Thursday, June 30, 2011

Integrity Province Coordinator Scott Monson Preaches at MN Pride

Sacred Journey—Sacred Stories
 By the Rev. Scott Monson
Province VI Coordinator for Integrity USA

I should have seen it coming. I guess we never really know just when God is going to reach out and touch our heart, but did it have to be at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis? In the middle of the Pride Eucharist? While I was preaching? Well, yes. That’s just exactly when God would reach out and touch my heart.

The idea for my sermon was simple enough. Much of the social, cultural and spiritual history of our journeys as LGBTQ folks—our stories—have been lost. Sometimes our stories were lost because the writers of history either ignored us or expunged all record of our existence. But many of our stories are lost because we have never told them. The human journey, the Christian journey, the LGBTQ journey is only remembered when we share our stories with each other. The bible and the Prayer Book are story books—stories of our journey with God and with each other. We LGBTQ folks must share our stories as the foundation upon which to frame our legacy and build our future. How better to set an example for doing this than by telling a bit of my story? But to do that, I had to open my heart.

Like a lot of us, I had put up walls around my heart to protect it from the fear, the danger, the pain and the doubt that had so often attacked it over the years. To tell my story honestly, parts of that wall had to come down. I became vulnerable. And God seized that opportunity to break through the barriers I had erected and touch my heart.

As I told my story, people began to come through the doors of the cathedral. A confused, frightened teenager who wondered if God would still love him if he were gay. A lonely, angry young man who resented a religion that condemned him because of who he loved. A nervous, awkward seminarian about to be ordained who doubted any church would call a priest who was gay. A worldly, jaded middle-aged man who had reservations about whether anything he had to say would make a difference. And all of those people were me.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that far from walling out that fear, and danger, and pain, and doubt, I had sealed it all in. It came pouring out in the midst of a holy place, in the midst of a holy time, in the midst of a holy people. God did not just touch my heart, God squeezed and wrung it until the darkness was routed and the light shined into its deepest recesses. Then the wounded, loving arms of Jesus embraced me, and I felt his kiss of peace.

Somehow, through it all, I kept preaching. I don’t really remember what I said, but I remember I cried. And I remember that other people cried. And I remember a profound sense of the transformative power of community. It may not have been a great sermon, but it was a step along our journey to the sacred.

I am blessed to have had this sacred, transformative experience. It happened because I felt safe: it was a holy time in a holy place with a holy people. It was, for me, an experience of reconciliation and peace.

There remains an immense need for reconciliation and peace within the LGBTQ community, within the Episcopal Church, and, unquestionably, within our culture. As we celebrate the milestones we achieve on the journey toward social justice and equality, we are often haunted by lingering fears and smoldering resentments. Perhaps by creating more safe, holy opportunities to share our stories we can begin to open our hearts to the transformative power of God and God’s holy people.

There are many walls yet standing that separate us from God, from the church and from each other. Some of these walls were built by others, but many we built ourselves. Integrity has helped tear down those walls and created many safe, holy places for me on my journey. I pray we may continue to tear down walls, create holy spaces, and seek God’s transformative justice, reconciliation and peace.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39


Scott Monson is a Minnesota native. H is a priest, author and student of leadership, culture and the arts. He served as special assistant to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and currently assists at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on-the-Hill in Saint Paul, MN.

The Gift of Otherness by Vicki Gray

Vicki Gray

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Right about now Bishop Gene Robinson – or some nameless deacon - should be concluding a curbside Eucharist under the Bay Bridge and very soon Bishop Robinson, and the Lutheran’s Bishop Mark Holmerud will lead a contingent of Episcopalians and Lutherans down Market Street, bringing up the rear of San Francisco’s Pride Parade.

And proud they should be, for, with their feet, they are witnessing to today’s Gospel and to what it means to be a Christian. With their outstretched arms and the warmth of their smiles, they are saying to the thousands lining the route: “We welcome you!” And, as someone who has made that march and exchanged high fives and a shouted “God loves you!” with those along the way, I can assure you that the spectators will respond – some with surprise, some with joy, most with love – “We welcome you!” And the response of many will be tinged with relief. In their faces, I have read that relief…a relief that says with gratitude “We have been waiting for you. We have been waiting for a church with open doors and open hearts, a church that offers a cup of cold water to thirsting newcomers.”

This morning – for the first time in years and with some sorrow – I am missing the joy of that experience. And I do miss it. But, this morning, this Pride morning, I feel a need to be with you…to say “Thank you,” to say thank you for welcoming me and other thirsty newcomers. I feel a need also to say “Well done!” Well done, because, in our own quiet way, we are living into Christ’s Gospel of radical welcome.

That is no small feat. Once, at another church, I was not so welcomed. All they’d hear from me, it was whispered, would be sermons on sex. Now, I know I’ve troubled you about any number of troubling issues. Like Bonnie Anderson, I feel Christians are called to be troublemakers. Justice is never achieved in silence. But, I trust you’ll agree, I haven’t spoken much about sex. And I won’t this morning. For I’ve never felt the need to beat a drum about who I am and whom I love. I’ve never felt a need to wear an armband, or carry a placard, at least not in church.

By the same token, however, I have not tried to hide – as if I could – who I am. Nor have I tried to hide that Mimi and I were very much in love for thirty-five years…and still are. Paul was right, love does not die.

Love, moreover, demands honesty. It holds nothing back and risks everything. It risks rejection.

I came here, at first, tentatively, testing the waters, like many of you dropping in for the occasional service. And, in the process, I found a community I could love…that I wanted to be a part of. But I could not love you fully, if I could not be fully honest with you…if I did not risk your rejection. In saying “I want to be your deacon,” I risked a lot…and I challenged you to risk a lot.

In a book she co-authored with CDSP’s Bill Countryman – Gifted by Otherness…a book about coming out in church – the late M.R. Ridley once wrote “How can you be a gift to others, if they don’t know you’re there.” The “otherness” she wrote about was about being gay. It might just as well have been about being black or brown or yellow; about being elderly, disabled, or homeless; or…about being transgendered. And the “gift?” It is the opportunity such “otherness” offers in terms of stretching our spiritual envelopes, the challenge it poses to our willingness to live into Christ’s call to be welcoming.

Continuing with M.R.’s theme of openness and honesty – the honesty that love requires – let me be open about the price such a “gift” sometimes requires of the giver. A good gift is never cheap. Even the widow’s mite was not cheap.

I came out – Mimi and I came out together – in a quiet, suburban church that had once known us as Vic and Mimi. It was not easy, but we loved the community we found in that church, St. Paul’s in Benicia, and we wanted to stay. So we risked the myriad questions and a few harsh words. It took special fortitude – and love – on Mimi’s part. As I wrote after the experience,

You want guts?! Mimi had them, as she walked before me to communion on Vicki’s first Sunday in church. It was a breeze for me, thereafter. Mimi was always there before me; I sensed Christ there behind me; and we all smiled on the way back. Mimi was there, too, that morning, when in our prayer group, someone insisted on speaking his mind about my “sin.” She held my hand, as I held his, as he read from his Bible that I was an “abomination.” I will never forget the trembling and perspiration of his hand and the coolness and firmness of Mimi’s.

We took a risk. We paid a price. And, in the end, before she died, we were rewarded. For, in the end, our love was reciprocated. The people of St. Paul’s came to love us as much as we loved them. They, too, took a risk. And neither they nor we were ever the same again.

And, therein lies another facet of this welcoming thing – the price the community must pay, the reward it will reap – both in terms of change. Nothing, we discover, will ever be the same if we truly welcome the stranger, the newcomer, the “other.” We cannot say “Welcome, but, sorry, we don’t intend to change. You can join us, but we want you to look like us, to be like us, to fit in with us as we are.” Oh, the newcomer will change…some But, if we really mean our welcome, so will the community. Like adding yeast to the dough, together, we will become something entirely new…and wonderful. That is the “prophet’s reward….the reward of the righteous.”

That is what I reaped at St. Paul’s; at Christ Church Alameda, which raised me to ordination; at St. James San Francisco; and here at Christ the Lord. And, that is why, when it came time to be deployed as a deacon, I resisted being assigned to a so-called “gay friendly” church. For I feared that, in such an environment, I would have no gift to give, I would not be challenged. There would be no yeast to bring, no change to reap.

In retrospect, however, I there may indeed be a gift I can offer the LGBT community… a gift that has nothing to do with being a member of that community and everything to do with it. It is a message not voiced often enough in our LGBT community - that those of us who are gay, lesbian, or transgendered need not huddle together in self-imposed ghettos…that we can be – must be - part of a larger beloved community in which “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female;” where all are one in Jesus Christ…and no one is “Other.”

For that to happen, however, requires that those of us in the LGBT community take the risk of breaking down the walls of our physical and spiritual ghettos. I use the word “risk” advisedly, deliberately, for walls can both protect and confine, and ghettos can be both prisons and places of comfort. It can be comfortable – and dangerous – to “stick with one’s own,” be it in the Castro, Richmond, Pinole, or Pacific Heights. And it can be comfortable – and dangerous – to focus on one issue, on one’s own issue, on one’s own plight, on one’s own rights, while paying scant attention to the rights of others – immigrants, hotel workers, the homeless, Palestinians, Syrians, so many others. If those of us who are gay or lesbian or transgendered would gain and enjoy our rights, guilt free, we must be there for others who seek theirs. There are no rights in isolation. For a Christian, it is not tenable to be a one-issue, one dimensional person in a three-dimensional world, in which so many are suffering.

Those same imperatives also apply here in Pinole…for all of us. If we are to be a truly welcoming community that is part of that larger beloved community in which there is no longer rich or poor, no longer black or white…or brown or red, no longer old or young, no longer firm or infirm, and, yes, no longer straight or gay, then we, too, will have to break down our walls and break out of our ghettos, real and imagined.

We are, I think, learning to do that. We are, if only by osmosis, learning that there are no “others” among us…that we are all God’s children made in the same image of that one true God. To paraphrase Shakespeare:

Have we not all eyes? Have we not all hands,

organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions;

fed with the same food, hurt with the same

weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed

by the same means, warmed and cooled by the

same winter and summer? If you prick us, do we

not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If

you poison us, do we not die?

And we are coming to the realization that there is nothing special about LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights…anyone’s rights. They are all simply human rights. And we must all stand up for the God-given rights of our shared humanity.

Maybe next year I’ll march again in that parade on Pride Sunday. Maybe some of you will join me. Maybe, together, we’ll demonstrate throughout the year and in the years ahead that welcome is not a one-Sunday-a-year event, but an every-Sunday happening at Christ the Lord…a community opening to the world, welcoming every stranger, offering a cup of cold water to all who thirst.


Vicki Gray, a retired Foreign Service officer and political scientist, is deacon at Christ the Lord Episcopal Church, Pinole CA and serves as deacon at the Open Cathedral outdoor Eucharists in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Mission districts.  Transgendered, she serves on the TransEpiscopal steering committee and Integrity’s stakeholders committee.  She is also a member of the General Convention delegation and Commission on Ministry of the Diocese of California.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NYC Pride is Episcopal Celebration

by Paul J. Lane, Diocesan Organizer for Integrity, Diocese of New York

Pride Week in New York has been quite a whirlwind. Each morning we woke up hoping that today would be the day that Marriage Equality finally came to New York State, and each evening we went to bed disappointed as the State Senate worked into the night without bringing Marriage Equality to a vote. That is until Friday night, when the Republican controlled Senate brought the matter to the floor. (Without this turning into a civics lesson, let me just say that, in New York, the majority party controls which bills come to the floor for a vote and most bills are never brought to the floor unless passage is almost assured.)

There was literally dancing in the streets of Greenwich Village when the vote came in. I know. I was there.

As we in Integrity continue our own march toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments, as Episcopalians we are not always the best at getting our message of full inclusion out to the wider community. The visible participation of the Episcopal Church / Integrity in Pride Events is one of the ways that we can do this, so, on Sunday afternoon, June 26th, Episcopalians and their friends from the Dioceses of New York, Long Island and Newark, as well as further afield, began to gather on East 37th Street in preparation for our turn on Fifth Avenue.

We were soon joined by the Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of New York who has marched in many New York City LGBT Pride Marches in the past and will be retiring at the end of the year.

The march began at noon, but it was almost 4:00 p.m. before the Episcopalian contingent began marching down the Avenue. The turn-out of both participants and spectators was far greater this year than in years past. Once upon the avenue we were joined by our float, funded in part by a grant from Integrity USA.

The Bishop joined us on the float only to find the Rev. Jon M. Richardson, Vice President for National Affairs for Integrity USA.

The view down Fifth Avenue from 34th Street was enough to take your breath away. Preceding the float were banners from both the Episcopal Diocese of New York and Integrity NYC Metro.

We then marched proudly down Fifth Avenue to Greenwich village along with many local Episcopal parishes.

We arrived in Greenwich Village at about 6:00 p.m., giving us enough time to rest before attending the traditional Festive Evensong for LGBT Pride at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, an Integrity Proud Parish Partner.

The church was packed with over 300 Episcopalians, Lutherans and friends as Bishop Roskam processed down the aisle in a rainbow cope, preceded by the Rt. Rev. Andrew St-John, parish clergy and the Rev. Dr. Patrick S. Cheng, theologian and Assistant Professor at the Episcopal Divinity School who was to be our preacher for the evening and who, coincidentally, had had his union blessed at St. Luke’s in June 11 years earlier. A reception followed and was enjoyed by all.

Read more about Integrity's NYC Metro Chapter on their blog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Integrity Leaders and Bishops React to ME in NY

Chap James Day, an Integrity Provincial Coordinator who lives in NYC reported this last night from the streets just moments after news of the vote was released.................

Michael (his partner)and I were at the historic Stonewall Inn when they read the tallies--already a crowd had formed outside in anticipation.  Tears came to my eyes, as I kissed Michael when it passed!  My first instinct was to walk the three blocks to my rector's house and tell her we'd like to set a date--though the crowd when we exited the Stonewall Inn prevented it--tons and tons of people.  THE WHOLE community was there.  Here we all stood singing Alicia Keys' New York. with folks in Christopher Park and on lightposts and fences--cameras flashing.  There was a police presence as well--directing traffic around the crowd, smiling--and with their LGBT liaisons present and walking through the crowds cheering.  This was a street party that begins what will surely be the best NYC Pride yet--all at the Stonewall Inn where it all began--yet many miles further ahead.
Paul J. Lane, A Diocesan Organizer wrote this today.....
As Diocesan Organizer for Integrity USA in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, I can do nought but congratulate those politicians and especially those activists who have made Marriage Equality a reality in New York State. I am proud to represent a diocese that stood up for equality in civil marriage by an overwhelming majority at convention several years ago.

A special thanks must go out to Michael Sabatino and his husband, Robert Vooheis, two members of Zion Episcopal Church in Dobbs Ferry. They have worked tirelessly with MENY in order that this day should come.

Join us at the Pride March. Sunday, 26th June. Meet on 37th Street between 5th and Madison between 12:30 and 1:00pm. We really have something to celebrate..

Mary O' Shaughnessy, an Integrity Chapter Convenor also from NYC said......

"As people of faith we rejoice as our laity and our clergy can now witness to the sacramental love of two people in the eyes of the church and judicially in the eyes of the law.

"Integrity NY Metro is grateful for the immediate and joyful reponse of Bishop Sisk of the Diocese of New York and Bishop Provenzano of the Diocese of Long Island."

Here is the statement from Bishop Mark Sisk, Diocese of New York

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It was with thanksgiving and joy that I received the news of the New York State legislature’s affirmative action on the Marriage Equality legislation that it had been debating with such intensity.

The legislation, as enacted, appears to be closely aligned with the long standing views of this Diocese that the civil rights of all people should be respected equally before the law. In terms of the issue of marriage rights for gay and lesbian people that position was made most explicit in the resolution enacted at our 2009 Diocesan Convention.

The legislature’s action in broadening the definition of marriage to include same sex unions has to do with civil law, as it properly should. It does not determine Church teaching about the nature of sacraments. That is our continuing work. However, nothing in the unfinished nature of that work should cause us to hesitate to give our most profound thanks for the step that has been taken in affording equal civil rights for our brothers and sisters.

Faithfully yours,

Here is the statement from Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano, Diocese of Long Island

"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?"

These words taken from the promises in the Baptismal liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer can be prayed more clearly today as the Gay and Lesbian community and all of New Yorkers begin to live into the reality and joy that same gender marriage is now law in New York. To the many LGBT members of the diocese I celebrate this day with you, your loved ones and families. Today the New York Senate has helped us all move yet closer to living the reality that there are no outcasts in the church. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will engage this new law with a generous and open response allowing, under the provision of our General Convention, the use of rites for same gender marriage by priests of this diocese who believe they are called to preside at the exchange of vows, once the law has taken effect in 30 days.
Respecting the dignity of every human being will also be lived out in our continued care for those who do not celebrate this milestone in the lives of God's people. Respecting the dignity of every human being includes those who feel a sense of loss and anger. The love and charity of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the gospels does not have winners and losers. We are all God's people, redeemed and sanctified by the enormous love of God made real in Jesus Christ. Let us all move forward in the knowledge of that love and charity and more fully live into the reality of being the Body of Christ.

Here is the statement of Bishop Prince Singh, Diocese of Rochester

First, I want to celebrate the fact that our leaders in Albany have demonstrated their affirmation of the human rights of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender persons. This is a good day for New York and I am profoundly proud to be a New Yorker, an American and a follower of Christ.

Second, as a leader in the Church it is significant to celebrate what our baptismal identity affirms as God given: the human dignity of a community that has been overtly and covertly ostracized and often treated as less than others. Equal Marriage Act gives faith traditions like mine the ability to transparently enrich the definition of marriage. We will use the lenses of human dignity and loving kindness to live into a new normal where all adult lifelong-loving-commitments are treated as they should be: Holy.

Third, I want to assure members of my Diocese that no priest will be forced to bless the civil marriage of the LGBT parishioners. We already practice a provision in our polity that does not mandate a priest to officiate in the marriage of a heterosexual couple for any reason. I will be setting up a task force in our Diocese to help us chart our course to engage this journey reverently, deliberately and in congruence with Church Law.

I pray that the all New Yorkers, those who support and those who oppose this Act, will celebrate the fact that the human rights of a community have been affirmed by the state. Since no one is free until everyone is free, Marriage Equality takes us closer to our pursuit of a more wholesome society.

Past Integrity President, The Rev. Michael Hopkins published this statement today

It will come as no surprise that I am thrilled by last night's vote and the swift action of the governor to sign the Equal Marriage Act. As a native New Yorker who is gay, this is beyond anything I thought I would ever see in my lifetime. To think that in 30 days John and I will be without a doubt legally married in this state (having been married last year in Canada) is indescribable. I keep remembering being a teenager endlessly wrestling about my sense of self in despair. To think we are closer to a day when that will no longer have to happen (at least no more than it does for any teenager) takes my breath away.

I am struck by the loud cries over the past few days and weeks about the state "redefining" marriage, this, of course, largely from religious leaders. A statement from the Roman Catholic bishops in New York last night decried that the state government had changed “radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage.” That is, frankly, just so much rhetoric. The "understanding" of marriage has been evolving from the beginning, the chief record of which is the Bible itself. Search for a single "definition" of marriage in the biblical record and you will search in vain. You will find various understandings at various times and in various cultural settings, including Jesus' own. The church has even chosen over time not to follow Jesus' understanding, allowing for divorce (or that Roman Catholic divorce-by-another-name, annulment) in virtually every circumstance. One could argue that allowing for divorce changed the "understanding" or "definition" of marriage far more than allowing the partners to be of the same gender.

The church's job, in "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit," is constantly to be the agent of the new thing the prophets taught us God is always doing. That means "redefinition" is in our portfolio. It's the business we are in.

Read the rest here.

Send us your thoughts on the impact of Marriage equality in New York State, We would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York Says "I Do" to Marriage Equality

"There are no villains in this room, only heroes." NY State Senator Duane prior to vote on marriage equality.
Integrity joins with those across the country celebrating the historic 33-29 vote making New York the sixth state to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples.

“The journey to justice is a long one,” said Integrity President Caro Hall, “but today’s action in New York is a huge step forward and one to rejoice and be glad in. We give particular thanks for the tireless work and witness of bishops, clergy and faith leaders whose willingness to believe out loud changed hearts, minds and votes and helped make today’s vote possible.”

Integrity is committed to the work of justice and inclusion and looks forward to the time when same-sex relationships are equally protected by our Constitution and equally blessed by our Church. But today we pause to give thanks for another step forward and offer our prayers of thanksgiving to all who’ve labored so hard to achieve this victory for justice, love and compassion.

For more information contact:
Louise Brooks, Integrity Communication Director

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Call For Young "Activist Scholars"

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. - John 8:23

Truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit the more you nurture it.
- Mohandas Gandhi

Integrity USA is working with The Truth Force Project (TFP), a project of Hosanna! People's Seminary, which facilitates opportunities for the study of holy and unholy scripture, biblical scholarship, and liberating theologies, as well as spiritual and political community building, resource sharing, and action.

TPF practices the fearless pursuit of truth in community through faith, reason, and action in order to help people draw ever closer to Jesus and be the Church they wish to see. TPF is announcing an exciting new Activist-Scholars program, Good Sex/Bad Sex: Christian Taboos, Testimonies, and Transcendence.

TFP is seeking young, "Activist Scholars." Mike Uca-Dorn of TFP says this about "Activist Scholars":

There is a wonderful West African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet." An Activist Scholar is someone who does just that: she moves her feet when she studies and prays. An Activist Scholar is unsatisfied by either cold, cerebral scholarship or hot, anti-intellectual passion; she has a good connection between her head, heart, and feet and integrates her commitment to courageously seek out the truth with her commitment to courageously act on the truth to bring about justice.

Integrity USA is committed to raising up the voices of our LGBT youth. This is an opportunity to put those voices forward in a groundbreaking project. If you know of any Activist Scholars who might be interested in participating in this program, please pass on this information.


2011-2012 Activist-Scholars Program:

Good Sex/Bad Sex: Christian Taboos, Testimonies, and Transcendence

The Truth Force Project is announcing an exciting new Activist-Scholars program, Good Sex/Bad Sex: Christian Taboos, Testimonies, and Transcendence. In The Truth Force Project (TFP) we practice the fearless pursuit of truth in community, through faith, reason, and action in order to draw ever closer to Jesus and be the church we wish to see

We are recruiting Activist-Scholars ages 18-22 who are interested in investigating sex-positive and sex-negative formation and LGBTQ concerns in a Christian context.

About Good Sex/Bad Sex...

Rules regulating sexuality have become a litmus test for belonging in our most important institutions. Public officials and Clergy who break the rules might resign- or build webs of lies to hide their transgressions. Christian denominations that challenge the rules may face controversy or even schism. Pop stars hedge their appeal on appearing to abide in the rules or conversely living outside of them. But what do we- young Christians- have to say about it all? Assert your place in this discussion! Create a Christian community that you don't have to apologize to your friends about!

How the program works...

Based online, TFP connects young people together from across the country through video conferencing and is a new project of Hosanna! People’s Seminary based in New York City. Our ministry team brings years of experience working in a variety of youth and young adult ministry settings.

We know that students are busy, and thus our program takes about five hours per month. Here’s how it works:

• Attend nine interactive sessions via video conference from your computer. Sessions include guest speakers, films, presentations, and study of the issue.

• Complete at least two hours of issue-related service per month. (Those already engaged in related service can use it to meet this requirement.)

• Collaborate with stakeholders to do a small capstone project on the issue.

• Reflect on and share your journey throughout the program via Facebook, blogs, YouTube, a journal, etc.

• Pray.

Please note that if anonymity is a concern for a prospective participant, we will work with the individual to create alternatives to participate in the components listed above. Our program is meant for both those who are experienced with the issue and those who are just beginning their interest. There is no cost for the program and applicants have until July 31st to apply. All applicants will be notified in early August regarding their status.

For more information contact the Truth Force Project at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Integrity and the 2011 Portland Pride Parade

A Reflection
Andy McQuery
Diocesan Organizer, Oregon

**The author would like to note that this year's Integrity contingent was led by the Rt. Rev. Michael J. Hanley, Bishop of Oregon, a first in diocesan history."

Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness.

That verse (Ecclesiasticus 43:11) is from the lessons appointed for the daily office on Trinity Sunday in Year 1, which thi s year coincided with Portland’s annual pride parade. Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people, indeed.

Some of us may wonder why it is important – or perhaps, even whether it is wise or proper – for the church to participate in such an event, and so on behalf of the local chapter of Integrity, the Episcopal Church’s organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk, I would like to offer some reflections.

First, this isn’t about homosexuality; it’s about demonstrating that Episcopalians are people of faith who are also interested in and engaged with the real world. The people our church needs to reach in order to grow – indeed, even survive – are not concerned about homosexuality. The question of whether gay people and their relationships are normal and good has been settled. You might think that is a na├»ve statement given the ongoing political and religious controversies, but as the objections to equality grow increasingly hysterical, the public tires and wants to move on.

The world on the other side of the red doors has no idea what’s been going on inside. They don’t know what an Episcopalian is. In their minds, Christians are all the same, and what they know is that Christians are anti-gay. They also know, even if they’ve never set foot in a church, that Jesus came to preach about love and forgiveness and taking care of the poor, and then they turn and see us fighting over how old the earth is or proclaiming that gay marriage will lead to the end of civilization. Trust me: it’s not our liturgy or our incense or our music that people find alienating, it’s our furious passion for the trivial and the irrelevant.

**That’s why the sight of more than 100 people of all ages, backgrounds and orientations representing 13 congregations marching together in a gay pride parade behind a banner that says, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!” still shocks and surprises, even as many of us wonder, “Why are we still talking about this?!?” after more than fifty years of internal deliberation. We need to take that conversation through the red doors and out into the world; it gives people hope that some churches are actually living the Gospel, instead of using it as a tool of intimidation and division.

Of course, reaching out to the gay community is an important part of this. I am frequently asked why churches should specifically reach out to GLBT people instead of emphasizing that we welcome all people. The answer is that the church does not have a reputation in living memory of condemning, say, interracial marriage. A black or mixed-race couple looking for a church home does not need to worry that they are going to be denounced from the pulpit. We need to make a special effort to engage sexual minorities precisely because we made a special effort to exclude them. Gay and trans people know that church signs that read “All Are Welcome!” often come with an invisible asterisk meant for us that says, “Not you.”

There is much healing still to be done. As a young person, I left the church because I was taught that homosexuality was an abomination and incompatible with a Christian life, and I gave up in desperation because despite my efforts and prayers, I couldn’t fix it. I didn’t resent the church, I hated myself and was disgusted with my perceived spiritual and moral failure. I was so terrified of God that I could not even talk to a pastor or anyone at church about it, I just left. It was unnecessary for me to endure that and, twenty years later, it’s inexcusable that it still happens. Young gay people, their friends and families and people who have suffered tremendous spiritual abuse at the hands of the church need to see us in that parade. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he reminded us that no one lights a lamp only to hide it under a bucket.

Truly, this year we were all ‘deacons for a day,’ processing out into the midst of the people and proclaiming the Gospel. The last time St Matthew’s Parish was in the news was the tragic day when so many of the members left the Communion, partly because of the gay controversy. Had the story ended there, it would have been as if the evangelists left off on Good Friday. But that’s not where it ends. St Matthew’s joined us in the parade, and is back in the news. The body that was broken lives. This is not about homosexuality, this is about the resurrection.

Andy McQuery is a classically trained musician who, naturally, works as a financial analyst for a Fortune 500 company in Oregon. He washed up on the shores of The Episcopal Church in 1994, and currently attends St John the Baptist in Portland and serves as Integrity's diocesan organizer for Oregon. Raised by a Southern Baptist father, he is given to quoting scripture and has come to believe that there is no such thing as TMI (too much incense)."

 This article first appeared on the Diocese of Oregon website. Republished by permission.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Integrity Board Elects Richardson as VP National Affairs

Integrity USA is pleased to announce that the Board of Directors have elected The Rev. Jon M. Richardson as Vice President of National Affairs, in accordance with the bylaws. Richardson is Priest-in-Charge at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Jersey City, New Jersey, and will fill the unexpired term of the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, who resigned to work full time with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda.

"We are delighted to welcome Jon Richardson to the Board of Integrity," said the Rev. Dr, Caroline Hall, President of Integrity. "I personally enjoyed working with Jon at two General Conventions and during our witness at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. I can't think of a better person to be picking up the reins of our national and international work as we head towards General Convention next year.

"Jon has vast experience and expertise in two of the key areas of our General Convention team: the nerve center and the legislative team. He was greatly appreciated for his quiet and calm efficiency as well as his friendly approach-ability. Jon also brings great pastoral and administrative gifts to our work. I am thrilled to have someone of his caliber as our Vice-President for National Affairs."

Richardson is a native of Louisiana and earned his Bachelor's Degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. He then moved to New Jersey in 2004 to study at the Theological School at Drew University. While at Drew, Jon studied abroad in Ghana (African Indigenous Roots of African American Spirituality), France (The Monastic Community at Taize'), and Jerusalem (Orthodox Liturgies of Holy Week and Easter). He is a 2006 graduate of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation's Preaching Excellence Program and has studied Benedictine spirituality practices as they are used in local congregations. Additionally he earned a certificate in Anglican Studies from the General Theological Seminary in New York. Since seminary, Jon has worked as Director of Youth and Family Ministries at St. Peter's in Morristown and as Associate Rector at St. Paul's in Chatham.

"I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to serve the Episcopal Church through the work of IntegrityUSA," said Richardson. "For more than 30 years, Integrity has been the leading voice in the church calling for the full-inclusion of LGBT people, and it is a joy to stand on the shoulders of those many others who have been the persistent voice of the Holy Spirit calling the church into that heritage. 'The Episcopal Church welcomes you!' has never been more true than it is today, yet we still have more work to do before all people know and feel that welcome. I look forward to working with the Board of Directors and other Integrity leaders and volunteers throughout the church to make it truer still."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Integrity USA Applauds Election of Budde as Bishop of Washington, DC.

Integrity USA applauds the election of the of the Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC. Budde was elected at a special convention at Washington National Cathedral to succeed Bishop John Bryson Chane, a long time friend and ally to the LGBT faithful.

"We are delighted that the Diocese of Washington has elected Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde as bishop diocesan," said the Rev Dr. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity USA.

"The Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde has long been an advocate for equality in church and society, and a leader for social justice. She will continue the fine tradition of Bishop John Chane to advocate for the oppressed and not be afraid to take a stand for justice. "

Hall continued, " She is the 18th women elected as a bishop in the Episcopal Church. And, it has been four years since a female diocesan bishop has been elected (Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves in the Diocese of El Camino Real), so we are also very happy to see another woman join the ranks of the diocesans."

The Washington Post wrote, "Budde, who has been St. John’s rector since 1993, speaks fluent Spanish and has a long history of working among Spanish-speaking people. She is also the author of the 2009 book “Gathering Up the Fragments: Preaching as Spiritual Practice.”

Budde earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in theology at the Virginia Theological Seminary after studying history at the University of Rochester as an undergraduate. Since 2001, she has been a conference leader of CREDO, an organization devoted to clergy health and wellness. She has been married to Paul Budde for 25 years and has two adult children. "

Budde released this statement upon her election: “I am honored and overjoyed to accept the call to serve as the next bishop of Washington,” Budde said in a statement. “I pledge to serve God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and people and ministries of the diocese with my whole heart, doing everything I can to support and strengthen the mission God has entrusted to you.”

Her consecration and installation as bishop is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Friday, June 17, 2011

U.N. Gay Rights Protection Resolution Passes, Hailed As 'Historic Moment'

From the Huffington Post
GENEVA -- The United Nations endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever Friday, passing a resolution hailed as historic by the U.S. and other backers and decried by some African and Muslim countries.

The declaration was cautiously worded, expressing "grave concern" about abuses because of sexual orientation and commissioning a global report on discrimination against gays.

But activists called it an important shift on an issue that has divided the global body for decades, and they credited the Obama administration's push for gay rights at home and abroad.

"This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement.

Following tense negotiations, members of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favor of the declaration put forward by South Africa, with 23 votes in favor and 19 against.

Backers included the U.S., the European Union, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Those against included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Pakistan. China, Burkina Faso and Zambia abstained, Kyrgyzstan didn't vote and Libya was suspended from the rights body earlier.

The resolution expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."

More important, activists said, it also established a formal U.N. process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence. According to Amnesty International, consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 76 countries worldwide, while harassment and discrimination are common in many more.

"Today's resolution breaks the silence that has been maintained for far too long," said John Fisher of the gay rights advocacy group ARC International.

Read the read of the post here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Integrity USA Applauds Historic Prop 8 Court Decision In California

Court Rejects Bid To Overturn Prop 8 Ruling Because Judge Is Gay

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to invalidate last year's ruling against Proposition 8, deciding the gay jurist who overturned the same-sex marriage ban had no obligation to step aside because of a possible conflict of interest.

The decision by Chief Judge James Ware of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco left the ruling by retired Judge Vaughn R. Walker in place. Walker’s decision remains on hold pending a separate appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Proponents of Proposition 8 argued that Walker's conflict was not his sexual orientation, but the fact that he was in a serious same-sex relationship that could conceivably lead to marriage.

Walker, a Republican appointee, has never said publicly whether he wished to marry his partner. But he told reporters that he never considered his sexual orientation grounds for declining to preside over the Proposition 8 challenge.

"It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings," Ware wrote in his ruling.

The chief judge said all Californians share an interest in having the the Constitution enforced. The "single interest" Walker shared with the same-sex couples who challenged Proposition 8 "gave him no greater interest in a proper decision on the merits that would exist for any other judge or citizen," Ware wrote.

:Ware said it was unreasonable to assume from Walker's relationship that he had such a great interest in marrying that he was incapable of performing his judicial duties.

"The mere fact that a judge is in a relationship with another person -- whether of the same sex or the opposite sex -- does not ipso facto imply that the judge must be so interested in marrying that person that he would be unable to exhibit the impartiality which, it is presumed, all federal judges maintain."

Bishop Larry Provenzano Lends Support to Marriage Equality

"It would be a blessing if New York were to allow loving, committed gay and lesbian couples to be married."

Diocese of Long Island Bishop Supports  Marriage Equality

Here is his statement:

Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano has lent his support and signature to the following statement regarding the issue of marriage equality in New York State. This statement has been prepared by Empire State Pride Agenda and its Pride in the Pulpit arm. The statement is being released today.

Our faith traditions teach us that all people are children of God, deserving of love, dignity and equal treatment, and we, the undersigned therefore believe that gay and lesbian New Yorkers in committed, loving relationships should be able to protect each other with the critical safety-net provided by civil marriage. The performing of marriage ceremonies is one of the most important facets of our work as ministers and rabbis. We take this work extremely seriously and are grateful to have “the power vested in us” by the State of New York as we bring couples together in marriage through our civil and religious laws.

While we recognize and respect that not all faiths support marriage equality, it is important to note that the legislation in its current form states that no clergy, house of worship or denomination would be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Moreover, current New York State law already provides extremely broad protections for religious organizations that do not wish to make their facilities available to same-sex couples for marriage ceremonies, receptions or other functions. Those protections would be unchanged under the proposed legislation.

It would be a blessing if New York were to allow loving, committed gay and lesbian couples to be married. We call on the Legislature to pass this legislation for the good of these couples and for the good of our great State.

Integrity USA thanks the Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano for his support for Marriage Equality in the Empire State. To send an email expressing your personal thanks to the Bishop, you can email him at:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Intergity New Yorkers - Call Your Senator NOW!



This just in- Three wavering Democratic lawmakers in the State Senate have agreed to support legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, several people with knowledge of the negotiations said on Monday, marking a potential turning point for the long-debated measure.

The three senators - Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. and Shirley L. Huntley of Queens and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn - all voted against the measure in 2009, when it failed by a wide margin. Their switch to the yes column leaves all but one Senate Democrat supporting same-sex marriage - and the fate of the legislation in the hands of the Republican majority in the chamber. Read more...

The remaining Democrat NO vote is The Reverend Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Click here for an online tool to call your Senator now.

Let's make Marriage Equality happen in New York.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

+Desmond Tutu: "All Are God's Children"

Delighted to see this excerpt from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's most recent book -- "God Is Not A Christian" -- posted on the Huffington Post this morning just in time for June Pride Month!

All Are God's Children: On Including Gays and Lesbians in the Church and Society
by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A student once asked me, If I could have one wish granted to reverse an injustice, what would it be? I had to ask for two. One is for world leaders to forgive the debts of developing nations which hold them in such thrall. The other is for the world to end the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation, which is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid.

This is a matter of ordinary justice. We struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about -- our very skin. It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given. I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups.

I am proud that in South Africa, when we won the chance to build our own new constitution, the human rights of all have been explicitly enshrined in our laws. My hope is that one day this will be the case all over the world, and that all will have equal rights. For me this struggle is a seamless robe. Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice.

It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all -- all of us -- part of God's family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honor. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are.

Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical -- the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act; the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reasons have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?

The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority. I myself could not have opposed the injustice of penalizing people for something about which they could do nothing -- their race -- and then have kept quiet as women were being penalized for something they could do nothing about -- their gender; hence my support for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.

Equally, I cannot keep quiet while people are being penalized for something about which they can do nothing -- their sexuality. To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.
As we make God's love tangible through our work and witness this Pride Month, let's give thanks for the powerful, prophetic voice of +Desmond Tutu as he speaks truth to power in the Anglican Communion and gives hope to LGBT people on the margins throughout the world.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Diocese of San Joaquin Authorizes Blessing of Sacred Unions

Integrity USA give thanks for the leadership of Bishop Chet Talton.

Press release from the Diocese of San Joquin:

The Rt. Rev. Chester Talton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, has
authorized the blessing of sacred unions by the clergy in the Diocese as of Sunday,
June 12. Following consideration by the Equality Commission of the diocese, "the
clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin may perform blessings of same gender civil
marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are 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.' "

This decision is in part a response to a 2009 resolution of the General Convention of the
Episcopal Church, stating "bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil
jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are
legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this
Church." In October of 2009, at its Annual Convention, the Diocese of San Joaquin
adopted the resolution supporting of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Following the Annual Convention in 2010, the Commission on Equality, along with
Bishop Lamb, who was the provisional bishop at that time, hosted a forum on the issue
of blessing same gender unions. The forum was well attended and the sense of the
forum was that the Diocese is ready to take the next step in full inclusion and support
the blessing of these unions.

Bishop Talton wrote a letter to the diocese. It began like this:

Since its reorganization in March 2008, the Diocese of San Joaquin has made incredible

progress in recognizing a basic truth expressed in 1976 in Resolution A069 of the 65th
General Convention, which stated in part, “That it is the sense of this General
Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal
claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of
the Church.”
Read the full copy of Bishop Talton’s letter here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Integrity Celebrates Pride Month! Flags and Flyers Abound!!

 Louise Brooks

June is Pride Month. Episcopalians across the country will join people around the world to celebrate the impact LGBT folks have had on their communities. Parades abound! Rainbow flags fly high. We celebrate the notion that diversity is a gift. Everyone is fabulous and a good time is had by all.

President Bill Clinton first declared June as Gay and Lesbian Pride month in 2000. President Obama has carried on the tradition and recently  proclaimed June, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month — a time to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists and to celebrate the diversity of the American people. The White House proclamation reads in part:

The story of America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Last Sunday Integrity/NYC-Metro celebrated Pride in the borough of Queens. Integrity/NYC-Metro is focused on reaching out to Christians who feel alienated by or driven away from the faith traditions of their family and youth. This includes not just LGBT people, but their families and friends who have felt forced to choose between their loved ones and inflexible dogma. They created this wonderful flyer that chapter members who staffed their table gave out.. The Flyer's headline was: "Shock your Family (Again)  Bring Them to Church." It got a tremendous amount of attention, and several people immediately stopped walking to read it.

Integrity/NYC-Metro members engaged in many conversations about this church and helped several people who wanted specific recommendations based on where they lived and their language capability. Convener Mary O'Shaughnessy is pleased to report, "We believed out loud and dispensed good advice to everyone who asked for it". She added, "There are many people hungry for what the Episcopal Church has to offer and our mission is to let them know we are here."

What is your goal for your Pride celebration or parade?

Walking With Integrity would love to post stories like Mary's from Intgerity-NYC-Metro. Please send us your Pride stories and pictures, sermons and experiences. Be a witness to our work and mission.

Send your stories to

Have a great Pride month!

Louise Brooks is Integrity's Director of Communications and a member of the Board of Directors.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sermon From Eucharist at Gay Days at Disney World

This past weekend was Gay Days at Disney World. For the first time, Integrity USA held a Eucharist nearby. Here is the sermon preached by Father Harry Coverston:

A Sermon for the Feast of St. Aelred

It is no small consolation in this life to have someone you can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow… with whose spiritual kisses, as with remedial salves, you may draw out all the weariness of your restless anxieties. A man who can shed tears with you in your worries, be happy with you when things go well, search out with you the answers to your problems, whom with the ties of charity you can lead into the depths of your heart; . . . where the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one.

These are the words of Aelred of Rivaulx whose feast we celebrate this day. The actual
day assigned for the celebration of this saint’s memory on our church’s calendar is January 12. But given that this eucharist is celebrated on behalf of Integrity, USA, the LGBTQ ministry of the Episcopal Church, it is proper and fitting that Integrity’s patron saint be celebrated this day by the members of Integrity. I am indebted to the blogsite Sacred Pauses for much of the following.

Aelred seems, at first, an odd choice for our patron. He was a celibate, a monk in the Cistercian order living in Rievaulx, England. He entered the order in 1134 at the age of 24; in 1147 he became abbot of Rievaulx until his death 20 years later. In his Rule of Life for a Recluse, written for an unnamed hermitess, he warns in strident tones about safeguarding her virginity from defilement either with men or with women. He never felt his own sexuality was entirely in his control, either. As novice-master, responsible for the training of impressionable young men, he found it necessary to build a concealed tank in which he could immerse himself in icy waters to bridle his physical passions. Even in his final days, sick and aged, he felt his celibacy was in need of vigilant protection.

But Aelred had a deep appreciation for friendship, and by that is meant the particular love between two individuals. Our tradition teaches us much about universal charity, the love of all humankind. We hear far less about the worthy love between two people, as exemplified by the love between David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, or between Jesus and John, the “beloved disciple.”

Of all the gifts Aelred has given the Church, the one most uniquely his is the joyous affirmation that we move toward God in and through our relationships with other people, not apart from or in spite of them. It is important, too, to remember who those particular individuals were, those whose love taught Aelred of the love of God. Aelred himself speaks of losing his heart to one boy and then another during his school days. He was a man of strong passions, who spoke openly of the men for whom he had deeply romantic attachments. After the death of one monk whom he clearly loved, he wrote:

The only one who would not be astonished to see Aelred living without Simon would be someone who did not know how pleasant it was for us to spend our life on earth together; how great a joy it would have been for us to journey to heaven in each other’s company . . . .Weep, then, not because Simon has been taken up to heaven, but because Aelred has been left on earth, alone.

So how did Aelred become the patron saint of Integrity?

At the 1985 General Convention in Anaheim, CA, at the suggestion of Howard Galley, Integrity/New York, the Standing Liturgical Commission recommended Aelred, along with a number of others, for inclusion in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. When this resolution came before the House of Bishops, one of the bishops arose to inform the house that, according to John Boswell, the eminent gay church historian, Aelred of Rievaulx had been gay--implying this might somehow disqualify his inclusion.

With little discussion the House of Bishops approved the others on the list but sent Aelred back to the commission for further study, a tactic anyone who has ever worked a General Convention on behalf of Integrity causes knows only too well. Amazingly, the Standing Liturgical Commission sent Aelred back to the House of Bishops the next day where, in spite of his being gay, and with the bishops' full knowledge that he was, he was admitted to the calendar.

Now what makes that story particularly interesting is the identity of the adamantly opposed bishop. His name was The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong. Yes, that Bishop Spong, the Bishop Spong who would very soon thereafter come to a crushing recognition – that he had been wrong on gays and lesbians and that his opposition had harmed some of the most vulnerable members of the Body of Christ. Thereafter, Spong would make it his mission to dismantle the structures of discrimination which have prevented LGBTQ people from being ordained and from being married. Anyone who has been familiar with church politics in the past three decades knows how indebted Integrity is to Jack Spong.

When I was pondering my vocation to the priesthood years ago, I told a friend of mine that I was thinking about becoming a priest. His face clouded over and he looked away from me when he said, “The church has hurt me deeply. And I will never go back to the church until they admit they were wrong and tell me they are sorry.” Some 21 years later, I’ve never forgotten those words. And I have come to realize that my friend was right.

What Integrity is asking the Episcopal Church to do, along with our brothers and sisters in virtually every religious tradition around the world today, is very difficult. We are asking the church to do exactly what my friend said they must do - recognize that its teaching has been wrong and admit that it has harmed many children of G-d in the process. In the words of the confession we will use today, it means being able and willing to admit that “We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world you have created.”

But that is only the first step. It also means, in the words of the Confession, that we must “repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” Having lived through the painful process of desegregation in Central Florida in the 1960s, I know only too well how difficult it can be to admit that you were wrong, that your understandings, words and behavior have been harmful to others and to realize that you had no choice but to repent, to change your mind, change directions, change your life if you were to live a life of intellectual honesty and integrity. The cognitive dissonance that arises from such a realization is painful and incredibly disorienting. When one realizes that one of their basic ways of making sense of the world is no longer tenable, everything one knows about the world comes up for grabs.

Jack Spong provides a living example that such cognitive dissonance can be survived and can become the catalyst for repentance and new life. It has been one of my great privileges in life to know Jack Spong. And one of the most encouraging things I have ever heard him say was that the outcome of our long struggle for gay and lesbian equality has not been in doubt for some time now, only the time table for the goal of full inclusion.

The road from here to that goal will no doubt be full of bumps and setbacks. But I have come to believe that the long arc of justice toward which Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed is coming closer and closer to reality for all of the children of G-d. Indeed, I find myself in the surprising position of believing I may actually see the dismantlement of LGBTQ discrimination in the wider society, perhaps even within my church, during my lifetime. For that I am grateful. My gratitude extends to people like Paul Woodrum, a founding father of Integrity whose eloquent collect we prayed this morning, people like Jack Spong, who found a way to admit he was wrong, say he was sorry, and whose theological depth and political determination has nudged the church ever closer to its date with the apology for which my friend awaits.

But it also extends to people like you whose hard work, sacrifice and endless hope provide the energy for the machinery of justice needed to achieve our final goal. And so I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this day and for the even more rare opportunity to exercise my priestly ministry in a diocese where openly gay priests are forbidden to do so. I pray that G-d will bless you in your life journeys. And I pray that we may all be constantly aware of G-d’s presence with us – as close as the very breath that we breathe – as we continue our struggle for justice in our nation, our world and in our church.

I close with the words of our collect for the Feast Day of St. Aelred:

Pour into our hearts, O God, your Spirit's gift of love, that we, clasping each the other's hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant, Aelred, draw all to your community of love. We ask in the name of Jesus, our brother, who with you and the Holy Spirit are one God, now and forever. AMEN.


• Rev. Paul Woodrum, “How St. Aelred Became the Patron of Integrity”

• Sacred Pauses, Meditation and Prayers for Life’s Spiritual Highs website, found at accessed June 5, 2011

quoting Aelred Squire, Aelred of Rievaulx (1981) and Raymond Maher, “Friendship,” Sermon delivered to Integrity/New York ( Jan. 14, 1988.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Still A Way To Go.....................

By the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

As I come on board as the new President I am deeply grateful to the Holy Spirit who seems to have called me to this position at this time, and to a multitude of people. In addition to my beloved spouse Jill without whom I would be able to do nothing, I am grateful to Louie Crew whose vision and pioneering stubbornness half a lifetime ago put us all on this path; to all those who have led Integrity both nationally and locally, serving as Presidents, Board Members, Chapter Convenors, Regional and Provincial Coordinators etc. etc. over the last thirty-seven years; and to all our members, friends and allies. Integrity has come a long way and achieved a great deal. Yet there is still a way to go before we fully realize our goal of all the sacraments of the church being open to all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or geographical location.

Our work at the national level has led us to a point where it is possible for LGBT folk to become bishops and it is possible in some places for our relationships, even our marriages to be blessed. We hope and pray that at General Convention next year there will be another major step forward, but even then there will still be dioceses and parishes where it is not safe to be gay and many more where it is not safe to be transgender. Although Integrity will continue to field a strong team at General Convention and to work to make sure that LGBT people are present at every level of the church, our work now is far more at the local and regional level.

There are still people in our communities, even in our most welcoming parishes, who need to hear that God’s unconditional love is available for them. There are still many LGBT people who do not believe that there is a place within the Christian church for them. We have much to do, to bring the good news of Christ to them and their families.

I am very grateful to Neil Houghton who has served Integrity on its Board for nearly eight years and who most recently has been the Regional Vice-President. Neil’s ministry has resulted in our having much greater impact at the parish and diocesan level, especially as he has mentored Provincial Coordinators and has led Believe Out Loud workshops. I am saddened by Neil’s resignation due to circumstances beyond his control from the Integrity Board, but am delighted that he has agreed to continue to work with Believe Out Loud. I am sure that the person who told me “Neil is the reason I got involved with Integrity” is not alone in cherishing Neil’s contribution to our lives.

These are challenging times for many of us. I am grateful that we serve a God who always brings resurrection and new life.

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

Friday, June 3, 2011

Martyrs of Uganda

Martyrs of Uganda
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

Today is the Commemoration of the Martyrs of Uganda. Christians from across the world gathered today at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrines to commemorate the death of 22 Ugandan Martyrs who were killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. These young men – both Anglicans and Catholics were killed by Mwanga II, the King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887.

Why? Well, our conservative brethren would like us to believe they were slaughtered because they were good Christian converts who refused to engage in homosexual acts with the King. That view suggests that the King was either homosexual or bi-sexual (he had sixteen wives) and liked to initiate young men into his sexual pleasures. But, it’s actually rather more complicated than that.

According to some scholars, the martyrs were the sons of leaders among the tribes who were sent to the court as pages to complete their education. Submission to the King was a normal part of their initiation. But this was a time when missionaries (Anglican, Catholic and Muslim) were operating in Buganda and the power of the court was declining. The refusal of the pages to submit to the king can be seen as a political act, indicating their greater allegiance to the British missions.

Whatever the motivations of all the players, this was a complex situation in which sex was used for power and the refusal of sex signaled resistance to the power of the king and the traditions of the tribe just as much as allegiance to the Christian faith.

But they are not the only Martyrs of Uganda. In 1977 Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered after he had spoken out against the oppression of Idi Amin’s regime. We remember his courage and his martyrdom on February 17th – the anniversary of his brutal murder.

David Kato is the latest martyr of Uganda – a teacher and LGBT rights activist, he was murdered on January 26th of this year. In November 2009, Kato spoke at a conference on human rights funded by the United Nations, arguing powerfully against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Kato left the conference early due to a rumor that David Bahati MP, the leading proponent of Bill, had ordered the Inspector General of Police to arrest Kato. After Kato left, Bahati then delivered a "tirade against homosexuality" to massive applause. A year later Kato was among the 100 people whose names and photos were published in the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone claiming that they were homosexual and calling for their execution. In early January the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of Kato and others activists and Rolling Stone was ordered to pay them compensation.

But just twenty three days later David was dead, killed by an unknown assailant wielding a hammer. Police blamed his death on robbers but Kato's colleagues said that Kato had spoken of an increase in threats and harassment since the court victory, and they believe that his sexual orientation and his activism were the motive for the murder.

Just as the nineteenth century martyrs lost their lives because of British intervention in Buganda, so Kato lost his life because of foreign intervention; this time from homophobic Americans who are exporting their hatred to Uganda.

This should not be the “feast day” of the Martyrs of Uganda but a day of mourning and prayer for all those who have lost their lives because of homophobia and prayer that God will transform the hearts of those who trade in hate in God’s name.

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