Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Voice That Gave Hope - Now a Heavenly Voice

Amazing Grace; Chain, Chain, Chain; Natural Woman; R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - songs associated with one voice: That of Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul. Her death this week brought an end to several eras. Her voice uplifted the downtrodden during the civil rights era. Her voice helped us understand the dignity and worth of women. Her voice was part of my years of coming of age in the sixties and early seventies. Her voice was that of the very first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her voice now enhances the heavenly chorus... and everyone is trying hard to just keep up!

Like so many, especially in the south, her voice came out of singing in a church choir. Her father recognized talent and cultivated it. News stories spoke of the insistent but apparently gentle power she wielded over other musicians and artists during recording sessions and concerts. Invariably, they admitted that whatever she suggested was better than what they had planned. Her musical talents were extraordinary.

Some didn’t actually “get” the significance of what was lost when she died. Some had long ago missed the messages in her songs about freedom, respect and dignity. Some couldn’t grasp her healing voice and the work it had played during the years to revive those who had been knocked down and who some hoped would not stand back up.

The last 22 or so months have been so difficult for so many of us. We struggle to find ways to express ourselves and interact with others who have not felt any negative impact on who they are, their source of income, how they express their gender/identity, the color of their skin or their nation of origin. People have apparently been given some "permission" to say things they would not have said two years ago.

The Attorney General of the United States remarks that the number of foreign born in this country is getting to be too high. It doesn’t take much thought and little imagination to interpret that to mean that there are too many people here with black or brown skin, i.e., not white... like him (and me). Add that to the string of statements made about ridding the military of trans folks, homosexuals, and those living with HIV. Even while a diversion is created in one area, underhanded actions against so many take place in relative secrecy.

Yet... so many still do nothing. It is only necessary for good people to do nothing for evil to triumph. We live in times of evil actions. Dare I say we live in evil times?

I wonder how much money do some folks feel they absolutely have to have? 40 million dollars? A billion dollars? Do I hear a trillion? Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and join Jesus’ ministry. The young man walked away. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t sell all he had.

How "white" do we need to remain as a nation to satisfy some folks concerns? Jesus was an ethnic Jew from the Middle East most likely with dark brown eyes and black hair. It just isn’t accurate to depict Jesus as a blue-eyed blond haired dude to meet the comfort level of some who still have issues with skin that isn’t white.

What level of abuse of women is considered "acceptable"? Are suggestive jokes to be tolerated? Is unequal pay for the same work simply the way it has to be? Must a woman be expected to just "deal" with gropes and leers in order to keep her job? The list is much longer of what some expect others to tolerate regardless of the consequences.

What limits do some want to place on the human and civil rights of queer folk? Where can we live? Where can we serve our nation? To what professions are we restricted? What are grounds for putting us in detention camps?

Where are those who truly follow Jesus Christ? Sure, we can hold rallies and marches that attract hundreds of thousands all across the country. Where are the others, the other millions who either do not care or do not have the guts to speak out.

I’ve grown weary of others telling me that I have to suck it up if they want to allow their religious beliefs and practices to discriminate against me due to my sexual orientation. It’s not religion. It’s bigotry and prejudice.

We still have a voice my kindred in Christ. We STILL have a voice. Elections are going on right now, leading up to November. So tell me, when did you last challenge the bigoted stance of a candidate running in your area? When did you stand up at a town hall meeting and ask a direct and pointed question? When did you last pick up the telephone, type a text or email or write a plain ordinary letter expressing your views?

If we do nothing we deserve what happens to us. We follow one who sought justice for all. It cost him his life. Is the cost of a call, a text, an email or a postage stamp too great for our freedom? Time will tell. Time will indeed tell.

The Queen sang “Amazing Grace.” What will our song be? One of triumph or a pitiful whine?

Please continue to offer prayers for healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.



















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



Friday, August 10, 2018

Language Matters

Words Have Power

I am beginning to hear discussions about the use of  "expansive language" authorized by our General Convention. Some conversations are "heated" and others more calm.  Some want to retain traditional language, others want to seek words that reflect a different understanding of how we relate to each other and to God.

Those who use Morning Prayer as the source of  their daily prayers know The Jubilate or the 100th Psalm very well. A couple of days ago I felt moved to experiment with language of The Jubilate just to see how a few changes might sound. So in every place where the word “Lord” appeared, I replaced that with God. Every time God was referred to as “he” or “him” or “his” I replaced that with “God” as well.

Then I prayed the psalm. I was not prepared for something I immediately felt:  The intense power those changes created: God was God! The divine power of God came through the psalm in an unexpected way. I realized why. This simple change had removed all characteristics attributed to God that were human in nature. God’s divine nature was not encumbered by the limitations of human language. God was free to be God however I perceived God.

Here is the psalm using more expansive language:

Jubilate (Psalm 100)

Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
serve God with gladness and come before God’s presence with a song.
Know this: God is God; * God has made us, and we are God’s;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving; go into God’s courts with praise; *
give thanks to God and call upon God’s Name.
For God is good; God’s mercy is everlasting; *
and God’s faithfulness endures from age to age.
Glory to the Holy and undivided Trinity, One God, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen

(I looked in the Enriching Our Worship (EOW) series of services to see if this was something I might have seen there. It was not, in so far as I could determine.)

Then I wondered what impact such simple changes might have on others. How often do any of us consider the impact of God always being portrayed as male (and often as a white male) on our kindred? Is the language of a “male God” a source of comfort to a woman who was abused by her father or husband or brother or some other male in her life? I’m not sure how it could be a comforting image in such situations. Similarly, how well could a man who had been beaten, belittled and abused by his father find comfort in God always being referred to as "he?" If there has never been a positive male role model in your life, how can you see God in a positive light if God is always a male?

We are products of the words and language we use. We are shaped by the images conveyed by those words, even if we do not always realize that. Do our words bring comfort or pain? I really don’t think most of us pay much attention to the power of language. When there is a proposal to change language, especially language in our Book of Common Prayer, we often see much resistance. Are we worshiping God or are we worshiping words?

Even Jesus used the symbolism of a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings. Jesus did not use "rooster". He used "hen". He used a feminine image. Surely if Jesus could look beyond the limitations of language, we can do the same. We might even be able to move beyond what we have inherited from our ancestors whose reference points were invariably male for more reasons than can be covered here.

Our language and imagery cannot contain God, no matter how hard we try. Let God be God, however each of us perceives God.

Holy Spirit, expand our hearts, expand our minds, expand our words. Let us see God simply as God. May we experience the divine power that comes when we cast off that with which we have tried to bind God.

Please continue to offer prayers for  healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.





















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Expansive Language, Expansive Love

I urge you to access the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org. Click on “virtual binder” you can view the resolutions on which actions were taken. I think it will be worth your while to explore the resolutions that were passed and see how they might impact your life and that of our church.

An area that is likely to pique interest is that of “expansive language.” Resolution D078 provides for the trial usage in Eucharistic Prayers A, B and D of language that is more expansive in our relationship and references to God and each other. It pulls in some of the language used in the Enriching Our Worship (EOW) series of services. It includes other changes that many congregations have essentially automatically been making in an effort to refer to God in more expansive language.

How many of us have begun prayers with “God be with you” rather than “The Lord be with you?” This resolution authorizes that language. In the opening acclamation for the Eucharist you will now be able to hear: “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious, and undivided Trinity.” To which the people may respond: “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.”

One of the provisions of this trial usage is that it is authorized for use until the next revision of The Book of Common Prayer. This means we can use it beginning the First Sunday of Advent, 2018 and continue from there. 

Resolution B012 is the one that should allow same sex couples to be married in their own parishes whether the bishop of the diocese approves or not. How that will really play out is still to be resolved.

Resolution D067 calls upon us to use “bias free” language in referring to God and humankind. Most might immediately think that is more gender neutral language but it goes beyond that. The language of some Scripture is almost accusatory in tone. John’s version of the Gospel is sometimes anti-semitic in places. This resolution allows for the use of language that doesn’t automatically convey cultural biases. Hopefully that will allow us to see Scripture with more clarity.

Resolution C054 calls upon the church to be more inclusive of transgender persons and seeks avenues to achieve that.

Resolution D088 calls for the creation of policies for amending church records particularly for transgender people. This should make it easier once someone makes their transition to have some very important records reflect their expressed gender identity. 

I find it ironic that we have to pass resolutions to provide for more “expansive” language. God’s love is beyond expansive and always has been. It is our limited view of both love and God that needs expanding in both language and concept. God is beyond our humanly concocted notions of who God is or how God acts or in truth, anything about God. The Divine is always going to be beyond the ability of our limited minds to conceive.

May we learn to be more expansive about how we relate to each other as children of the Living God. Boundaries are of our creation, not God’s. Love knows no boundaries, despite our attempts otherwise.

Holy Spirit, sustainer of who we are as God’s children, expand our minds to engage with our fears and ignorance to see each other as God sees us. Holy Spirit, expand our hearts to match the boundless heart of God in pure and holy and unconditional love for each other and for the God to whom we turn in faith and trust for all that we are.

Please continue to offer prayers for healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.




















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow

Saturday, July 28, 2018

General Convention 2018 - Further Retrospective

The final gavels sounded the end of General Convention 2018 a mere thirteen days ago and I have seen a few post mortem comments on what we accomplished. The overall feeling seems positive as important decisions were reached that are for the good of all... even when some of “all” may not realize that yet.

I urge you to access the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org. Click on “virtual binder” you can view the resolutions on which actions were taken. A number of resolutions that were passed reflect on how well we are fulfilling our Baptismal Covenant vows to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Look at the resolutions related to how women have been treated both in our church and in our society.

Guys, and I used that term deliberately, our treatment of women, cis and trans, has been reprehensible for far too long. Women still do not earn the same as men earn for doing the exact same job, although progress has been made, just not enough. How we have ever justified that form of discrimination escapes me.

We have given all sorts of sexual harassment a “wink and a nod” but done nothing to end it. Would any of us have stood silently while our mothers, sisters and other female relatives were treated so poorly? I hope not, but I cannot confirm that just based on history. Yes, many of us were subjected to a role model that condoned, supported or ignored inappropriate behavior and actions taken against women. That is hardly an acceptable excuse.

There is a pop song from a few decades ago by Deborah Cox, entitled “Absolutely Not” that contains the following lyrics:

“If I go to work in a mini skirt am I giving you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view. Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

Too many of us grew up when the mistaken attitude of men was that how a woman dressed gave men the right to flirt or behave even more inappropriately. Our work now is to change that mindset and work to reverse the damage done by it. The church is pointing the way. May we have the good sense and courage to follow. We have work to do.

We continued to address our perpetual failings around the issue of racism. We have resolved to work toward repentance, reconciliation and healing as we seek out the Beloved Community. We seem to make “baby steps” but so much remains to be done.

Fellow white folks, it’s time that we threw our hearts, minds, and souls into owning and seeking to rectify what we created. It is a situation, a problem, we created and we have a responsibility to work toward resolving it. I am fully aware that many of us white people do not want to hear these things, but the time is now to insure that all hear what must be said. Owning a problem helps lead to resolving it. The Beloved Community involves us all and our mission is to get there.

Systemic racism takes hard work to eradicate. Are we up to that task?

The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Testament both give us guidelines about how we are to treat the alien residing among us. Scripture contains no references as to whether such resident aliens are documented or not, legally admitted or not. We are to treat them with dignity and respect and see to their needs as we see to our own.

We found our voice on serious immigration issues that need to be addressed. Seeing the faces and waved hands of those held in jail, separated from their own children, provided a graphic image of how un-Christ-like so many of our immigration policies are. Can we really claim to be a “Christian nation?” I don’t know how... with any sense of morality.

Through painful compromise, we said that all should mean all when it come to marriage in our church. As we move closer to Advent I, we will be able to see if all really is all in the eight dioceses that have not allowed same sex marriages.

I fear that those eight bishops have forgotten that they are to be the chief pastor over their flocks more than anything else. The service for the ordination of a bishop contains the following phrase in the Examination on page 517 of the BCP: “...and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example to the entire flock of Christ.” On the following page, the fourth question posed to the bishop-elect, begins with “As chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries?”

Some bishops see their primary role as that of teacher, yet I cannot find that as ranking above the role of pastor in the ordination service. Perhaps they need to be taught about their role as pastor. Other bishops whose first careers were as lawyers, might need to be reminded that they are now pastors, not lawyers. I have to wonder what fear drives the thinking of some. We need now to support the work of people at the local level to change hearts and minds through personal testimony and interaction.

Please continue to pray daily for our church and all of her members as we seek to help personify respecting the dignity of all and seeking and serving Christ in all.

Please offer special prayers for healing for our Presiding Bishop as he approaches surgery and recovery from prostate cancer.




















Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow

P.S. - The Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor has written some profound words about where we find ourselves these days. There's a meme posted on Facebook. It's worth your time to read it.

Friday, July 20, 2018

General Convention 2018

The 79th General Convention is over. The exhibit hall has been struck and the contents hauled out. The House of Deputies adjourned sine die (ahead of schedule even!). I’m sure that hall was soon emptied of the tables and chairs where we spent so many hours deliberating issues pertinent to or church.

A couple of things will always stand out for me. One is regarding the final version of Resolution B012 and the other was the resolution that brought the Diocese of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church. Both were sources of great emotion for me.

I was lucky enough to testify at the hearing held on Resolution B012 and several other resolutions related to us queer folk finally having access to marriage rites in every diocese. Unless you have felt the pain of being excluded because of who you are, it is difficult for you to understand how important these resolutions were.

Luck continued as I was also able to testify on the floor of the House of Deputies when the compromise version of B012 came to the floor. I shared the pain and the damage that continually hearing messages from the church that I was somehow flawed, inherently more sinful than other sinners, and somehow less in the eyes of God than others. Such messages wound our souls. I noted that hearing these messages convention after convention wearied me more than you could know. I reminded people who talked about who might leave about the hundreds of thousands of people we lost already who were LGBTQ+ and who walked out or never darkened our doors.

I reminded the Deputies that someday it might be one of their own children or grandchildren who asked why they could not be married in their own parish. And finally, I noted that in a good compromise, no one is happy. This was a good compromise.

The resolution passed in a vote by orders with 96 clergy and 97 lay votes in favor; 10 clergy and 8 lay votes against; and 4 clergy and 5 lay votes “divided.” That represents a “super” majority. I teared up a bit. (Now as you might know the Bishop of Dallas has already started trying to create roadblocks to those same sex couples who want to marry in that diocese. Others will follow.)

Regardless of what we have accomplished, without constant vigilance, we can even lose that. The work continues!

The vote to re-admit the Diocese of Cuba passed with overwhelming majorities. I suspect there was a little bit of shame in what was our correction of a probably illegal ejection of them by the House of Bishops in 1966. The emotional reunion was almost overwhelming. The Bishop and the Deputies were escorted into the House to great cheers and applause. Shortly after a table was marked as the Diocese of Cuba and the Deputies were seated. There is more to be done, but they are back in our church.

You can continue to access the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org . There you will find all you ever wanted to know and maybe more than you wanted to know! If you click on “virtual binder” you can view everything we saw and upon which we took action as Deputies. Over 500 resolutions were processed. Thank God for the Consent Calendar!

Please continue to pray daily for our church and all of her members as we seek to insure that our all really does mean all. Please pray for those who live in dioceses where all of us are still not equal.

Pray also for this organization that we all love deeply, as we try to live into the reality of the need to embrace the entire rainbow of God’s creation in a way that all can see. We're trying to make changes that will help build the organization, and recognize that we may need to cast a wider net among our backers if we are to cast a wider net among those who don't know yet what we can do for the church.

Give thanks for the hard and diligent work of those who volunteered to staff our booth at the Convention, those who volunteered at our Eucharist, and those who helped make what we did a reality.


Bruce Garner, President
The Episcopal Rainbow: Integrity USA










P. S. - The United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that gays and lesbians are not a protected class. They upheld the firing of a man here in suburban Atlanta because he was gay. WE still do not exist as fully human even in some secular circles. Read more about it at "Atlanta appeals court again rules gays, lesbians not a protected class"

Friday, July 13, 2018

General Convention 2018 - The Episcopal Rainbow Rises!

The 79th General Convention is drawing to a close today.  By and large it has been a good convention. Legislation favorable to us in areas of importance to LGBTQ+ folks is making its way through the process. Yes we have once again endured the demeaning language some continue to use.  I have heard language that I have heard in one form or another since my first General Convention in 1991. But the arc of history is still bending toward justice. There are still some who just cannot grasp the concept of the inclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must continue to pray for them.

The Integrity General Convention Eucharist was a success. I hope you watched it from wherever you are through our live streaming of the service. Great local volunteers working with the board resulted in a great service with great music and great preaching.

One of the highlights of the service was the presentation of the Louie Crew Clay award, named in honor of our beloved founder. The award was given to The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, and The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

Integrity began as a truly grass roots organization some 43 years ago with a mission: seeking the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life and ministry of The Episcopal Church. In 1975 there were essentially no queer clergy in our church. That would have been the name used as well... so I have reclaimed it from our detractors to celebrate who we are as LGBTQ folks.

Work began on that mission at the local level and then moved to the level of the General Convention where we sought to insure equality and inclusion through canon law and resolutions and any way we could achieve it “officially” at the church wide level.

I would say that you probably know the success of that work, but it is obvious - even at the 79th General Convention - that work remains when queerfolk in 8 dioceses still could not get married in their own parish churches. Three of those are in my own Province IV.

Like other organizations in our church, the Board of Integrity has struggled with the question of what needed to be next. While we must never stop being vigilant about maintaining justice and equality, there is still much more to do.

We came to the conclusion that we needed to return to our roots, literally, to go back to being a grassroots organization focused on helping folks at the diocesan and parish levels to be fully included in our church. While we will always be watching what happens at the church-wide level, energy and time needs to go local.

We are also aware that we are just part of the wonderful and colorful rainbow of God’s created humanity. That rainbow involves infinite colors.

We reached a conclusion as well that the name Integrity did not have a readily discernible connection with The Episcopal Church. So after many discussions and a conversation with our founder:
Beginning with the close of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church Integrity USA will begin doing business as The Episcopal Rainbow
So bring your particular color and flavor and join us in our work. Regardless of how “good” some of us have it, we have kindred who still live in a form of hell right in this country.

And regardless of what we have accomplished, without constant vigilance, we can even lose that. The work continues!

Continue to follow the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org.  There you will find all you ever wanted to know and maybe more than you wanted to know!

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that will be made, especially those with a direct affect on us as queerfolk. Pray that all return to their homes safely. And pray as we, Integrity, return to our homes, to our grassroots, to our Episcopal Rainbow.




Bruce Garner
President, The Episcopal Rainbow


Friday, July 6, 2018

General Convention 2018 - Off And Running

The 79th General Convention is underway. The gavels have sounded in both houses and we enjoyed a vibrant and holy opening Eucharist yesterday. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry inspired us... as always... with a stirring sermon. The theme became: “Keep your eye on the prize.”

Our prize as LGBTQ+ children of God, members of The Episcopal Church, is full equality with all other members of our church... oddly still illusive in some ways... the most obvious in marriage equality.

Hearings on resolutions related to marriage equality were, as in conventions past, a challenge as we endured, yet again, the many ways and words of people who want to keep us in our place, our less than equal place, our place outside looking in. Even after more than two decades of these discussions, hearing language that continues to categorize you as less than, not equal to, somehow flawed, unworthy of all the sacraments... that language still hurts. It still bruises the soul.  It damages the psyche. The salve, the salvation if you will, is that we know in our heart of hearts that such language does not come from God. It still comes from ignorance and the fear bred from ignorance.

As we listen to the debate, the hearing, the discussion, pray that we will be surrounded by a shield, a holy shield, to deflect the language... however disguised... of discrimination and sometimes veiled hatred, deflect that away from us. We have heard enough of it for several lifetimes. Pray that the still small voice of God will find its way to our ears to say: “Keep your eye on the prize my beloved child, keep your eye on the prize. I love you how I created you. And someday all will finally learn to accept and appreciate my handiwork.”

Continue to  follow the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org.  There you will find all you ever wanted to know and maybe more than you wanted to know! And visit the Integrity site at http://integrityusa.org/general-convention-resources. And join us on Sunday July 8 at 8pm CDT, watching the Integrity Eucharist at http://bit.ly/IntegrityEucharistGC79.

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that will be made, especially those with a direct affect on us as queerfolk.



Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Friday, June 29, 2018

2018-2021 Board of Directors Elected

IntegrityUSA, the Episcopal Rainbow, is excited to announce that the election for the next Board of Directors has been completed. The following positions have been filled and the terms will run from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2021.

President: The Rev. Gwen Fry
Vice-President of National Affairs: Brent Cox
Vice-President of Local Affairs: Kay Smith Riggle
Treasurer: DeAnna Bosch
Secretary/Director of Communications: Letty Guevara-Cuenca

Integrity's current Board of Directors offers its congratulations to the new board. The current board looks forward to working and assisting in the transition during the next three months.


Mel Soriano
Secretary, Board of Directors
Integrity USA, The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, June 28, 2018

General Convention 2018

Next week the gavels will sound in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to open General Convention 2018 in Austin, Texas. For the 79th time, we begin the process we are directed to do by our Constitution and Canons.  We will carry out the business of The Episcopal Church. When the gavels sound to end the Convention on July 13, The Episcopal Church will have spoken and provided our position on a variety of topics from the somewhat mundane to the almost sublime.  

Over the course of the General Convention we will pass a budget for the next three years. That budget will show where our priorities are in carrying out our work as part of The Jesus Movement. We will show where our hearts are with where we will spend our money.

During the General Convention we will process various resolutions, over 200 at last count with more to come.  (Just for your information, my first convention in 1991 had over 800 resolutions on which to act.  We have learned greater restraint since then!) Each resolution will be given an open hearing before the committee to which it is assigned. The committee will then vote and send it to the houses of Convention in the original form or as amended.  The first house will act on the resolution and if passed it will go to the other house. If both agree on the exact same wording it will become the policy or the voice of The Episcopal Church.

The resolutions that are closest to my heart are those that concern how we treat each other as children of God, as members of this church.  That includes those that address Israeli-Palestinian relationships.  It also includes those that continue to address the perplexing and bedeviling issue of racism that still permeates our church and our society. The ugly head of racism has raised itself to a higher profile over the last few years. 

And of course we will consider resolutions that would at long last make all the sacraments available to all of our people.  Will we leave Austin with the ability to get married in our church no matter in which diocese we live?  Will those who live in the eight dioceses where bishops refuse to allow same-sex marriages to take place finally be able to get married in the parishes where they worship and serve God?  Will those who live in various parishes in other dioceses where rectors also refuse to allow same-sex marriages be able to be treated as full members of their parishes as well?  I pray to God we will at last be able to insure that all are treated equally in The Episcopal Church when it comes to marriage. 

You can follow the activities of General Convention by going to www.generalconvention.org.  There you will find all you ever wanted to know and maybe more than you wanted to know! You can follow Integrity at General Convention by going to http://www.integrityusa.org/general-convention-resources.

I continue to wonder if we will we have the moral courage to speak up and speak out on behalf of all who are marginalized and oppressed for whatever reason?  Will we have the strength of conviction to take actions to change our ways? Will we make an effort to respect the dignity of every human being regardless of how that human being should be respected?  

Like most legislative processes, a resolution begins one way and may come out looking completely different.  We can still contact our deputies to General Convention and influence the outcome. We can contact our bishop(s). We can remind them of our common vow to respect the dignity of every human being whether it is about marriage equality or refugee treatment or racism or any of the myriad of ways we can think of to mistreat each other.  We can let them hear our stories about how not having our dignity respected looks like in this our household of faith.

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.

Before General Convention begins, we have a way to demonstrate our respect for every human being through participating in a “Families Belong Together” rally on Saturday June 30.  Here's the link to find an event near you. I hope you will attend.







Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Indignity and Injustice: How much will we allow to be imposed?

Question:  Will you respect the dignity of every human being?
Response:  I will with God’s help.

I was looking for a way to talk about the despicable way our government has been treating refugee/immigrant families at our southern border. I felt that I needed to couch any comments I might make in faith-based terms since the Attorney General of The United States had used Scripture to justify what I consider immoral and reprehensible actions that I am convinced are also repugnant to our Creator. So I found myself once again relying on the vows of our Baptismal Covenant.

The pictures of cages made from chain link fencing, uprights and doors/gates horrified me. And please do not tell me those were not cages. Two images came to mind for such structures: One is a dog kennel run. The other is the cage where the “big box” membership clubs lock up tobacco products. Neither image is suitable for any human being, much less children and babies! I KNOW what a cage looks like, so please don’t even try to spin that any other way.

Then I saw more pictures that showed these children sleeping on pallets on concrete floors using emergency “blankets” for cover, the kind made from shiny reflective materials intended to help hold in body heat. I was further repulsed. This is not how the wealthiest nation on the face of this planet should be treating children (or adults). Pallets no less. Not even mattresses.

This situation seems to have touched a nerve across a very broad spectrum of the faith communities of our nation. Condemnation has come in from the political right and the political left. That nerve is so raw that some 600 members of the United Methodist Church have filed ecclesiastical charges against the Attorney General. This link tells that story, but be warned it also contains some of the pictures I have referenced. https://tinyurl.com/Methodists-Charge-Sessions

I have no idea what will come of this but it does give me a degree of hope that we really have not reached the point of having no shame in what we do as a nation.

The POTUS has issued an Executive Order rescinding the policy of separating families at our southern border. Note that I said policy. There was never a law that required such actions.

Personally, I must take a “wait and see” approach because, to be bluntly honest, I do not trust either the author of the executive order or the contents of it to deal with this issue in a way that I think will be in accord with our baptismal covenant vow to respect the dignity of every human being. I just do not believe that such an intent will be found much less enforced.

Would we be having this discussion at all if those refugees fleeing persecution and gang violence had blond hair and blue eyes? Would our concerns be nearly as great if they did not have brown or black skin? Is our systemic racism rearing its ugly head for all the world to see? I fear it so. Again.

Perhaps I remember too much history. When I first learned of this process of separating children from families, my mind immediately went back to Nazi Germany. The gut wrenching stories of parents being separated from children and the journeys each would take - gas chambers and ovens or work camps - still have not left my thoughts. I would like to think that we would never descend to such depths of depravity, but I am not willing to rule that out... sadly so. Too often we forget that we had our own version of concentration camps in this country. We just used the word “internment” camps to make it sound a little nicer and more civilized. Really!?

The haunting words of Pastor Martin Niemoller come to mind: “They came for the _______ and I was not a ________, so I did not speak up. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak up.” We are called by the faith we profess to speak up for those who are marginalized and oppressed for any reason. How could we claim to be respecting the dignity of every human being if we did not speak up?

The General Convention is almost upon us. Will we have the moral courage to speak up and speak out on behalf of all who are marginalized and oppressed for whatever reason? Will we have the strength of conviction to take actions to change our ways? Will we make an effort to respect the dignity of every human being regardless of how that human being should be respected?

We do not know the outcome of any resolution until we are actually in committee with it and vote on the floors of the houses of General Convention. But we can still contact our deputies to General Convention. We can contact our bishop(s). We can remind them of our common vow to respect the dignity of every human being whether it is about marriage equality or refugee treatment or any of the myriad of ways we can think of to mistreat each other. Let them hear your stories about how not having your dignity respected looks like in this our household of faith.

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.

Some other perspectives:

Elections for the new leadership of Integrity USA are now taking place. Pray and cast your vote if you are a member. If you are not, join us in bearing good fruit.






Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, June 15, 2018

Good Fruit

Good Fruit: Our Work Does Yield Good Fruit! (Eventually)

The good folks at “THE TWELVE” a faith based blog, have showered us queer folk with high praise for our steadfast work over the last few decades. A recent item appears at this link:
Five Ways the LGBTQ Community is Saving the Church

The five ways the article states that we are saving the church are:
1 We’ve had to face our judgment
2 We’ve had to face hard conversations that we previously avoided
3 The LGBTQ community is driving the church to look more deeply at scripture
4 The LGBTQ community is helping us rediscover unity
5 The LGBTQ community is helping us rediscover grace

There is far more to the article than just the lead in to each of the five. I commend the article to you because it helps me and I hope it helps you see what some of the struggle over the last decades has produced, at least in the view of one group of people. Sometimes I fear we are so enmeshed in our work that we never really see the fruit of our labors. The “we” in the first two should apply to us even though in the article the focus is essentially the “straight” church.

We really have had to engage in conversations that are difficult and that, quite frankly, most of us would have avoided unless pushed into them. Sexuality has always been that topic no one wants to discuss because it is a subject that involves all of us. It has nothing to do with the “icky” topic many want to make it. It’s a part of who God created us all to be. There are dozens of facets of the topic, yet the tendency has been to avoid the discussion. I’m inclined to believe that if we can have hard conversations about sex, we can have equally difficult conversations about race, and a host of other areas where our relationships often falter.

We certainly have all had to look more deeply into Scripture. I think it is a safe bet that most reading this have had to learn Scripture in order to defend ourselves from its misuse and misinterpretation and its being taken out of context. When an object is being used to oppress, it bears looking at with completely new vision to counter that oppression. Hearing the words “the Bible says” is usually a decent indicator that the words are coming from someone who knows very little about what is actually in the Bible. Scripture is such an important part of our worship that all have benefitted from our studies.

In just a few weeks, we, The Episcopal Church, will have an opportunity to demonstrate how well we have fared in our tasks, even perhaps, saving our church. How well will we do?

Some will trot out old arguments to try and keep queer folks in the second class status where they find themselves in eight of our dioceses. Others will look for ways to create exceptions to the call for full and equal inclusion at all levels of our church, in all the sacraments, all the time. This again will be based on arguments we have heard before, especially about honoring the history of tradition. They were the same words we heard to keep women and people of color “in their place” in church and society. Is oppression really a tradition we should want to uphold?

My recollections of our church’s past is that we consistently have sought ways to create exceptions to that which would hold all accountable to the same standards. Perhaps our biggest debacle was around the ordination of women. There are no exceptions in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are no “carve outs” or “exemptions” or anything else to allow any of us to water down either loving God with all our heart and soul or mind and strength OR loving our neighbor as ourselves. Try as we might, we are all held to that same standard. We cannot water that down.

So while we may bask for a short while in the praise of those who appreciate what we have tried to do, we cannot rest there for long. The arc of history may bend toward justice, but there are always those with short memories who must be continually reminded of what that means and how easily we can back slide right off of that arc.

My broken record: Contact your deputies to General Convention. Contact your bishop(s). Make sure they know you want them to have the church to continue to bear good fruit. Let them hear your stories about how you still don’t enjoy full inclusion in our household of faith.

Please continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.

And just a reminder: Elections for the new leadership of Integrity USA begin next week. Pray and cast your vote if you are a member. If you are not, join us in bearing good fruit.




Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Friday, June 8, 2018

Baking Cakes, Entertaining Strangers

Those of us of the Judeo-Christian heritage know of at least one story of cake baking in
Scripture. Abraham brings home strangers, apparently to be around for a meal as well. He asks
Sarah to bake cakes for them. (I think what consisted of a “cake” in that time is vastly different
from our modern concept of cake, but that is not the point... just sayin’.)

Sarah bakes the cakes. Period. She didn’t ask for the strangers’ credentials or “papers”
or make sure they followed the same religious practices as she did or any other criteria. She
just baked the cakes. It was a simple act of hospitality.

Much is being made about the Supreme Court decision concerning a bakeshop refusing
to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple because of the baker’s religious beliefs. Seems
many want to be clear that it is a narrow ruling and that discrimination against LGBTQ folks is
serious and illegal. That is of course the legal aspects and all that entails.

The real point is getting lost in all of the hype. As much as anything else, the baker’s
refusal to bake the wedding cake was not an act of hospitality, rather inhospitality. He did what
Sarah did not do: he imposed his own religious beliefs on someone. The baker discriminated
against two people. He passed judgement using criteria that should not matter in such a
transaction. Baking cakes, buying and selling cakes, buying and selling anything doesn’t call for
the imposition of religious criteria unless you are following strict religious dietary laws: think
orthodox Jewish people and kosher food. Even in that instance I doubt anyone would think
about discrimination. Hospitality would be more important.

Jesus’ hospitality was radical. The man would talk to anyone, eat with anyone, socialize
with anyone, and visit whomever He pleased. He did not stand on ceremony or appearances.
And despite what some of our Christian kindred want us to believe, these encounters were not
all the time about sinners and redemption. Sometimes it was just ordinary socialization among
friends and strangers alike. Yet, the model he personified was the basis for salvation because it
centered on how we treat each other. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

This is another opportunity for us to practice radical hospitality. For everyone who gets
denied a cake based on the religious beliefs of the baker, let us be the bakeshop where all that
matters is our hospitality and not anything about who might walk through our doors.

Those better schooled than I have said this Supreme Court decision about cakes was
based on a procedural error by a government agency and not intended to indicate that
discrimination against LGBTQ folks was legal. Some of our kindred in other faiths are not

interpreting that ruling the same way and hail so-called religious freedom to discriminate in the
name of Jesus. I am not convinced the radical love and hospitality Jesus practiced and expects
of us is in line with such discrimination.

There is a petition in the Solemn Collects for Good Friday where we pray for those who
in the name of Christ have persecuted others. I cringe every time we pray that collect. I would
like to think that we, as Episcopalians, are different from those who claim the right to
discriminate in the name of Jesus. I hope we are. Yet in the eyes of the “average” person we are
lumped in with those who do discriminate. Our voices of inclusion continue to get drowned out
by those who would exclude. Our work still lies before us to change that perception.

In a few weeks we will have a chance to be clear about the radical love of Jesus in issues
of cake baking and matrimony. I pray that we will use that chance to right some wrongs and to
bring more of God’s children in touch with the Jesus of radical love and hospitality. I hope we
can give our kindred in eight dioceses reason to bake wedding cakes. It’s time. It is time dear
bishops of our church. It is time dear deputies of our church. Let us not squander that time and
lose yet another opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

Contact your deputies to General Convention. Contact your bishop(s). Make sure they
know you want everyone to be able to bake cakes, similar to those baked by Sarah, but for
weddings.

Continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.




Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Nominees for the 2018 Integrity Election

The following candidates have come forward for the elected positions. The election for provincial coordinators and the chair of the Stakeholder's Council will be deferred until after the new board has had an opportunity to review and update the By-Laws to meet the needs of Integrity today.

The statements by each candidate will follow the list of offices. Because the Stakeholder's Council election is deferred, the stakeholder voters - as defined in the By-Laws - will not be included in this election ballot.

Only Integrity members who are current with their dues will be eligible to vote. If you are a member and do not receive an email by the evening of Tuesday June 19 regarding the election, please contact treasurer@integrityusa.org to confirm your membership and dues status. You may also renew at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/integrityusa.

Voting eligibility and candidate eligibility are based on the rules described in the By-Laws adopted in 2009. Eligible voters (Integrity members who are current with their dues) will be receiving an email with an individual unique link that that only allows one vote per person. Write-in candidates will be permitted. The voting will begin Wednesday June 20, 8am EDT and will conclude Wednesday June 27, 5pm EDT. After that time, the link will no longer allow you to vote. Results will be announced before July 3, 12pm EDT.

Members of Integrity will be voting on the following positions.

President: The Reverend Gwen Fry
Vice-President of National Affairs: Brent Cox
Vice-President of Local Affairs: Kay Smith Riggle
Treasurer: DeAnna Bosch
Secretary/Director of Communications: Letty Guevara-Cuenca





President

The Reverend Gwen Fry

I am an ordained Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Arkansas. My experience coming out as a trans woman of faith makes me keenly aware of the necessity for the equality of all God’s children. Experiencing the effects of discrimination first hand, I have been actively involved in the work of justice in the transgender community both in Arkansas and across the Episcopal Church. I am an advocate and activist for the transgender community who was a leader in the coalition of organizations that fought back the anti-transgender bills introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly last year. I currently serve as the Vice President of National Affairs for Integrity USA; is a board member of Pridecorps, an LGBTQ youth center in Little Rock, Arkansas; and on the board of Stonewall Democrats of Arkansas. An active member of TransEpiscopal, I also serve on its steering committee.

Vice-President of National Affairs

Brent Cox

In addition to being a lifelong Episcopalian, my career has been in nonprofit organizing and management, including serving as Integrity's National Field Organizer in 2012. In that role, I helped carry out Integrity's successful campaign for the EC to approve the ordination of transgender priests, and to permit same-gender blessings. Both goals were achieved at that year's General Convention. More recently I served as the director of policy and programs for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, creating and carrying out their hate crimes legislation and reporting work. Other notable work includes several years with the ACLU in Mississippi and Florida. 

As a gay Episcopalian, I grew up in the South, attending a church whose leadership were unusually vocal about their belief that homosexuality was incompatible with Christianity. For a while, I left the Church because of this and only returned after seeing Gene Robinson's leadership and hearing his call to return. I believe strongly that Integrity is dearly needed to help parishes call home other LGBT Christians who still don't believe the Episcopal Church welcomes them, or who have simply come to believe that Christ is unimportant in their lives now that they have been gone from the Church for so long. That is great and important work, and I believe Integrity should play a key part in helping churches actively call LGBT members home to the Body of Christ. I would be honored to be part of this work as a member of Integrity’s board.

Vice-President of Local Affairs

Kay Smith Riggle

I made my way to the Episcopal Church after being reared in a Baptist church, educated at Georgia Baptist School of Nursing and a long wandering in the desert after thinking I was through with churches for good. A friend repeatedly invited me to his church and I finally went in an effort to stop the invitations. I was pleasantly surprised with the differences and soon found myself on the path to becoming an Episcopalian.

My career was spent in Georgia as a Public Health Nurse. I became a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and managed the Women’s Health’s programs which included the Family Planning clinics for a 10 county area. My work led me to dealing with controversial subjects, advocating for Women’s Health issues, sexuality education and providing direct health services.  My work in Public Health put me in a position to see the AIDS crisis unfold and working in the rural counties to respond to the AIDS crisis. I worked on a team in our health district to educate our community and to provide for the needs of those diagnosed with AIDS. I also served in community organizations that provided support and services to the gay community.  

After becoming a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, I met the love of my life who confided to me that he was transgender. Our journey began as her transition began.  In 2004, that was a challenge since there was very little public knowledge about transgender people and issues, particularly in the Deep South. Our priest suggested that we contact Integrity. We became members of Integrity GA. The support and help we received from Integrity was invaluable and life giving. We have both served as officers of Integrity GA. For the past 3 years I have served as Province IV Coordinator for Integrity USA. 

In running for VP of Local Affairs, I hope to help re-envision Integrity USA to respond to LGBTQIA folks not being fully welcomed into and not having access to all the sacraments in all churches and to meet the challenges from the recent disturbing changes in our culture by, as Presiding Bishop Curry says, “through the transformative Jesus Movement.”


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 recently retired as 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 almost 40 years, have 4 children, 5 grandchildren and 4 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.

I live in the Diocese of Texas, am member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Board member of Integrity Houston since 2010.  I am on the diocesan board of Episcopal Seniors Foundation and  I have been responsible for email lists and notices to parishioners monthly and for special notifications, attended meetings and served as Treasurer of Integrity Houston for 7 years.

My background is in Accounting, systems, procedures, and non-profit accounting with 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.

The past three years serving as Treasurer of Integrity USA have led me to many fulfilling relationships and a greater understanding of God’s love for all.  All means All.


Secretary; Director of Communications

Letty Guevara-Cuenca

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, I am the first generation of Spanish immigrants, earned a Bachelor in Education, and another Bachelor in Communications (Journalism) from the Andres Bello Catholic University.

I moved to the United States in 1999 and after several years in different positions, including as a correspondent for a newspaper in Venezuela, I started to work in CNN in 2006. as a radio anchor and producer. In recent years, I have been working as a digital and video editor and producer, writing for the CNN en Español while continuing to work with CNNe radio affiliates. She also functions as social media coordinator.

I was received into the Episcopal church in 2008 by Bishop Neil Alexander, am a member of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Stone Mountain, GA, and am a very active Episcopalian, member of the Vestry, and Senior Warden.

In 2006, I started to collaborate with Saint Bede´s Episcopal Church in Atlanta with the Hispanic Community. I currently coordinate the Facebook pages for the Hispanic Communities of Saint Bede´s and Saint Edward, along with Saint Michael and All Angels Facebook page and Integrity Atlanta.

I am part of media team in the Nuevo Amanecer conference in 2016, continue to work in CNN en Español, and am postulant to the Holy Order of Deacons. I hope to be ordained in December 2018.








Friday, June 1, 2018

Ordinary Time

We have now moved into ordinary time in the church year. Yet, to me at least, the times seem anything but “ordinary”, especially as we approach our General Convention in July in Austin, Texas. When there is still work to do to help insure that all of God’s children are included in the life and worship of our church and society, there will be no “ordinary” time. None of us are free until all of us are free. Yes that is an often repeated phrase, but it is still true despite what some might wish.

The General Convention will vote on at least two resolutions that impact same sex marriage (Resolution A085) and the blessing of relationships (Resolution A086). I urge you to go to www.generalconvention.org to read these resolutions as well as the others that have been posted and assigned to committees for action at the convention. This link takes you to more than you may ever have wanted to know about the convention. It also gives you access to what is called the “virtual binder” where you can read what actions are happening, what’s coming up for a vote, and much more. You will also be able to access the bulletins used for worship at the daily convention worship services.

It should be of great concern to all queer folks that eight bishops still refuse to allow same sex marriages in their dioceses. Same sex couples are, to be rather blunt about it, not having their pastoral needs met in their own dioceses. At least one bishop has said that making arrangements for a same sex couple to be married in an adjacent diocese meets the terms of the legislation that was passed in General Convention 2015. I strongly disagree with that position. That isn’t even being asked to sit at the back of the bus. That is being asked to get off the bus entirely and go get on another one! We are hopeful that this situation will be remedied at this convention.

We previously provided you with a link to a video produced by a group of faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Tennessee, the “middle” of the three dioceses in that state. We now have the privilege of sharing with you another video produced by some of the faithful in the Diocese of Dallas... another diocese where the bishop does not allow same sex marriages. The link to the Dallas video is https://deargeneralconvention.com/video/ .  You might want to have a tissue handy. As in the case of the Diocese of Tennessee, you see no clergy. They would risk their livelihoods by doing so.  Have you contacted your General Convention Deputies and your Bishop(s) about making sure that ALL have access to marriage? Why not? Remember your kindred who may not enjoy all the benefits of our church that you do. Pray for them and then contact your Deputies and Bishop(s).

We have lost another beloved Integrity member whose  ministry was at  both the national and local level. The Rev. Paul Woodrum died last week. Paul was, if my memory is correct, our National Treasurer when I joined Integrity in the early 1980’s. Paul was among the earliest of gay priests to be open about his sexual orientation. Being his authentic self was very costly to him in the 1960’s and after. He paid the price for honesty. He built the bridge over which many would eventually walk.  Please see this link for more information.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory. I also ask your prayers for Victor, Paul’s husband of 37 years.

The nomination process for board elections has ended and a slate of candidates has been prepared.  Elections will be held 8am Monday June 18 - 8am Monday June 25. Election results will be announced Monday July 3 just prior to General Convention.  When you receive the ballot, you will notice that there are no nominees for Stakeholder’s Council Chair or for Provincial Coordinators. The present board wanted to provide as much latitude to the new board to facilitate our grass roots efforts and involvement. They will evaluate these positions and either hold a special election or seek to amend the bylaws to meet Integrity’s current needs.

With this Friday Flash, I am requesting that all members and friends of Integrity pray intentionally and daily for the Deputies and Bishops who will be participating in the General Convention.  Please pray daily that hearts will be moved to insure that ALL absolutely ALL of God’s children have access to all of the sacraments all of the time... and in their own parishes!






Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow




Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Remembering Rev. Paul Woodrum

The following Facebook post was reprinted with the permission of Louie Crew Clay, founder of Integrity USA. He expressed his sadness about the death of The Rev. L. Paul Woodrum, a former board member of Integrity, and shared his fond memories of Paul and his husband of 37 years, Victor Challenor

"I am in shock learning that my friend Paul Woodrum+ died six days ago, of heart failure. He is survived by Victor Challenor, his husband of 37 years.
Paul was ordained deacon in June 1965, priest a year later. He paid dearly for his early openness, fired quite early when a bishop used the lew and spotted a photograph of a male nude. Paul never gave up on the church which so forcefully gave up on him. Paul spent all of his clerical ministry as a faithful, indefatigable priest, and when fired, was deployed to assignments that could offer only low stipends, serving persons of the greatest need.
To survive economically, he and Victor established Challwood, vestment makers sought by almost all bishops and other clergy from many denominations.
Paul was active in Integrity as soon as he learned of it. He served on the Integrity board in many different capacities. He was a splendid educator for those of us who did not know how to get things done using the formal instruments of governance. He drafted many of the resolutions that made their way to General Convention for almost five decades.
Paul was one of the most hospitable persons that I have ever met. He never gave guests a meal: it was always a feast.
Paul's memorial mass will be at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, Long Island, NY on July 12th, time TBA. Paul is resting in peace, gussying up the heaven's vestments. Pray for his beloved Victor."





Friday, May 25, 2018

With the Holy Spirit’s gifts empower us

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! (With the Holy Spirit’s gifts empower us)

The Great Fifty Days of Easter have ended. We celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church on the Feast of Pentecost.

We all know the story of people flaming and speaking in tongues not their own. Some have referred to Pentecost as the reversal of the Tower of Babel. However one might categorize this event, it has represented God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter, the Advocate of whom Jesus spoke and said would be sent to us after his departure.

My experiences with the Holy Spirit have been both illusive and stealth. I could acknowledge a presence but not pinpoint it exactly. I could feel it literally rush through the place where I was, work some mischief and then rush back out. These were real and have instilled both faith and a bit of fear at times. And sometimes they have evoked a chuckle and a smile.

There is a hymn in the 1982 Hymnal that contains the refrain: “With the spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”  It is sometimes known as Integrity’s hymn because of the use of “integrity” in the first verse. The point is that this hymn is a prayer to God to give us the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry.

As an organization and in some ways as a church, we are being directed back to the work of ministry at the local level. The gifts for which we seek to be empowered, relate to growing the church -  something that has always been best achieved at the local level - where it all began.

We recently lost an Integrity member who personified ministry at the local level.  Paul Lane was an active Diocesan Organizer for New York as well as the primary coordinator of the New York Pride Parade’s Episcopal Church presence. You can read more about his work on the Walking With Integrity post "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant". May he rest in peace and rise in glory.  He utilized the gifts with which the Spirit empowered him to their fullest.  May we all do likewise.

So let us indeed pray that the Spirit will empower us for the work of ministry and roll up our sleeves and move forward. The work is not yet complete.  All that has changed is where it continues to need to be done.

We are still seeking people to take over national leadership roles and you can either nominate yourself or someone else. The deadline for nominations is May 25, 2018.  So if you have a nomination,  please send it to:  nominations@integrityusa.org


        


Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Louie Crew Clay Award

Integrity USA, the Episcopal Rainbow, is honored to award the Louie Crew Clay Award to The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, and to The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

Photo: Episcopal Church
Photo: Episcopal Church
These honors are given in gratitude to those who have demonstrated an ongoing dedication to insuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) persons are fully included in the life and work of The Episcopal Church and in wider society. The Louie Crew Clay Award represents the commitment we make in the vows of our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Both will receive their awards at the Integrity Eucharist during General Convention in Austin, Texas on July 8, 2018 at 8pm in the JW Marriott. All are welcome to join in the worship and celebration.

Louie Crew Clay founded Integrity USA in 1974. He may be a retired professor emeritus of English at Rutgers University, but to Integrity he has been the tireless voice for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Episcopal Church.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

A lot of people were introduced to the Episcopal Church, the American* cousins of the Church of England, when our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry preached at the wedding of Prince Harry, now also titled the Duke of Sussex, to actress Meghan Markle, herself a descendant of King Edward III.

This break from tradition caused Episcopalians in the U.S. to watch news of the wedding with more-than-typical interest, although, truth be told, anything with roots in antiquity that also involves funny hats is likely to get our attention.  In our increasingly unchurched culture, the folderol of Anglican worship must have looked to many viewers like Downton Abbey Goes to Hogwart's.  I joked yesterday that we should start a rumor that Episcopalians wear those hats to church every week, and then sit back and watch what happens.

Paul Lane and Christian Paolino.
Photo: Larissa Blinderman
I would like to believe that would have gotten a chuckle out of my friend Paul Lane who, although raised a Roman Catholic like me, found a home many years ago in the Episcopal Church. Under normal circumstances, he would have had more than a passing interest in the goings-on in London this week. Well-versed in his own family's history in Europe going back generations, Paul spent a good deal of time in France and Spain, taking the sun and soaking up culture. Like many Episcopalians I've met from all backgrounds, he shared that common gene which manifested itself with an appreciation for arcane historical detail.

He also knew a thing or two about liturgy done with care, which is probably why he, despite living in Jersey City, made St. Luke in-the-Fields in the West Village his spiritual home.  Worship at St. Luke's leaves very little to chance: from the choir to the incense-bearer, people go about their roles with what looks from the pews like easy precision, although I have been to enough post-Eucharist brunches at the bar formerly known as Dublin 6 to hear that making the service look that effortless was no mean feat indeed.

While Bishop Curry is very at home behind a pulpit or microphone, Paul's ministry was more behind-the-scenes, but no less effective. Besides his work at St. Luke's, Paul was the driving force of the LGBT Concerns committee for the Diocese of New York.  His principal responsibility there was coordinating the Episcopal presence at the NYC Pride March, which takes place every June. Under Paul's tutelage, people from more than a dozen parishes on both sides of the Hudson River--an entire city block full of people--makes its way down Fifth Avenue leading a giant float proclaiming The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.

Imagine how many LGBT people saw that small army and that float over the years, and thought, "Wait, what? A church wants me? All I've ever heard from church people was what an abomination I am." Be they a teenager scared to come out to hir parents, or an older person who finally came to grips with a lifelong secret, this witness affected people on the sidelines: I know, because I was part of that march many times, and they told me, sometimes with tears in their eyes.

Paul made that happen, through cajoling, negotiating... maybe some vague threats, he did grow up in Trenton, after all.  But most of all through his own quiet example. This was his gift to the church, and the treasure it yielded can't be counted.

We lost him yesterday, with little warning. Just weeks before the March, on the Day of Witness, he was taken from us. I cannot begin to guess how we will fill his shoes, as organizer, mentor, and friend.

The Presiding Bishop's wedding sermon was focused on the overwhelming power and importance of love, without which the most carefully-executed expression of piety assails the ears of the Almighty like a blaring kazoo chorus. Instead, the prophet Amos tells us:
"let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
In a few weeks, when we again line up to deliver that message of love and invitation to the city and the world, may our steps be guided by his voice and our feet propelled forward by his example.

Let's roll.





Christian Paolino
Former Stakeholder's Council Chairperson at IntegrityUSA

This blog post is republished with the permission of the author. 
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