Saturday, December 28, 2013

Requiescat in Pace: The Right Rev. Edgar Otis Charles

St. Mark's Cathedral, Salt Lake City
PHOTO: Christian Paolino
The board and staff of Integrity sadly mark the passing of the Right Rev. Edgar Otis Charles, eighth Bishop of Utah, who died December 26th in San Francisco.  Bishop Charles came out as a gay man shortly after his retirement, the first Christian bishop to do so.

"As a bishop, I have been privileged to be with Otis as a fellow bishop, colleague and friend," said the Right Rev. Scott Hayashi, the present Bishop of Utah. "My prayers are being offered for Otis and all his family and friends who, like me, will always be grateful for his life and witness, and who will miss him terribly."

Born in April 24th, 1926 in Norristown, Penna., Bishop Charles grew up in New Jersey, attended General Theological Seminary in New York, and was ordained a priest in 1951. He worked in the Diocese of Connecticut from 1959-1971, founding two schools there.

In 1971, Charles stood for the episcopacy of both that diocese and Utah, ultimately being called to the latter. He served as Utah's eighth bishop but the first following its conversion into a diocese from a Mission Area, while also shepherding the neighboring Navajoland Mission Area and chairing the board of St. Mark's Hospital in Salt Lake City.  "[Otis] carried the diocese forward during a time of great challenge and few resources," said Bishop Hayashi. "Where others might see scarcity, Bishop Charles saw an abundance of spiritual resources from God and in the hearts and wills of the people of the Diocese of Utah."Active in the peace movement, Bishop Charles helped organize resistance to the development of missile sites in Utah and Nevada.

Between 1968 and 1982, Bishop Charles also participated in the creation of the current Book of Common Prayer as a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission.  In 1985, he left Utah to become the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Cambridge, Mass.  In 1997, the Otis Charles Chair of Applied Theology was created via a $1.7M grant, the largest single gift in the school's history.

The Right Rev. E. Otis Charles surrounded by members of the
El Camino Real chapter of Integrity at San Jose Pride in 2001
PHOTO CREDIT: Bart Bartosh
Bishop Charles was married for over 40 years and had five children.  He discussed his same-gender attraction with his wife Elvira in the 1970s, but they remained married until after his retirement 1993, when he made headlines by identifying publicly as a gay man.

"Otis' decision to come out, even though he was retired, changed the equation in the House of Bishops," said the Rev. Michael Hopkins, former President of Integrity.  "No longer could they talk about them."

Bishop Charles moved to the San Francisco Bay area and, in 1995, helped establish the California branch of The OASIS, a diocesan ministry to gay and lesbian (and now bisexual and transgender) people. "At whatever age you come out, you have to live through whatever you've missed," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Even though you're 67, you have to go through a process I associate with adolescence. Hopefully, you do it with a little more maturity and grace."

"Otis Charles was part of the bridge generation - those who dared to reach across the chasm of what was to what could be - building a bridge to somewhere. Those who had no examples of how to live authentically as LGBT people and so became examples for those who came after them. Examples of how to tell the truth about their lives - even after decades of denial to themselves and to others. Examples of how to claim the blessing of God's presence in their life and in their love as a witness to a work of healing, of hope, of wholeness," wrote the Rev. Canon Susan Russell, a fellow Californian who also served as Integrity's president.  Her memories of Bishop Charles were republished by The Episcopal Cafe.

Bishop Charles frequently lobbied the church on behalf of LGBT people, including at the 73rd General Convention in Denver in 2000, when he rallied with the Christian justice group Soulforce.
Otis Charles
Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris & Bishop Otis Charles
at the Castro Street Fair in 2009
PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Sokol
flickr.com/viamediainsfo

In 2001, he met Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris, who would become his new life partner.  Bishop Charles and Sanchez-Paris appear together in the documentary about The Right Rev. Gene Robinson Love Free or Die, in which Bishop Charles compared trying to living as a straight man to wearing a suit of the wrong size.  "With Felipe, the suit fits."

On April 29, 2004, Bishop Charles' 78th birthday, the two were united at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in a ceremony that lasted nearly three hours. They legally married in 2008, and testified together at the 2009 General Convention in Anaheim in favor of the rite for blessing same-sex relationships which was subsequently approved.  Just days before Bishop Charles' death, Utah became the 19th state with marriage equality.

Bishop Charles is preceded in death by his beloved Felipe. Dr. Sanchez-Paris died unexpectedly in his sleep on July 31st of this year.  In recent months, Bishop Charles struggled with a series of health setbacks, and he entered hospice care earlier this month.  Services will be held both at St. Gregory's in San Francisco and St. Mark's Cathedral in Salt Lake City, where Sanchez-Paris is interred.

Christian Paolino is Chair of the Stakeholders' Council of Integrity

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Mexico Becomes 17th Marriage Equality State

On Thursday, December 17th, the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled on the case of Griego v. Oliver, affirming that the state constitution allows same-gender couples to marry, and making it the 17th state where civil marriage is available to all couples statewide.  According to national advocacy group Freedom to Marry, with yesterday's ruling over 38% of the U.S. population now lives in jurisdictions with civil marriage equality.

New Mexico is unusual in that -- before yesterday -- it had no law either allowing or prohibiting same-gender couples to marry.  In their decision, the justices cited a 1972 amendment to the equal protection clause, which states "equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person."  Civil marriages in the state actually began in August, when a district judge in the area including Santa Fe and Albuquerque ordered eight county clerks to begin issuing the licenses. This disparity prompted the call for a statewide case.


St. Michael & All Angels, a Believe Out Loud congregation, participated in the 2009 Albuquerque Pride parade.
PHOTO CREDIT: 
Greg (Flickr user newmexico51)
Opponents claimed the state had an interest in preserving the status quo, citing the government's "overriding interest of responsible procreation and child-rearing."  In his decision, author Justice Edward L. Chavez addressed this directly, saying "Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying."

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, which includes most of New Mexico and five counties in Texas, has been blessing same-gender relationships since January, when its bishop, the Right Rev Michael L. Vono, authorized an adapted version of the rite created by the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music and authorized by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church when it met in Indianapolis last year.

"This weekend we join with many people who celebrate the democratic process as it is exemplified in this ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court," Bishop Vono said in a prepared statement Saturday. "It is of primary importance for our state and its leaders to address the issues of equality and justice. For far too long, our gay brothers and sisters have been denied equal rights. As we move forward as a democratic society we must continue to address all issues of inequality, discrimination and poverty. "

Bishop Vono has been careful to articulate the distinction between the blessing rite and a wedding, acknowledging that the Episcopal Church is in the process of studying its overall understanding of marriage, and implying that no immediate change to current diocesan policy would occur as result of Thursday's ruling.  He described the blessing rite in the Albuquerque Journal in January as "a recognition of a commitment, which is a covenant, of two people who vow to live their lives in a monogamous relationship."

 "We live in an age where there is still a lot of judgment, still a lot of discrimination that happens within Christianity. We exclude people that are not like ourselves, he told the El Paso Times.  
"So this may be the Jesus thing to do in our age because Jesus forced the issue that no one is rejected by God and that all people are loved. And if you have two responsible people, whether heterosexual or gay, who love in a Christian way -- which is responsibly and exclusively monogamous and help each other and forgive each other -- what more can we ask for?"

"This may be the Jesus thing to do in our age"

The Right Rev. Michael Vono,
Bishop of the Rio Grande
Bishop Vono acknowledged that some clergy may not be comfortable blessing same-gender relationships, and said in his pastoral letter that no priest would be forced to do so.  "My prayer is that as a loving, compassionate and wonderfully diverse diocese, we remain bound together in Christ, and, as we grow faithfully, to respect the various theological and ecclesial differences and interpretation of Scripture, tradition and reason, which model the best of our inherited Anglican polity."

The Navajoland
Area Mission , part of which is in New Mexico, has not published an official statement on use of the blessings rite, although its bishop, the Right Rev. David Bailey, voted in favor of its adoption.  The self-governing Navajo Nation passed the DinĂ© Marriage Act prohibiting same-gender marriages in 2005, and Deswood Tome, an advisor to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, told the Farmington, N.M., Daily Times that tribal law trumps the state ruling and no changes are currently planned.  However both Jared Touchin, who is spokesman for Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize; and Alray Nelson, founder of the Coalition for Navajo Equality, expressed to the Daily Times the possibility that the state ruling could cause tribal leaders to rethink their positions.




Utah Becomes 18th State Offering Marriage Equality

Rt Rev. Scott Hayashi participating with Integrity Utah members in this year's Pride celebration. Photo by Integrity Utah

Utah became the 18th state offering marriage equality on Friday, December 20, 2013, when a federal judge on Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. "The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional," wrote U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby of Utah in the 53-page decision.

Shelby enjoined the state from enforcing two statutes that ban same-sex marriage. Also included was Amendment 3, added to the state’s constitution in 2004. This appellate court handles the cases for Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It arrived one day after the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality.

According to the Rt. Rev. Scott B Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah:
"I rejoice that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby has struck down Utah's Amendment 3. All people should have the right to due process and equal protection enshrined in the 14th Amendment. Gay and lesbian people are human beings with hopes, dreams, and the need for love. I celebrate that now they will have access to the same fulfillment enjoyed by heterosexual people. They are people made in the image of God."
Hundreds descended on county clerk offices to receive their marriage licenses. First Baptist Church Pastor Curtis Price, dressed in his black vestments and rainbow-colored stole, was among the officials who were marrying couples in Salt Lake City. Michael Ferguson, 32, and Seth Anderson, 31, were the first to receive a license in Salt Lake City and marry. Cheers rang as Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker married State Sen. Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, to his longtime partner, Stephen Justesen.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Acting Attorney General Brian L. Tarbet are planning ways to overturn this decision. Hours after the ruling, the Utah attorney general’s office appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. It also filed a motion asking Shelby to stay the ruling while the office seeks to defend Utah’s Amendment 3.

The ruling is striking given the state's long activist stand against marriage equality. The state's citizens predominantly belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many Mormons expressed disappointment in the decision. The county of Provo, known as the conservative heartland of the conservative state, as of the evening was still not granting licenses as the decision was reviewed by the county clerk office. A group called Mormons for Equality, however, applauded the ruling, saying it was particularly sweet coming in "the heartland of our faith."

In the spirit of reconciliation and care for all, Bishop Hayashi added:
"Many people will find this ruling difficult. The change that this represents will cause them heartache, frustration, and a feeling that our country is going in the wrong direction. Understanding, compassion and prayer for people who deplore this decision is important. They are people made in the image of God. I will be offering my prayers for them.
We are one people. We are one state. We can and must work to make Utah into the place where all people are treated with respect and dignity, and where God is seen in the face of each and every person. As the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, I will continue to welcome all people into The Episcopal Church."
The number of states moving towards marriage equality has risen to eighteen in the past year. Said Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal, said that should this ruling stand it will be"up from six before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriage."

Friday, December 20, 2013

When Employment Laws Aren't Just Ducky...

The past 24 hours have seen a flurry of activity around the continued employment of one man, a Phil Robertson, who is employed by the network A&E in the state of Louisiana. Mr. Robertson, in a very high-profile venue, made personal statements that are inherently contradictory to the established statements of his employer. In relatively short order he was suspended from his position indefinitely. I have seen Internet petitions that he be suspended, countering ones that he retain his job; posts praising A&E for their decision, and posts disavowing any future relationship with the network. In the midst of all this, I have found myself somewhere between mystified and flabbergasted. This is the case of employment injustice that scandalizes America?

Mr. Robertson lives in Louisiana. A&E could walk into his office (or equivalent) any day and fire him, for any number of reasons. Louisiana is a "right to work" state; employers do not need any reason to suspend a person's employment in that state. However, in light of the fact that Mr. Robertson's statements were in regard to the LGBTQ community, let's be clear on the case of the employer's rights in regards to sexuality and gender definition in Louisiana.

An employer in Louisiana has the right to fire an individual solely because of his or her sexuality. A&E has the legal right to tell Mr. Robertson, "On account of your heterosexuality, and your inability to keep it an appropriately private matter, we are terminating your employment." A&E also has the legal right to tell Mr. Robertson, "On account of your cis-gender expression (that you define your gender with the one you were assigned at birth), we are terminating your employment." That in Louisiana, and across the nation, employers have the ability to terminate an employment based on a person's sexuality or gender definition is a true travesty of justice.

Everyone deserves gainful employment, Mr. Robertson included. Everyone deserves advocates to ensure a termination is a just and appropriate action. In the eyes of the law of Louisiana, A&E has more than sufficient legal right to suspend Mr. Robertson's employment. Advocates for Mr. Robertson's continued employment and advocates for LGBTQ equality should find equal issue with the current employment laws which are inherently unjust to all the citizens of Louisiana.

Let us pray that our country's current fascination with the debatable viability of one man's suspension of employment will bring about a deeper understanding of the systematic injustice all employees face in light of our current laws.

Benjamin Garren is a seminarian at Bexley Hall and a candidate for ordination in the Diocese of Maine.  A native of North Carolina, he did his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He blogs at http://extraordonary.blogspot.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: INTEGRITY STANDS WITH UMC MINISTER FRANK SCHAEFER


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

INTEGRITY STANDS WITH METHODIST MINISTER FRANK SCHAEFER

Boston, MA - December 19, 2013 -  Integrity stands with those supporting the Rev. Frank Schaefer in his courageous witness to LGBT inclusion. On Thursday, United Methodist Church officials defrocked the central Pennsylvania pastor who officiated his son's gay wedding and, after being suspended, defiantly refused to resign.

We extend our heartfelt prayers to Schaefer and his family, and to all faithful United Methodists around the world who have been injured by these events. Integrity decries the church action. Moreover, we are grateful for the sacrifices made by Schaefer and by all in our own denomination and beyond who have risked their hopes, dreams, and livelihood rather than betray their own LGBT sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters.

Integrity's Vice President of National Affairs, the Rev. Jon M. Richardson said, "I am humbled and inspired by the witness of Frank Schaefer. As a former United Methodist and the gay son of a United Methodist clergy person, I feel acutely the pain we share with our sisters and brothers in the UMC as they continue to wait for the day when they can live more fully into their Open hearts, open minds, open doors mantra. As the Episcopal Church continues to live more deeply into our calling to collaborative ministry with the United Methodist Church, I pray that we will continue to support those stepping forward to seize the opportunities for evangelism and to join the growing ecumenical movement that are a part of welcoming and celebrating all of God's people in the church."

We at Integrity recommit ourselves to work with our allies across denominations to “Believe Out Loud” that the full inclusion of LGBT people in our churches becomes not just a slogan but a welcoming reality.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bishops' Forum on LGBT Inclusion in Kansas City

In June of this year, the Greater Kansas City Integrity chapter hosted a "Believe Out Loud" workshop. The Integrity members and other participants left that workshop all fired up about the opportunities that have been generated by the approval of same-sex blessings and the greater awareness of LGBT participation in our Episcopal parishes. We were introduced to evangelism techniques customized to reach out to a community that had been ignored and, worse yet, abused by Christian churches for a very long time.


The Right Rev. Martin Field, the Right Rev. Dean Wolfe
Although there were a few parishes in our two-state metropolitan area that had embraced the new reality and were celebrating blessings, the vast majority of our congregations were silent and slow to react. We spoke with the bishops of the two dioceses that cover the Kansas City area. The Right Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, D.D., of the Diocese of Kansas, and the Right Rev. Martin Field of the Diocese of West Missouri were supportive of our efforts and they agreed to sponsor a forum for clergy and lay leadership. They asked us to develop the agenda for this unique two bishop forum and we went to work.

We began by interviewing parish priests and asking them how Integrity could help them develop a welcoming environment for LGBT persons in their congregation. We told them about the techniques that we had experienced at the Believe Out Loud workshop. The members who had these conversations with the priests knew them well and were surprised by the apparent lack of interest in what we were offering.

Integrity Greater Kansas City Chapter Convener Scott Schaefer
with the Right Rev. Martin Field & the Right Rev. Dean Wolfe
The more that we probed in our preparation for the forum, we discovered that it was not a lack of interest – it was conscious foot dragging and a fear of adverse reactions in their congregations. We heard comments like, "My congregation is OK with this issue and we don’t need to do anything special." When asked how they might have prepared the parish for the approval of blessings by General Convention, the response was usually the same – "We didn’t need to do anything special." We were pretty sure that was not a valid assessment. After all, the states of Kansas and Missouri are not exactly hotbeds of liberalism. Both States adopted constitutional amendments banning anything other than traditional marriages.

Other priests were frank in saying that they did not want to stir up the sexuality debate and they feared the loss of valued parishioners, especially in the older generation. It was becoming clear to us that the parishes were not ready for our Believe Out Loud excitement. We needed to double back and deal with the anxiety among parish leadership over the topic of overt inclusion of LGBT persons. In other words, the passage of legislation by General Convention did not resolve the underlying issues.

The Right Rev. Martin Field, The Right Rev. Dean Wolfe
With this knowledge, we changed the theme of the forum and advertised it as an opportunity for clergy and lay leadership to have an open and honest conversation with their bishops and fellow leaders with respect to the opportunities and challenges arising from increased LGBT participation in their congregations. Apparently this struck a responsive chord and we were pleased to have an attendance of 65 persons representing 16 parishes. And this was on a Thursday night in early September – not prime time!

Bishop Field opened the forum with a reminder that the full inclusion of LGBT brothers and sisters was a "Gospel imperative" and that we as leaders in the Church needed to move forward on this initiative in the name of Christ. Bishop Wolfe, in his opening remarks, spoke about the "missed opportunity cost" that would be incurred if we were reluctant to take hold of this opportunity to make major strides in establishing our parishes as places that practice radical hospitality – especially in the context of the cultural conflicts that exist in our Midwest environment.

Following the encouraging remarks from the Bishops, the microphones were opened for brief responses from those in attendance. There next followed a very active small group discussion period among the attendees as they shared their individual parish experiences. The Forum closed with reports from the table discussions to the plenary session.

The Right Rev. Martin Field, The Right Rev. Dean Wolfe
The exchanges that occurred during this two-hour Forum were very encouraging. The participants were all supportive of the effort, but were also very frank and open in sharing their concerns. One of the conclusions stated during the discussions was that silence within the congregation cannot be taken as consensus. Bishop Wolfe suggested an analogy to our history with racism. In the 1940s and 1950s it was not uncommon for church members to openly engage in racist remarks and humor. It is difficult to comprehend now that some Episcopal congregations were openly opposed to civil rights initiatives. As the prevailing secular culture changed, the opponents of racial equality became silent but they did not go away; they merely went underground and racism is still with us today. Congregations need to be aware of this same tendency in today’s issues of sexuality and find creative ways to engage the silent members who still have unresolved concerns. However, we cannot let those silent concerns stand in the way of the opportunity that is before us.

Integrity, as a sponsor and participant in the forum, was able to express our desire to join with the individual parishes to give them whatever support and assistance we can to help them move forward with their desire to gather and incorporate new LGBT members. We are hopeful that the communication lines that have been established from this forum will give our chapter a new focus for our ministry in the Dioceses of Kansas and Missouri.
 
Larry J. Bingham is a member of the Greater Kansas City chapter of Integrity. He served as a Lay Deputy to seven consecutive General Conventions from 1994 through 2012. In 2012, he was a member of the Legislative Committee on Liturgy, Prayer Book and Church Music and served on the Subcommittee for Same-Sex Blessings. 

Photo credit: Melodie Woerman, Communications Officer for the Diocese of Kansas

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Transfaith and Trusting in God

Professor H. Ackley served for 15 years as Professor of Theology and Chair of the Diversity Council, a council of the Faculty Senate, at Azusa Pacific University (APU). He inspired students in a faith that wasn't just esoteric and distant, but tangible, with real world actions and practices. At this evangelical Christian university located in the suburbs of Los Angeles, he recently helped clarify and affirm the inclusion of LGBTQ students in the school's anti-hate policies.
Prof H Adam Ackley during at All Saints Pasadena (Nov 24, 2013)
The video of this talk can be found on YouTube

Unfortunately, in October, Dr. Ackley informed the administration that he was going to formally change his name to H. Adam Ackley, revealing a long-due transition that the university was not expecting. The students and colleagues were incensed when they discovered that Dr. Ackley was being asked to resign. Social media lit up and soon traditional media was camped out in front of Dr. Ackley's home, a concern given his two minor children living at home.

I spoke with Dr. Ackley about the events and found much that informs our own journeys in the Episcopal Church. Rather than stoke the flames of outrage and possible violence, Dr. Ackley - an ordained minister and serving on the Spiritual Life and Nurture Commission at the La Verne Church of the Brethren - tempered student and faculty anger and focused it into channels of reconciliation, mediation, and peace. Coming from an Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition of peace, his desire for mutual respect and dialogue seems a far cry from the media storm raging around the campus.

Although Dr. Ackley is no longer at APU, his impact, driven by deeply rooted spiritual practices and faith-guided words, continues to resonate on campus. Several students and allies, including a star athlete LGBTQ ally, quit school because they found the school's actions inconsistent with truth and the fair treatment of all. Lessons of tolerance gained in the Diversity Council are questioned in their authenticity and use. And yet, every Friday night, Dr. Ackley leads a peaceful, candle-lit dinner and prayer at his home; this "shabbat" is open to all, and many former students come to heal.

I asked Dr. Ackley if his story would be of interest to the Episcopal Church. As it turns out, the Rev. Cameron Partridge, Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University, was one of the first to reach out to Dr. Ackley when the news broke. Rev Partridge, along with Soulforce and GLAAD, stepped in to advise Dr. Ackley on how to take self-care and protect his family from the media intrusion. According to Rev. Partridge, "My heart just immediately went out to him. I reached out to him in solidarity-- so that he might know he's not alone-- and have really appreciated not only his witness but also his friendship. My students also heard about him (separately from me) and wanted him to know they stood with him too. We happened to do a unit on the Genesis creation stories, and looked at just the passages and interpretations that helped give Adam his name. It was moving to come across that aspect of his story after having explored similar connections around our table here in Massachusetts."

I compared the almost forty years of Integrity work with the Episcopal Church to the developments at places like APU and other evangelical universities. Dr. Ackley pointed out how the groundwork for change and acceptance may take some time, but truth, honesty, and the overpowering love of Christ bends and turns the body, mind, and heart. "Think of it like yoga. Yoga doesn't suddenly allow the human body to magically bend in ways it never has before. With practice and patience, though, you surprise yourself with what you one day are able to achieve

As I drove away from my coffee with Dr. Ackley, I was struck by the similarity of Dr. Ackley's yoga metaphor and the journey of the Episcopal Church in issues of LGBTQ inclusion, marriage equality, and respect for our Trans* brothers and sisters. It has taken some time, but change eventually comes and can catch many off guard. In this Advent season of watching and waiting, we all must be ready for the Joy that is to be. Dr Ackley may face the challenges of job hunting, relocation, and sudden fame all at once, but with a profound faith and trust in God's plans, he seems ready for the journey before him.



http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6DaZ-VXEmMI/UqCRLsYMJWI/AAAAAAAAAV8/AHlNpD9dO0A/s1600/mel-texting.jpg


Mel Soriano
Integrity Board of Directors (Director of Communications, Secretary)
Vestry/Coventry Choir/Taizé/Labyrinth All Saints Pasadena

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like... St. Aelred's Day!

Whether you are prone to embrace the hushed expectation of Advent or fill your month with shopping, caroling and decking-of-halls, the Integrity Stakeholders' Council would like to remind you that our patronal feast, St. Aelred's Day, is coming up in just about five weeks' time on January 12th.

Born in 1110 in Hexham, Northumbria, England, Aelred attended school in Scotland and subsequently became the household manager of the Scottish King, David I.  Unsatisfied with this life, he entered the monastery at Rievaulx in Yorkshire, and subsequently became its abbot.

Rievaulx
Window depicting the Abbey at Rievaulx,
by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Used under Creative Commons License
Aelred published several books, the most popular of which, De spiritali amicitia (Spiritual Friendship) written between 1164-1167 is what drew Integrity to him.  As abbot, Aelred disagreed with the idea that monastics should artificially have the same level of companionship with everyone in the community, arguing instead that people are naturally drawn to those with whom they are most compatible.

Integrity chapters, Proud Parish Partners and anyone who wishes to give thanks for the work of LGBT inclusion in the church are encouraged to observe his feast day with celebration and prayer.  Last year, the Connecticut Chapter developed a series of resources for the observance, including an anthem with words by our founder, Dr. Louie Crew, and music by Bert Landman.

The St. Aelred resources are the first of a planned year-round cycle of liturgies and other programming to be published on our web site.  The Stakeholders are looking for chapters, congregations and individuals interested in contributing or developing materials for the calendar.  Please consider sharing with us service leaflets, prayers of the people or other resources that others could utilize to further our communal life in the spirit.

Christian Paolino is Chair of the Integrity Stakeholders' Council

Diocese of Los Angeles Urges Action on ENDA

by the Reverend Canon Susan Russell

As Diocese of Los Angeles Episcopalians prepare to gather for their 118th Annual Diocesan Convention (December 6-7) the Diocesan LGBT Ministry is preparing to gather signatures from convention delegates on this letter urging Speaker Boehner to bring ENDA -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – to a vote in the House.
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker
United States House of Representatives
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We are Episcopalians gathered in Ontario, California for the 118th
Annual Convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles. We represent over 70,000 Episcopalians in 147 neighborhood congregations located in six Southern California counties – and we write to urge you to act swiftly and bring up S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the House of Representatives.

As you know, the Senate passed S. 815 on November 7 in a bipartisan vote of 64-32. ENDA provides a commonsense solution to the problem of workplace discrimination by extending critical employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. The version of ENDA introduced in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1755, currently has 193 bipartisan cosponsors. ENDA has engendered such widespread support because it embodies the American ideal of fairness: employees should be judged on their skills and abilities in the workplace, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity. All U.S. workers deserve to be judged on the quality of the job they do, nothing more, nothing less.

In 2009 at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we adopted a resolution supporting "the extension of existing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination to include discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression along with those prohibitions based on race, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability." And now it is 2013 and -- with bipartisan support in both chambers – the time has come to give ENDA what it deserves: an up or down vote in the House.


We urge you to allow a vote on ENDA on the House floor before the end of the year. Thank you for your consideration of our views on this important matter.

Faithfully,

Our three Los Angeles bishops – Jon Bruno, Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool – have agreed to be the first three signers of the letter we hope will add to the increasing pressure on House leadership to bring this important bill to the floor.

"Seeds of Hope" is the theme of this year’s convention. And I believe our signatures on this letter will be outward and visible signs of the seeds of hope the Diocese of Los Angeles continues to sow – hope that together we can end discrimination, heal homophobia and truly respect the dignity of every human being.

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell has served as Integrity's President and is currently the convener of Claiming the Blessing, a national collaborative ministry focused on the full inclusion of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender baptized into the Episcopal Church. A senior associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena CA, she is also a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post's religion forum. Her personal blog may be found at An Inch at a Time.