safe schools. For equal employment.

We’re going to speak up for an America that is true to its core values of liberty and justice for all because we are speaking up for our core faith values of love, justice and compassion.

When we stand on the Mall in the shadow of the Capitol dome – when we troop through the halls of Congress -- bringing moral courage to our legislators and their staffs – we’re going to do it all aware of the deep privilege of doing this work … and also aware of the long list of Persistent Widows we take with us … on our hearts, in our memories, in our stories.

And with gratitude – deep gratitude – for being part of the tide that is turning one wave at a time … as we take our place in the arc of history that bends toward justice … and we are claim our call to make justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

Episcopal Clergy Tell Congress It's Time To Act!

Yesterday Episcopal clergy including several Episcopalians and Integrity leaders lobbied on Capitol Hall for legislation including  the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA), the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) repealing DOMA, The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA),the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of DADT.  In advance of their visit Integrity USA sponsored a call to action notifying our congress people that these clergy speak for us.

The Rev. Winne Varghese spoke these words to a gathering outside the Capitol....................

Thirty-five years ago, in 1976, The Episcopal Church passed a resolution stating that gay men and lesbian women are “entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality.” Since that time Episcopalians have fought for equal treatment under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons because it is the official position of The Episcopal Church. At times this has been in the face of intense opposition and little public awareness of the importance of the issues.
I am the Rev. Winnie Varghese, I serve an Episcopal Church in the Bowery in New York City. I stand here, not because I work in congregations filled with people affected by these laws. I stand here because I work in congregations filled with people from all walks off life who pledge at their baptism to respect the dignity of every human being as a part of our walk in faith with the risen Christ. We as Christians believe that love and justice conquer death, and we see that fulfilled in the person of Jesus, who calls us to follow him.

Today we are inspired by the all of the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reform Jews, Conservative Jews and others who have no barriers to membership or leadership in their faith communities based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Many of us have been working for twenty, thirty, forty or more years.

The Episcopal Church by act of its General Convention beginning in 1976 has held us as Episcopalians responsible to work for the equal treatment under the law of gay and transgender people. Over the years we said clearly what that would mean including decrying acts of violence, calling for police support in creating and enforcing safe communities, civil marriage equality and fair treatment for transgender persons.

Despite 35 years of living our faith by challenging bias and violence against LGBT people, the daily news tells us that we have work to do. People still feel no shame when they bully and put down gay and transgender people. Why? Because the absence of comprehensive federal bullying and employment non-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, gives tacit support for bias against persons because of their perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.

All parents and families want to believe it is safe for our children to go to school, but we know it is not. Our children are mocked and tortured in places that should be havens for their development as engaged and responsible citizens. When death overcomes the hope of their young lives, it is the responsibility of faith communities to stand up and say it is immoral. It is immoral to for our children to live with unchecked abuse from their peers, it is immoral when gay and transgender kids are cast out by their families, it is immoral when churches tell them God does not love them and it is immoral to have no federal laws against bullying or employment discrimination.

All of us here live and work for the day that everyone is safe to go to school and adults can go to work without fear of being fired for who we love. These basic building blocks of a fair society are based on respect and dignity for everyone. That respect and dignity rings true in the words of the Most Reverend Edmond Browning who testified before Congress in support of ENDA saying his support of ENDA “represents my deep, personal belief in the intrinsic dignity of all God's children." That was in 1994 and here we are—still testifying! Let’s be clear, we are not here just to chat with our legislators, we are here to tell Congress it is time to act.

Integrity USA thanks these Episcopal Clergy for their great work and wonderful witness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Changing the Future

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall
President, Integrity USA

Ok, I admit it, I’m all fired up. The HRC gave us a great line-up of speakers on Monday. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but it turned out to be a great way to jump start some thinking about what us Integrity-ites are doing, and why. Yesterday morning, political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry challenged us to think about all the places where there is inequality. When transgender youth are the most likely to suffer homelessness and there is precious little protection for any of us LGBT when we apply for housing, why she asked, are we so concerned about gay marriage? Now my push-back on that is that the marriage debate is amazingly culture changing and ultimately will make everything else better. Maybe, maybe not. But here’s something for us to think about at the local level… what, other than gay marriage, are the issues that really matter to LGBGIQ people? Where do we need to be making a difference?

As Episcopalians we know that God is calling us to work for fairness and equality not just in the church but in the secular world as well. Yesterday the Governor of Tennessee signed an anti-gay law which limits cities and counties from preventing more discrimination against LGBT than state law provides. Ouch! Any reduction in our equality hurts – how can the rest of us assist our Integrity members in Tennessee to regroup and work to expand the state law?

The afternoon was led by Beth Zemsky who gave us a quick overview of Social Movements. According to Zemsky the argument of civil rights was most powerful in the late 1960s and has it run its course –it’s like over, totally. No retro thinking allowed… but Zemsky doesn’t know what the new paradigm is, what language we can use to frame our agenda today. Now I’ve heard other speakers argue that Obama nailed it with “Together, We Can.” Zemsky is certainly thinking along those lines as she says the new language will be intersectional (how do we imagine the “we”?), interconnecting and interdependent.

According to Zemsky the way to build movement power is to (1) organize and wage campaigns, (2) build an infrastructure and (3) develop, promote and disseminate a worldview. But because it’s time to build a new movement using new language and finding new ways to talk about equality, we have three (clearly this woman thinks in threes!) strategic tasks (a)reframing our worldview (b) reframing collective identity and (c) base building.

So I guess that pretty much sets the agenda for Integrity for the next eighteen months. If you have ideas about how we can reframe our worldview and our collective identity, and improve our base building, I’d love to hear from you.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall Elected President of Integrity USA

Integrity USA is very pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall has been elected President of Integrity USA to fill the unexpired term of the Rev. David Norgard, who resigned earlier this month. The election was held in compliance with Integrity's bylaws: Article 4, Section 5c. Her candidacy had the unanimous and enthusiastic support of the Board of Directors.

"Caro has the ability to hit the ground running at this point in the triennium", said the Rev. Susan McCann, who as Chair of the Stakeholder's Council, called for the election. "She has a love of the Gospel and a commitment to calling TEC to continue on the journey to full inclusion. She is also committed to expanding local and regional grassroots connectivity while providing leadership for continued advocacy at the national level."

Many on the Integrity Board have served with Caro in the past. Neil Houghton said, "Caro began her association with Integrity as a Chapter Convenor in the Diocese of El Camino Real. We served together on Integrity Board from 2006-2009 where she was the Director of Anglican Issues. Her background, education and experience helped Integrity form a strong link with the Anglican Communion Office which contributed to Integrity's great witness at the Lambeth Conference in 2008."

Director of Communications Louise Brooks, who as Secretary of the Board, certified the election and who has worked with Caro since 2003 called her" brilliant, media savvy and an excellent spokesperson for our organization and our movement." Brooks added, "As the founder and Chair of the Central Coast Coalition of Welcoming Congregations, Caro is a longtime champion of and great advocate for Marriage Equality in California. She has preached, written and spoken eloquently about our issues. She brings a wealth of pastoral, administrative and communication gifts along with her wide ranging experience of the church and its mission locally, nationally and globally. She knows the history of Integrity’s work for LGBT inclusion in TEC and the Anglican Communion. And, she is our expert on the Anglican Covenant. We are truly blessed to have Caro as our President"

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall assumes the Presidency of Integrity USA immediately. Upon stepping on board, she sent this message: " I am delighted and honored to have the support of so many Integrity members as I pick up the President position in the middle of this triennium. As always, Integrity has an exciting and challenging time ahead of us as we continue to work for equality throughout the Episcopal Church and beyond."

For more information contact:
Louise Brooks
Director of Communications
Integrity USA

Monday, May 23, 2011

Integrity's Informal Gathering at Clergy Call in DC

A Report from the Rev. Dr, Caroline Hall

I’m always fascinated by the interesting lives that LGBT Episcopalians live, and the group that gathered in Washington DC yesterday on the eve of the HRC Clergy Call was no exception. Our host, Dean Donovan, the Integrity Provincial Coordinator, created a lovely evening of good conversation, wine and food. He told us about the connection DC Integrity has made with an LGBT center in the Congo, correction, THE one and only LBGT center in the Congo. DC Integrity is collecting resources to send to the folk there who have the courage to explore their identities in the midst of the never-ending brutal conflict.

Integrity members in DC are also coming together to work on immigration issues, offering us a new model for Integrity chapters. In many of our dioceses we no longer need to meet for potlucks and the Eucharist in a regular basis, but we do need to continue to work for equality wherever there is inequality. That’s in a lot of places, so there’s plenty of room for creativity and innovation. Across The Episcopal Church we see tremendous inequality between LGBT people. Some of us live privileged lives; we’re comfortably out in our families, at work and at church and the fear and oppression seem to be things of the past. In other dioceses it’s still dangerous to let the Bishop know you’re queer, and it’s hard to be out at work. There are hundreds of un-welcoming parishes around the country.

Integrity will continue to work for sacramental equality in the Episcopal Church, which means not just a service in the Book of Common Prayer to bless our covenanted relationships, but the lived reality of that equality in every parish and mission. That’s why we’re encouraging you to take part in Believe OUT LOUD workshops to help empower you in the work of making your congregation and diocese truly inclusive.

The work we do through General Convention and its committees on a national level and the work that this Clergy Call will do, lobbying Congress, is only as good as the work we are all doing day by day in our own lives and communities. Kudos to the chapter here in DC, and again thanks to Dean Donovan for making us so welcome.

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Update From Our Colleagues Across The Pond

Snapshot of life within Inclusive Church in the UK.
The Rev’d Bob Callaghan
National Coordinator Inclusive Church

Inclusive Church emerged in the UK in 2003 at a time when an openly gay priest was being nominated to be a bishop within the Church of England. The nomination caused a furore, coming as it did in the wake of the consecration of Gene Robinson. Much of the reaction against these appointments was vocal and fierce, and mainly from the conservative wing of the church, both in the UK and abroad. Those who came from a more liberal perspective or those who were outraged at the sheer injustice of what was going on in the church were in many ways without a voice to express their concern. Inclusive Church emerged as a result of the internet – offering people the possibility of registering their concern through an on-line statement. Thousands signed up in a short space of time – and something new in British church life had emerged.

Inclusive Church, although it was born out of one incident that is related to LGB&T issues, is more than a single issue organisation. It seeks to demonstrate to both the church and society that the Church of England has a distinctive ethos which is welcoming and inclusive at its heart. The Church of England operates a parish church system that places in every community a church, a priest and a congregation – open and available to all. This is seen as distinctly Anglican and something that Inclusive Church seeks to celebrate and affirm.

But there is a ‘but’. Although the Church of England is there for all – not everyone has equal rights. Even though the UK has moved forward with anti discrimination law – the Church of England (along with other faith groups) has obtained exemption from some of these laws. Even though the state allows Civil partnership ceremonies – the Church of England is working to ensure these cannot take place in church. Even though the UK has signed up to law that bans discrimination against people based on their sexuality, the Church of England has exemption to this law.

So what is Inclusive Church involved with?

• Inclusive Church is working to support pressure groups to remove discrimination against women. Currently we are working to encourage the Church of England to bring legislation that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops. This legislation not only has to pass through church synods – but through the houses of Parliament as well. This will come to the vote in 2012.

• Inclusive Church is working within the church to remove discrimination for LGB&T people within the church. LGB&T people offering themselves as candidates for lay or ordained ministry are very likely to have to lie about their sexuality. For many these issues are no longer theological issues – but issues related to justice. Many in society outside of the church are staggered to find that the church is excluding to women and LGB&T members.

• Inclusive Church is engaging with discussions in wider society about equality legislation – to recognise gay marriage and allow gay marriages to take place within Church of England premises.

• Inclusive Church recognises that many are excluded from the life and leadership of the church for many reasons – ethnicity, poverty, and mental health issues. We are working hard to ensure that the church is there for all. And all means ALL.

Integrity USA has had a long time collaboration with the Inclusive Church in the UK. The were our powerful allies in our presence and witness at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. And the rumors are true, there are some great cooks amongst their membership!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Marriage Equality Poll: We Have Reached The Tipping Point!

Majority of Americans say they support same-sex marriage, adoption by gay and lesbian couples

A recent Religion and Politics Tracking Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, is the third national poll in as many months to find majority support for same-sex marriage: a slim majority (51%) of Americans now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 43% percent who are opposed.

The results of the three polls are remarkably consistent even though the other two surveys were conducted by different organizations (ABC News/Washington Post; CNN/Opinion Research Corp.) using different question wordings.

Majority also supports adoption by gay and lesbian couples.

A majority (56%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, compared to 36% who are opposed.

Religious & political differences persist.

There is significant difference in support for same-sex marriage across religious and political affiliation groups.

•A solid majority of Catholics and white mainline Protestants (56% and 55% respectively) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to only 23% of white evangelical Protestants. Nearly 8-in-10 (77%) Americans who are not affiliated with any religion support same-sex marriage.

•More than 6-in-10 (61%) Democrats and a majority (55%) of political independents support allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. In contrast, less than 4-in-10 (37%) Republicans and only 34% of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement support same-sex marriage.

Strong supporters now equal strong opponents.

There are now as many Americans who strongly support same-sex marriage as strongly oppose it. One-in-four (24%) Americans report that they strongly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, equal to the number who strongly oppose it (25%).

The Washington Post/ABC News poll also found this parity among strong supporters and strong opponents.

Support extends beyond youngest Americans.

Sixty-one percent of 18-34 year olds support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, but so do nearly 6-in-10 (57%) Americans between the ages of 35 and 49.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meet Adrian Madriz...........

Hello Walking with Integrity Readers!

My name is Adrian Madriz, and as of May 17th I will be working with Integrity USA as an intern to help it accomplish its goal of attaining all the sacraments for all of the baptized--a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

First, I would like to thank all of Integrity USA, its founders and its membership over the years for all of the tireless work you guys have been doing since 1974 to make the Episcopal Church the kind of place where a person like me can truly find sanctuary and affirmation. I am a recently confirmed Episcopalian who had grown up in the Roman Catholic Church. Although I have many fond memories and lingering attachments to my old church, I have found an unimaginable place of worship in the Episcopal Church, and part of that can certainly be attributed to the progress that has been made regarding LGBT matters within the faith. That, in combination with the many other exciting qualities of the church have made me a firm believer in the idea that there is something special to be appreciated about this particular denomination. And I want the whole world to know.

To that end, I will be working closely with Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki to put together a game plan for Integrity’s outreach program to students and youth. I am familiar with many of the challenges that today’s young LGBT people of faith face as they’re growing up in a religious environment that is often hostile to their identity, and also, the challenges they face in a “gay culture” (whatever that is) that is often hostile to their faith! That’s a one-two punch that can make anyone confused about just where it is in this crazy polarized society that they actually fit in. Therefore, Max and I will be working on both fronts to help provide LGBT youth the resources they need to stay strong in the face of adversity.

First on the agenda is a formal evaluation of Integrity’s current strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the organization’s existing outreach to young people. We’ll certainly work to shore up those weaknesses once they’re identified, but we’ll also work hard to make those strengths 110% stronger. It is very important that we make Integrity USA as visible and relevant as possible to the LGBT youth of America. We need to go out of our way to establish solidarity with these communities that we’re trying to affect, and we need to transmit the message that as Christians, we are true to the values of compassion that define Christianity. But of course, we can’t talk that kind of talk if we’re not walking that kind of walk too. Above all else, we need to care about these youth ten orders of magnitude more than anyone else has ever cared about them. If you want the community to be a part of Integrity, then Integrity has to be a part of the community.

You guys have done that. I wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case. Now let’s do more of that.

Integrity USA is thrilled to have Adrian on board and we hope you will join us in welcoming him to this work.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"They Speak For Me" - Integrity Clergy to Lobby Lawmakers May 24h

Today is May 17th, the day when we all live in IDAHO. Not the state, of course, but the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In commemoration of today, here's an action you can take:

On May 24th, Clergy representing Integrity USA and the Episcopal Church will join hundreds of fellow religious leaders from across the country to lobby on Capitol Hill as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s “Clergy Call. They will go door to door in the halls of Congress to lobby legislators on issues of great importance to all of us.
"We pray for a time when May17th will be just another ordinary day on the calendar,"said Max Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Integrity USA "It's time to do everything we can to end homophobia and transphobia. People of faith can make a huge difference when they put their faith into action. I hope you will join me in making our voices heard on Capitol Hill."
 Send a letter to your Representative and Senators to let them know that on that day, these clergy speak for you .Here's a letter you can copy and send or email:

Dear [fill in the legislator],

As an Episcopalian and a member of Integrity USA, this day is especially meaningful to me. On Tuesday May 24, hundreds of clergy from around the country will gather on Capitol Hill as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s “Clergy Call” I want you to know that they speak for me when they talk to you about issues of LGBT equality.

• They speak for me when they urge your support for The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) repealing DOMA and restoring the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples -- to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law.

• They speak for me when they advocate for a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) providing basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

• They speak for me when they speak for The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration, ending the injustice of many same-sex, bi-national couples being kept or torn apart.

• They speak for me when they ask you to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) prohibiting any school program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating against any public school student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

• They speak for me when they call for The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to requiring schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

• They speak for me as a person of faith who believes that the all in “liberty and justice for all” applies equally to LGBT Americans. And they speak for me as your constituent as I ask you to embody those traditional American values for me on Capitol Hill and to support justice and equality for all.


• [your signature, etc.]

FYI - All Americans should be in contact with their elected officials. This directory makes it easy. Most Congressfolks now use web forms as their primary contact method. They often will only be responsive if you demonstrate that you are one of their constituents. So be sure to include your snail mail address in your correspondence To find out how to contact you Senator and Representative, click here.

Take action today and get your voice heard on the issues. Please let us know at when you send/email your legislators.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Diocese of Rochester in Albany for Marriage Equality

By Neil Houghton

Two years ago Bishop of Rochester, Prince Singh, walked the halls of New York’s capital for Marriage Equality. He spoke to a rally and legislators. The results were a raised awareness that people of faith, leaders of faith communities, support the right of every New Yorker to marry the person they love and have their family recognized by the state.
Pictured here: Neil Houghton VPLA and Kit Tobin, Integrity Diocsesan Organizer for Rochester.)

Two years ago Bishop of Rochester, Prince Singh, walked the halls of New York’s capital for Marriage Equality. He spoke to a rally and legislators. The results were a raised awareness that people of faith, leaders of faith communities, support the right of every New Yorker to marry the person they love and have their family recognized by the state.

That legislation was defeated, but we were not.

Lt. Governor Robert Duffy addresses

1100 assembled for Equality and Justice Day, 2011

This year Governor Cuomo has established marriage equality is one of his top 3 priorities. After a request from Oasis Rochester, represented by Integriy’s Vice President for Local Affairs, Neil the Bishop sent a letter asking all clergy to prayerfully consider attending the annual Empire State Pride Agenda gathering in the state capital. In his letter he said,

“In March of 2009 I was proud to stand up for marriage equality. I spoke to an enthusiastic rally in Albany. There is a group that hungers to hear from people of faith who want to more than speak the message of inclusion. Our diocese has spoken and acted in favor of this movement through action of convention and I personally support the access of all New Yorkers to the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage.”

More than 10% of active clergy in our diocese donned clerics and made the trip to Albany to join clergy from many denominations across the state. Many lay members of the diocese were also there. They delivered the message. “This is what many people of faith believe. All are children of God, deserving of equal rights.“

The Rev. Canon Peter Peters arranged for a personal meeting with Senator Alesi outside the Senate Chambers with an important player, NY State Senator James Alesi. With the Governor expected to introduce the bill and an Assembly that has repeatedly voted to support this, the decision rests with the Senate. Peters said, when asked about committing to the daylong trip, “I believe that it is a matter of public justice that all people living in faithful covenanted relationships be treated equally.”

The Reverend Mary Ann Brody, spoke to her own sense of renewed commitment to action as a lesbian who recently went out of state to get married. “After 25 years [we ] were tired of waiting for NY.”

“The church has been a large contributor in demonizing homosexuals and opposing legislation to insure marriage equality. I wanted to be there with a collar on as a sign to LGBTQ people and my elected officials that there are Christian denominations, and leaders in those, who will stand with them and fight for the rights they seek.,” said Brody.

Senator Alesi is seen as pivotal vote and his district is a large part of our Diocese is in his district. During this meeting, Integrity’s past President, The Very Rev. Michael Hopkins was one of four members of the diocesan deputation to General Convention 2012.

Pictured here:The Rev. Fred Reynolds, The Rev. Canon Peter Peters speaking with a legislative aide and Senator James Alesi

Waiting for the Senator

(Picturesd here" Front: The Very Rev. Micahel Hopkins, The Rev. Mary Ann Brody

Rear: The Very Rev. J. Brad Benson and his husband, Dr. Carl Johengen)

Alesi talked to us of his personal support for LGBT equality. He is a member of a formerly Roman Catholic church. The parish left the diocese when because of the inclusion of women at the altar “functioning in priest like roles” and his support of LGBT the pastor was excommunicated. When he left half of the huge parish followed him to form a church that more clearly reflected their vision of the Body of Christ.

When asked what we could do to help him in his decision, the senator said, “pray for me.”

In 2009, after a palpable pause Alesi voted against marriage equality with his head in his hands. Because his name begins with “A” his vote is the first in his party. After his vote the rest of the Republicans which we had hoped might support the bill, fell. Acknowledging his alphabetical exposure, Houghton said, “Senator, civil and human rights have only been advanced when people voted their conscience over their politics. We will be praying that you vote for what you know is right.”

Now, Integrity members across the United States can add their own prayers for Senator Alesi.

UPDATES: A new poll released today shows public opinion continues to trend toward marriage equality in New York State with a record high of 58 percent support and a record low of 36 percent opposition. The study comes from the non-partisan Siena Research Institute

Governor Cuomo is withholding introduction of the bill until he “has the votes.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chaz on Becoming

In a banner week in which the governor of Hawaii signed a workplace nondiscrimination bill into law, and in which the legislature in Nevada is debating a similar measure, the biggest transgender-related news is coming from Chaz Bono. That’s because the documentary about his transition, Becoming Chaz, premiered Tuesday night on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and Chaz has been everywhere this week promoting it.

The few reviews I’ve read have found their way into the film via people other than Chaz. His partner Jennifer has been a fascinating figure for some, and Cher has for others. I haven’t read any reflections on his siblings, but they would be bridge figures for still other viewers of the film like, say, my sister. It makes sense—if you’re not trans (and even if you are), you might have a hard time relating to Chaz, but you could more easily imagine yourself in the position of those who have a relationship with him.

But as a transman myself, Chaz was the one on which I knew I would be primarily focused. Because he’s the son of celebrities, having grown up under completely different circumstances than did I or anyone I know, I honestly wasn’t sure how well I would relate. More than that, I was concerned that because of its celebrity connections, this film had the potential to feed into the mass media’s sensationalistic appetites. Given all that, I was fascinated how little this film actually does falls into that trap, and how Chaz and Jenny come across as remarkably down to earth and authentic, very human amid a fair bit of drama. Chaz is very clearly and simply himself, take it or leave it. So too is Jennifer. The two of them have been through a lot both individually and as a couple, and they’re remarkably honest about that.

I was intrigued — and oddly relieved — to hear that there nevertheless were aspects of the film that stretched their own comfort zones when they saw it after the fact. In the interview with Rosie O’Donnell after the Oprah channel premier, Chaz talked about the difficulty at first of seeing an argument that unfolded over kitchen preparations for Jenny’s graduation party. But then as he watched it again, he came to see the argument as a real portrayal of where he and Jenny were at that moment. That comment to O’Donnell conveyed a revealing sense of perspective, a sense that Chaz knows he was in a different space then and will be in a still different one down the road. Comments like those suggest to me that he takes his “becoming” very seriously, and in a much broader and deeper sense than transition alone.

Chaz has been through some seriously choppy life waters, and while he doesn’t put it this way, his remarks about previous eras of his life suggest that he has had to make a practice of seeking perspective. He has had to make a practice of accepting himself for who he is. When he said at one point that he didn’t want to lose anyone because of his decision to transition but knew that he had to make the decision regardless, I thought, yeah, I know what you’re talking about. You don’t get to a place like that, you don’t arrive at such a crossroad, without having done a ton of work-- discernment.

I also appreciated how Chaz did not present himself as speaking for every transman, let alone every trans person. In one scene, as he spoke at what I believe was a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in West Hollywood, I was impressed with the way he got up and described himself as a newcomer to the community, not presuming to speak for others, and acknowledging that tons of organizing and community building had preceded his arrival on the scene, in many ways making that arrival possible.

That said, there were some assertions in the film with which I disagreed. The misleading graphic listing the side-effects of testosterone failed to distinguish those that affect transmen alone (e.g. the need to monitor liver function) from those that all nontrans men have to watch (e.g. cholesterol). I wasn't crazy about the film's repeated use of “breast removal” language; as a result, many reviewers are now using it in a way that can subtly reinforce the judgment that this surgery is merely a form of “amputation” (or, worse, “mutilation"). Simply sticking to the term “chest reconstruction” would have been more straight forward. Chaz also made a few universalizing comments about the relational effects of testosterone, saying things about his insights into male/female difference that reminded me of remarks I once heard on the infamous testosterone episode of This American Life. All I could think was, Stop! Don’t go there! Trans folks don’t know any more about what “really” differentiates the sexes, where “really” means “biologically,” than anyone else. What I think we do have a chance to see at particularly close range is how gender gets culturally organized, how intricately, concretely, differentially, intersectionally each of us is woven into an ever-shifting socio-cultural fabric.

There is so much more to say about this powerful film—more than I have time to write here. But the final thread I find myself pondering is that of narratives—with what stories we narrate our origins, the origins of our self-awareness, the origins of our decisions. Again and again, we were shown images of Chaz as a child on TV with Sonny and Cher, images that had the effect of asking the viewer to consider the narrative s/he supplied for that child. It makes me wonder, what narratives do we assume or project onto one another? How do we shift those narratives when our expectations are subverted? But that then raises the larger question, how do we narrate change without assuming the process moves in a straight line? There is something crucial about what it is to be human that is captured by Chaz’s process of becoming. Not only does it raise the question of how sexual difference fits into—indeed might change — one’s conception of the human person. It also asks us all, trans and non-trans, to consider how the process of becoming itself, how transformation, grounds and indeed defines our humanity.

-Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is a Lecturer and Interim Episcopal Chaplain at Harvard University

Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall stands for election as President of IntegrityUSA

Integirty USA is very pleased to announce that the Reverend Dr. Caroline Hall has agreed to stand for election as the next President of Integrity to fill the unexpired term of David Norgard.

Caro has a long and distinguished history with Integrity. She was a member of the Integrity Board from 2006-2009, serving as the Director of Anglican Issues. She began her association with Integrity as a Chapter Convenor in the Diocese of El Camino Real. She served as part of Integrity’s General Convention Communication team in both Columbus (2006) and Anaheim (2009) as well as being part of the press team we sent to the primates Meeting in Dar-Es Salaam and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. She has received honors from the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont for Excellence in Theology and a preaching award from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She has been a champion for Marriage Equality in California and is the founder and Chair of the Central Coast Coalition of Welcoming Congregations. She brings a wealth of pastoral, administrative and communication gifts along with her wide ranging experience of the church and its mission locally, nationally and globally.

 Her candidacy has the unanimous and enthusiastic support of your Board of Directors.

**Niedzwiecki, Russell Quoted in Newsweek/Daily Beast on Sojourners Controversy

** Blogger has been down and offline for several hours and to fix their problems, they had to remove posts dating back to Wednesday. We felt it was important to repost this story.

The headline read...Progressive Christian groups are asking whether Obama spiritual adviser Jim Wallis should still be the face of their movement after his organization rejected an ad from a gay church group......... in the Newsweek/Daily Beast article on the Sojourners/BOL ad controversy

Here are some great quotes from our immediate Past President Susan Russell calling for Sojourners to revaluate their position.........

Rev. Canon Susan Russell, an Episcopal minister and activist in Pasadena, California, said she considers Wallis an ally in opposing war and reforming immigration policy but that she believes the issue is a crucial one for his organization. "More disappointing to me was the statement from Wallis, who has stepped up many times for civil rights of LGBT people," Russell said. "The issue in the ad was, 'Is there room for a family in church on Mother's Day?' If [Sojourners] doesn't have a position on that, they need to re-evaluate."

Our Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki on the call to action for Integrity members........

Max Niedzwiecki, executive director of Integrity USA, a group that promotes LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal church, said his organization would "keep holding Sojourners' feet to the fire."

Our friend an ally, Jim Naughton of Episcopal Cafe..........

Jim Naughton said people inviting Wallis to policy briefings and White House meetings should realize that he "is far to the right of the people he's allowed to speak for." And now, when liberal Christians "are making progress by the second," he added, is a particularly bad time to hedge on the church's welcome of gays and lesbians.

And Susan Russell has the last word.............

"I know there are people in Sojourners' organization and on its board who think it's time for them to be more brave," Russell said. "Maybe this is the moment for that."

Bravo to Max, Susan and Jim or being such elequent spokespersons on this issue. And, it's not too late for you to join Integrity in holding Sojourner's feet to the fire.

Email them at or their media person at media

Write or call
3333 14th Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20010
Phone 202.328.8842
Fax 202.328.8757

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Action Alert - The U.S. Government Must Strongly Condemn Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Kudos to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for reiterating his opposition to Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

"Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers."

At different points in time, this odious bill has also been condemned by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, the Ugandan hero of Christian love Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, and other leaders - including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

Tell President Obama and Secretary Clinton: Now is the time to reiterate - and strengthen - the United State Government's condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

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The now-infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been revived by Uganda’s Parliament and hearings are currently underway. The bill, in its current form, calls for the execution of sexually active homosexuals who are HIV-positive or who are considered to be “serial offenders.” The bill also imposes a sentence of life in prison upon conviction of a single “homosexual act,” and it bans the production or circulation of any information that “promotes” homosexuality – almost certainly including information on sexual health and HIV Prevention, any religious leader who speaks of welcome and affirmation for LGBT persons, or any justice work on behalf and/or with LGBT persons.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton must speak out now in the strongest terms against this horrendous legislation. The time to act is now, as there have been numerous reliable reports that it is likely the bill will be approved and signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni by the end of the week unless the political debate takes a more humane turn.

This legislation is just one of example of a dangerous and rapidly deteriorating human rights environment.

At the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, 2010, President Obama said of this bill: "Surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States or ... more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."

On the same date and subject, Secretary Clinton said "I recently called President Museveni ... and expressed the strongest concerns about a law being considered in the parliament of Uganda." To listen to these comments, clickhere.

We call on President Obama and Secretary Clinton to make even stronger statements about the United States Government's opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill immediately. The lives of many of our brothers and sisters in Uganda many depend on this simple action.

Please contact President Obama:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

202.456.1111 (phone)

202.456.6213 (TTY/TTD)

and Secretary Clinton:

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

202.647.4000 (phone)

800.877.8330 (TTY/TTD)

Tell them, as a person of faith, you are opposed to this anti-homosexuality bill and urge them to publicly do the same.

Archbishop Speaks Out on Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

This announcement was posted on the Archbishop of Canterbury's website today 

Tuesday 10th May 2011
The Archbishop of Canterbury is very concerned at the news that the proposed ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ is once again under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament. Dr Williams wishes to reiterate his views, first expressed in December 2009:

"Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers."

Curb Our Enthusiasm

Curb Our Enthusiasm
Erwin de Leon

Last fall, Erwin de Leon - an Integrity member from Washington, DC - write a post on Walking with Integrity about why LGBT folks and their friends should be concerned about immigration. In this post, he reflects on new developments in immigration equality.

At the end of last week, a couple of news items raised the hopes of gay binational couples, their families and allies. Again.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. suspended the deportation of a gay Irishman, Paul Dorman, who is joined with an American in a civil union and instructed the courts to look into the possibility of Dorman staying based on his union. The following day, a federal immigration judge stopped the deportation of a Venezuelan man at the eleventh hour, apparently spurred by the Attorney General’s move. Henry Valandia, who is married to American, can remain in the country for now while the Obama administration and the Justice Department figure out what to do with legally married gay binational couples entangled in our dysfunctional immigration system.

While I am delighted for both couples, the fact remains that all they have been granted is a reprieve. As a matter of fact, the Justice Department cautioned on Saturday that that it will continue to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [] which bars the U.S. government from recognizing gay marriages. There is no guarantee that the courts will rule in favor of Dorman and he may be sent back to Ireland. Valandia will have to appear in front of an immigration judge in December and he may also be separated from his husband and deported back to Venezuela.

The raw reality for thousands of married gay binational couples is that their families can easily be broken. They do not have the protections and privileges granted married straight couples. Their unions do not amount to much beyond the borders of the states and jurisdictions that have legalized or recognize marriage for all Americans. Bottom line is, gay citizens and permanent residents, unlike their straight counterparts, still cannot sponsor their loved ones for a green card because of DOMA. Immigration falls under the purview of the federal government and there is no more straightforward and simple solution as the repeal of DOMA. Only Congress or the Supreme Court can get rid of this unjust law and by the look of things, this is not going to happen anytime soon.

I am the foreign-born half of a binational couple myself and I could certainly use some good news. However, I have been wrestling with the broken immigration system and the inequity wrought on queer people in America for over twenty years that last week’s developments did not get me excited, much less hopeful for a resolution in the near future.

Rather, this got me concerned that some gay binational couples might think they’re out of the woods, apply for green cards, and thus expose themselves to the very real possibility of their families torn apart by the government. Likewise, our community and allies might think that this fight is over and stop pressuring our elected officials to end the unfair treatment of married couples that happen to be gay.

Our memories tend to be short. It was just a few weeks ago when many of us got all in a tizzy because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a hold on cases in which green cards petitioned by gay Americans for their spouses were denied because of DOMA. Then and now, well-meaning friends have come up to me saying, “This is great news, isn’t it? This solves your immigration issue!”

Well, it doesn’t. So we need to curb our enthusiasm, roll up our sleeves and get back to work.

Erwin de Leon is a parishioner at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon .

Integrity USA strongly supports the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and just last week signed a letter in support of the Reuniting Families Act, which includes provisions for immigration equality. We're proud to say that the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations also signed onto the RFA letter, and that they lobby for the passage of UAFA.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Update on Uganda Parliament's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway:

Hearings Continue In Uganda’s Parliament on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

May 9th, 2011

Warren Throckmorton has his ear to the ground on the rapidly developing situation in Uganda, where Parliament may be set to pass the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. He reported that the Human Rights Commission, Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Coalition on Human Rights all testified against the bill during hearings today. The Associated Press reports that pastor Martin Ssempa testified again this morning, calling for the death penalty to be removed and replaced with seven year’s imprisonment. This is a remarkable backtracking from supporting lifetime imprisonment previously. Ssempa went on to call for the bill’s passage “because homosexuality is killing our society.”

LGBT Advocate and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo also testified against the bill. He warned the committee that the bill would not make gay people suddenly disappear, but would instead turn Uganda into a police state. He also warned that the bill would result in an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

The AP also reported on the bill’s future:

Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by Tuesday and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.

“Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill,” Tashobya said. “The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends.”

Parliament is due to end on May 11, although Parliament itself doesn’t constitutionally expire until the 18th. It’s not clear whether there is enough time for the bill to make it to the floor before the 11th, but Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda said that if Parliament does take up the bill, it will be almost certainly be passed. Warren Throckmorton, who is constantly updating this thread with new information as he finds it, comments on the bill’s prognosis:

Read the read of the story here.

The Rev. Canon Albert Olge sent this report first hand report from Bishop Christopher.

About the hearings......
“The parliament wraps up its work this week and a newly elected parliament will convene soon after. The seven member committee will make recommendations following several days of public response to the bill. Supporters of the bill included Pastor Martin Ssempa and others who continue to claim homosexuality is imported from the best, is a threat to Ugandan children and needs to be legally stopped.”

The Bishop's testimony.......
The bishop spoke specifically to the effect criminalization of homosexuality has on access to information, prevention and care. “If we criminalize the LGBT community further, it will drive Ugandans further underground and compromise the relationship of medical, counselors and clergy that is sacrosanct and needs to remain confidential. How can we expect doctors to treat everyone when this bill will require them to report on their patients who are LGBT?”

Integrity USA will continue to follow this story and reort updates as we get them.