Friday, January 19, 2018

Paying Attention

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I wonder how many of us are indeed paying attention. It seems that this administration continues to quietly (sneakily??) try and make changes to important regulations while most people’s attention is focused on what appears to be a larger and more newsworthy event.

If you do a little research, you can learn that the Census Bureau was directed to change questions that might identify LGBTQ people. Another change was to do away with specific questions in a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) program about LGBTQ seniors. The list is longer than I can or want to cover here.

It now seems that, at least according to sources identified by several newspapers, that the newest attempt to undermine progress made by us queer folks, is to create an entire division within DHHS to support the right of health care providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ folks based on the religious beliefs of the provider. Also included in that “cover” is the right to refuse to provide abortion services.

Where is this coming from? It is more of the ultra-conservative religious right’s attempt to impose their particular brand of Christianity on the entire nation. Aside from potential constitutional issues that involve the government dictating religious issues, why should one part of Christendom be allowed to overrule the beliefs and practices of any other part in this multicultural nation of ours?

Have the rest of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ lost our voices? Have we already succumbed to attempts to disenfranchise us? I have to wonder, I really do. Are those of us who take a different view of these issues, of all religious issues, afraid to make our voices heard? Are we afraid to let those in this administration hear us and know that there is no single voice of Christians in this nation and all of us must be heard?

There was a saying, from the sixties if I recall correctly: If you are not pissed off, you are not paying attention. Seems applicable to the current situation. Perhaps our various bubbles just keep us insulated from the attacks on us as full fledged members of our society.

Integrity began its life in response to injustice against one gay male, interracial couple. Have we lost that edge? Our church has come a long way. Society has lagged behind. Our roots should give us a voice. Are we paying attention?

I keep asking the following questions thinking it might shake some out of their complacency: Whom have you contacted among those who represent your interests to express your concerns and disagreement with current administration policies? Have you emailed, tweeted, texted, called, used carrier pigeon or any other means of communication? Look in the mirror and ask yourself why not? Look in the mirror and ask yourself why you, deep down, still consider yourself a second class citizen?





















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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friends

The Integrity Window, or St. Aelred Window,
was dedicated April 2 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church,
Fargo, North Dakota.
Today is the second Friday of a new year, the 12th day of January. By happenstance (or divine intervention?), January 12 is also a very important day for Integrity. It is the feast day of our patron saint, St Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx. I don’t know how much most who will read this know about Aelred, other than being our patron saint. The background information in the Episcopal Church's "Holy Women, Holy Men" (formerly known as "Lesser Feasts and Fasts") is very clear that Aelred placed great value on friendship. It also notes that the monks in his monastery were allowed to hold hands.


Some information can be found at Forward Movement and a reading for services honoring Aelred in his “Treatise on Spiritual Friendship.” Some additional resources are listed on Integrity's web site at http://www.integrityusa.org/aelred. In the figure shown above, the Integrity Window, or St. Aelred Window, was dedicated April 2 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo, North Dakota.


Obviously I would view the information about Aelred from a different mindset than someone who is not queer. Regardless of that, it is very difficult not to find at a very minimum a “gay friendly” aspect of Aelred’s teachings. Yet our society, and the church of course, has not really owned that possibility. How many do we know who just cannot find a thing supportive of anything “gay” in Scripture or the teachings of the church over the centuries? It’s not surprising. The queer folks had to hide in order to survive. And a straight guy is rarely going to see anything other than “straightness” when he looks at something.


So as this new year begins, I urge us all to look for, nurture, and support the type of friendship Aelred describes and taught in his monastery. Who knows? That might be a way forward in a society that seems to keep us stuck in one way of viewing things.






















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





P. S. Thoughts for the upcoming week: think about how our lives as queer folks has changed in the last year. What gains have been pushed back, altered, or stalled? What have we done to make our feelings about that known to those whose job description is to serve the people.





Friday, January 5, 2018

A Return To Our Roots... Our Grass Roots

Integrity began as a grassroots organization founded by Dr. Louie Crew Clay over 40 years ago, essentially as a newsletter connecting lesbian and gay (LG) folks (the current language of LGBTQ+ had not yet come into existence). Initially there was little structure and no staff. Over the years a board of directors was formed and the organization grew. Even during my first tenure as Integrity’s National President, there was no paid staff and everything was done by volunteers. We even published a regular magazine entitled “Walking With Integrity.”  Yes, it was a “hard copy” publication! Over time with the growing complexity of the organization a staff person was hired as an administrator.  The face of Integrity, however, remained the face of its volunteer leadership.

The need for an Executive Director was discerned for a season and that position as well as other positions became paid staff. Even with staff there was a need for volunteer leadership and volunteer involvement if the Integrity’s work was to be successful, particularly at the church-wide level.

The General Convention of 2015 brought decades of work to a successful culmination with the passage of legislation that put into place the last pieces of protection and inclusion of LGBTQ+ members of our Episcopal Church. The remaining work in those areas is and will continue to be achieved at the grassroots level where individuals interact with each other to help all of us see the face of Christ in each other and without condition or exception. We are at the point where minds and hearts are changed at the one-to-one level. All ministry like that is volunteer ministry.

The work of Integrity is far from done. The presence of 8 dioceses who refuse to allow same-sex marriages bears sad witness to the further needs. The current political climate continues to create more barriers to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in society... sometimes giving voice to similar actions within the church. Again, that witness is best made at the volunteer and local level.

The Board of Directors of Integrity USA has recognized the need to shift the focus of the ongoing work away from paid staff and toward volunteers at all levels. Accordingly, December 31, 2017, marked the last day that Integrity USA had any paid staff.  Other than items of contract work, the work of Integrity will return to the hearts and hands of volunteers... and we will need all the hearts and hands we can find!

It is bittersweet to say farewell to our Administrator, Laura Zeugner. She has given her time and talents to the work of Integrity far beyond what we have been able to compensate her for doing. She has stepped in and worked with our members at all levels and taken on the work needed to keep us operating, even during some less than the best of circumstances. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I extend our heartfelt thanks to her.

As you will note elsewhere, the telephone number for Integrity USA will remain the same, just answered from a different location. The mailing address has also been changed to
P.O. Box 70605
Houston, TX 77270-0605 USA
Rest assured that Houston is a huge blue”lake” in the middle of a red state!

In closing, let me wish you a Happy 12th Day of Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a Blessed Feast of the Epiphany!












Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA