Friday, March 23, 2018


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

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