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 Awards

Integrity USA, the Episcopal Rainbow, is honored to award the Louie Crew 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 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. 
Visit the original article on Christian's blog at



Friday, May 18, 2018

Okay, Now What?

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! (Okay, now what?)

I have just returned home from the Spring meeting of the Board of Trustees of The General Seminary of The Episcopal Church. This meeting also included the 196th Commencement of the seminary and services related to that event including the Commencement Eucharist.

The preacher for that Eucharist was Spencer Cantrell who received his Master of Divinity degree later in the day. He is a young gay man who will be ordained a priest in our church at some point during the coming months. His sermon included aspects of his own spiritual journey in seeking a church that welcomed queer folks.

In noting various accomplishments he concluded each by asking “Okay, now what?” That is a very valid question to ask as milestones are achieved in both our personal spiritual journeys as well as the journey our church continues to take, especially when it involves the quest for us queer folks to be fully included in the life of the church in all places and not subjected to the whims of bishops (and priests) who have adopted the attitude that the non-discrimination canons do not apply to them and who have refused to allow same sex marriages to take place in their dioceses.

As we approach our General Convention in July in Austin, Texas, we should also be asking “okay, now what” about a variety of issues. We already know that full equality is not available for LGBTQ folks in 8 of our dioceses. That is very visible. Only slightly less visible is the work we still have to do about race, parity in deployment and compensation for women clergy, inclusion of non-English speaking people in every aspect of our church life, etc. So our question really does have to be “okay, now what” on so many issues that face our church.

Integrity USA is also asking “okay, now what?”  What IS next for us now that we have seemingly achieved our goals for inclusion at the church wide level?

One thing we must always be is vigilant... vigilant in making sure that what we have accomplished isn’t taken away. Vigilant in paying attention to what goes on at the diocesan and parish levels that demonstrates whether or not we as a church are being true to our statement of welcome. Vigilant in working with others who the church or parts of the church would continue to marginalize.  None of us is free until all of us are free.

What’s next for Integrity USA also includes the election of a new class of leaders for our organization. If you or someone you know would be interested in serving Integrity USA in a leadership role, please contact:  nominations@integrityusa.org

As always, I urge you to contact those who will represent your interests at General Convention. Let them know your personal story, your personal interest in helping insure the full inclusion of queer folks in the life of our church, including marriage. Let your voice be heard.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! (Okay, now what?)




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





Friday, May 11, 2018

The Time Between

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (The time between.)

We are in the “time between.”

The Church’s liturgical year has celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus has returned to oneness with God. But the Church has not yet received the Holy Spirit, that which creates the Triune God we worship. We are in that time between.

It strikes me that The Episcopal Church is, perhaps is actually stuck, in a time between. The same is true for Integrity USA. What is our “time between?”

The Church was to be anointed with great power in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. At this particular point in the timeline, however, the Church was waiting and probably wondering what was next, what else were they to expect. Jesus had told them in one account to go into all the world and bring people into community with them, baptizing accordingly. NOTE WELL:  Jesus told them to GO, get out the word, go into the world. He didn’t say to build a structure and wait for people to come join them.

We, both The Episcopal Church and Integrity USA, have accomplished much toward making our branch of Christendom a welcoming and affirming community for all of God’s children. Perhaps I should provide the caveat that we have done so at the church wide level, at the administrative level of canons, constitution and policy. We talk Jesus movement language, but do we use the soles of our feet to actually achieve any movement beyond the talk?

What puts us in the time between is what remains to be done at the provincial, diocesan, and parish level. The grass at our roots needs care and tending to take us forward, to move us out of that time between where we seem to have rested on our laurels for far too long.

The work of inclusion, the work of affirmation and welcome, the work of what truly makes us the Body of Christ remains unfinished. The Episcopal Church Welcomes You is still not a reality for all places and all people.

Our next General Convention is on the horizon. This is our opportunity to help get us out of our between time and moving more to that beloved community we are called to be. Resolutions may be just words on a paper or an electronic device to some. They are more. They are the way that we continue to give more than lip service to Jesus command for us to go out and do the work we have been given to do.

Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. Write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. If you have a personal story of the impact of any proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on the issues that matter to you. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

Your Deputies in particular need to hear from you. Deputies go to General Convention as independent representatives of their dioceses. They do not go already directed to do anything or vote a particular way. They go - or should go - with open minds and hearts to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what is put before them. The go to make decisions with all the information they have brought with them and what they will gather while at Convention.

Integrity continues working to insure that all God’s children receive the respect for their dignity required by our Baptismal Covenant. How we do that will change. New leaders we will soon elect are vital to  us moving forward. If you feel called to be part of the next group of leaders whether on the board of directors or as a Provincial Coordinator, please put your name forward to the nominating committee at this email address: nominations@integrityusa.org .

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all...regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus! Let us work to move us past the time between and into where we need to be for all, but particularly the least among us.





Bruce Garner
President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow





Friday, May 4, 2018

On the Outside Looking In

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (Yet some remain outside looking in.)

Last weekend I attended a gathering of The Consultation, a group of organizations in The Episcopal Church whose ministries are focused on social justice issues and aspects related to that topic. We were gathered to discuss the upcoming General Convention of our church in July, in Austin, Texas. The website for The Consultation is: http://www.theconsultation.org/home.html

Like Integrity, most of the work of these organizations at the church-wide level has been accomplished. The canonical changes are in place, the policies exist, and the General Convention has been clear that ALL are to be included in the life and work and ministries of our church, both lay folks and ordained folks. Yet all of us also recognize that at the local level, the grassroots of our church, reality and the position of The Episcopal Church are still at odds with each other in a number of dioceses and for many of our kindred. Far too many of our kindred still stand on the outside looking in.

Eight of our diocesan bishops still refuse to allow same-sex marriages to take place in their dioceses. The reality in those dioceses is that same-sex couples are not getting the level of pastoral care they should be getting. And, no, sending them to a neighboring diocese to be married is NOT pastoral care. It’s nothing more than seating them in the back of the bus, only the bus is not even in the same physical location as where they worship and serve in our church!

I’ve been told that (at least) one bishop of our church is rather proud of the fact that he has not changed his thinking on a particular subject for eighteen (18) years. I could not be proud of myself if I had said that. What it means to me is that for 18 years I would not have left room in my heart for the voice of God, for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. That would say about me that I am not open to anything new and different in either my relationship with God or my relationship with any of God’s children. It would say that my faith is static, my faith is lifeless, my faith is dead, or at least frozen in time.

The redemptive work of helping others be fully a part of our church is not done. The restorative work of making “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” true for everyone and not just a catch slogan on a sign is not done. Even though we may have convinced ourselves that most of that work has been accomplished at the church-wide level, until EVERYONE benefits from God’s grace at every level, NO ONE does. I see nothing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that lets us leave anyone on the outside looking in.

If you still are not convinced of the need of our ministry, I invite you to go to two places. One is the website of All the Sacraments for All People (ASAP-TN). It tells the story of those disenfranchised in the Diocese of Tennessee. ( www.asaptn.org ). The other is the website of the Diocese of Dallas (http://edod.org/bishop-george-sumner-eastertide-2018/ ). The bishop states his case for continuing to refuse to allow same sex marriages. I’m still reading it and to be frank about it, I have read nothing new, including the claim that we have not devoted enough study to the subject. I personally think some 30 years of my life is more than enough study, but hey, that’s just me!.

So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

As Integrity moves into a new dynamic of working to insure that all God’s children receive the respect for their dignity required by our Baptismal Covenant, we need leaders who will continue to move us forward. If you feel called to leadership on the board of directors or as a Provincial Coordinator, please put your name forward to the nominating committee at this email address: nominations@integrityusa.org

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all...regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus! Let us work to insure that no one stands on the outside looking in.




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





Friday, April 27, 2018

Charting Our Future Course

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! (As we chart our future course)
The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia

Over the centuries the church has followed more than one course as she set about to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes she succeeded and sometimes she failed. Perhaps her worst moments were when she tortured, maimed and even killed in the name of God... at the expense of others who were doing little more than seeking God on a different course. Her shining moments have been those when the church honored those on the margins, those with whom Jesus surrounded himself, those we often ignore today.

For over four decades, Integrity has charted and followed several courses as she learned her way around how the Episcopal branch of the church “worked.” There were the years when we could not be “out” about who we were and had to depend on supportive allies to tell our stories and advocate for our full inclusion. As members of the church (and society for that matter) became aware that we were not that different from anyone else, we ventured out of our closets. Then we joined the councils of the church as our authentic selves, able to speak on our own behalf and share the truths of our lives. That course took our hard work and effort which helped us insure that full inclusion would be the official policy of The Episcopal Church through our canons and policies. So, what is our next course to follow, what direction, what path?

As I write this, it is appropriately ironic that two of the contestants on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race are sharing the painful experience of trying to “pray the gay away.” We touched that course lightly and briefly in our own church before horror stories of abuse helped us make it clear that prayer didn’t change anyone’s authentic self when it came to sexual orientation any more than gender and subsequently gender identity/expression.

The next course for Integrity USA, our Episcopal Rainbow, will be charted by the next class of leadership for us. One of the realities for that leadership is that some of our most difficult work remains to be done at the parish, diocesan and provincial levels. It is work in our own backyards, tilling the soil at the roots of the grass closest to where we live and move and have our being.

I pray and hope that some reading this will step up to offer themselves as leaders for our next course. I urge you to do your own praying and self-examining about how you might be a leader in our ongoing movement toward real and actual full inclusion in the life of our church. If you, or someone you know, has an interest in assuming a leadership role at the national or provincial level, send contact information (name, email, phone number, etc.) to nominations@integrityusa.org. The current bylaws can be found at http://integrityusa.org/doc_download/23-integrity-s-current-bylaws.

By the time you actually read this, I will be gathered with representatives from the organizations that make up The Consultation. We are the collection of organizations whose ministries center around the social justice issues we see revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for us as we gather and look for our collective course at the General Convention in July in Austin, TX.






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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pay it back and pay it forward!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (Pay it back and pay it forward!)

This week GLAAD held its Media Awards. One of the recipients was Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory. The award he received was named after someone who had made ripples in the 80’s to disturb the status quo when it came to LGBTQ folks being out about who they were.

Parsons noted that it was the ripples made by those in our history who ultimately created the waves on which we all now surf. What a wonderful way to look at what those who came before have done on our behalf. The marginalized always stand on the shoulders of those who came before.

General Convention is one of the ways we get to help insure the future for our kindred even as we honor those who got us this far along the way.

Every LGBTQ person, within the Episcopal Church or not, owes those who came before us for the openness available to most of us to live as our authentic selves. We have obligations to pay back the gift for which we are all beneficiaries in both the church and society.

General Convention is also how we help insure the future for those to come after us. It is a way we have to pay it forward. That is our obligation to those who come after us.

Even though most of us now benefit from the ripples and waves of the past, we know that in eight dioceses ( Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands ) there do not seem to have been many ripples, much less waves resulting in full inclusion of LGBTQ folks in the life of the church. That is clearly the case in the refusal of the bishops of those dioceses to allow same sex marriages.

Our General Convention in Austin provides another opportunity to help get the waters of justice rolling down everywhere, including places where dams of injustice have been built.

The work of Integrity USA at convention takes resources, both human and financial. Please consider making a donation to our efforts using the button below or by sending a check. Help us make ripples turn into waves and tiny streams turn into rolling waters.

So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all...regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus! Let us make some Holy Waves on behalf of all in the margins.




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



Friday, April 13, 2018

Alleluia! And we have work to do!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (And we have work to do!)

This is the second Friday of the Great 50 Days of Easter. It seems to me that it is also a good time for us to begin work on some of the issues that will face us at General Convention 2018 in July in Austin, Texas.  As we celebrate, so let us plan.

The Task Force on Marriage has issued its Blue Book Report with their recommended resolutions to be brought to General Convention for action.  The two links immediately below provide you with important information about their report and the resolutions.  I urge you to go to them and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them:

https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/21189

https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2018/04/04/general-convention-will-again-grapple-with-same-sex-marriage-questions/

The first link takes you to the report itself. The second is an Episcopal News Service article about the overall issue.  It is a longer link and you may need to copy and paste it into your browser for it to work correctly.

Among the resolutions are changes to the Book of Common Prayer and these require two “readings” and two votes at successive General Conventions.  The language must be identical for the actions to take place. Some will recall that we voted on some Prayer Book changes at the last General Convention. The work of the Task Force on Marriage resulted in some language changes so we are back at a “first reading” to incorporate those changes.

Each of the dioceses in which we live has 8 Deputies elected to serve at General Convention.  Four are ordained and four are lay folks. These are the people who will receive and review the hundreds of resolutions that will come before the General Convention.  Resolutions are assigned to committees composed of both bishops and deputies that review and study them in depth. Each resolution will receive an open hearing held by those committees at which anyone, even non-Episcopalians may speak.

The committees then discuss, deliberate and vote on the resolutions before them. Bishops and Deputies vote separately and send the results to the appropriate house of General Convention to be considered on the floor of each house. Each house must pass the identical resolution for it to become the mind of our church or a canonical change. The committees are free to amend and change the language as they see fit. Often information heard at the open hearing may influence such changes. People who are most directly impacted by the proposed actions frequently provide moving testimony that does influence how a committee will ultimately act on a resolution.  But all of this is actually AT the General Convention.

There is plenty of work to be done beforehand as well. Those who live in the following dioceses will have a chance to influence their deputations between now and General Convention.  The work of the Task Force on Marriage is very important to them because their respective bishops still refuse to allow same sex marriages to be performed in their dioceses: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. Some even prohibit their clergy from performing same sex weddings outside the diocese as well.

It is critical that deputations hear from lay folks on this issue, particular us queer lay folks. What happens at General Convention will have a direct impact on us. And while the vast majority of us already have access to marriage as same sex couples, our kindred in the above dioceses do not. As you have heard me say before: lay people are able to speak the truth to power in ways that clergy cannot. Not to put too fine a point on it, there is nothing the bishop can do to inhibit us from speaking our hearts and minds, even to them! Clergy may not be able to be as, shall we say, direct.

We cannot rest on past accomplishments. So it is incumbent on all of us, even those who do not live in the above referenced dioceses to know what resolutions to come before the General Convention can have a direct impact on our lives. We have an obligation to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what our deputies and bishops will be called upon to decide. We have an obligation to let them know how we feel about the topics that will come before them. AND we also have an obligation to support our kindred in those eight dioceses as they pray, work and strive toward being able to access all the sacraments of the church.

There is a group of folks from the Diocese of Tennessee who will gather on the 29th of April to celebrate the Eucharist and bear witness to their situation. They use the name All the Sacraments for All the People (ASAP).  The acronym is important. It also brings to mind the immediacy of the need.  There are those who may not live long enough to know that they are fully included in the life or our church.

So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus!








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

Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Days and Fifty Years Later

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Those words of hope and joy are etched into our memories.  Most, if not all, of us shouted them out this past Sunday at a vigil service or some other joyous celebration on Easter Day. That Christ is risen is an essential part of the faith we profess. That Christ is risen is what gives us hope and a promise that when we leave this plain of existence, we too, shall rise again from the dead. Alleluia indeed!

Yet only three short days later, Wednesday, April 4, that joy was challenged by an event that took place 50 years before: the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago on that date the life of a prophet of God was snuffed out by a racist bigot. The winner of a Nobel Peace Prize was taken from us by violence, the polar opposite of peace.

That day is etched in my memory along with the days that followed, including Dr. King’s funeral. I was eighteen years old and in the spring quarter of my freshman year at college. This was the second of what would be three assassinations during the first 18 years of my life. There is something so very wrong with what I just wrote. Yet it is true. Violence. Murder. Death. Three leaders in their prime of life, all murdered.

I was in my home parish the Sunday after the assassination. Atlanta was on tender hooks. I will never forget looking up at the altar while the priest was celebrating the Eucharist and seeing his National Guard uniform visible below the hem of his vestments. There was something so wrong with that image as well. (Those were the days when altars were against the wall and the priest presided with his back to the congregation. Priests were all “he’s” in those days.)

Much has changed in the last 50 years and much remains the same. The rights of Black people and
other  minorities have been secured in some ways and remain elusive in others. Sadly, the most recent presidential election seems to have empowered the bigots and purveyors of hate and prejudice to speak out. We would have been fools to think they had gone away. But I didn’t expect the vitriol and nastiness I have witnessed over the last 18 months... even in church.

I have to wonder how many of us queerfolk (of all races and colors) realize that we are also beneficiaries of the work of Dr. King? He fought for our rights even as he fought for the rights of Black Americans. One of the key organizers of the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was a gay man... a gay Black man. His sexual orientation was known by Dr. King and all around him. Of course that created problems for some. Nothing new there. No one could be free unless everyone was free, to paraphrase one of Dr. King’s statements. Did you even know that a queer Black man was so involved in the Civil Rights movement?

So the question I pose to all of us is a simple one:  What are we doing to carry on Dr. King’s legacy of the struggle for equal rights for all of God’s children? What are we doing in secular society to combat the wave of prejudice and bigotry that has arisen over the last year and a half? What are we doing in The Episcopal Church to help insure that no matter the diocese in which we live, we will all have equal access to all the sacraments of the church?

There are eight dioceses which still refuse to allow same sex marriage to take place in them. What are the people who live in those dioceses doing to address that discrimination? Remember, if you are a lay person your voice cannot be silenced unless you allow it to be silenced. Make your voice heard. And what are those of us who do not live in those eight dioceses doing to address this form of prejudice? We can speak up and speak out to the bishops and others who cling to ancient prejudices. We can show them that there is another way, a way that embraces all of God’s children, a way that respects the dignity of every human being.

What are we doing? Will we continue to be complacent and complicit with prejudice and bigotry? Or will we follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., whose very life was taken in the pursuit of justice and equality for all?  What is your answer?
Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God.





Where is your passion?



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


Friday, March 23, 2018

Passion

Representatives from Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment
group, meet with youth group members at All Saints Episcopal
Church in Pasadena, California, for a training in political
advocacy and lobbying. The youth group members will travel
to Washington, D.C., this week for the March of Our Lives
on March 24. Photo: Juliana Serrano/All Saints Pasadena
This coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion, also known as Palm Sunday. The Gospel reading for the day depicts the events from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion and death on the cross. It would seem that this might be a sequence of events that should be spread over a period of several days rather than 20 minutes. In our “hurry up world” getting folks to church during Holy Week has become a challenge. So we end up with the “Cliff Notes” version of an essential part of our faith story. We have to get Jesus killed off on one Sunday so God can resurrect him the next. I invite us all to spend more than a couple of hours over the next week reading, praying and meditating. There is much to the story and it deserves more than skimming the surface.

This coming Saturday could rightly be termed “Passion Saturday,” but for a very different set of reasons. It will be the day when the passion of millions of young people will be exhibited as they try to influence society and our lawmakers to take some common sense measures around assault weapons, who can get them and what safeguards we need to prevent more mass shootings. They face a daunting task and need our involvement and help.

I cannot speak for any of the other 800 or so marches around the country, but here in Atlanta, this is being organized and lead by young people, students, those who have been the targets of such shootings. They are clear that they will lead the march. They are also clear that they will and have decided who will speak. All of the speakers in Atlanta will be young people except one. The exception is The Honorable John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District... where the march will take place. Nothing could be more appropriate. Congressman Lewis knows about student led demonstrations in a way that few know about them.

Where is our passion? Where is our passion in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes, we step outside our little “field of protection” when we engage with others about our faith. Our faith is lived out in community. Where is our/your passion when it comes to this march? Do we behave like Peter and claim that we do not know “them” or Him? Or do we step forward relying on our faith to carry us through and do our part in respecting the dignity of every human being?

As we explore the future direction of Integrity USA - of our Episcopal Rainbow - where is our passion in that endeavor? Will that passion for reaching those who still have not heard the good news propel us forward into a leadership role in the organization? Are there those among us who have the strength of conviction to walk out of their comfort zones to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? The teens and youth who will march on Saturday are looking for role models even as they are being models for engaging in leadership at a different level. Where are we in that picture?

Where is your passion?



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


Friday, March 16, 2018

Faith for the Future



Seeing the thousands of young people walking out of their classrooms on Wednesday to honor the 17 killed at the high school in Parkland, Florida, gave me a little glimmer of hope for the future. It is sad that some continue to claim that these youth were manipulated into doing and saying what they did. It amazes me that so many adults will not give young people credit for thinking through issues and arriving at their own decisions. It’s not politics, it is morality. I looked back more than 50 years ago and recalled that I had formed positions on several moral issues that were at odds with both political parties in Georgia and at odds even with my family. I wasn’t coached or manipulated. I got there on my own. I learned how pushy the Gospel imperative can be.

I see the same strength of conviction displayed with the walkout that is needed for Integrity’s next national and provincial levels of leadership. We, as a board, have felt moved toward seeking out different models of leadership that work best at the local level, the “grass roots” level, the level where there is still so much to be accomplished. The national officers and board members will need to be facilitators, sources of guidance, resources for the work to be done. The next board will need to be gatherers of people under a common banner, a shared vision, a refocused purpose.

This is not to suggest that we toss out the old just to replace it with something new. On the contrary, our mission should be to retain a mixture of those seasoned by the struggles and victories of the past and add to them those with fresh ideas, different visions, and a clear strength of conviction. Our structures allow for such intermingling of resources, strengths and abilities. There was a method to having all officer positions, board positions and provincial positions “open” every three years with our election cycle. Some will have their names put forward again, others will not. New names will come forward. Our membership will decide the mixture of the next board. And it will be some of the seasoned past, some of the very new and what lies between.

So the question is: Do you have the strength of conviction to walk out of your own comfort zone to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? Will the courage of those teens and youth be a model for engaging in leadership at a different level….where the work most needs to be done?

Watch for the request for nominees... then step up for an adventure with the Gospel.




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







Friday, March 9, 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Need for Leadership

The Good

A transgender Muslim woman came out in the media in Atlanta this week. She had been hiding and was no longer willing to keep up that charade.  She and her husband were married in a local mosque. Her full story is in the link below.  Let me just say that it took serious guts to do that in Georgia.  Politicians are not fond of Muslims to begin with and even less fond of queer Muslims.

The Bad

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has announced that there will no longer be any attempts to secure safe communities, reversing years of progress.  He states that he didn’t depend on the government when he was growing.  Yet with a straight face he also states that they had food stamps, welfare and Section 8 housing.  Did he read that after he wrote it? Who finances those programs except the government?

The Need for Leadership

I suspect you  thought I was referring to state and national leadership.  Of course there is indeed a need for leadership at those levels.  However, I was referring to Leadership within Integrity USA.  We have a strong need for people to lead at the Provincial and National Levels.

Elections will be held between now and General Convention to elect the following:  Provincial Coordinators for all eight Provinces; a Vice President for National Affairs; a Vice President for Local affairs; a Treasurer; a Secretary/Communications Director; a Chair for the Leadership Council; and a President. The three year term starts October 1 after General Convention; the election is in the spring and the results announced before General Convention. The time in between is used for transition between the current Board of Directors and the new Board.

I will not be putting my name forth for President. While it has been a rare privilege to serve Integrity USA as its President twice and 25 years apart, it is time for a change in leadership.  The next President needs more energy than I have these days and certainly more stamina.  So it is time for me to step aside and allow someone with these traits to take on this role.

I invite you to pray, meditate and ponder how you might serve this organization.  When calls for nominations come out, please submit your name. If you would like to serve on the nominating committee, we need representatives from Provinces I - III and V - VII.  Send me your name if you are willing to serve on this committee: Email bruce@integrityusa.org.

I will not say goodbye now, but know that this has been a sincere privilege to serve you.






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


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Opinion or Bias?


Our nation and our churches are divided right now... including The Episcopal Church. We are all asked to “reach across the divide” and try and engage with those who hold differing positions than we do. We are being asked to engage in graceful dialogue with those with whom we have significant disagreements. We are all asked to try and understand the positions of those on the “other side” of the positions we hold.

I don’t have any problem with engaging with those who hold different positions than I do. I don’t have any problem reaching across a divide. I don’t have any problem with engaging in respectful dialogue for the sake of our faith, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all called to that as followers of Jesus.

I am growing increasingly disturbed at being asked to reach across a divide when the difference is identified as an opinion. Opinions relate to whether we prefer Rite I or Rite II. Opinions relate to such points as hymns or readings or Psalms. Opinions relate to concepts where we are simply choosing between options. We like A over B. Our opinion supports X over Y.

What seems to be overlooked is that some issues are not opinions. My sexual orientation as a gay man is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of who I am as a child of God. A person’s race is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of an individual’s heredity and genetic make up and earliest origins. A person’s gender or gender identity is not a matter of opinion. Gender and gender identity are either a fact of birth, namely cis-gender or a fact of realization, namely transgender. I cannot and will not engage in an “across the divide” discussion with someone who claims a different opinion about my sexual orientation. Nor can I envision someone doing the same with regard to their race, gender or gender identity.

We are not engaging in differences of opinion when it comes to issues of race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Facts of existence are not opinions, regardless of who claims otherwise.

I will not engage with someone who is racist, sexist, gender or homophobic. They are not operating on opinions but on prejudices and biases. And hence, we have such a terrible divide in our society and to some degree in our church. Bias cannot be masked, hidden or excused under the guise of differences of opinion. Until we understand that truth, we cannot hold meaningful, redemptive, productive, and holy conversations.

Our current political climate is mired in non-productive and harmful discourses (not discussions) about biases being trotted out as opinions. We will remain at a stalemate, a harmful and potentially deadly stalemate as long as we cling to these fantasies.

As Episcopalians, we should also keep in mind that our canon laws forbid discrimination based on gender, gender expression/identity, race, sexual orientation, etc. Those are not opinions. Those are our canon laws. Continuing to debate as if they were opinions is both hypocritical and demeaning to both sides of the discussion. Let’s use a very simple example: If you have white skin or identify as Caucasian, is that an opinion or a fact? If you are honest you know it is not an opinion but a fact. So why would we treat someone who is Asian or Black or Latino/a as if that aspect of their identity was an opinion? Some will certainly attempt to cast sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as an opinion in their discussions. I see such as the last grasping at straws to support individual and/or corporate discrimination. Perhaps a good question to such folks is: “Is your sexual orientation as heterosexual your opinion or is it a fact of your existence?”

Who we are as children of God is not opinion. What we believe as children of God can be an opinion. Yet what about our baptismal covenant vows? We regularly renew our vows to respect the dignity of every human being, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Are those vows offering an opinion or expressing our commitment to the concepts? Do we really believe or do we simply give lip service? Or do we just plain lie?

Opinion or bias? We have work to do before we can have a meaningful conversation.

On a different but related note, I offer a recent item below from “Perspectives Journal” about how our society treats guns. We, as a group, have been among the victims of gun violence, the shootings in Orlando are permanently etched in our psyches. Dick’s Sporting Goods just took a very bold position in ending their sales of assault weapons. Ironically, gun violence and gun control are one area where we can engage in discussions involving opinions.

As we continue our journey through the wilderness of Lent, may we reflect on these issues that have such an impact on our lives and seek grace-filled ways to discuss and address them.




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