Saturday, September 17, 2011

Connecting the dots ...

Yesterday we posted a story celebrating the 35th anniversary of the General Convention vote to approve the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church ... prompting the Integrity Communication Elves to dig a little further into our historical archives.

One result was this early "History of Integrity" penned by founder Louie Crew in 1978.

The other was this video shot for the "Road to Anaheim" series leading up to General Convention 2009 and connecting the dots between women's ordination and LGBT equality. Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

35 Years Ago Today ...

Thirty-five years ago today General Convention paved the way to make this picture possible.

For many it's hard to imagine an Episcopal Church that doesn't include women in all orders of ministry -- and for others the struggle for women's ordination is part of their lived history in the Church! Let's give thanks to Louie Crew for reminding us on Facebook this morning that today ... this very day ... is the 35th anniversary of the day that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to end discrimination against the ordination of women with a resolution that read:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That a new Section 1 of Title III, Canon 9 be adopted, with renumbering of the present Section 1 and following, the said Section 1 to read as follows: Section 1. Theprovisions of these canons for the admission of Candidates, and for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests and Deacons shall be equally applicable to men and women.

And thanks to George Werner for this -- also reminding us of some of those who were in the forefront of that important fight for equality:

"I just found D-1 from '76 Convention: Signees: George Regas, Lueta Bailey, Lois Barnum, Dupuy Bateman, James Birney, Leona Bryant, Gordon Charleton, Charles Crump, Mark Dyer, Joe Green, Sally Head, Hugh Jones, Charles Lawrence, Clay Myers, Dillard Robinson, Lucile Roca, Ed Romig, Bob Royster, Bart Sherman, Gordon Stenning, Ross Sidney, Charity Weymouth, Stew Wood & me. Special moment!"
So Happy Anniversary, Church!!

(And thanks to all who worked so long and hard to make it happen. May we be given grace to serve the Church in our generation as faithfully as you served it in yours!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Passing Baton: Will You Take It?

The Passing Baton
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

I was deeply saddened to learn of Bishop Walter Righter's passing, so soon after Pamela Chinnis. Both of these leaders were straight allies at a time when to be an ally was as costly as to be openly LGBT. They both saw that the Body of Christ could not continue to turn its back on its LGBT members, and took risks to champion our cause.

Bishop Righter experienced a deep betrayal when he was accused by ten of his fellow Bishops of heresy for ordaining an openly gay man. Righter was not the only bishop who had taken this risk, but he was chosen by conservatives as the first in what was intended to be a series of ecclesiastical trials to show that the ordination of LGBT people was against church doctrine, even if General Convention would not outlaw it. Many of the best legal minds (straight and gay) combined to create a defense which showed that there is no central doctrinal reason to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

This was the final straw for conservatives who turned to overseas colleagues to try to enforce their ideas on the rest of The Episcopal Church. The Lambeth resolution which declared homosexual activity to be contrary to Scripture and all that has followed from that, grew from conservatives' frustration and theological concern when Righter was exonerated. They continued to believe that LGBT inclusion is against the gospel.

Bishop Righter was one of those, originally anti-gay, who was brave enough to hear the movement of the Spirit and see the need for justice until he became a supporter of full inclusion. Pamela Chinnis was another who encouraged lay and ordained LGBT Episcopalians to step into positions of church leadership. She encouraged us to take our places in the councils of the church and to bring our gifts to the service of the wider Church. In so doing, she too experienced the wrath of those who opposed our inclusion.

And now they are gone.

They opened doors for us, and we will be eternally grateful. But there is still much to be done. The early generations of LGBT people who walked through the doors they opened are also aging and some have already passed into their eternal rest. We cannot rest until every church opens wide its doors to those who are different. We need new leaders, people who will step into leadership in their dioceses and use that experience to inform the leadership of the national Church. We need people who will be leaders in Integrity, who will volunteer as chapter leaders, as diocesan organizers, people who will challenge their parishes to Believe out Loud(er). And, we need valiant straight allies who will step up to the plate to support their LGBT sisters and brothers.

Will you follow in the footsteps of +Walter Righter and Pamela Chinnis?

Will you take the baton?

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall serves as  President of the Board of Directors of Inetgrity USA. 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 teams sent to the Primates Meeting in Dar-Es Salaam and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. . 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 is also Priest-in-Charge at St. Benedicts Episcopal Church in Los Osos, CA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remembering Bishop Walter Righter

Bishop Walter Righter / His 'pastoral heart' moved Episcopal Church beyond old prejudices

Oct. 23, 1923 - Sept. 11, 2011

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bishop Walter Righter, whose 1990 ordination of a gay deacon opened the Episcopal Church to partnered gay clergy after a church court dismissed heresy charges against him, died Sunday at his home in Export. The retired bishop of Iowa, who was first ordained in Pittsburgh, was 87.

"Bishop Righter is one of the giants on whose shoulders gay and lesbian Christians stand," said Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. "Long before it became popular, Walter became a straight ally of the gay Christian community, putting his life and ecclesiastical career on the line for us."

"The Episcopal Church can give thanks for the life of a faithful and prophetic servant," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "His ministry will be remembered for his pastoral heart and his steadfast willingness to help the church move beyond old prejudices into new possibilities."

The heresy charge stemmed from his early retirement, when he became an assisting bishop to the firebrand liberal Bishop John Spong of Newark, N.J. Until then, Bishop Righter had been known as an unassuming centrist. But the conservative attempt to declare him a heretic ricocheted, and many conservatives ultimately left the Episcopal Church.

"Walter just happened to be the person in history who was there at an event when suddenly a lot of things came together and the lines were drawn," said the Rev. George Werner of Sewickley, dean emeritus of Trinity Cathedral, Downtown, and a friend for more than 40 years. "In some senses, he was a martyr. He was still scarred."

He moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in his youth, graduating from Sewickley High School in 1941. His wartime experience in the Battle of the Bulge led him to pursue ministry. He returned to the University of Pittsburgh to prepare for seminary.

While he was at Pitt, Bishop Austin Pardue assigned him to run a Sunday School at St. Stephen's, Sewickley, and to plant a congregation in Ligonier that eventually became St. Michael of the Valley. On bishop's orders, he spent breaks from Yale's Berkeley Divinity School working in a Homestead steel mill so he could understand the lives of ordinary Pittsburghers.

Ordained in 1951, he was sent to All Saints in Aliquippa, where he led the racial integration of the parish. The congregation doubled. In 1954, he was called to be rector of Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua, N.H., where he was active in interfaith and ecumenical work. He became a mentor to young Rev. Werner, then serving in Manchester, N.H.

"He was the quintessential parish priest," Rev. Werner said. "He wasn't high church or low church or evangelical or activist. He was the old-fashioned pastor who takes care of his parish but was also an active player in the community."

When he was elected bishop of the Diocese of Iowa in 1972, he refused the offer of a chauffeur and drove his vast territory, Rev. Werner said. He was active at the national level of the church, where he was best known for promoting evangelism.

"I felt that we were comrades in arms," said retired Episcopal Bishop William Frey, a former rector of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and a leading theological conservative. "The sexuality debate found us on opposite sides. But he is a gracious man, not one of the people who engaged in name-calling. He had respect for people on all sides of the issues."

He once held traditional views on sexual orientation. As a new bishop he wrote of homosexuality as an illness that could be cured. In 1979, he voted for the national church resolution against gay ordination. But he began to rethink the issue. After he retired in 1988, he went to Newark to assist Bishop Spong. In 1990, at Bishop Spong's behest, he ordained a partnered gay man. Five years later 10 of his fellow bishops filed heresy charges.

Bishop Frey was not among them. Although he believed Bishop Righter was wrong and would eventually vote to allow a trial, "they brought the wrong charges and it blew up in their faces," he said.

The ruling, Bishop Frey said, created more serious theological problems for conservatives than those related to sexuality. When it said that gay ordination didn't violate core doctrine, the definition of core doctrine was based on modern theology rather than ancient creeds, he said. All of that created an opening that grew into a denominational split.

But for the Rev. Susan Russell of Pasadena, Calif., a past president of the Episcopal gay advocacy group Integrity, Bishop Righter was like the biblical patriarch Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers but was consequently able to save them from starvation.

"There is a verse where Joseph says, 'You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,' " she said. "What Bishop Righter did absolutely opened the way not just for gay and lesbian people to exercise more fully their ministry in the Episcopal Church, but for the Episcopal Church to become an opinion leader among mainline denominations."

There was a literal price to be paid for his canonical defense. "Walter never fully recovered financially," Rev. Werner said.

About eight years ago he settled in Export with his wife. The Pittsburgh diocese had become one of the most conservative in the country and would split in 2008. He joined Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside. When the Rev. Harold Lewis, rector of Calvary, invited him to celebrate weekday Eucharist and listed him among the parish clergy, Bishop Robert Duncan objected.

"That was a grievous blow to Walter," Rev. Lewis said.

Shortly after the diocesan split, Bishop Righter wrote to the Rev. James Simons of St. Michael of the Valley, then the ecclesiastical authority in charge of reorganizing the Episcopal dioceses.

"He asked for canonical residency and we granted it immediately. I sent him an email saying, 'Welcome home.' He was very appreciative," Rev. Simons said.

Failing health kept him from priestly duties. But he kept up a lively email correspondence with friends near and far. In July he began hospice care.

"He said the doctors told him to expect to live until October at the latest. He was very up front and straightforward about it, not at all fearful," Rev. Lewis said. "In dying, he taught us how to live. He was accepting of it. He was rejoicing in what he managed to do. He fought the good fight, as St. Paul said, and he was ready to go on to the next stage."

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; a brother, Richard of Murrysville; a son Richard of Keene, N.H.; a daughter, Becky Richardson of Des Moines, Iowa; a stepson, David DeGroot of Milford, Mass.; a stepdaughter, Kathy Gallogly of Oceanside, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.

The funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. in Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside, with interment in the parish columbarium.

Read more:

Integrity USA Opposes Gay Marriage Ban in North Carolina

A proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment passed in the North Carolina House of Representatives today. Integrity USA joins Equality North Carolina and many legislators in that state in calling SB514, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, discrimination in its highest form. The amendment says that “(m)arriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state,” meaning it would ban domestic partnerships and civil unions as well. The amendment passed the NC House of representatives and now goes to the NC Senate.

Integrity USA calls on clergy, faith leaders and all those who believe in equality and equal justice for all to work to defeat this amendment. We ask those who will vote on this ban to remember that this law affects gay and lesbian people who are your friends, relatives, coworkers, church and temple members, sons and daughters, nieces, nephews, granddaughters and grandsons. We must aways protest the use of the constitution to take away the basic human rights from any group of citizens.

If you are a resident of North Carolina, call your State Senator today and urge a NO vote on SB514.

Refelctions on 9/11: Forgiveness Seventy Times Seven

This is a sermon preached by Integrity Vice President of national Affairs, the reverend Jon M. Richardson on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson
St. Paul’s, Jersey City
11 September 2011
Pentecost 13A, Proper 19
Matthew 18:21-35

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

It feels strange to be talking about forgiveness today - on this the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001.

But really, that’s one of the gifts in the lectionary cycle of readings for worship. Other churches or church leaders might sometimes be tempted to look past some of the more difficult readings, or the way certain readings interact with world events, but in our tradition that’s not possible. We read and reflect on the text appointed for the day.

And today we’ve been given this - forgiveness.

“How many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No. Seventy-seven times!” Or some sources say, “Seventy TIMES seven times.” (If you’re curious enough to think it through, that one comes out to 490 times for forgiveness.)

But the point isn’t the number of “times” we offer forgiveness. Even if you take the larger number, it’s not like saying to your neighbor, “Okay, that’s one. 489 more times and we’re done!”

That’s not the point.

The point is that forgiveness is an ongoing process. Forgiveness can’t end. A truly forgiving heart draws from a well of love and grace that never runs dry. When you can’t forgive anymore, that’s when it’s time to dig deeper and find a way.

Just as is so much of the Christian message, this, too, is a difficult message to hear.

In the church we know - at least intellectually - that we are charged to replicate the kind of forgiveness that has been extended to- and modeled for us. But the problem with that is, too often we try to rush forgiveness without doing the work that true forgiveness requires.

Because we think it’s what we ought to do, we often proclaim forgiveness before it’s real.

In his book Don’t Forgive Too Soon, Dennis Linn compares the process of forgiving with the process of overcoming grief. Just as recovery from grief can’t be rushed, we, also, can’t be rushed into forgiveness if it’s to actually mean anything.

You’ve all probably heard about the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance - but Linn writes about those as five stages of forgiveness. Recognizing the close relationship between forgiveness and grief, he uses that same framework to examine how we can move beyond pro forma expressions of expected forgiveness, into genuine forgiveness that springs from a place of deeper truth.

And the truth is, if forgiveness does not come from a place of truth, it will breed resentment.

A common (though unattributed) quote in twelve-step, recovery groups says that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Without forgiveness, we are destined to breed resentment in our hearts. And it will kill us spiritually.

Even if our brother or sister might only cause offense once - even then(!) we have to forgive “seventy times seven” times. Only then can it begin to come from a place of truth.

The fact is we do hurt one another. We do offend the heart of God. We exploit each other. We are unfaithful to each other. We fail to recognize the humanity in each other.

We are all victims, and we are all guilty.

But we must learn to forgive.

So on this, the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, we hear a call to forgiveness.

It doesn’t make sense.

It can seem all but impossible.

But we have to do it. We have to find a way to forgive because it’s the call of Christ; and, because it’s necessary for our own spiritual health and wellness. We have to keep finding ways to forgive, even in the face of our deepest pain; because even these ten years later the work is not yet done.

In these past ten years there has been a lot of talk about justice. As a country, we’ve been seeking justice against the perpetrators and supporters of the horrors of that day. We’ve taken a lot of steps - for good and for ill - at doling out justice around the world. Too often we’ve mistaken revenge for justice. But in the end, I believe that true justice will only come through deep forgiveness. It’s only in a world where forgiveness is a way of life that we can ever hope to find that justice is a reality.

And forgiveness will only become a way of life when we keep practicing it. Seventy-seven times. Seventy times seven times. Whenever the hurt and the anger and the fear are renewed, try to forgive again. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because doing it will make things right.

How many times are we to forgive our brothers and sisters when they sin against us?

As many times as it takes.

This is part of the hard work of following Christ. May we all gain the strength to do this that we are called to do.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Integrity Announces Staff Transition

Integrity Announces Staff Transition

In 1976 Integrity began its advocacy in the Episcopal Church by advancing a resolution calling for “full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church” for its LGBT baptized. For the last thirty-five years Integrity has worked to turn that resolution into a reality. We are closer than ever to achieving that goal thanks to the tireless efforts of countless Integrity leaders through the years – and today we give thanks for one of those leaders as we welcome another into the Integrity fold.

In August, the Board of Directors of Integrity USA accepted with regret the resignation of Max Niedzwiecki as Executive Director. Niedzwiecki, who has served Integrity USA since August, 2010, recently expressed his intentions to return to his private consulting practice where he will focus on organizational development and justice issues for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

"As Executive Director , Max oversaw Integrity USA's launch of the “Believe Out Loud” (BOL) initiative in the Episcopal Church, a project mobilizing clergy and lay leaders, LGBT activists, and straight allies to work together to become more welcoming and inclusive,’ said Integrity USA President Caroline Hall. “In addition, Max pursued and secured grants for local Integrity chapters to support their advocacy work, continued to direct our longtime support of Integrity Uganda and the work Bishop Christopher Senyonjo while positioning Integrity USA as an opinion leader on immigration reform. We shall miss his leadership and easy going style and wish him all the best as he moves on. Our chapters and membership have grown during Max's tenure and we are grateful for all he has done."

"Working with Integrity USA has been both an honor and a privilege," said Niedzwiecki "I could not be more proud of our leadership and of the work we've done together calling for full inclusion throughout the Episcopal Church and the world. I plan to stay involved with Integrity in the future as the organization continues to mobilize toward General Convention 2012."

"As we bid Max farewell we are delighted to welcome a giant of justice on board," continued Hall, announcing that effective September 15, 2011, the Board has appointed Harry Knox to serve as Integrity’s Interim Executive Director.

Harry Knox brings years of experience in shepherding organizations at the local, state and national levels through times of significant change. Knox has pastored congregations in Georgia and Texas and his experience with the Episcopal Church dates back to when he was a member of the New Jersey Cathedral Church for Bishop Jack Spong. He also brings a long history of LGBT advocacy, working with Equality Florida, Georgia Equality and Freedom to Marry. As founder of the Religion and Faith program for the Human Rights Campaign, he amplified the voices of faith leaders on behalf of LGBT equality and empowered LGBT people of faith and their allies to use faith language in advocacy.

"It is a true privilege to join the ranks of trendsetting colleagues I have admired for decades," said Knox. "General Convention 2012 offers another opportunity for Integrity to lead The Episcopal Church closer to full inclusion. I look forward to the joys and challenges before us."

President Caro Hall concluded, “We invite all members of Integrity and members of our wider justice community to join us in celebrating the leadership of Max Niedzwiecki and in welcoming the leadership of Harry Knox. And then we invite them to roll up their sleeves and continue to work with us to make that thirty-five year old resolution a reality!”

Media Contact:
Louise Brooks
Director of Communications
Integrity USA

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on 9/11: Failing to recognize our commonality

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Our post-9/11 failures

For a moment, 10 years ago, the Sept.11 terrorist attacks threatened to unite the human family. So ghastly was the carnage that the whole world, even the most distant of relatives, rightfully clamored to condemn the perpetrators.

For a moment, the world stood still, stunned by the realization of what we all have in common, our humanity, and therefore our vulnerability and dependence on each other.

Of course, as we began to dry our eyes, the Trillion Dollar question was: What should we do? There were two fundamentally different contexts for the question. The one asked: What should we do, as a family, to heal our fractures, to reconcile with one another across borders and faiths, to ensure that such an outrage never happens again? The other asked: What should we, the most powerful nation on earth, do--militarily -- to ensure such an outrage does not happen again?

Depending on your approach to the question the answer either begged self-examination (What have we done wrong in terms of our relationships, and what should we do to bridge the divides that exist between us?), or an outward expression of force (I am the strongest child in the playground; whose butt should I kick?).

You could either say that the criminals must be brought to justice (the necessary jurisprudence exists) while the human family undergoes collective psychotherapy, or you could teach the bad guys a lesson.

For a moment it seemed that the Unites States was taking the introspective option. We prayed it would be so. Then it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t want to dwell on these wars. The people of the U.S., Iraq and Afghanistan have paid a very heavy price. It suffices to say that the U.S. owes the world an apology -- at the very least -- for lying about the existence of so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But that is not the worst of it. If it were possible for anything to be more devastating than the unnecessary deaths that have accrued over the past 10 years, I would argue that the damage that has been done to global relations between the so-called Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds must be a candidate.

The 9/11 attackers were labelled “Muslim terrorists” and evil personified was given a Muslim face. We were told that these Muslim terrorists were aided and abetted by Muslim countries. Clearly, this logic went, Muslims were not to be trusted. The West developed special security procedures and sophisticated software to identify and track Muslims. Adherents of the Muslim faith were harassed and humiliated across the world. It was the computer-age equivalent of the Nazis daubing yellow Stars of David on the doors of Jewish homes.

If these were “Muslim terrorists,” why did we not label the Oklahoma bomber a Christian Terrorist? Why did we not label members of the Irish Republican Army Christian Terrorists? The people responsible for the genocide of Bosnian Muslims were not labelled Christian fundamentalists, and nor are members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The simple truth that we all know is that there are many good Jews out there and some bad ones, many good Christians and some bad ones, good Hindus and bad Hindus, good Buddhists and bad Buddhists, good Muslims and bad Muslims. That’s the human condition. All of us have our fair share of frailties and imperfections.

There is no religion I am aware of that propagates violence, yet many are they who commit violent acts in the name of religion - and who falsely justify cruelty as something that is sanctioned by God. As Kofi Annan so eloquently put it, the problem is not with the faith but with the faithful.

We may be differently pigmented, have different facial features, speak different languages and worship in different temples. But we know that we can successfully transplant the heart of a member of the Christian faith into the body of a Hindu patient, or a Jewish accident victim’s kidney into a Muslim.

We failed the biggest test posed by the 9/11 outrage: In our anger and dismay we failed to recognize our common humanity, that we are made for love and that acts such as those committed on that day are an aberration.

When we looked at the terrorists we did not see ourselves, we did not consider how our actions and posturing in the world may have contributed to the crime. No. We saw “others,” and we demonized them.

Reflections on 9/11: How will you share in the world’s healing?

The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s sermon at the 11 am service held at the Cathedral Church of St John The Divine in NYC today.

What’s it like to be attacked? And what governs our response? How do we heal and find our way forward?

I wasn’t here ten years ago, but I do have a sense of how confusing and crazy-making a sudden physical attack can be. I was out for my morning run once when a guy who had been sitting on a bench a couple of seconds earlier ran across my path and grabbed me. I was startled and upset, but I couldn’t figure out what he was after. Was he trying to throw me over the rail into the river, or throw me down on the ground? He never said a word. I did – I yelled and I kept on yelling, all of a sudden I discovered that I had him in a headlock, and then I remembered that applying my foot in a sensitive place might encourage him to let go. I applied my foot once, pretty gently, without any result. We kept struggling and I tried again. Then he did let go, and we both ran off.

It was pretty clear to me that he was mentally ill. Maybe I had intruded on his space, or perhaps he thought I was somebody else. Clearly I was a significant threat. But after I got a few feet farther, my biggest worry was about him and his evident illness. What must it be like to live with such terror?

How do we get beyond the small and large threats in life? In recent days much of our conversation in this city and much of the media reporting have been filled with stories of how people have responded to the violence here ten years ago. Many of those stories have been filled with hope, as people have made some sense out of their experience of September 11th, and found the strength to reinvest in life.

Those planes literally came out of the blue – the blue of a beautiful morning sky. They brought death to thousands, terror to many more, loss and devastation to a city and a nation. That violence was the result of rage at the society around us, and it was calculated to inflict enormous damage. The results have been both tragic and hopeful. It’s not entirely clear just what the perpetrators wanted – they got immediate death and destruction, yet this nation and the world responded with an enormous outpouring of care and concern. It was quickly followed by many calls for retribution and vengeance. Yet even in the midst of that knee-jerk urge toward retaliation and violence, others sought understanding, reached out to the people who would be most vulnerable, and urged a peaceful and healing response.

What has our decade of grieving wrought? Have we found a new meaning in life? Have we found some reasonable measure of healing? Have we made sense of that violence? Have we found a way to forgive those who instigated the death and terror?

That last one is the hardest question, and there is more than a little irony that the readings we’ve heard this morning weren’t chosen specifically for today – they’re scheduled every three years on the Sunday closest to this one. We will continue to hear their calls to forgiveness.

Joseph says to his brothers, who tried to kill him and then sold him into slavery, “well, you meant to do evil, but God turned it to good. I forgave you a long time ago, and I will help you in your hour of need.”

The psalmist responds, “God is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness.”

Paul’s words to the people in Rome are haunting in our context, “who are you to pass judgment on the servants of another? God will judge them. God will hold them accountable.”

And Peter asks Jesus how many times he’s supposed to forgive people who offend him. Jesus responds by saying, if you’re counting you haven’t gone far enough. And then he tells of a man’s refusal to forgive a tiny debt, even though he has himself experienced enormous forgiveness, and how that only leads to his own destruction.

What do we do with all of that? I don’t believe that any of us would be here this morning if we didn’t ultimately believe that forgiveness is possible, and that we are all in search of healing. How do we let go of the desire for vengeance and let God deal with the work of judgment? How might we, like Joseph, even if we’ve been terrorized, come to the aid of brothers and sisters in time of need?

Maybe the most important part is where we locate ourselves in the story. As long as this act of violence is all about me and the hurt and damage I’ve suffered, it’s really hard to let go of a desire for payback. As I reflected on my morning wrestling match, I realized that in the heat of the moment I had no desire to hurt the guy. I didn’t want to kick him too hard, I just wanted him to let go. We can decide how to respond.

Where and how do we locate the attacker in the story? Were the hijackers personally after each human being who died? Did they intend to hurt and destroy this person’s family or that first responder? If we see that violence as an attack on western society, was it really only about the United States? Or was this lashing out, premeditated though it was, a response to changes in the world that have extinguished hopes or privilege in other communities? Those intrusive airport searches we live with are the same kind of unsought social change. Our current economic situation shares some of the same roots and character.

Forgiveness begins in discovering some element of common humanity with your attacker, even if it is simply a search for understanding – whether it’s rational or irrational. But forgiveness doesn’t end there. The very act of violence that first connects perpetrator and victim binds them together. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and his brothers took it out on him by trying to destroy him. That didn’t break the bonds between them, it actually bound them more closely together – the brothers’ secret vengeance produced a kind of chain gang. At the same time, their act destroyed a good part of the healthy bond they had with their father. Joseph’s forgiveness set them free in a way that they could not accomplish themselves.

What do we choose? What kind of bonds have we taken on in the last ten years in this city, or as Americans responding to attempts to terrorize us? Are we choosing prison chains or bonds of understanding? Healing emerges from seeking to repair some of the damage from the violence and the quest for retribution. Health is growing in interfaith dialogue, in spite of the vitriol poured on Abdel Rauf and Daisy Khan. Some may have meant it for evil, but God is working good nevertheless.

We have to tell the stories, including the ugly ones. Real change began in the civil rights movement when the gratuitous violence perpetrated on non-violent marchers began to appear on television. America began to be appalled and embarrassed. This nation began to recognize that human beings were treating other human beings in inhuman ways. We began to see how we are bound together.

We can choose how we are bound – by chains of hate, fear, and terror, or through the life-giving possibilities of love, forgiveness, and solidarity. We are a nation built on tenets of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There’s nothing in that declaration about hate and fear, except its end and absence. Like Joseph and his brothers, the central figures in this story are descendants of Abraham. We all proclaim a god of love, forgiveness, and peace. Jews, Christians, and Muslims share God’s vision for a healed world where all live together in peace, shalom, salaam. That is the meaning of life and the goal of existence. Our own lives and decisions change as that dream begins to center and shape our lives.

What will you choose in your next experience of affront or attack? How will you share in the world’s healing this year, and ten years from today? What kind of bond do you choose?

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reflections on 9/11: “I have called you by name and you are mine.”

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell
All Saints Church, Pasadena CA

As we prepare for tomorrow's events marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I'm remembering the service we held at All Saints Church in Pasadena marking the first anniversary on 9/11/2002.

The candles massed in front of the altar burn in tribute to the names being read from the lectern – Naomi Leah Solomon, Daniel W. Song, Michael C. Soresse, Fabian Soto – as other names scroll above the altar projected on a video screen – John Bentley Works, William Wren, Sandra Wright, Myrna Yashkulka.

The church is silent save for the reading of the names and the careful footsteps of those who come forward to light a candle -- the gentle thud of a kneeler lowered for prayer --the quiet rustle of pages turned in a prayer book.

“American Airline Flight 11”– Anna Allison, David Lawrence Angell, Lynn Edwards Angell, Seima Aoyamma. The names began at 5:46 – the west coast moment when the first plane struck – and will continue through the morning until we gather for Eucharist at noon. The table is already set. The red frontal – blood of martyrs – covers the altar. The chalice is vested, the missal marked. The credence table is ready, too: flagons of wine, silver chalices and ciborium lined up – ready to hold the holy food and drink of new and unending life we will share here at All Saints Church.

“All Saints.” Charles’ deep voice breaks the silence as he begins reading the next segment of the list of names: “World Trade Center, continued” – Paul Riza, John Frank Rizzo, Stephen Luis Roch, Leo Roberts. I remember the ancient words of comfort from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” As Charles tolls the names of the dead that assurance echoes again and again in my head. These names I do not know – some I cannot even pronounce – each and every one known to God. Beloved of God.

“United Airlines Flight 93”: Christine Adams, Lorraine Berg, Todd Beamer, Alan Beaven. Gone from our sight yet gathered into God’s embrace -- seated at the heavenly banquet we can but glimpse through the sacrament we are preparing to share -- the offering of praise and thanksgiving we will present at this altar.

I look again at the ciborium massed on the credence table – the candles flickering in the polished silver – the light of lives lost reflected in the vessels holding the bread of life. It staggers the mind to consider what they represent – the magnitude of the collective loss of love, joy, hope and possibilities taken on that day a year ago with such sudden unexpectedness.

Takashi Ogawa. Albert Ogletree. Gerald Michael Olcott. The pain of death and loss mingles mysteriously in the promise of life and hope. Body and Blood. Bread and Wine. Strength for the journey and hope for the future. Hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide. Hope for the end of wars waged in the name of the God who created us not to destroy but to love each other.

Dipti Patel. James Matthew Patrick. Sharon Christina Millan Paz. “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.” Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.

Reflections on 9/11: Bringing hope and life in times of trial

The Rev. Dr. Caro Hall
President, Integrity USA

I was late for my first day of chaplaincy training, lost in Pasadena. Huntington Hospital was a maze of corridors and elevators, all as strangely quiet as the streets had been. I rushed into the chaplain’s room full of apologies to find myself almost totally ignored. Everyone was silently glued to a television showing a plane flying into a building.

It took several minutes to understand that this was reality, not fiction.

It took much longer for the full impact to hit me. But that day as a newbie chaplain, my job was to be there for anyone who needed a listening ear as the hospital went into lock-down mode, preparing to respond to an attack on Los Angeles. An attack which, thank, God, did not happen.

Last week I had an email from the diocese, asking parishes to prepare to be able to respond to local disaster. I admit that I groaned - another project, when just doing the work immediately at hand seems to take all our energy and more. Yet two miles over the hill is a nuclear power plant, two miles down the road is the ocean, and wildfire is an ever-present hazard. There are disasters waiting to happen. What better way to show the incredible love of God than to be prepared to act, and to pray that we are kept from the time of trial so our preparation is never needed.

Who knows when we may be called upon not just for support in personal disaster, but for a community in need. Parishes on the East Coast know at great cost what it is to have disaster hit suddenly and destroy homes and lives overnight.

One of the images which has stayed with me for the last ten years and resonates in my soul was articulated by Garrison Keillor. As the people were rushing down the stairs to get out of the towers, the firefighters were going up. They did not know what they were going to find, they did not know what would happen, but they were going into danger to find, protect and shelter others.

That is courage.

As people of faith we have the knowledge that God’s unconditional love supports us every moment and that nothing can separate us from that life-giving love. Whether we live or die, we are in Christ. This gives us the courage to walk into the not-knowingness of the future, the possibility of disaster, the certainty of pain and loss, without fear. It enables us to be there for others who do not have the rock of ages on which to stand.

May ours be the feet which are going up, bringing hope and life, when others are running down.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reflections on 9/11: An Experience of Pain & Grace

Rev. Dr. Jennifer Phillips
Rector, St. Francis Church,
 Rio Rancho, NM

As soon as I got the news in the rectory of my parish in Rhode Island, I thought of the 15 thousand students arriving for classes at the university next door- a big portion of them from New York and New Jersey - hearing about the cataclysm on the car radio or seeing the images on the TVs in the lobby as they arrived. It was hard to leave my church and trust members to care for one another as some came to pray or check in, but the greatest need seemed to be with young people, many unable to reach their families. That evening I and some staff from the Multi Cultural Center gathered students for a candlelight march across campus - we thought we might gather a few dozen, but as we began passing out candles and walking, hundred of students and others came to join us. We finished up at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church - over 200 students crammed into our post-and-beam sanctuary for a non-denominational prayer service, some literally climbing into the rafters to find space - and we prayed and lots stood up to offer their hopes and fear, prayers and wishes for those in harm's way and for the peace of the whole world as well.

A couple of weeks later I took a bus down to NYC to take part in the wonderful St. Paul's/Trinity Wall Street/ St. John the Divine volunteer ministry effort at Ground Zero. I remember the great gentleness of those who gathered at St. Paul's to offer ministry through the many days and nights as workers recovered remains and cleared debris bit by bit. As one of many clergy who came to minister and pray there, I was touched by the children's drawings for safety workers, hung in the pews to comfort those who stopped in to pray or get food or a change of socks, or even sleep for a little while. I remember the tired grimy faces and the boots melted into holes, and the crowd of faces on flyers and photos hung on the wrought iron fence by desperate people missing loved ones. I remember an exhausted bulldozer driver catching a nap in the pew with the plaque that said George Washington used to sit there. I remember the spectral and sad paper and scraps hanging from the trees in the graveyard from which the leaves had mostly been blasted away. It was an experience of pain and grace, and I was humbled by those colleagues who were laboring day after day not just to care for workers and stunned residents of the neighborhood, but also to the endless shifts of volunteers who came to offer their briefer labor each of whom carried away a fragment of the grief of the place and time. I remain grateful for and to them.

Integriity USA welcomes your reflections on 9/11. Send them to Louise Brooks, Director of Communications;

Reflections on 9/11: Heal and Unite the Human Family

The Rev. Dr. George Regas
Rector Emeritus
All Saints Church
Pasadena, California

The Urgency of 9/11

Mary Regas and I were at LAX on Sept. 11, 2001 for a 7 a.m. flight to New York for a national meeting of progressive religious leaders. We were checking our bags around 5:45 a.m. when great confusion erupted.

“We can’t check your bag,” the person at the counter said softly. “All flights have been canceled.”

I challenged her.

“Get us a flight anywhere on the East Coast,” I said. “It is important that I find a flight.”

In a few minutes she said, “All flights in the country are canceled.”

Soon word spread: “New York has been attacked.”

In confusion and grief, we left and drove to the nearest hotel to watch the horrendous television news of the planes flying into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

When we got home, I immediately called my close friend, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, to discuss these tragic events and how we might respond creatively to the disaster. We both called people who had been colleagues in peacemaking activities over the years.

The next day, 15 people gathered with us at All Saints Church. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, Buddhists and other traditions — we were all seeking a way to respond that was compatible with our religious commitments.

Three-thousand people from 90 countries at the World Trade Center, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon died on that heartbreaking day. The enormity of hatred unleashed against America weighed heavily on all of us. The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 will be on my mind as long as God gives me a memory.

Yet we were all troubled by the cries for retaliation that would later take us into war. Unquestionably, the US should bring to justice Osama bin Laden and the other terrorists responsible for the horror of 9/11; bring them before an international court. This does not require the devastation of war; it demands the work of justice.

Within a week, we came together bringing other peacemakers; after two hours 85 of us had a name: Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP). For the past 10 years we’ve met every Friday at 7 a.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

From the day ICUJP was founded in September 2001, in coalition with a growing chorus of voices, we pleaded with President Bush and other elected officials to reject fear and embrace the rule of law, to avoid overreaction and pursue reconciliation and, above all else, say that religious communities must stop blessing war and violence.

Our voices fell on deaf ears, as blind patriotism captured America and the Bush administration lied to the American public to gain support for the US attack on Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Over these 10 years, the US has established a permanent state of undeclared war, violence and occupation. Our government has suspended civil liberties, violated human rights and engaged in torture. During these tragic years of war, the US has demonized Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.

We have plundered our communities at home, given tax breaks to our wealthiest citizens and removed essential support from the sick and the poor of our nation.

The brilliant, highly respected economist Joseph Stiglitz says the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost the US $6 trillion. And for most of the 10 years, the cost of the wars was put on the nation’s credit card.

As I live with the enormous human needs of our nation and the diminishing budgets throughout the country, and then look at the human and financial costs of these wars of Bush and Obama, I believe we are at a point where people are ready to say: I will give my life and energies to creating a peaceful world. I must stop these wars!

War takes the financial resources that could save lives, feed the hungry, heal the world’s suffering, and uses these resources to destroy — I hate war for that.

If we are to have any hope, there must be a massive act of conscience that says: Stop the wars; use our resources to heal and unite the human family.

Dr. George Regas is a dominant voice for peace and justice in the United States. For three decades, Dr. Regas served as Rector of All-Saints Church. Under the leadership of Dr. Regas, All Saints Church opposed the Vietnam War, the escalating nuclear arms race, the covert Central America wars, and both the Gulf Wars I and II. During his 28 years of service with the church, Dr. Regas established the largest AIDS service center in the San Gabriel Valley; supervised the creation of the Young & Healthy Program, which serves uninsured and under-insured children; and established the homeless shelter, Union Station.

In 1998, Dr. Regas founded The Regas Institute. The Institute is dedicated to the study and examination of Progressive Religion that seeks to counter the dominance of the Religious Right. The Regas Institute seeks to organize and advocate locally and nationally for a Progressive Religion that speaks and acts on both economic and racial justice, as well as gender equality, gay justice and reproductive choice.

He was the first priest in the Episcopal Church to bless same sex unions.

ICUJP has played a significant role in Southern California advocating for peace and seeking to be an alternative voice to the war on terrorism.

Integrity USA welcomes your reflections on 9/11. Send them to Louise Brooks, Director of Communications:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reflections on 9/11: God make me an instrument of your peace.

Max Niedzwiecki
Executive Director
Integrity USA

On September 11th I was in Washington, DC, where I lived until moving to New Orleans in 2009. When the first plan struck the World Trade Center, I was in a meeting on 16th Street, less than a mile north of the White House. I rushed off to my own office, where we huddled around a tiny TV with bad reception and saw the second strike, and then began to get news of the disasters in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. The first hour or so after that is a blur ... calls to loved ones saying we were OK, figuring out where everyone would go to feel safe, trying to parse the true news from the rumors that began to spread right away... There were stories about car bombs throughout the city, and at least one reporter said the Department of State had been attacked.

My partner Albert and I made our way to our apartment, in Dupont Circle, with his Palestinian-American colleague. Already there was talk of "Muslim terrorists" on CNN, and along with that came fear that people who were Muslim (or appeared to be) would become targets in the panic. We stayed there, glued to the TV for a few hours, until a sense of calm set in and she decided to drive home across the Potomac.

By late afternoon, Washington had the strangest sense of calm. All morning and through lunchtime commuters had clogged the streets, frantic to get back home. Once everyone was out and many streets had been closed, Albert and I ventured out. We rode our bikes past the White House, down to the Capitol Building, and along the National Mall, then across the river and to the Pentagon. It almost seemed that a neutron bomb had exploded, removing the people but leaving the environment intact. No planes flew overhead. Birds chirped, and squirrels scampered about collecting acorns in the cool, dry, sunny late-afternoon. We rode on the closed freeways until we got about 100 feet away from the Pentagon, and saw the the big, nasty, sooty, smoking gash that kept smouldering for so long afterwards.

On the one hand, there was the brutality of the attacks, the horrific loss of life, and the surreal spectacle of the day. There was also fear that people who "looked like" they were Muslim or foreign would become skapegoats. That point was especially salient for me, since I was working at the time with refugees and immigrants, including many Muslims and their community leaders. On the other hand, beauty made its appearance in those first few days: The racial tension that I usually felt on the street between blacks and whites seemed to have been put aside. When black and white people smiled at one another on the street, and held doors open for one another, we were using those gestures to say "We are together in this and we care for one another." Our President and many others were saying that we needed to figure out how we could have arrived at this point, and to find ways to create a healthier world. For a while, I let myself dream that as people, as a society, and as a global community we could use this tragedy as a wake up call. September 11th seemed like a dividing line between one epoch from another. I dreamed that the world after September 11th would be marked by the quest for a more real, lasting, and deeper peace than we had known on September 10th. And I prayed that God would use me to help build that peace, although I didn't have a clear idea of what that might mean for my life.

All of that optimism turned out to be naive, of course. Fear, greed for power, delusional thinking, and ignorance led our President and the people who supported him to squander the incredible opportunities for unity and reconciliation that September 11th presented. Instead, they decided that "an eye for an eye" should be the order of the day, and they made sure the world saw America as the biggest bully. It makes me sick to think of the lives that have been lost since then, and the ways our reactions to the attacks have made the world sicker, more divided, and farther away from anything we might be able to call "peace."

For me personally, September 11th still serves as a spiritual touchstone. Thinking about that day helps me to remember that I asked God to use me as an instrument of peace in ways I would probably not understand.
And more clearly as the years go by, I hear God's answer to my prayer.

Integrity USA welcomes your reflections on September 11th, 2001. Send them to Louise Brooks, Director of Communications:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Presiding Bishop calls for reflection on tenth anniversary of September 11 attacks

The Presiding Bishop issued these remarks on August 18, 2011

As we mark the tenth anniversary of the events of September 11, The Episcopal Church continues to work for healing and reconciliation.

Americans experienced the first large non-domestic terrorist attack on our own soil that day, a reality that is far too much a present and continuing reality in other parts of the world. We joined that reality in 2001. Many people died senselessly that day, and many still grieve their loss. All Americans live with the aftermath – less trust of strangers, security procedures for travelers that are intrusive and often offensive, and a sense that the world is a far more dangerous place than it was before that day. Our own nation has gone to war in two distant places as a result of those events. The dying continues, and the world does not seem to have become a significantly safer place.

Yet we believe there is hope. People of faith gave sacrificially in the immediate aftermath of the plane crashes, trying to rescue those in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, trying to subdue the aggressors on the plane over Pennsylvania, and reaching out to neighbors and strangers alike on that apocalyptic day. Clergy and laity responded to the crisis in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, and prayer services erupted in churches and communities across the nation. St. Paul’s Chapel, near the site of the Towers, opened its doors to the emergency responders, and volunteers appeared with food and socks, massaging hands and praying hearts. Volunteers continued to staff the Chapel for months afterward, and prayers were offered as human remains were sought and retrieved in the ruins of the Towers.

Church communities in many places began to reach out to their neighbors of other faiths, offering reassurance in the face of mindless violence. That desire for greater understanding of other traditions has continued, and there are growing numbers of congregations engaged in interfaith dialogue, discovering that all the great religions of the world are fundamentally focused on peace. The violence unleashed on September 11th and in its aftermath was the work of zealots, disconnected from the heart of their religions’ foundations.

This tenth anniversary is above all an opportunity for reflection. Have we become more effective reconcilers as a result? Are we more committed to peace-making? The greatest memorial to those who died ten years ago will be a world more inclined toward peace. What are you doing to build a living memorial like that?

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Integrity USA welcomes your reflections on September 11th, 2001. Send them to Louise Brooks, Director of Communications :

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good News from New Zealand

A Prayer for Labor Day:
Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On this Labor Day Integrity celebrates all those who labor for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments -- especially for those whose lives are linked with ours in the Anglican Church in New Zealand and for the good news of the fruits of their labor.

From a report received via email this morning: This weekend both Auckland and Waiapu (East Coast Noth island) diocesan synods passed similar motions:

  • declining to support Clause 4 of the Covenant
  • declaring that they saw no impediment to the ordination of someone in a commited same-sex relationship.
The two motions were passed by two thirds majorities in Auckland, and by 90% plus in Waiapu.

Here's the text of the Auckland resolution:
"That this Synod

[1] Holds that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to the discernment, ordination, and licensing of gay and lesbian members to any lay and ordained offices of the Church; and further

[2] persons in committed same-sex relationships likewise should not be excluded from being considered for discernment, ordination, and licensing to any lay and ordained offices of the Church.

[3] commits to an intentional process of listening to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, organized by the Archdeacons in consultation with the gay and lesbian community.

[4] commits to an ongoing discussion with the ministry units, asks the Archdeacons to facilitate this, and invites responses to those discussions to be submitted to Diocesan Council by 31st March 2012; and

[5] commits to support the process and work of the Commission to be appointed by General Synod Standing Committee, as resolved at its meeting in July 2011."
Thanks to the Rev. Glynn Cardy for the text of the motion and for this note: "This motion was put in parts, and members voted via a paper ballot. The most contentious clause, [2], passed by nearly a two-thirds majority."

As we pause today from our labors and celebrate this Labor Day holiday let us ask the One who inspires us to work for justice to also equip us to continue in that work -- to be steadfast in that struggle -- until the full inclusion of LGBT people in the work and witness of the worldwide Communion is not just a resolution we pass but a reality we celebrate.