Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Integrity Election Ends Wednesday

The Integrity election ends Wednesday night at 8pm EDT, July 1. If you are a current member or stakeholder, you should have received a ballot by mail. Please vote using the link included.

If you did not receive an email ballot, please contact laura@integrityusa.org before Wednesday 2pm EDT.

Election results will be announced by noon on Thursday, July 2.

Legislative Update: Day 6

On Monday June 29, the fifth legislative day of the 78th General Convention, the House of Bishops adopted (by an overwhelming majority) two resolutions moving us closer to ending discrimination against same-sex couples desiring to be married in the Episcopal Church.

The first (A054) adopted two new marriage liturgies for trial use and the second (A036) included a canonical change to remove references to marriage as being between a man and a woman. The resolutions now move to the House of Deputies for approval. They will be heard as part of a special order of business on Wednesday, July 1st at 11:30 a.m.

These resolutions have been carefully and prayerfully crafted to provide as wide a tent as possible for the broad diversity of perspectives that is the hallmark of our heritage as Anglicans whilst making what the Supreme Court ruled last week as a “fundamental right” for all Americans equally available for all Episcopalians.

While the resolution stipulates: “Trial use is only to be available under the discretion and with the permission of the diocesan bishop” it also stipulates “Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision, will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies.” This compromise creates a “bridge too far” for some and a “bridge not far enough” for others.

We are hopeful that both A054 and A036 will be quickly concurred – without amendment -- by the House of Deputies so that we can then shift into implementation throughout the Church.

Integrity will partner with members, allies and bishops to make sure that “will make provision for all couples asking to be married” is a reality – not just a resolution. And we look forward to celebrating with great joy the marriages throughout the church that will be outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace of present in the lives of same-sex couples called to the vocation of marriage.

Marriage equality is not the only issue on the floor at this 78th General Convention. Resolution D028 -- "Oppose Conversion Therapy" -- was today concurred by the House of Bishops ... putting the Episcopal Church on record supporting legislation banning conversion therapy that tries "to change a person's sexual orientation or force them to deny their gender identity."

A051 -- Supporting LGBT African Advocacy -- has made it through Deputies and is headed to Bishops along with D036 -- Adding Name Change Services to the Book of Occasional Services.

More to come. (Watch this space!)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Open Letter to the House of Bishops

Dear Bishops,

Today is the day. On your legislative calendar for this, the fifth day of the 78th General Convention, are the resolutions from Committee 20 (the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage) authorizing canonical changes and liturgical resources to make marriage equally available to all couples desiring marriage in the Episcopal Church.

These resolutions have been carefully and prayerfully crafted to provide as wide a tent as possible for the broad diversity of perspectives that is the hallmark of our heritage as Anglicans whilst making what the Supreme Court ruled last week as a “fundamental right” for all Americans equally available for all Episcopalians.

The journey to this day has been long and the challenges have been great. We have worked, prayed, argued, debated and compromised to this moment. And it is the moment to “let our yes be yes.” (Matthew 5:37) It is time to let our yes be yes – and not only to the LGBT members of this church who have been waiting since 1976 for the promise of “full and equal claim” to become a reality and not just a resolution.

It is time to let our yes be yes for the whole church. It is time to put behind us our forty years of wrangling in the wilderness over the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. And it is time to journey together into God’s future – a diverse people united in our commitment to the Jesus Movement our Presiding Bishop-elect has called us to claim and to proclaim a world hungry for love, justice and compassion.

Today is the day. Let your yes be yes.

Susan Russell is an Integrity past-president, the convener of Claiming the Blessing and on staff at All Saints Church in Pasadena CA.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Live from Salt Lake City: An Anniversary Agenda

by Susan Russell

A year ago today I married my wife Lori at All Saints Church in Pasadena. Surrounded by friends and family and using the iconic liturgical language of our faith tradition we pledged to love, honor and cherish each other until death do we part. Then Ed Bacon pronounced that we were spouses for life.

We went to the parish hall for a party, sent off the marriage license to the county registrar and launched into the first year of our "happily ever after" marriage. Not our happily ever after "gay marriage" -- our happily ever after marriage. As I've noted before, we don't pay gay taxes or fold gay laundry or take out gay trash to the curb -- so we're not gay married.

And oh, how my heart soared to hear these words from Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry at his first press conference: "It's marriage. It's not gay marriage. It's not straight marriage. It's marriage." 

This morning we woke up together in a Salt Lake City hotel room. Our anniversary present came two days early when the Supreme Court ruled that every other American couple was as entitled to the fundamental right of marriage as we were. Our anniversary agenda includes a very early wake up call to participate in a march with the Bishops For the Elimination of Gun Violence, corporate worship with 5000 or so members of our Big Fat Episcopalian Family in the massive convention hall worship space and then an afternoon of legislative process which -- we hope -- will include the House of Bishops debating ... and adopting ... Resolution A036 from Committee #20 -- amending the canons of the Episcopal Church to make the sacrament of marriage equally available to same and opposite couples.

 It will not be without debate. It will not be without compromise. It will not be without some folks feeling we've taken the bridge too far and others that we've fallen short. But it will move us closer to the long dreamed of, worked for, aspired to dream of a church where all the baptized are fully included in all the sacraments.

And let me be clear -- this struggle has never been about inclusion for inclusion's sake. It has been about inclusion for the Gospel's sake -- so that we might become more fully the Body of Christ God created and calls us to be. And that means marching to end gun violence, working to challenge marginalization and dismantle oppression in all its forms, recognizing that because all lives matter it matters that we say #blacklivesmatter until we make that resolve a reality.

But hey -- if I can wake up in a Salt Lake City hotel room with my wife on the first anniversary of our marriage in a country with full stop marriage equality, in a church with Michael Curry as the Presiding Bishop-elect then anything is possible.

As Rachel Maddow would say: Watch this space.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Congratulations to the Presiding Bishop-Elect Rt. Rev. Michael Curry

IntegrityUSA applauds the wisdom of the House of Bishops in their election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church, and the House of Deputies in their wisdom in confirming the election.  Bishop Curry has a long-standing history of supporting LGBT Episcopalians, and specifically of supporting IntegrityUSA in our efforts at making the Episcopal Church a beacon of love, justice, and compassion, where ALL people are equally embraced and empowered.  Most recently IntegrityUSA has collaborated with Bishop Curry as we began our 40th anniversary celebration in the Diocese of North Carolina last November with the now-Presiding Bishop-elect preaching a rousing and inspiring sermon renewing us all in our call to compassion and mission.  We are eager to continue working with Presiding Bishop-elect Curry as he answers this call to renewed ministry serving the wider church.  The Episcopal Church now has a record going back to Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning of electing talented and thoughtful leaders who have joined IntegrityUSA in our mission and ministry.  We are delighted that we will have in the 27th Presiding Bishop another advocate as strong, as faithful, and as steadfast as Presiding Bishop-elect Curry.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Day to Remember

The members and leaders of Integrity - both LGBT and not - can hardly contain our emotion on this day of jubilee throughout the nation.  We are thrilled that LGBT Episcopalians can know full civil marriage equality everywhere and we continue in our fervent hope that the church will answer the call to equality with the same prophetic witness as the U.S. Supreme Court has.  Even in the midst of our joy, however, we remember the mourning of our brothers and sisters in South Carolina right now, and moreover we remember the pain and violence experienced by our transgender members and friends every day throughout the nation.  It remains true that #BlackLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter, and Integrity remains equally committed to seeking the justice to which Christ has been calling the church.  Though we celebrate, we remember that there is much work left to do.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson
Vice President of National Affairs - Integrity USA

Complimentarity and Covenantal Relationships: An Argument for Marriage Equality

Marriage is an icon of Christ's covenantal love for us, the Body of Christ.

We believe that a married couple -- living out the sacrificial love that this covenant demands can be a witness to the world of Christ's love for us. In reality, this is the covenantal, sacrificial love that we are called to live out with one another, like David and Jonathan, giving our soul to one another.

Let us define marriage by its nature, by its grace -- not by an unrealistic binary gender identification that is no longer a reality. 

Adam said: You are flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. You are like me -- meaning a human made in God's image.

Complementarity comes in many forms. For the sake of the people in my pews -- and for the people who are too afraid to come in because that have been so often denied -- let us not narrow the complementarity of humanity down to a binary world.

Let us not make a second class of covenantal relationships, a second class of citizens in the Church.

Let us be fruitful and multiply. Multiply covenantal relationships. Multiply disciples. In Christ there is no us or them, there is only us.

Jane Johnson
Deputy in the Dioceses of Fond du Lac
Rector at Intercession, Stevens Point, WI

Testimony given to Committee #20 -- the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage -- at their first Open Hearing on the marriage resolutions on June 24, 2015 at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

Thursday, June 25, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: HOD Review Committee on Changes to Marriage Canons

The House of Deputies Review Committee has included the following important clarification in its report on the work of the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage.

In clear concise language it clarifies that the canonical resolutions being considered by Committee 20 are firmly within the bounds of the authority of this 78th General Convention.

Good people of deep faith can and will come to different conclusions on what – if any -- steps the Episcopal Church should take toward ending discrimination against sacramental marriage for same-sex couples. But the following excerpt from the HOD Review Committee makes it abundantly clear that taking the position that the proposals before Committee 20 are unconstitutional is
 utterly without merit:

The General Convention has the constitutional power to amend Canon I.18 and, by separate action, authorize liturgies to meet the needs of the Church as required. Objections have been raised to the constitutionality of this resolution based on arguments “that the Episcopal Church will continue to have contrary laws governing Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, a constitutional document.”2 Such objections rest on two flawed premises.

First, the civil status of marriage, which is available to persons of all faiths and none, and in most U.S. jurisdictions to two persons of the same sex or different sexes, is distinct from any particular liturgy. It is appropriate for the canons to recognize this real-world reality.

Second, the Constitution is the only constitutional document of The Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer, despite its centrality in defining the doctrine and worship of The Episcopal Church, and despite the fact that its rubrics form part of the discipline of the Church (Canon IV.2) is not a “constitutional” document merely because most amendments require action by two succeeding meetings of the General Convention. The Book of Common Prayer does not grant authority to the General Convention; on the contrary, it is the product of the General Convention’s constitutional authority to adopt liturgies for the Church.

Third, Even assuming that the rubrics of the Prayer Book limit the liturgy for Holy Matrimony to persons of different sexes, they do not limit the power of the General Convention to adopt regulations for solemnization of marriage that may use another liturgical forms—which, as explained elsewhere in this report, may be authorized without amending the Book of Common Prayer. The longstanding authorization and acceptance of additional materials such as Enriching Our Worship and materials for ecumenical worship demonstrate this.


2 Benhase and McConnell, A More Excellent Way: Good Order in Salt Lake City (June 28, 2015) The Living Church, at p. 21.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A rebuttal to the "you can't change the marriage canons" argument

The energy is rising here in Salt Lake City. Deputies and Bishops are arriving by the airport shuttle-full and the Exhibit Hall opened just a few minutes ago. Soon we will turn our attention to the actual business of convention -- the work and worship that calls us together as the council of church. And some of that work will be continuing the journey toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. And some of that work will center on the sacrament of marriage.

The legislative process has yet to formally begin, but there are, of course, lots of opinions on the proposals from lots of sources. In the last few days, this letter from the Bishops of Virginia has garnered a lot of attention -- in part because it stated the bishops' intention to vote against proposed canonical changes on marriage and in part because it questioned the legality of the proposed changes.

Making up their mind how to vote before actually getting to Convention and allowing the collaborative process to inform and the Holy Spirit to inspire is one issue. Here is a response to the other issue -- in direct response to a question received via email by a #gc78 watcher who read the letter and asked Integrity this:

Q. I've heard concern raised over the proposals for marriage equality because it would be a *canonical* change and not a *constitutional* change. The canons and the constitution would then be out of compliance. I understand that a change to the constitution (aka the prayer book) would require a resolution be adopted at this convention, and then the exact same language would have to pass at GC 79 in 2018. Is that accurate?

A. This comes from a misunderstading of the place of the BCP. It is not "constitutional." Only the Constitution is constitutional. The BCP is sometimes mistakenly called constitutional because its amendment process takes two conventions -- but unlike the Constitution itself, amendments to the BCP can be "tried out" -- real amendments to the Constitution are null until approved by two conventions, then they are the law.

The problem arises when people treat the BCP as a lawbook instead of a liturgical book. Beyond that, the BCP itself provides (on page 13) for other liturgies to be authorized. These liturgies would not be needed if they were not in some way different to the BCP, so to argue that such liturgies have to be congruent to the BCP doesn't stand.

Besides that, the SSM liturgies do not "contradict" the BCP; they simply offer a liturgy for something the BCP did not conceive of. The BCP is descriptive, not proscriptive, when it comes to marriage -- otherwise all those second marriages would be ruled out because the BCP says marriages are "life-long."
Next question?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nominees for the 2015 Integrity Election

The following candidates have come forward for the elected positions. There is no candidate for the office of President of the Board of Directors. The statements by each candidate will follow the list of offices.

Voting eligibility and candidate eligibility is based on the rules described in the By-Laws adopted in 2009. Voters will be receiving an email with an individual unique link that that only allows one vote per person. Because the voting is open for a period of time, the voter may return to that link and alter his or her selection up until the time the voting ends. The voting begin Wednesday June 24, 8am EDT and will conclude Wednesday July 1, 5pm EDT. After that time, the link will no longer allow you to vote or edit your vote. Results will be announced before July 2, 12pm EDT.

If you are a member or a stakeholder and do not receive an email by Tuesday evening regarding the election, please contact laura@integrityusa.org to confirm your membership or status as a stakeholder.

There are three positions where no candidate has stepped forward. The most important of these positions is for the office of President. Integrity continues to search for candidates who are eligible to serve in these roles. As the new term does not begin until October, should we find candidates before September 1, we will hold an election similar to this process. After that time, we will follow the By-Laws regarding special elections. Please join us in prayer as we look for candidates and look into your hearts if you feel called and are able to serve.

Election Categories

A) Members of Integrity will be voting on the following positions.

President: No candidate has stepped forward. Election deferred.
Vice-President of National Affairs: Rev. Gwen Fry and Marcos R. B. German Domingues
Vice-President of Local Affairs: S Wayne Mathis
Treasurer: DeAnna Bosch
Secretary/Director of Communications: Mel Soriano

Provincial Coordinators
Province 1: No candidate has stepped forward
Province 2: Tod Roulette
Province 3: April I Fredericks
Province 4: Kay Smith Riggle
Province 5: David Fleer
Province 6: No candidate has stepped forward
Province 7: Doug Davis
Province 8: Vivian Varela

B) Stakeholders of Integrity will be voting on the following positions

Chairperson of the Stakeholders' Council: Rev. Carolyn Woodall

C) Those who are both members as well as stakeholders will be voting for positions in (A) and (B).

Candidate Statements

1. President

No candidate has stepped forward. We will continue to seek candidates before this term ends. If before October 1 we find one or more candidates eligible to serve as described in the By-Laws adopted in 2009, we will hold an election. If we cannot find one or more candidates before October 1, we will continue to seek candidates and hold a special election.

2. Vice-President of National Affairs

   a) Rev. Gwen Fry

I have always been an ally of the LGBTQ community, though for years I worked primarily behind the scene. In 2005 I began taking a more public role in the cause of radical inclusion,  especially in the church, by becoming the Diocesan Coordinator of the Diocese of Southwest  Florida’s Via Media chapter, which was seeking to include all voices at the “table” of the church. In February of 2014, while serving a parish in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I came out as a trans woman. Since that time, I have experienced firsthand how far we as a church and society have to go before equality is a reality for all. Last September I co-founded Central Arkansas Integrity and we have focused on a number of educational events and lectures as well as outreach to local LGBT organizations. In that time I have also become the Integrity Diocesan Coordinator and I am working with two other parishes in the diocese interested in developing an Integrity group.

During this past state legislative session I lobbied and spoke at demonstrations against two bills specifically designed to discriminate against the LGBT community. I speak at forums in parishes and sit on panels for educational events in the wider community speaking about the trans community and faith. I was recently elected to the Board of the Arkansas Trans Equality Coalition (ArTEC) and am on the leadership team of a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant studying how we can transform the relationships between providers, researchers, and the transgender community so we can improve transgender health care experience and outcomes.

An ordained priest of 24 years, I bring experience in every imaginable setting—progressive to conservative, small parishes to large resource size parishes. This gives me a unique perspective and experience on pastoral, administrative, as well as financial issues. I have experience in creatively meeting the needs of an organization while staying within (and developing) a sometimes tight budget. Flexibility and openness to hear and implement new ideas are important to me.
Not only has Integrity been there for me personally this past year, I have seen how it has been a beacon of light and hope for people in Arkansas. Acceptance, or even tolerance--not to mention equality-- is a daily struggle for LGBTQ individuals in this area. During this past year I have become more passionate than ever about the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in every aspect of and ministry in the life of the church whether it be a welcoming parish, baptism, marriage, or ordination. I believe I am being called to a ministry with my LGBTQ community. My goal is to work toward the reality that there can be equality for all.

“Hope will never be silent.' It may have taken years for my closet door to shatter, but it is shattered now, and I will not be silent. We must work for equality in our churches so that all may have a place of belonging.” - Harvey Milk

   b) Marcos R. B. German Domingues

I was Convener in Hawaii for the Honolulu Chapter of Integrity and I served as Treasurer for the Integrity Chapter in Portland Oregon. In Brazil, when the HIV epidemic was ravaging the gay community there during the late 80s and early 90s, I served as a volunteer at the Hospital das Clinicas in Sao Paulo Brazil to help the patients and visit with them. I ran for city council in the City of Osasco in Brazil. I have volunteered for several organizations in Brazil and NGOs. I was a part of the first gay rights parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was granted political asylum in USA for persecution of gay people in my country because I was an activist there. In Portland Oregon, I volunteered with Basic Rights Oregon from 1999 until 2012. During that time, I was the Chair for the Faith Committee of Basic Rights Oregon 2010-2012. I volunteered in the Gay Pride Parades in Portland, Oregon, Honolulu, Seattle, New York City, and Boston, and in several other cities. I organized several successful fundraisers for different groups. I was a member of The LGBT Center in Hawaii. I have been involved with Gay Rights advocacy and rallies for over 35 years.

3. Vice-President of Local Affairs

   S. Wayne Mathis

I am a genderqueer activist with a strong calling from God to help create space within the Episcopal Church for ALL.  I was confirmed at Grace Alvin within the Diocese of Texas in May of 2001.  From the day that I walked into the church, I have been breaking down barriers. I have a rather large diverse family that does not always fit in easily. We are diverse in race, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

I give credit to an unnamed priest for bringing out the gay activism in me. During our time of tremendous tension and strife, I found “My Voice”.  I knew that if I did not speak up in small town Texas, then there would be no one to stand up for the next generation of LGBT youth. From vestry meetings to Diocesan Council I have tried to make the path a little brighter and a whole lot more welcoming.

My spirit first found Peace during an Integrity Houston Eucharist. I have gone on to become CoConvener of the Houston chapter and Provincial Coordinator of Province 7. Two of my most life changing moments were while volunteering with Integrity at General Convention 2012.  The TransEpiscopal Eucharist and the Integrity Eucharist are forever etched into my heart and soul.

My queer activism goes beyond my faith and at the same time my faith ties everything together.   I serve on the Brazoria County Library board. I am active in the local Relay for Life, Meals on Wheels and PFLAG all while being a constant reminder to my political representatives that there are Progressive folks in their district that support full Equality for Everyone including the LGBT community. I particularly enjoy my political trips to the state capitol.  While my late Mom taught me the importance of giving back to the community, my personal goal is to give back to the community while STANDING OUT AND PROUD.

The most important skills that I would bring to the Office of Vice President of Local Affairs is Passion and an absolute Joy in Working with People.   I feel that God is calling me to become a national leader and I feel that I would be a good fit for Vice President of Local Affairs.  I know that we have made great strides within the Episcopal Church but our work is not over. .  Somehow, I would like to see Integrity become a powerful force throughout the country, in large cities and even in tiny communities like my own.

I would appreciate the opportunity to serve Integrity USA.

4. Treasurer

   DeAnna Bosch

My husband and I were confirmed in the Episcopal Church in June, 2001.  I have been actively involved in our church since that time, having served on Vestry, as church Treasurer, participated in and coordinated various ministries, on Altar guild, an acolyte, as Diocesan council delegate and other positions.  I am currently the Administrative Director of Lord of the Streets Episcopal Church, a special evangelical mission church of the Diocese of Texas for the homeless of Houston.

Having lived during the “Women’s Lib” movement and experienced it first hand in my daily working life, I am sensitive to injustice and discrimination of anyone.  I see Integrity as one way I can proactively work for inclusion of everyone in my church. As a Straight Ally, I bring another perspective to the work and can often open or bridge discussions with others.  I attended General Convention as a Volunteer and Visitor in 2012 and was much moved by the Integrity Eucharist and activities there.

We have lived in Houston, TX, for 35 years, have 4 children, 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons.  I have a BSBA in Accounting from the University of Tulsa, OK, Non-Profit Executive certification from the University of Houston, and completed Education for Ministry (EFM) program of University of the South, Suwanee, TN.

Diocese of Texas, member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Board member of Integrity Houston since 2010.  I have been responsible for email lists and notices to parishioners monthly and for special notifications, attend meetings, organized annual Jazz Gospel Pride service event for several years.

Background in Accounting, systems, procedures, and non-profit accounting.  Over 40 years experience in corporate positions, including 11 years as an independent consultant for systems, cost accounting, procedure development and documentation.  An additional eleven years experience with non-profit organizations, including Episcopal churches and 501( c)3s.

I’m not sure why God is calling me (I think only He knows the answer to that) but I do hear his call. I kept putting this nomination out of my mind – “I’ve got enough other things to do, maybe after I slow down a bit, etc., etc.” – but it just keeps coming back.  That happens to me when God is pushing me to engage in something – for whatever reason.

5. Secretary / Director of Communications

   Mel Soriano

Having served as Integrity's Secretary & Director of Communications for the past 18 months, I present myself as a candidate in the same role for 2015-2018. I am a member of All Saints Pasadena in the Diocese of Los Angeles: I serve as a member of the Vestry (chairing Pastoral Care), lead the Taize, Labyrinth, and Greeting ministries, serve as a Lay Eucharistic Minister and Visitor, assist with communications for the LGBTQ at All Saints ministry, and sing in Coventry Choir. I am a member of Episcopal Communicators and work on several committees at Union Station Homeless Services in Southern California.

Twenty years ago, I formed and have since led a software firm that delivers database, web, and mobile app products and services. This work exposes me to national communication and social media issues daily and has been useful to the current board. My personality has been characterized as an extroverted champion that, supporting and lifting up people and issues, lends itself to this position of Director of Communications.

The past year has had ups and downs for Integrity, and I feel that my commercial background has helped in dealing with difficult questions. Moreover, my local parish experiences are grounded in the nurturing, caring, value, and dignity of every person - something that I try to bring with me to the national church. As a newlywed husband whose marriage at All Saints Pasadena is a dream come true, I consider my blessing as one that should be shared with all who seek it; I will always advocate for the equitable treatment of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, in every congregation and diocese, and am called to bring the message of God's radically inclusive love to all.

6. Provincial Coordinators

You may vote for only one candidate. The candidate that you select must be from the province in which your diocese is found. If you are unsure, you can visit http://www.episcopalchurch.org/find-a-church/browse/province to determine your province. If you enter a write in a name, that candidate must be eligible as described in the By-Laws and must belong to a diocese of your province.

   a) Province 1

No candidate has stepped forward.

   b) Province 2

         Tod Roulette

I am a parishioner in the diocese of New York and have long attended Integrity events at other parishes in the past 14 years and was a founder of Epiphany, a LGBT African centric worship group at St. Philip's over ten years ago. It continues its ministry, but almost 2 years ago St. Philip's felt the need to become an Integrity USA affiliate and I volunteered to spear head the effort.

My academic training is as a feminist scholar with an emphasis on LGBT and African American issues and specialties. In 2013, I had the distinct honor of teaching the first LGBT course in the Black Studies Program at City College. The course was one I designed myself, titled “Black Art in the Age of AIDS”.

St. Philip's is the second oldest historically African American Episcopal congregation in the U.S. and I have personally initiated and supervised our participation in the annual Gay Pride Parades in NYC with other Episcopal churches. Maintaining a voice and perspective as a gay man of color in the larger gay community as well as the Christian community is a special concern for me and I feel called to witness to all sides.

Since 2013 and our becoming affiliated with Integrity I have organized four programs since 2013 at St. Philip's which have been opened to the public. The programs have been ranged from a benefit concert for Episcopal Social Services Foster Care and Ali Forney Homeless Center in Harlem to a five hour film festival featuring films, film shorts and web series by LGBT people of color. This fall a soft bound publication will be produced documenting the panel discussion held at St. Philip's as part of its Black History Lecture Series,  “Native Among Us”- Interdenominational Clergy Panel about Black Churches Welcoming LGBT People”.

Becoming a lay Eucharistic visitor has recently become an important vocational calling of mine and I have specifically asked the clergy at St. Philip's if I might reach out to the LGBT community who have been hurt and estranged from the church. I believe that ministry has many forms and the Episcopal church is poised and aided by the secular recognition of our convictions and actions around this cause; using this and expanding upon what some might consider a 'deficit' is important for churches to learn and share amongst themselves and to do so with the larger community. I know God is calling me to dig deeper in my prayer life and witness and action and I believe that being a Provincial Coordinator for its term would strengthen my spiritual journey and assist in bringing community and enlarge faith in action programming to Province II churches.

I prayerfully and humbly submit my personal testimony to the nominating committee for your consideration to continue God's work in this 21st century.

   c) Province 3

       April I Fredericks

I am a 65 year old trans lesbian. I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree for textile management marketing. I worked in the garment industry in Manhattan until 1985 at which point I took over the family business A-1 Flushing Pattern works which supplied patterns and castings to the machine and architectural trade .I started my transition in 1993 and completed that journey with my gender congruency surgery on April 24, 1995.I owned A-1 Flushing Industries dba A-1 Flushing Pattern Works Inc. / A-1 Casting LLC first is a man that is a woman from 1994 on. I was a preferred vendor for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. I had the business certified as a women's business enterprise  [WBE] with New York State and New York City. I was listed as a member of the Landmarks Conservancy of New York City professional circle.

I was baptized as an adult male in an Episcopal chapel in Noyack Sag Harbor New York in 1980's and was confirmed as an adult woman in the Episcopal parish of Calvary St. George in New York City in May 1995. I was active in that parish, serving as Morning Prayer Leader, Usher, Acolyte, Thurifer. I also restored their cast iron fence on the corner of Park Avenue and 21st Street casting and replacing 11 of the broken Flaming Amphora Urns that adored each fence post. After my transition I was called to the ministry in 1995 but met extreme resistance which I did not understand at the time as many of my friends in the gay community were involved with the church I did not realize the church's resistance to transgender people at that time. I was a charter member of the Transsexual Menace we demonstrated in Washington DC about the death of Tyra Hunter a black transgender woman when EMS and the hospital refused to treat. I went out to the trial the people that murdered Brandon Tina. I also was in Washington DC the first two gender lobby days in 1995 and 1996.I am a retired 911 emt / paramedic that has worked in Northeast PA as an out trans woman from 2002- 2012 and upon retiring I became a certified Christian life coach. I worked with the Church of the Good Shepherd to draft their new inclusive welcoming statement and sending their application for membership into Integrity. I also donated hundred dollars for their P3 membership. I feel that I have a lot to offer for the position as a business owner I was project manager/general contractor for many historic sites in New York City including the refurbishing of all four gates to Gramercy Park.

   d) Province 4 

       Kay Smith Riggle

After walking away from different church 25 years earlier, a friend’s invitation introduced me to the Episcopal Church. I felt like I had found my home and was confirmed in my local church about a year later. My intent was to only attend church and was amused to find myself becoming involved in more and more ministries in my parish. I became active in ECW and later was elected Chairperson of ECW, was elected as Communications Chairperson for the Diocesan ECW and later elected as one of the ECW Convocation Coordinators. I have served several terms on our parish vestry was Senior Warden for one term and served several years as secretary for the Vestry. I have published an informational email for the past 10 years.

I met my wife, Sarah Riggle, in our church. She later transitioned as a transgender woman and came out to our church in 2004. It was during this time that we learned about Integrity GA and Integrity USA. Both groups gave us the support, love and nurturing we needed during a trying time. Sarah I became involved with Integrity GA. I served as Secretary and am currently serving as Chairperson.

Knowing that Holy Spirit (sometimes gently and other times not so gently) has led me through some very unexpected places, I believe that I am being led to serve Integrity USA as a Provincial Organizer and my prayer is that I can be instrumental in helping to move the organization forward and to foster healing.

   e) Province 5 

       David Fleer

David L. Fleer has been an Episcopalian since his parents joined the Church of the Good Shepherd in Webster City, Iowa, when he was ten years old. He’s been active in the church ever since, serving a term as leader of Canterbury Club in college, working as resident sexton at the Episcopal Student Center at the University of South Florida, but mostly singing in church choirs. A former organizer of lay lectors, he now manages the choir library at his home parish, St. Paul & the Redeemer in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. In 2007, Dave helped re-start Integrity’s Northern Illinois chapter. He’s been the Province V Coordinator since that position was established two years ago.

Dave recently retired from free-lancing as a business consultant, specializing in software quality assurance and testing. He now spends his summers at his partner’s home in the Berkshires and the much of the remainder of the year at home in Chicago.

   f) Province 6

No candidate has stepped forward

   g) Province 7

       Doug Davis

I am Doug Davis, gay, born in to the Episcopal Church and never looked back. I love my Church and am passionate about it.  I come from strong Scottish Anglican roots.  Acolyte at age 12, Acolyte at age 50, Verger at Emmanuel Episcopal Church Houston Texas at age 64...once an Acolyte, always an Acolyte.

My call to ministry has always been worship through service, and service through worship at the Altar.  I love worship, all forms of it, high to low, anything within the rubrics.

After graduating from Education For Ministry, my ministerial focus has shifted from the Altar.  As a gay man, I realized I needed to be more active for fairness and equality for all God’s children in the Episcopal Church.  I saw the inequalities in my home Diocese of Springfield Illinois, and really have witnessed them in my own Diocese in Texas. The Holy Spirit has guided me this direction.

Living in the Diocese of Texas, and my experience with Integrity has been eye opening. I have been attending Integrity for nearly two years, met fabulous passionate LGTBQ brothers and sisters in Christ, who just want fairness for all. I was just elected Secretary of Integrity Houston.  Again, the Holy Spirit is guiding me.I have leadership skills instilled on me from childhood, from Boy Scouts to “the gay member” of Rotary Club.  Always comfortable with my sexuality since a very early age, I enjoy meeting people within our community.

God is calling me to do this work.  I am defiant that as Christians, we are commanded to Love the Lord our God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  My motto from childhood is “I’m Third”...God first, the other fellow second, and I’m third.  I am defiant that as Episcopalians, we go to church each Sunday, proclaim God’s inclusive love, and then forget about it until next Sunday.  I am defiantly determined to attract more young people in to the fold of Integrity and our cause. I do not see our work ending anytime soon, as there is much work to do!

   h) Province 8

       Vivian Varela

I have been a member of Integrity since 2009 at which time I served as a member of the Booth Team at General Convention in Anaheim. I was invited to be co-leader of the Booth Team for General Convention 2012 in Indiana and now in 2015 for General Convention in Utah. I have attended one of the Believe Out Loud Trainings in San Diego, CA.

I began attending All Saints Episcopal Church Pasadena in 2001 and became a member in 2003. My resume will demonstrate my interest and involvement in church activities and work which include Godly Play-Children’s ministry, Altar Guild and GALAS our LGBT ministry to name a few. Most recently, the past 5 years I have been mostly focused on our Spanish-speaking ministry. I am on the leadership team for this ministry.

I attended St. Paul’s in Tustin for  two years and participated in the Chancel Choir. While I was there I worked as a lay pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church in Los Angeles for 4 months. In the Diocese of Los Angeles I completed   a 4-year Diocesan training for Hispanic Lay ministry co-sponsored by Bloy House seminary in Claremont. I also completed the 4 year EFM course. I am a member of the Program Group on Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Los Angeles.

As demonstrated in my resume I believe that my education, life experience in both secular, religious work, social work which include outside interests like comedy and drama have given me the skills necessary to serve in this position. I believe God is calling me to this work at this time because there is a need and because I am interested in the success, continuous growth, relevance, and change for Integrity as I believe there is still much work to be done in many areas of this organization and it’s mission.

7. Chair of the Stakeholders' Council

The voters for this position are stakeholders rather than members, as described in the By-Laws.

   Rev. Carolyn Woodall

I am a transgender woman and a Deacon serving at St. James Episcopal Church, Sonora, CA in the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have been a member of Integrity USA for several years. I was the Vice-Chair of the Stakeholders' Council, and I'm the incumbent Chair of the Stakeholders' Council, a position I recently assumed when the former Chairperson resigned. I appeared in "Voices of Witness: Out of the Box" and served as an Integrity volunteer at General Convention in 2012.

I am an attorney, admitted to the California State Bar in 1987, and semi-retired after thirteen years in the Tuolumne County, CA Office of the Public Defender. I currently have a small criminal defense practice. I have a BA in Sociology, an MBA, and a Juris Doctor. I also retired from the Naval Reserve in 1997 at the rank of Commander. I also serve on the Board of Trustees of the School for Deacons in Berkeley; and on the Board of Directors of Sierra HOPE - an organization providing health, housing, and other services to those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other chronic illnesses.

I have been an advocate of equality for a number of years - particularly since I transitioned in 2004. I served as Chair of the Commission on Equality in the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have also given numerous training sessions on transgender issues for churches, government agencies, and charitable organizations. I firmly believe that advocating for the LGBT community is a call from God, and one I wish to continue.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Message to the Church

In 2003 -- on the eve of the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church -- then-Integrity President Michael Hopkins offered this"Message to the Church" as part of the case for the blessing of same-sex relationships. We are reprising it here today for two reasons.

The first is because what Michael said in 2003 is just as true twelve years later in 2015. The second is because his words are an exemplar of the tone and timbre of the discourse that has characterized the advocacy for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments in the Episcopal Church for at least five General Convention cycles. The narrative that the journey toward full inclusion in the Episcopal Church has been rife with acrimony and animus with threats from “both sides” is -- quite simply -- neither fair nor true.

So yes – by all means – let us call for gracious dialogue and respectful conversation as we move forward to the 78th General Convention and look beyond. And, at the same time, let’s recognize that in so doing we are standing on the shoulders of a generation of leaders who have paved the way for us.

And now: A Message to the Church by Michael Hopkins:

My first message: Liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, must learn to live together in this Church or there will be no Church in which for us to live. But learning to live together must mean “mutual deference” not moratoriums or some insistence that we all convert to being “moderates.”

My second message to the church at large is that we are not going anywhere. Gay and lesbian Christians make up a significant portion of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. We will continue to do so after General Convention 2003 no matter what happens. We will not attempt to get our way by threatening to leave. I ask those on all sides of this debate to make this commitment as well.

Now three comments especially for our conservative brothers and sisters.

First, we do not desire for you to go away. Yes, some sympathizers with our movement have said from time to time that it would be just as well if you did. Of course, some of yours have said the same about us. Let us together commit ourselves to finding every way possible to move forward with our debate without threatening either schism or purge. It is simply not necessary for us to do so.

Second, we do not desire to force same-sex blessings on you or anyone. We do desire to enable them in those places where the church is ready to receive them as a blessing but is not able to because of an understandable desire for some level of national recognition. Of course we will continue to work towards local communities desiring to bless same-sex unions. Of course you will work to keep them from doing so. We ought to be able to live with each other’s efforts on that level.

Third, we do challenge you to stop scapegoating lesbian and gay Christians for every contemporary ill in the Church, particularly for our current state of disunity or the potential for the unraveling of the Anglican Communion.

This movement is not about getting our way or else. This movement is a means to further the healthy debate within the Church, to deepen it on a theological level, to begin to articulate how we see the blessing of same-sex unions as a part of the Church’s moving forward in mission rather than hindering mission.

We believe that it is time for the church to claim the blessing found in the lives of its faithful lesbian and gay members and to further empower them for the mission of the Church. We are trying to find a way forward in this endeavor that holds as much of this church we love together as possible. We ask all our fellow-Episcopalians to join us even if they disagree with us.

[Michael Hopkins is a priest in the Diocese of Rochester, a founding member of Claiming the Blessing and was Integrity President from 1997-2003]

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Time for the Episcopal Church to Catch Up with Tony Campolo

As we continue the journey toward the 78th General Convention -- where marriage equality will arguably be one of the major items on the agenda -- the "let's slow down and wait a little longer" chorus is singing their song and turning up their volume. Here's the version being offered by Craig Uffman from the Diocese of Rochester:

I begin with the premise that the task before us is to imagine a robust theology that makes our actions comprehensible to this broader audience, which also includes future generations of Episcopalians ... My conclusion is that such a theology is possible, but we still need to flesh it out ... My hope is that our next step will be to pause, let everyone catch up, answer those questions, and take the next step together.

So here's my premise: We HAVE "done the theology" -- what we haven't done is overcome the objections of those who insist we haven't done the theology because there isn't enough theology in Christendom to convince those with sole possession of the Absolute Truth that it's possible to come to different conclusions on these issues and still be part of the same Body of Christ.

In point of fact, there are still those who maintain we haven't "done the theology" on women's ordination either. And as my rector Ed Bacon famously said, "I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God."

I'm all for doing theology. The more "faith seeking understanding" the better as far as I'm concerned.

But when our theological reflection becomes more important than our mission to proclaim the Good News of God's abundant love then I think we need to think long and hard about whether we're not doing the Peter thing and trying to build a booth to sit up on the mountain and theologize rather than get down on the ground and evangelize. 

And that's why I think we have something to learn from the example of noted Evangelist Tony Campolo -- who "came out" for marriage equality today:
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.
Rest assured, Tony is going to get a boatload of blow-back for this ... so if you're inclined to send him an "attaboy" via twitter he's @TonyCampolo. Meanwhile let those with ears to hear listen -- not only to the theology we've "done" over the last thirty years but to the example of Tony Campolo.

So -- contrary to Craig Uffman -- my conclusion is that it is time to "let our yes be yes" and to finally make full inclusion a reality and not just a resolution. And my hope is that in taking that step forward, others will indeed follow as we catch up with Tony Campolo and journey together into God's future.

[Susan Russell is an Integrity past-president, the convener of Claiming the Blessing and the co-lead of our #GC78 legislative team with VP Jon Richardson.]

Friday, June 5, 2015

Paving the Road to General Convention 2015

As we approach the triennial General Convention in Salt Lake City in a couple weeks, we're reflecting on 40 years of LGBTQ events in The Episcopal Church during past conventions. Some photos are shown below. You can see these and more as they get added daily at http://bit.ly/int40memesbeforegc78.

You also can join our journey at General Convention by watching some of the following Internet resources:
Consider becoming a member or renewing your membership. We also would be grateful for your generosity to help pay for equipment, rentals, and other convention center expenses in Salt Lake City. Donate at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/integrityusa

Thursday, June 4, 2015

We have made space for God's grace

One parish priest’s response to those who say "more study" is needed before the adoption of sacramental marriage equality in the Episcopal Church:

I’m convinced we do not need more time to study before we amend the canons on marriage. In fact, from my pastoral chair as a busy New England rector, the time has long since come to bring all fully into the sacraments of the church. Those of us leading parishes see families every day praying to make their lives in Christ personally relevant to the context of the speeding, swirling world in which they live. None are asking for another Task Force to study anything.

They look to us and the sacraments, precisely for the selflessness and endurance of God’s love, unambiguously alive with generosity and coherence right at the heart of their lives. Today. This is particularly true of the many young people and young families I am so heartened to see in the church. The change in the canons is an overdue pastoral need for them and the global church as well. And it is emblematic of so much more than the marriage question. It is about our capacity to be truly alive in Christ. And the change is also much needed by those of us ordained to share our small, equitably offered part in a sacramental life we are not guardians of, but ministers to as we share in the renewal of the world.

A gracious conversation on this has been held and continues. We have made great space for God’s grace. Decades of good space. I don’t see any accusations of “uncritical” readers of the scripture or shouts about homophobic postures. (Perhaps I’ve missed a blog or two.) In fact, the conversations in the church I hear are increasingly sweet. Paying attention, we see that this is mirrored in the civic dialog in the recent and amazing Irish experience, a catholic nation coming together with joy and dignity. And forgiveness. And now in 37 states day by day married gay folks and their children are taking their places of dignity in communities and schools and scout troops. The Court may very well make this goodness the law in all fifty states, possibly acting during our Convention. This is the context in which we seek the Way and build the church. Today.

Another Task Force is not needed because we’ve already had a very fine one, working with great care within a budget and calendar given them. It was graced by wise lay leaders and those ordained as well. Their work is a gift to us and most importantly to those we serve in our parishes. In fact, I think it would be great to applaud the hard work of our thoughtful working teams.

All change has cost. And each of us will have friends who are saddened by whatever action Convention takes. There is no need to worry that sadness will be irreparable. With grace all healing is possible. No growth need be forgone. The status quo, a deadly creature the church knows so well, also has enormous costs. Not the least of these is the continued and sometimes deadly harm the church does to those it shuts out or puts on the lower shelf. They have been paying costs for generations. All those on the upper shelf are also paying a cost in the denying of the sacrament to the other, the lesser. All marriage is tarnished by permitting only some to enjoy it.

The time has come to say yes, to truly witness to Christ’s embrace.

Timothy Boggs is the rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 Louie Crew Clay Grants Announced

The Oasis, the LGBT outreach ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, is pleased to announce its 2015 Louie Crew Clay Grants.

Three grants will fund Oasis/Integrity Legislative Aides to General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. These grants will be used to cover the cost of airfare, hotel room, meals and other expenses associated with attending General Convention. The recipients of these grants are:

Chris Harding is the 25 year old Youth Minister at All Saints Episcopal Church, Glen Rock, NJ. He grew up in Florida and graduated from Nyack College in Nyack, NY with a degree in History and Religion. He spent a year in San Francisco with the Episcopal Service Corps, living in intentional community and working with Episcopal Senior Communities. Chris lives in New York City with his partner, Andrew.

Meghan Johnson is 24 years old and from Minneapolis. She teaches high school French and is youth leader at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN. She has attended the Episcopal Youth Event as an adult leader and attended General Convention 2012 as a part of the Young Adult Initiative through the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. A member of a Gay-Straight Alliance in High School and PRIDE at St. Catherine’s University, she self-identifies as “a straight ally for as long as I knew what that meant.”

Kacei Conyers is a 23 year-old postulant in the Diocese of Northern California. Kacei attended Berkeley, worked in Episcopal Camps for over 6 years as a counselor, and recently received a grant from The National LGBTQ Task force to attend Creating Change Conference where Kacei learned different organizing strategies and different avenues for LGBTQ justice. Kacei presently works at Yale as a Graduate Professional Programs Coordinator for programs like W(Holy) Queer, an interfaith LGBTQ group, and Beyond the Binary, a closed group for trans, genderqueer and gender questioning people.

Chris, Meghan and Kacei will work as part of the Integrity Legislative Committee where they will learn the legislative process through which we believe the Holy Spirit moves to renew The Episcopal Church in the continued revelation of God’s word. Their responsibilities will be to follow pertinent resolutions in committee, to attend committee meetings and hearings, and to participate in late night debriefing sessions with the Integrity legislative team. They will also attend General Convention House of Deputy sessions and House of Bishop sessions, assist with the Integrity Eucharist, and as time allows help at the Integrity Booth.

The Oasis is pleased to be able to honor the rich legacy of Integrity founder Louie Crew Clay by helping to raise up another generation of LGBTQ and straight ally leaders who will gain experience in and understanding of the legislative process in The Episcopal Church.

A 2015 Louie Crew Clay Grant has also funded the Rev. Liz Erdman in the production of five short films entitled “Queer Virtue,” which explores themes from the book authored by Rev. Erdman concerning what LGBTQ people know about life and love and how that can revitalize Christianity.

And a 2015 Grant helped to fund one of the Newark ACTS interns as an interim case worker for the LGBT RAIN Foundation Shelter in East Orange, NJ, which provides emergency shelter and related services to LGBTQ young adults experiencing crisis that lead to acute and chronic homelessness.