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