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