As we venture into our second decade of service to the Diocese of Idaho and her LGBT parishioners, we take time to reflect on what we have accomplished.
- The first item of importance was to create a safe place for LGBT members and their allies to gather and enjoy fellowship. We have now established a tradition of monthly gatherings. We enjoy a potluck meal, followed by some sort of activity or simply just converse. Activities have included game nights, movie nights, and even dance lessons (we have wedding receptions to get ready for!).
- Established a presence at Boise Pride celebration. We have made ourselves available to the general public, so that we could let them know that there are welcoming congregations in the area.
- Being part of the community-at-large, we found ourselves in the unique position to advise congregations and the general public on LGBT issues. Concurrently, we were able to help our LGBT faithful to be more outspoken and identifiable in their parishes and communities, while creating a safe haven for worship.
- As part of our monthly gatherings, we led a series of discussions based on Candace Chellew-Hodge’s book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. This gave us the opportunities to share our own journeys of faith and learn how to be more compassionate with others that did not share our views.
- To reach out to our host congregation, St. Michael’s Cathedral, we organized what became known as 'legendary coffee hours'. One such fell on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, so it was a Mardi Gras theme, complete with fresh beignets! While we don’t do these on quite the same scale, we do still offer the occasional coffee hour as a thank you to our congregations.
- In 2011, we created a membership survey to see how we are doing and what we can do better. This gave us a good idea as to what our members were thinking about Integrity Idaho and allowed us to set new goals to help fulfill our mission.
- We have been sponsors for the Lions Pride Cubs (an LGBT youth group in Idaho) annual winter dance. This gave us an opportunity to reach out to LGBT youth in our area and give them a safe and welcoming place to gather.
- We created our own Facebook page! This gives us more access to the public by having a presence on social media. Go ahead and give us a like! Find us at www.facebook.com/integrityidaho
So here we are a decade later, so where do we go from here? Thankfully, we have a loving, caring Bishop that is very supportive of our mission. With his blessing, we are working hard to further our presence in the Diocese of Idaho. Here is what we are currently working on and watching out for:
- We are launching a new web page! What makes this exciting for us is that we have never had real presence on the web. We are certainly mentioned, but there has not been anything that gives people a direct resource or contact to us. We hope to launch our new page by November 1. Be sure to check us out on the web at http://integrity.episcopalidaho.org
- Currently in Idaho, there are several political issues on the horizon that we are keeping a very close eye on and speaking out when necessary. The first being the issue regarding Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban. This ban was recently struck down and is currently working its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. As you may be aware, the 9th Circuit did issue their ruling, stating that the Idaho ban was illegal. However, a stay from SCOTUS has been issued therefore; marriages in Idaho are on hold. We are certainly hopeful for a positive outcome, and continue to pray that these justices will see just how important this is for Idaho and her citizens. In response to the Governor and Attorney General’s continuing to defend the ban, Integrity Idaho did publish an open letter on October 8. This letter will be made available on our web page upon its launch.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10AM MST – MARRIAGE EQUALITY COMES TO IDAHO! All stays have been lifted, and the Governor and Attorney General, while still opposed to lifting the ban on same-sex marriage, have dropped their legal maneuvers to continue this unconstitutional mandate.
- Another issue that is taking precedence here in Idaho, is the 'Add the Words' movement. The goal of this movement is to add the words ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ to the current Idaho Civil Rights Statute. These four simple words would offer protections for GLBT persons so that they could not be fired from their jobs, be discriminated against for housing, among many other protections. The problem is that for the last nine years, the Idaho Legislature has refused to even hold a hearing on the bill. In January of this year, Integrity Idaho sent an open letter to all Idaho Legislators including Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter. While our letter was welcomed by those law makers that are in favor of this legislation, we received a rather cold response from Idaho’s Republican majority. That does not mean that we are giving up! We are working to foster a conversation with law makers on both sides of the aisle. This also came on the heels of Idaho’s so-called 'Religious Freedom' bills, that if passed would have allowed hate and discrimination in the name of 'personally held religious beliefs'. When these bills came up in committee, over 500 people turned out to speak in opposition of this legislation. Among those to testify to the committee were our own Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Brian Thom, and Integrity Idaho co-director, Susan Bolen.
- We recognize that due to the current political climate within our state, it is now more important than ever to identify welcoming and affirming congregations, regardless of denomination. We are currently working on a plan to identify these congregations in conjunction with the Believe Out Loud program. We will start by working with our own Diocese, and then we will broaden our scope to identify other faiths that are welcoming and affirming by working with the Interfaith Equality Coalition (based in Boise, ID). While goals for this have not yet been set, we anticipate having our plan defined and in place by the first of the year.
We give thanks to God for our 10th anniversary, working for inclusion and acceptance of all of God’s children in the Diocese of Idaho. We pray for another successful ten years to come.
Nik Dumas and Susan Bolen are the Co-Directors / Co-Conveners of Integrity Idaho