Monday, November 21, 2016

Post-election Action

Kindred in Christ,

The next four years will be decided by how hard we prepare right now. Acts of homophobia, transphobia, racism, religious oppression, and misogyny have exploded: over 400 hate crimes were filed in the days after the election. Churches are experiencing acts of vandalism and graffiti.

We are launching an emergency campaign to stop efforts to derail everything we've achieved. Monthly giving is the best way to support our fight. Please be the lamp of hope, the Light of Christ, and donate $1/day ($30 a month) to protect what we've gained and further protect those in harm’s way. Click here to donate online now. .

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Integrity USA

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Monday, November 14, 2016

Smiling Faces

There is a pop song from the early ‘70’s called “Smiling Faces.”  The lyrics include: Smiling faces….pretend to be your friend.  Smiling faces...don’t tell the truth!  (Google it for the full effect of the lyrics.)

How much more apropos could those lyrics be after Tuesday’s elections?  I saw a lot of smiling faces….that weren’t telling the truth…..that I don’t trust…..that I can’t imagine being my/our friend.  I’m still reeling from the shock of how so many embraced misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia….and pretty much any other way one could think of to denigrate the children of God.  And apparently being crude and vulgar is no longer inappropriate for elected officials either.  To top that off, there seems to be a new definition of what is acceptable to some Christians as well… least to those who cling to right end of the spectrum. So much hatred and hypocrisy hiding behind smiling faces.  

Sadly, “smiling faces” are not limited to politicians.  I know a number of folks who sport clerical collars, purple shirts and miters who have plastic smiles pasted on their faces as they smugly hide behind "scripture, tradition and reason” to support their own prejudices, particularly against LGBTQ folks.  And as much as they might want us to think otherwise, a significant number still have "issues” with women clergy too.  We all know how much work remains for us in addressing the sin of  racism, in church and in society.  All of our "isms” bubbled up and boiled over on Tuesday and we all got soiled by them.

There were some bright spots.  We have an openly LGBT state governor now… out of 50...guess that isn’t too bad??   In my home state of Georgia we actually have an openly gay man who was elected to our legislature.  (We had been able to elect lesbians for several years, but never a gay man.) The bright spots are difficult to see through the dense fog of prejudice and bigotry, but we should give thanks to God for them anyway.

After Tuesday, can there possibly be anyone who doesn’t see how much work we have left to accomplish in our church and in our society?   Equality is not yet there for us and it is still a nationwide, churchwide issue.  How much larger a rock has to fall on us for us to grasp the fact that we still have work to do?   How many more hate crimes have to be committed because of sexual orientation, race, gender expression/identity before we wake up and smell the proverbial coffee? How many more LGBTQ teens and young people have to get kicked out of their homes by their "good Christian parents” (sarcasm intended!) because they have come out of the closet to them?  How many more Matthew Shepherds do we have to witness?  How many more Travon’s have to die?  How many more Charleston’s must we see?   How many more times must we witness another Pulse Nightclub?   How many more of our parishes must be the victims of vicious attacks and notes like the one left on a priest's car windshield?  Are we really that dense?  Are we that unaware?  Are we, God help us, that uncaring?  Are we still that afraid?

It is indeed time, my kindred in Christ, to speak out, to step up, to be seen, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to drown out the gospel of hate!  Yes it is time… is long past time for us to do all of these things.  Could there be any doubt now of the continued need for Integrity?  Could there be any doubt now of the continued need for GLAAD or HRC or Lambda Legal or any and every organization that is working toward securing an equal place for us in both the American Dream and the Household of God?

It has been said that "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”  While that is indeed true, I would add that evil will also triumph if we stick our heads in the sand and/or hide in our closets.   Jesus told Lazarus to "come out” of the tomb and he told the community to "unbind him and let him go.”  It’s time we also heeded the call to "come out.”  But….our community needs to bind ourselves to each other and strive toward reaching the beloved community where all of God’s children are free to be who God created them to be.  We can achieve that in our church if we bind ourselves together in Integrity.  We can achieve that in society by witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and binding ourselves to those groups who will help insure that we are as equal in the site of all the citizens of this nation as we are in the eyes of the One who created us.
I challenge each of you to insure that your membership is up to date.  I further challenge each of you to bring at least one new member into Integrity during the next few weeks.  I challenge each of you to donate your money as well as your time and talent to Integrity and secular organizations working for equality and justice.   This ain’t going away folks unless we make it go away.   
I also challenge us to remember the One we follow.  We must not return the hatred and venom we receive with the same.  We must deflect nastiness with love, no matter how difficult that may be.  We must be examples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we always remember to ask God, the living and loving God, to make us instruments of God’s own peace:
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA

Monday, November 7, 2016

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason

One of the hallmarks of Anglican theology is the concept of “scripture, tradition, and reason.”  Over the centuries, we have looked at various issues through this three part lens.  Such a view has given us different understanding of issues that have affected us in our common life as part of the Body of Christ.

Scripture influenced the tradition of keeping other human beings in slavery until reason - usually through experience - began to turn our hearts and our minds away from that heinous and dehumanizing practice.  In retrospect, it seems almost impossible to think that God ever had any intentions of any part of humanity owning any other part.

Scripture influenced the tradition of keeping women “in their place” of being subservient to men and without authority in faith communities as well as in secular society.  Again, reason through experience turned hearts and minds away from a system that rendered women as less than men, despite the fact that in creation God created both male and female in God’s image.  

Scripture influenced by tradition was also the basis for denying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of faith a place at God’s table that was equal to all others.  Yet again, at least for a growing segment of Christ’s Body, reason influenced by experience taught us that there is no sound theological basis for creating outcasts of any of God’s children.

It was the misuse of Scripture in this case, as before, that allowed some to perpetuate the concept that there have been different classes of sinful behavior that could be used to create divisions among God’s children.  Removing passages of Scripture from the context of the culture in which they were written and from the context of the entire narrative of which they are an integral part, continues to provide ways for us to divide ourselves from one another and from God through the mistaken notion that God created some of us more acceptable than others of us.  Do we truly believe that God created some of us “more equal” than others?

I am always amazed at how those “learned in Scripture” can continue to perpetuate a system that discriminates in the name of God.  Duly ordained clergy have told me with certainty that they and their congregations welcome “all” fully, even LGBT folks.  Yet when they then tell me with their next breath that they will neither perform nor permit the marriage of a same gender couple AND base that decision on “Scripture, tradition, and reason,” I am forced to both scratch my head and shake my head in disbelief.  Yet…..such continues to happen….and it happens in too many dioceses of our church and even in congregations in dioceses where full inclusion is the norm.  Apparently the “glass wall” they place between the altar and the pastoral needs of their LGBT members is too clear for even them to see.

My “broken record” continues to play:  Is there still a need for the ministry of Integrity?  Read the above again and I think your answer will be a resounding “Yes!!!”

Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA