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