Friday, October 31, 2008

Weekly Witness for October 31st

Don't Forget To Vote!

You've heard it dozens of times already, but it can't be said enough...make sure you vote on November 4th [or earlier if your state allows it]. YOUR ballot could make the difference at all levels of our government--especially in states like California, Arizona, and Florida where marriage equality is at stake. Stand up for LGBT rights this Election Day!

Faith-Based Community Organizing

Earlier this year, Integrity offered a series of 5 Inclusion Activism workshops around the country. These training events were highly successful—providing 90 participants from 35 dioceses with concrete information about "how the Episcopal Church works" and practical skills for "how to work the Episcopal Church." As a result, many more LGBT Episcopalians and straight allies have been motivated and equipped to make our denomination one where all the sacraments are open to all the baptized.

Integrity recently entered into partnership with the Institute for Welcoming Resources to offer an ecumenical series of training workshops titled Faith-Based Community Organizing.
The new curriculum is similar to Inclusion Activism, but has broader goals and teaches a different tool kit. It's designed to enable local leaders to change hearts and minds by building respectful and honest relationships. The workshop ideal for Episcopalians who want to...
  • make their congregation more welcoming and inclusive
  • start or grow a congregational circle
  • form or strengthen a local chapter or network
  • move their diocese forward on LGBT issue

We challenge all local chapter, network, and circle leaders to attend one of these training events over the next year!

Although these training events are sponsored by particular LGBT denominational advocacy groups, they are open to Episcopalians and inclusion activists from all denominations.

Visit these links for more information...

With Liberty and Justice for ALL SAINTS

As we celebrate All Saints Day, lets think about how to reach all the saints in our pews. Integrity intends to put out a quarterly publication--Integrity Reflections--of homily and adult education ideas to promote inclusion and to challenge us all to meet the challenges that Jesus has set forth for us.

To accomplish this we need your help. If you have a sermon or a topic suggestions for any lectionary theme or for any scripture reading, please share it!

Ultimately it would be our dream to gather reflection ideas for the full lectionary cycle. These would fall into two equally important categories:

  1. Ways in which inclusion can be communicated.
  2. Ways in which LGBT people of faith can live more fully into Gospel.

You can contribute to Integrity Reflections without spending a penny. Just send us your ideas. These can be in the form of homily ideas or perhaps discussion generating questions like "What did Jesus say to LGBT people when he said..."

Send your ideas to Neil Houghton at

Action Alerts

Love Makes A Family: Show this photo/text exhibit in your parish or diocese.

Take the P3 Challenge! Invite your congregation to become a Proud Parish Partner of Integrity. Put an Integrity banner or button on your parish website.

Now accepting applications! We're looking for a half-time General Convention project manager and a volunteer treasurer.

Be It Resolved: Submit resolutions to your diocesan convention. Report resolutions that that have already been submitted or considered. The photo on the right shows John-Albert and Ernie at the Diocese of Connecticut's convention on October 25th.

Sound off! Take a survey to to let us know that types of General Convention resolutions would be most effective at moving the Episcopal Church beyond B033 and forward on marriage equality.

Voices of Witness Africa: Your donation is needed to help finish this ground-breaking DVD.

Canadian Bishops Affirm Moratoria

The Anglican Church of Canada's House of Bishops released a statement today at the conclusion of its meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The conclusion reads...

As a result of these conversations a large majority of the House can affirm the following:

A continued commitment to the greatest extent possible to the three moratoria -- on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships and on cross-border interventions -- until General Synod 2010. Members of this House, while recognizing the difficulty that this commitment represents for dioceses that in conscience have made decisions on these matters, commit themselves to continue walking together and to hold each other in prayer.

The House also affirms:

A commitment to establishing diocesan commissions to discuss the matter of same-sex blessings in preparation for conversations at General Synod 2010.

Continued commitment to exercise the greatest level of pastoral generosity in keeping with provisions approved by this House in Spring, 2007 and continued commitment to the Shared Episcopal Ministry document approved in Fall, 2004.

We ask for your continuing prayers as we steadfastly seek to discern the mind and heart of Christ for the wholesome care of all members of his Body, the Church. We share a deep hope that though we may never come to consensus over this matter of the blessing of same-sex unions, we will live with differences in a manner that is marked by grace and generosity of spirit, one toward another.

Read the whole statement at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Benefit of Schism

Episicopal Diocese Approves Commission to Support Gays
By Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Oct. 28 2008 01:16 PM EDT

Episcopalians from a diocese that divided partly over homosexuality overwhelmingly approved a proposal to create a new commission that would support gays and lesbians.

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin gave the thumbs up to an 'equality commission' during its annual convention, which concluded Sunday.

Delegates voted to create a commission that would include lay and clergy members to support, engage and affirm marginalized communities within the diocese, according to The Episcopal News Service. In this case, the marginalized are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons, as well as women and various ethnic communities, among a few others.

The vote came after conservative Anglicans within the diocese in 2007 became the first diocese to break ties with The Episcopal Church, contending that the national church was departing from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition.

Source: Episicopal Diocese Approves Commission to Support Gays

Another Report From Connecticut

CT Episcopalians ask OK for gay marriage
By: Ed Stannard, Journal Register News Service

The clergy and lay delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut voted Saturday to ask the bishop to allow same-sex weddings, as the state Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage in the state becomes official today.

The resolution at the annual diocesan convention passed 174-132, but is not binding on Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who said he is studying the issue.

According to the resolution, the convention 'implores the bishop to allow priests in this diocese to exercise pastoral wisdom and care and follow the lead of their consciences in whether or not to participate in marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples."

Source: The Bristol Press - CT Episcopalians ask OK for gay marriage

Anglican Marriage Equality Groundswell Continues

CANADA: Montreal bishop will work out rite for same-sex blessing

CONNECTICUT: Convention calls for allowing clergy to perform same-gender
marriages, hears bishop announce retirement date

In response the ENS article above, the Diocese of Connecticut issued this

Resolution #8 was a resolution to "implore the bishop" to allow the clergy
to decide "whether or not to participate in marriage ceremonies of same sex
couples." Its passage, by 174 to 132, conveyed that desire for change and
did not change policy. Clergy do not have the bishop's permission to
officiate at same sex marriage services.

After the vote, Bishop Smith addressed the convention to reiterate the
current policies and to say that he would "include clearly" the debate and
vote on Resolution #8 in his deliberations.

The recent Connecticut State Supreme Court decision broadened the state's
definition of marriage so that it no longer agrees with the Church's
definition, raising significant questions, said Bishop Andrew D. Smith in
his address. He said that he's asked Bishops Suffragan James Curry and Laura
Ahrens along with members of the Standing Committee and the chancellors to
join him in looking at all the issues raised (see full address for details).

While they work, Bishop Smith said, the policies that he had announced for
civil unions will remain in effect. These allow pastoral blessings as part
of a congregation's pastoral ministry. (see 2006 annual address announcing

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fr. Geoff Farrow on "The Courts & Protection of Minority Rights"

from Fr. Geoff's blog today:

The bishop stated, in his letter of suspension: “Your statement contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church and has brought scandal to your parish community as well as the whole Church.” A scandal is not created by speaking the truth. The real "scandal" is placing impossibly heavy burdens on the faithful, faulting them for an act of the Creator in having created them with same sex orientation and then, not lifting a finger to help them. The traditional definition of theology is: “faith seeking understanding.”

The idea that theology is a “done deal” is absurd. In the area of bioethics alone, theologians and the Church can’t even keep up with new developments in science. Psychology and neurology also have offered us considerable new insights into same sex orientation in the last generation. The Church itself has officially stated, that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.”

This begs additional commentary by the Church and ultimately these new understandings should be translated into pastoral practices. We are required to teach and guide those entrusted to our care by God.

Jesus himself stated: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:12-13).

My “sin” was not to hold the position, which I hold, nor, was it even to voice it. What I stated represents current thought on this issue by many theologians, pastors and some bishops. My sin was to voice it publicly.

Why is that such a big deal? Because, it represents a “crack in the dam” if, one lowly pastor in Fresno can state something contrary to the official party line today then, tomorrow it could be several priests or, God forbid, even a bishop or, two. Privately, in the ballot box on Election Day, most priests, most nuns and several bishops will vote NO on Proposition 8.

Most of these people involved in pastoral ministry will do this because, like me, they know it is the right thing to do. Perhaps, fifty years from now, the “official” churchmen will.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A message from Bishop Frade opposing Amendment 2

October 27, 2008

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

After prayerful consideration, I have decided that it is my duty as a
Christian, and as your bishop, to urge the defeat of the proposed Amendment
2 to our Florida Constitution, which would define marriage as only between a
man and a woman. It seems to me that if we are to be faithful to our Lord's
commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should not be enshrining
in our state's constitution this discriminatory and potentially harmful

Not only would the passage of Amendment 2 infringe upon our religious
liberty by imposing a single religious definition of marriage on all
Floridians, regardless of their beliefs; but because of its wording, this
amendment could also deny many important benefits to all unmarried

While the amendment is clearly aimed at same-sex relationships, we know that
among our state's large population of retired persons there are also
heterosexual couples who have not married for fear of losing a portion of
their individual Social Security or pension benefits. In recent years these
persons, as well as partners in committed same-sex relationships, have been
able to receive protection for their rights under domestic partnership laws.
I cannot see how we can say we love our neighbors if we pass an amendment
that could put at risk for these couples such rights as the ability to visit
or to participate in medical choices for each other in illness or at the
point of death.

Faithful people have a wide range of opinions on the matter of same-sex
unions. Like our own Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion,
many other branches of Christianity, as well other faiths, are currently
engaged in challenging conversations about their own doctrines and policies
concerning marriage.

Despite this ongoing disagreement among people of good conscience, Florida
has already passed a law that defines marriage as the proposed amendment
would. However, some supporters of Amendment 2 have argued that a
constitutional amendment is necessary to protect clergy from being forced to
perform or recognize marriages that are contrary to their doctrine. I
believe this fear is unfounded: Because of the religious freedom guaranteed
by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, no religious group can be
forced to recognize all forms of marriage sanctioned by the civil
authorities. (For example, the State allows for and recognizes marriage
after divorce; the Roman Catholic Church does not. No Roman Catholic priest
is obligated by law to officiate at the marriage of any divorced person.)

Along with clergy from a broad spectrum of religious traditions, with
diverse views regarding marriage, I have added my signature to a statement
opposing Amendment 2. This statement can be found at

I believe that Amendment 2 is unnecessary, potentially hurtful, and a threat
to our cherished freedom of religion, and I urge you to vote against it on
November 4.


+Leo Frade

Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

Episcopalians to seek repeal of ban on gay, lesbian bishops

By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — The man Maine Episcopalians chose a year ago as their bishop presided Friday over the 189th convention of the Episcopal Diocese.
Bishop Stephen Lane, 59, told the more 300 lay and clergy delegates attending the annual convention at the Bangor Civic Center that he was looking forward to "many long years in ministry with you."


One of the things the convention did was to call for the national church to change its stance on the election of gay and lesbian clergy as bishops. By a show of hands, the delegates overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for the Episcopal Church at its General Convention next summer to repeal a resolution, known as B033, that was passed two years ago. The original document called upon the national body to restrain from approving the election of gay and lesbian bishops."


Peter Bickford of Christ Episcopal Church in Norway told the convention Friday that he had voted for B033 but had done so reluctantly. He urged delegates to pass the proposed resolution to repeal it because it was in conflict with Canon Law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"After prayerful consideration, I believe we need to pass this," said Geoffrey Schuller of Mount Desert, who worships at Saint Saviour in Bar Harbor. "This is our position [concerning the election of gay and lesbian bishops] and we need to come to terms with it. We need to consider the feelings of the Anglican Church, but we need to take a stand."

The Rev. Barbara Clarke, who recently retired after serving St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Brewer, urged the convention to pass the resolution. A lesbian who has been in a committed relationship for many years, Clarke called B033 a "de facto denial of access” for gay and lesbian clergy to the possibility of being elected bishops."

Click here to read the entire article!

Prop 8 on Fox News

Last Friday night, Fox News Channel 11 in Los Angeles aired a 30-minute "fair and balanced" segment on the issues around Proposition 8. Father Geoff was part of the feature, as were No on 8 phone callers at All Saints Church in Pasadenda.

You can watch it in four segments below...





or at

LIVE Webcast for the Joanna Dewey and Carter Heyward Lectures

October 24, 2008, CAMBRIDGE, MA - Episcopal Divinity School is offering a
LIVE webcast of the Joanna Dewey Lecture in Feminist Biblical Studies and
the Carter Heyward Scholars Program Lecture for those unable to attend this
event. Directions for viewing a webcast are located on EDS' homepage
<> under "Events." The webcast will also be
recorded for future viewing on the EDS website. Both lectures will be held
on November 13 at Episcopal Divinity School, 99 Brattle Street, Cambridge,

The Joanna Dewey Lecture begins at 4:00 pm and features the Rev. Dr. Renita
J. Weems, a noted scholar, author and minister, delivering a lecture
entitled "Baking Cakes to the Queen of Heaven: God, Goddesses, and Growing
Up Black and Female in America."

After a short reception, the Carter Heyward Lecture begins at 7:00 pm with
Marvin Ellison, the William S. Bass Professor of Christian Ethics at Bangor
Theological Seminary in Maine, delivering his lecture entitled "Is Marriage
a 'Must' or a 'Bust'? Enlarging the Justice Agenda."

Bishop of Connecticut Comments On Same-Sex Civil Marriage Ruling

An excerpt of the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith's address to the convention of the
Diocese of Connecticut on October 25th...

"A few words about the implications of the decision of the Connecticut
Supreme Court this month to broaden the State's definition of marriage.
To offer gay and lesbian couples the right to marry is a significant change
which challenges our Church's historic definition of Christian marriage and
poses major questions for our mission and ministry. The Book of Common
Prayer assumes that the State's and the Church's definition of marriage
agree, that they are the same. As of two weeks ago, they no longer do.

"Bishops Ahrens, Curry and I have been looking at three areas of complex
questions arising from the Court's ruling. Are priests ordained in the
Episcopal Church permitted to officiate at civil marriages of gay and
lesbian couples? What standards of commitment should we have for ordained
deacons and priests (or bishops) who are in same-sex relationships? In all
things, how can we be the face of Christ, to invite, welcome and pastorally
care for seekers and believers who are gay and lesbian, including those who
seek to be married?

"I raise these today as questions. And I ask you to think about them with
us. Before there can be policy on these matters, we your bishops plan to
talk with the bishops of other dioceses where the definition of marriage has
been changed. We also want to listen to laity and clergy whose lives are
directly affected by the Court's decision. I have asked my Chancellors to
research the civil and canonical questions. And I have asked the Standing
Committee of the diocese, as the Bishop's Council of Advice, also to engage
these issues. And as we think on these questions it's also necessary to
remember that we are a member diocese of the Anglican Communion.

"In the meantime, the policies I announced last year for civil unions remain
in effect and for now are extended to cover marriage of persons who are in
same sex relationships. Let us hold each other in generous affection and
prayer as we face this change in the historic definition of marriage made by
the decision of the Supreme Court of Connecticut."

Read the entire address at

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bishop of Ottawa Proposes Blessing Of Same-Gender Civil Mariages

Below is the relevant portion of Bishop Chapman's charge to his diocesan synod on Thursday...

"Synod 2007 adopted a motion 'requesting the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that he authorize an appropriate rite and guidelines for its use in supportive parishes.'

"For a year now I have reflected on how I should respond to the mind of Synod. I have prayed for God's guidance, sought the counsel of fellow bishops, and listened carefully to all who have spoken from various perspectives. In forming my response to this motion I have been strengthened in my conviction that God remains faithful in guiding His Church to the truth, that our chief call on this matter is a pastoral one, and that we are challenged to proclaim a prophetic voice to the Church and to the world.

"When we gather at Synod, we pray that our church will be guided by the Spirit of God. I believe God is faithful to us in this and as we discern how to proceed, the decisions we make, informed and shaped by healthy debate and conversation, are the result of the leading of that same Spirit for which we have prayed.

"With the benefit of scientific and medical knowledge we know sexual orientation is a given and a gift from God in the lives of all people. Our challenge is to determine how all persons may rejoice in and celebrate this God given gift so it honours our creator and gives dignity to the creatures of God. I believe our dealing with the issues of human sexuality is fundamentally a pastoral matter. How is God calling us to proclaim the gospel, the good news of Jesus, to those whose sexual givenness has resulted in their marginalization and has often made them victims in their communities, families and churches?

"I am mindful that we do not normally act in isolation. The question of blessing same-sex civil marriages is before our sister and brother Christians in many Dioceses and Provinces of the Church. My observation of how various parts of the church deal with the question leads me to believe that we will not go forward at the same pace nor with uniformity. At the Lambeth Conference this summer the Bishops of the communion articulated a strong desire that we remain together as a communion. Equally strong were convictions held on all sides of human sexuality issues. Moratoria emerging from Lyambeth, while reflecting a majority view, hold neither the command of consensus nor the proscriptive authority of legislation. In other words, it appears that a majority of Bishops desire a moratorium but a legislation or decision has yet to be taken. As well, majority support for a moratorium was not evident among the Bishops from Canada, the United States, South Africa, Brazil, Scotland, Ireland and the Congo to name just a few provinces. At this juncture I believe some are being called to speak with a prophetic voice, challenging long held assumptions, unseating prejudices, and advocating on behalf of those whose circumstances to not permit them to advocate for themselves. Others are being called to speak with a voice of caution calling the Church to evaluate and test all positions with the longstanding three-fold reliance on tradition, reason, and scripture. While the prophetic voice and the voice of caution may not find a common place within the Chruch from which to speak they can both be embraced within the breadth of the body of Christ. For reasons, perhaps known only to God, I believe we, in the Diocese of Ottawa, are among those who have been called by God to speak with the voice of a prophet. Synod 2007 reflects this communal desire. It is our voice that is called to affirm that all people are loved, valued and precious before God and the Church. It is our voice that is calling to affirm that all unions of faithful love and life-long commitment are worthy of God's blessing.

"It is my intention to place before the Canadian House of Bishops, next week, my prayerful hope regarding the issue of 'blessings'. It is important that I honour the collegiality of the Canadian House; we are, after all, an episcopally led and synodically governed church. It is my intention at this meeting to discuss my hope which includes my desire to make the following statement: 'That we, in Ottawa, begin to explore experientially, the blessing of duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; to charge the Doctrine and Worship Committee with the responsibility to develop an appropriate rite for this blessing. Upon the authorization of a rite, I will give my permission for one parish within the Diocese to offer the blessing of civil marriages between same-sex couples. Discernment continues!' This hope is not and must not be understood as a conclusive statement affirming that the church must and ought to proceed with the blessings of same-sex civilly married couples. As the church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the benefits of the ordination of women to the priesthood until the church experienced the priestly ministry of women, so must we take the process of discernment to a place beyond discussion. We have talked about this issue since I was a seminary student in the mid-seventies. In order to further the discernment process, we must 'experience' the issue as church before clarity of heart and mind might be attained. For this reason, I hope to proceed, but slowly and cautiously. This would be an initial step from which we can observe and learn. If we are to interpret our scriptures using prayerful reason in interpretation and application as generations before us, most especially on matters that reflect a historical context and appear inconsistent with a scriptural mandate, e.g., divorce, slavery, usury or the role of women, then, we must encourage discernment fully and completely. What I propose will allow for a continuation of our discernment process without obligation or a non-negotiable commitment. Our process will allow ourselves to be better informed as we go forward to General Synod 2010 where this issue will be discussed again.

"Within one month following the completion of the House of Bishops' meeting next week, I will make a conclusive statement to the Diocese regarding next steps."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Erratum: Weekly Witness For October 24th

The correct URL for the invitation to become a a Proud Parish Partner [P3] of Integrity is

Weekly Witness For October 24th

Chicago Consultation Gathering

Earlier this week, four representatives of Integrity [President Susan Russell, Past President Michel Hopkins, Acting Executive Director John Clinton Bradley, and Field Organizer Jan Adams] attended a meeting of the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Theological Survey. They conferred with more than 30 bishops, deputies, and others who are working to move the Episcopal Church BEYOND B033 and FORWARD on same-gender blessings at General Convention in Anaheim.

Although the goals for General Convention are clear, choosing the best legislative approach for achieving those goals is not so simple. Integrity wants your opinion on the types of resolutions you think would be most effective. Click here to take a survey!

Take the P3 Challenge!

The board of directors challenges every member to invite their congregation to become a Proud Parish Partner [P3] of Integrity! Click here to find out if your congregation is already a P3.

If your congregation is NOT a partner, click here to print an invitation, share it with the senior clergyperson of your congregation, and ask him or her to complete and mail the response form.

If your congregation IS a P3, ask your parish web editor to put a banner or button ad on your congregation's website to let readers know about your support of Integrity.

Voices Of Witness Africa: On The Road Again!

Following a successful preview of Voices of Witness: Africa at the Lambeth Conference, producers Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod are back in the field shooting more interviews. Their itinerary will take them to the UK, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and Austria. Please keep them and those they interview in your prayers. An additional $40,000 is needed to complete the project. Click here to donate!

Now Accepting Applications

Integrity's board of directors is currently recruiting for two positions....
  1. A half-time General Convention Project Manager/Meeting Planning for 1 year. This will be a half-time employee responsible for planning and implementing all logistical aspects of Integrity's presence at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Anaheim, California, during July 6-17, 2009. This employee will also serve as the meeting planning for the After Anaheim conference that will be held in August or September 2009 at a location to be determined.
  2. A volunteer Treasurer to serve the reminder of Jeff Martinhauk's term. This officer—who is a voting member of board—is responsible for overseeing the receipt and disbursement of all funds of Integrity, ensuring the creation and maintenance of accurate financial records, advising the board on sound financial and investment policies, and directing the preparation and filing of all fiscal reports required by governmental entities.

Detailed descriptions of both jobs can be found at

If you , or someone you know, is interested in one of these opportunities, please e-mail a resume to In the SUBJECT line, indicate for which job you are applying. In the BODY, summarize your qualifications.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

Neil Houghton, Volunteer Coordinator and
Northeast Regional Vice President
Home: 585-624-4225
Cell: 585-301-8256

Many of our members ask "What can I do for Integrity, beyond my membership and monetary contributions?" As the new Volunteer Coordinator it is my task to let you know what you can do and coordinate your efforts.

While our staff works hard, there is still more to do. Here are some things for you to consider. If any of these interest you and fall into your area of expertise, please contact me. These are our highest priority items...
  1. Set up a network hub in the Rochester office. We have a hard drive, server and Ethernet hub which were purchased for the Lambeth Conference. Contact me for details.
  2. Explore grant opportunities and write grants. We have identified The Carpenter Foundation as a potential donor and would like someone to pursue this. We are already working with Haas Jr. and Arcus. If any of you are aware of other sources, please let us know.
  3. Integrity Briefings will be a quarterly newsletter for our leaders and donors. We need articles about what we ARE doing and what we COULD BE doing from all corners of the organization.
  4. Integrity Reflections will provide sermon and adult discussion group topics. Our clergy members in particular have asked for this and if you have preached a sermon on a particular passage of scripture or lead a group discussion, here's a chance for you to spread the Good News!
  5. Upgrade our website to Web 2.0. This means making it more interactive and user-driven--like a Facebook page. We need someone knowledgeable to coordinate this effort.
Integrity works best when all work together!

Fr. Geoff on Bishop Gene ...

From the blog of Fr. Geoff Farrow, the Roman Catholic priest courgeously standing up against the "end same-sex marriage" Propostion 8 in California:

"A cellphone call before breakfast"

On Wednesday morning, as I was driving to the Woman's Empowerment Conference in Long Beach, California; my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the telephone number which was displayed but, that's not all that unusual for me these days. So, I answered the phone and to my surprise, it was Bishop Gene Robinson.

You'll want to read all of this wonderful reflection: click here to read the rest ... and give thanks for the witness of both Fr. Geoff AND Bishop Gene!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"We're . . . modern-day lepers"

Elizabeth Bennett, left, and Sara Luther look over some of the many African items they collect and sell. As a gay Christian, Bennett says she is trying "to create discussion and change." (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post )

By Electa Draper
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 10/22/2008 10:50:56 PM MDT

Elizabeth Bennett sits in her Denver church contemplating the elephant in the sanctuary that few polite Episcopalians want to mention.

Bennett grew up in the Episcopal church. She sang in the choir. She was married in one and baptized her five children there. Her mother's ashes are buried under a tree outside an Episcopal church in Massachusetts.

But being openly gay now in the Colorado diocese, she says, is like being given "half-a-loaf acceptance."

Gays are offered some sacraments but not others.

"I've gotten mine. But this is wrong — to go to church, have potlucks and not care about other people's rights," said Bennett, 59.

And, she said, the pain of partial acceptance is the pain of rejection.

"There are places in our lives where we truly want to be loved," Bennett said.

The church's hope is that a moratorium on blessing gay unions and ordaining openly gay priests — "passionate patience" — will help hold the fracturing American church together and keep it part of the larger, less liberal international Anglican Communion.

Click here to read the rest!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Central Interior assembly says 'yes' to blessings

a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada

Marites N. Sison
staff writer

Oct 22, 2008
The assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) has requested its bishop, Gordon Light, to allow clergy whose conscience permits to bless civilly-married gay couples where at least one party is baptized. The assembly passed the motion when it met Oct. 17 to 19.

A notice of a similar motion was filed at the synod of the diocese of Ontario but was declared out of order by the diocesan bishop, George Bruce, who acted on the advice of the diocesan chancellor (legal advisor). The ruling was appealed at the synod held Oct. 16 to 18 but was upheld by a majority vote of delegates.

At the APCI assembly, Bishop Light gave concurrence to the motion but suspended any action pending consultations with the Canadian house of bishops, which meets Oct. 27 to 31 to discuss, among others, how best to respond to renewed proposals for moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons living in same-sex unions to the episcopate, and cross-border interventions.

Since the 2007 General Synod four dioceses have already passed similar motions - Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, and Huron. The diocesan synod of New Westminster approved same-sex blessings in 2002.

Of the 50 clergy and lay delegates at the APCI assembly, 36 voted yes (76 per cent), 10 voted no (26 per cent), and four (8 per cent) abstained. APCI is composed of 18 parishes (including 35 congregations) which was constituted after the former diocese of Cariboo closed its diocesan office in 2001 because of financial pressures surrounding lawsuits about abuse at the St. George's Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C.

To read the rest of the story, please visit the Anglican Journal Web site,

Wielding religion as a weapon against gay marriage

Steve Lopez
Los Angeles Times
10:46 PM PDT, October 21, 2008

The writer attended two Prop 8 rallies, the first FOR and the second AGAINST...

Unfortunately the party was breaking up as I arrived, and only four speakers attended, as opposed to the dozens at the other event. And by the way, if the turnouts are representative of the African American vote Nov. 4, which is expected to be large because of presidential candidate Barack Obama, that may tip the balance in favor of Prop. 8.

I told the Rev. Vanessa Mackenzie of the Episcopal Church of the Advent that the other rally was much larger and that those who spoke claimed to know God's will on gay marriage.

'How can you love God, who you do not see,' Mackenzie asked, 'and then hate the brother and sister whom you do see?'

Click here to read the whole article!

Arkansas Blog: Clergy: Vote 'No' on Initiated Act 1

Arkansas Times Blog
Posted by Max Brantley on October 21, 2008 02:01 PM

Today, an interfaith group of clergy--Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Jewish, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist, Community Church--led by Rev. Lowell Grisham of Fayetteville issued a statement announcing opposition to proposed Initiated Act, which would make adoption and foster parenting more difficult in Arkansas.

Act 1 would prohibit same-gender couples and single people from adopting.

Click here to read the rest! Includes an excellent video ad against Act 1.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Religious Institute announces 2200 ordained clergy from all 50 states endorse marriage equality

This morning, at a press conference in San Francisco, the Religious Institute announced that 2200 ordained clergy from more than fifty states have endorsed its "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality,"calling for civil and religious marriage for same sex couples.

Read the list of endorsers, including the 100 nationally recognized religious leaders, at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October InfoLetter

The October 2008 issue of the Integrity InfoLetter should be arriving in the mailboxes of Integrity members and partners about now. This edition includes a debrief of the Lambeth Conference. Click here to read the PDF version!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekly Witness For October 17th

Action Alerts

Other Volunteer Opportunities

Neil Houghton, Volunteer Coordinator and
Northeast Regional Vice President
Home: 585-624-4225
Cell: 585-301-8256

Many of our members ask "What can I do for Integrity, beyond my membership and monetary contributions?" As the new Volunteer Coordinator it is my task to let you know what you can do and coordinate your efforts.

While our staff works hard, there is still more to do. Here are some things for you to consider. If any of these interest you and fall into your area of expertise, please contact me. These are our highest priority items...

  1. Set up a network hub in the Rochester office. We have a hard drive, server and Ethernet hub which were purchased for the Lambeth Conference. Contact me for details.
  2. Explore grant opportunities and write grants. We have identified The Carpenter Foundation as a potential donor and would like someone to pursue this. We are already working with Haas Jr. and Arcus. If any of you are aware of other sources, please let us know.
  3. Integrity Briefings will be a quarterly newsletter for our leaders and donors. We need articles about what we ARE doing and what we COULD BE doing from all corners of the organization.
  4. Integrity Reflections will provide sermon and adult discussion group topics. Our clergy members in particular have asked for this and if you have preached a sermon on a particular passage of scripture or lead a group discussion, here's a chance for you to spread the Good News!
  5. Upgrade our website to Web 2.0. This means making it more interactive and user-driven--like a Facebook page. We need someone knowledgeable to coordinate this effort.

Integrity works best when all work together!

Reviewing Last Week

  • Integrity agreed to partner with Family Diversity Projects to promote Love Makes a Family within the Episcopal Church. This is a museum-quality traveling exhibit including photographs and interviews with families that have LGBT members. Talk to your congregation about sponsoring an exhibition at your church. Considering showing the exhibit at your diocesan convention.
  • We learned that the Rt. Rev. Otis Charles--the former bishop of Utah who came out during retirement--legally married Felipe Sanchez Paris on September 29th. You can watch video of this blessed event at Congratulations Otis and Felipe!
  • We published an updated website for Voices of Witness, video-based educational program. A reminder that your financial assistance is needed to complete the latest DVD--Voices of Witness: Africa. Click here to donate!
  • The board held its monthly conference call on Thursday. The main agenda items was preparing for the November board meeting in Las Vegas.
Anticipating Next Week
  • Several Integrity staff and officers will be attending a gathering of the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.
  • Chapters will soon receive checks for their share of annual membership dues and gifts.
  • The transition to Groundspring's Donor Management Suite is due to be completed by November 1st. Staff will be testing the system.
Upcoming Events
  • Creating Change will take place January 28-February 1, 2009, in Denver. On January 29th the conference will include a day-long institute titled "Empowering and Working with People of Faith." Is is geared for people of faith and religious organizers who want to build a more powerful faith-based movement for LGBT equality and for secular activists who want to build stronger relationships with communities and leaders of faith. This year's Institute will emphasize the strength of multi-faith organizing and will explore sexual liberation, sexuality, and the ways in which religion and spirituality are resources. Conference registrations are now being accepted. The early bird registration rate of $250 is available until November 30, 2008. Integrity encourages all local leaders and inclusion activists to attend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Area clergy of mixed minds on gay marriage

New Haven Register
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 9:56 AM EDT
By Ed Stannard, Register Metro Editor

The views among clergy about marrying gay and lesbian couples is no more uniform than the churches they serve.

After last week's 4-3 state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Connecticut, some ministers say they'll be happy to perform a wedding for two men or two women, while others won't consider it.


Bishop Andrew D. Smith, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, said priests in the diocese could not perform same-sex weddings because marriage is defined in the Book of Common Prayer as "a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God."

"For us to change that practice in terms of having clergy officiate at gay or lesbian marriages, we have to change the prayer book," which is authoritative for Episcopalians, Smith said. It cannot be changed without the approval of two national conventions.

Smith has allowed priests to bless civil unions if the parish's vestry, its governing board, approves, but said he was not ready to take a position on whether marriages between gays or lesbians could also be blessed.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the Diocese of Los Angeles:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Supreme Court of California has determined that all citizens of our state should have equal access to marriage as a civil right based in our state constitution. The Court's ruling provides the Church with an opportunity to reflect on our own theology of marriage. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, we have sought to provide the Church's blessing to all the baptized people of God.
Among those are people who have sought to have same-sex relationships blessed in the community of faith. I know that the acceptance of same-sex unions has caused spiritual struggle and questioning for some members of our Diocese, our Church and the Anglican Communion. My policy has been to allow clergy to respond to the needs of their community with pastoral sensitivity including the blessing of these unions as they deem appropriate to the pastoral context.

Earlier this year, when the court made same-sex marriage an option in civil law, I felt it necessary to convene a task force to develop a diocesan policy by which clergy in our Diocese might officiate at same-sex marriages. The task force has developed educational materials that I hope will help you and members of our Diocese to reflect on the issues involved in same sex-marriage as we discern our way forward.

I hope that all clergy in our Diocese might educate our congregations about marriage and have conversations about it.

Performing and blessing these marriages is not simply theoretical. There are real people in congregations large and small who have waited sometimes for many years for this opportunity, and the witness of their faithful love has been an inspiration to me. Other couples will step forward in the future. I hope you will take the opportunity in the next several weeks to listen to their stories. Many among these couples are members of our congregations.

While no one in this Diocese will be forced to move beyond what his or her conscience allows, we seek to provide that gracious space for those whose conscience compels them to bless the marriages of all faithful people as together we discern the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth.

Your Brother in Christ,
J. Jon Bruno
Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles

IGLHRC: Executive Director Wanted

(Posted 10/16/08)

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) seeks an Executive Director to lead its global mission of securing full human rights for those who face discrimination and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual/gender expression.

Organizational Description

IGLHRC is a US-based, multi-national, non-governmental organization with headquarters in New York, program offices in Argentina and South Africa, and project staff in The Philippines. It is the largest global human rights advocacy organization dedicated specifically to promoting human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and those facing violations related to their sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual/gender expression.

Founded in 1990, IGLHRC's core role in the human rights field is working in partnership with LGBT, sexual minority, and allied groups to respond to human rights emergencies, build and support the human rights advocacy capacity of local groups around the world, and promote LGBT rights in international and regional human rights forums. IGLHRC pursues its mission in partnership with allies dedicated to the broader goal of fully incorporating sexual rights within the mainstream human rights framework. IGLHRC has a staff of 18, and a Fiscal Year 2009 budget of US$2.2 million, two-thirds of which is from foundation support.

The Position

IGLHRC is looking for a dynamic leader to assume the role of Executive Director. The next Executive Director should be as comfortable and capable of promoting IGLHRC's mission among the world's foremost human rights leaders and human rights bodies as she/he is in meeting and strategizing with local LGBT and human rights advocates.

IGLHRC's Executive Director will:

* Provide outstanding human rights leadership and organizational management for IGLHRC's diverse, multi-national staff.
* Partner with the Board and Staff to provide the vision for implementing IGLHRC's five-year strategic plan
* Communicate, inspire and engage people in supporting and advancing IGLHRC's mission.
* Raise the organization's profile and influence in promoting its mission.
* Develop and maintain successful relationships with a variety of funders, including corporate, foundation and individuals.
* Recruit, mentor and retain talented staff.
* Develop, present and implement annual operational plans, lead all fiscal and budgeting activities, and report to the Board of Directors and other stakeholders on IGLHRC's progress in implementing its plans.


Mission Related:

* Experience that demonstrates a passion for and commitment to challenging homophobia and advocating for the rights of LGBT people internationally.
* Exceptional substantive experience and knowledge of the field of human rights, international public policy issues, and international and regional human rights structures as they relate to LGBT and/or sexual rights advocacy, and the ability to communicate such issues to a diverse audience.
* A personal commitment to, respect for, and experience working with grassroots organizers and activists, and a track record of building partnerships with allied organizations on an international scale.
* Experience living in and working in fields related to IGLHRC's work in Africa, Asia, and/or Latin America - the locations of IGLHRC's programs.
* Academic degrees in related fields, such as law, public policy or international relations, or a minimum 5 years direct experience as an international human rights advocate on issues related specifically to LGBT or sexual rights issues.
* Excellent verbal and written English language skills with experience in public speaking in international settings. Multi-lingual fluency is required.

Management, Financial and Operational:

* Exceptional management and supervision skills and a background of professional management training, with a minimum of 10 years experience in
senior non-profit management level positions.
* Direct responsibility for fiscal oversight and management, including developing and managing budgets.
* Experience overseeing organizational growth and developing the infrastructure to support the growth.

Fundraising and Communications

* Established track record in non-profit fundraising with institutional, corporate and individual funders, coupled with a vision for connecting IGLHRC to a wider range of donors.
* Experience relevant to communicating IGLHRC's mission and achievements, both in writing and personally, to potential funders.
* Experience in promoting the goals and achievements of a non-profit through communications, marketing and advertising.

Immediate ability to travel within the US and internationally is required.

Application Requirements

The application deadline is November 30, 2008, though the ED Search Committee will commence initial interviews of all qualified candidates upon
receipt of the application.

The email application package must include the following: 1) A cover letter
of no more than two pages that addresses key qualifications for the job of Executive Director, commitment to LGBT rights, and vision for IGLHRC's
future; 2) An updated resume or CV; and, 3) a list of 3 professional references and contact information along with brief explanation of the candidate's relationship to them. After initial interviews, qualified candidates may be asked to submit additional documents.

Applications should be sent to: Additional
information about IGLHRC can be found at Internal financial
and other information will be made available to finalists. All applications
will be kept confidential.

IGLHRC places a high value on maintaining a diverse staff and Board of
Directors and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates. Applications from qualified candidates from or with established work experience related to IGLHRC's mission in Africa, Asia, and/or Latin America will be highly prioritized.

MSOV: New Poll Results

Thanks to those who participated in the snap poll about dates and locations for rescheduling the Many Stories, One Voice conference. No clear preference emerged. The results have been shared with the conference organizers. Stay tuned for a final date and location!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I got to meet a hero today

by Susan Russell, Integrity President

At a press conference today at Dignity House in Highland Park I got to meet Fr. Geoff Farrow ... the Roman Catholic priest who has risked so much to speak truth to power on behalf of the LGBT faithful.

Here's Fr. Geoff with Our Lady of Guadalupe over one shoulder and the Call to Action spokesperson over the other.

I was particularly moved by how profoundly he understands the stand he is taking to be a PASTORAL position (with political implications.)
Here's the statement Fr. Geoff offered today (as posted on his blog:)
You can be a good and faithful Catholic and vote NO on Proposition 8.
Many priests, nuns and ordinary Catholics will vote NO on Proposition 8 because they believe that taking away civil rights from same sex couples is wrong and strips them not only of civil rights but, also of basic human dignity. I know this because they have expressed this to me directly.
Many pastors simply refuse to say anything at all on the subject publicly. Most of my brother priests try to help Catholic same sex couples in the same fashion that they help Catholic heterosexual couples who use contraception or, who have divorced and remarried. We try to assist these souls in the confessional and in counseling sessions. We attempt to humanize what can otherwise be impossibly rigid doctrines that crush people or drive them away from the community of faith.
As an elderly Pastor once told me: “We are not technicians, we work with human lives”. People are not statistics, they are not a political issue, they are human beings. Initially, I too simply decided to remain silent. But then, more and more people came to me and asked for guidance on this issue. At the same time, the Diocese became more and more vocal in its support for Proposition 8 and began to organize lay people to vote yes on 8.
When I was asked to promote my congregation to vote yes on Proposition 8 I was placed in a position of having to choose between my position and the spiritual and emotional well being of those who I was called to serve. Theologians such as, St. Thomas Aquinas have taught of the primacy of one’s personal conscience because on the day that you die it will be your conscience that either acquits or condemns you before God.
In good conscience, I cannot place an impossibly heavy load on the backs of those entrusted to my pastoral care and leave them to fend for themselves as best they can. The cost of this would be abandonment of faith, possibly of God. It would probably contribute to isolation, depression and possible despair or, worse (especially for young people). I gave them the advice that most of them would receive privately from most priests, I simply did it openly at the end of Sunday Mass from the pulpit.
I was deeply grateful to be there to witness HIS witness ... along with other courageous Roman Catholic leaders ... modeling that faithful Catholics CAN vote No on 8. And ...
For all that I was so very grateful to be amongst so great a cloud of witnesses, how it must grieve the heart of God that we ... all of us ... are spending our time, energy and resources responding to this $24-million-plus campaign to mobilize bigotry and to write discrimination into the California Constitution in the name of "Family Values."
TWENTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ... while there are children who go to bed hungry and we have families without healthcare while others are facing foreclosure, eviction and homelessness.
No wonder Jesus wept.
Fr. Geoff asked in his interview earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times: "How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?"
He answered his own question in today's press conference. In English and in Spanish. And let's pray that there were those with ears to hear and hearts to listen and minds to change -- that the sacrifices this brave priest is making on behalf of the Gospel will bear the fruit of the defeat of Proposition 8 on the November 4th ballot.

MSOV: New Poll

Conversations among LGBT faith organizations, The Task Force, and the Human Rights Campaign have resulted in 4 choices for rescheduling the Many Stories, One Voice conference...

Chicago: October 15-18, 2009
Chicago: October 22-25, 2009
Birmingham: October 15-18, 2009
Birmingham: October 22-25, 2009

Please go to and indicate your preferences for locations and dates by completing the poll in the top right column. Hurry! This poll closes at 11 am EDT on October 15th.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Religious Institute Hiring: Special Assistant to the Director

Posting Position Title: Special Assistant to the Director
Type of Position: Full-Time
Salary: $30,000 - 38,000
Work location : Westport, CT accessible by MetroNorth, minute walk from

General Purpose

The Special Assistant to the Director will assist the Religious Institute in
all aspects of its operation, including administrative tasks, office
management, database management, fundraising, public relations, conference
and travel management, research, publications, and program assistance.

Essential Duties

1. Provide all administrative tasks for the office of the Religious
Institute, including office management, word processing, filing, phone
answering, and general clerical assistance to other staff.
2. Maintain the databases of the Religious Institute, including regular
3. Assist in fundraising efforts, including preparation of final
proposals and reports, direct mail letters, donor acknowledgements, and
related tasks.
4. Provide research assistance for projects, travel and conference
management logistical support, website maintenance, and coordinate work with
designers and printers.
5. Participates in project development and implementation as time
6. Performs other duties as assigned.

Education and Experience

* Demonstrated commitment to sexual justice
* Bachelor's degree required, Master's degree in public health or
divinity preferred.
* Experience in not-for-profit agency

Skills and Abilities

1. Ability to take initiative in setting priorities and capacity to
work independently on multiple projects.
2. Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively.
3. Excellent oral communication, editing, and research skills.
4. Excellent organizational and analytical skills.
5. Demonstrated use of MS Office programs and internet search engines.

To apply send resume and cover letter to

Review of applications beginning October 20, 2008 until position filled.


Here is the front page article in today's Los Angeles Times about Roman Catholic priest Geoffrey Farrow speaking truth to power and the high price he's paying for his prophetic witness:

A week ago, Father Geoffrey Farrow stood before his Roman Catholic parishioners in Fresno and delivered a sermon that placed him squarely at odds with his church over gay marriage.

With Proposition 8 on the November ballot, and his own bishop urging Central Valley priests to support its definition of traditional marriage, Farrow told congregants he felt obligated to break "a numbing silence" about church prejudice against homosexuals.

"How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?" he asked parishioners of the St. Paul Newman Center. "I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8."

Then Farrow -- who had revealed that he was gay during a television interview immediately before Mass -- added a coda to his sermon.

"I know these words of truth will cost me dearly," he said. "But to withhold them . . . I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well."

Read the rest here

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Sermon preached this morning at St. Paul's Cathedral, San Diego

October 12, 2008
Scott Richardson +

Today’s gospel is both problematic and promising. It’s problematic because it can easily be read as a slam against the Jews. Truth be told, that’s how it has been read for twenty centuries and that’s probably the original intent. Many of my pulpit colleagues are, at this very moment, undoubtedly rendering the narrative in these terms: A king (God) throws a banquet on the occasion of his son’s wedding. The invited guests (the people of Israel) decline the invitation. They not only decline but mistreat the servants who extend the invite on the king’s behalf. The king is dishonored. The king’s servants are brutalized. The king handles the matter in the manner of ancient king’s – absolute ruin.

That story, told flatly, will lead eventually to anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence. The early church, the body that came into being as today’s gospel was written, was mystified and miffed by Jewish indifference to the messianic phenomenon. Centuries later, once the church had temporal power behind it, that confusion and resentment manifested in oppressive action, action contrary to the relational code revealed in the life of Jesus. Understanding this and every story in historical context matters greatly because actual human lives are on the line, even into our own day.

Here now is the promising part: the doors to the wedding feast are flung open by the host, God. All sorts and conditions of people are invited in – the whole human family. The hall is filled to bursting with guests; no ID’s required, no RSVP, no engraved invitation, no wrapped gift – everyone is welcome. People are swept up and swept in; those who thought they’d never attend a regal gala stand astonished at their good fortune. They’re eating at the royal table and drinking the monarch’s wine - who would have guessed that? The only person who doesn’t do well is the fellow unprepared for the event, the man without a wedding robe. He’s not ready to party and he’s shown the door.

And so it is in the realm of divine surprise, divine reversal. God invites all to the feast of love and acceptance. Welcome! Walk through the door, don the garment of salvation, and marvel at your good fortune. Celebrate God’s unlimited mercy and boundless affection. Eat it up like you’re starving, because you are. Me too. Drink it down. This is the good stuff, the pinot of ancient wisdom. This is the old promise made new. This is the heart of our sacred tradition - the Word that we pass from soul to soul and from generation to generation. This is the story that cannot be lost and that must be endlessly refreshed.

So hold that story and come with me to General Seminary, New York City; 1988: I’m a Middler, a second year student, and I’ve grown tired of the creeds – Apostles and Nicene. I’ve had it; worshipping several times a day will do that to you. I complain to my Systematic Theology professor: Why do we have to endlessly repeat faith statements from the third and fourth centuries that answer questions few have asked since then? Why don’t we write our own creed? Why don’t we struggle together to define the core content of faith today?

Dr. Carpenter, a liberal thinker, stands aghast. My plan, he advises, will throw the church back into a period of theological chaos, an era not unlike those decades just prior to the formulation of the creeds in question. People died as a result of those debates. (That wouldn’t happen today – we’re more tolerant, more humane, and, frankly, we don’t care as much – but it’s still dicey.) Instead, he continued, let’s receive our theological inheritance with gratitude and allow ourselves to be radical in our interpretation of it.

Receive our inheritance with gratitude and be radical in our interpretation of it. That suggestion sorted me out in regard to the creeds and I’ve since found it to be helpful in a variety of arenas. This weekend we’ve been applying it to the topic of gay marriage. We’ve been specifically focused on Proposition 8 – an attempt to deny gay and lesbian couples their constitutional right to marry. Many of us oppose that proposition and we do so in the spirit of Dr. Carpenter. We have no intention of altering the traditional understanding of marriage – two people, mutual love expressed in and through fidelity, life-long commitment lived out under the gracious purview of God and with the strong support of society – but we insist on extending that blessing to the whole human family.

We are rigid conservatives when defining the core content of holy marriage and wild radicals in our belief that God intends this beautiful covenant for all. And because both sides of that statement are equally true, we join with the Episcopal bishops of California, unanimously aligned, in vigorously defending the right of gay couples to wed, the right the high court of our state granted earlier this year. We also pledge to work to encourage the Episcopal Church, as a national body, to recognize the wisdom and compassion of that decision and follow suit.

And when that happens – not if, when – when all are in full accord, when our hearts are enlarged and our minds engaged, when the Spirit of God pierces and persuades each of us, when all partners can walk the aisle, repeat the vows, and claim the blessing, then the wedding party in Matthew and the gala the prophet Isaiah foresaw will kick up yet again in the lives of God’s people. And on this mountain, this mountain of wisdom and compassion, the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food. He will destroy on this mountain of inclusive love and sweet justice, the shroud cast over all peoples. The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Amen.

True or False?

Don't miss this not-quite-three-minute "debunking" of the Yes on California Proposition 8 lies ...

... which deserves WIDE distribution!

Ready ... Set ... FORWARD!!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekly Witness for October 11

This week's Friday update is coming out on Saturday ... we've been in Anaheim for a meeting with the Claiming the Blessing Steering Committee and a site visit for General Convention 2009.
The content of this week's "Witness" is also slightly different.
Tomorrow, October 12, 2008, is the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. In observance of that date and in celebration of Matthew's life, Integrity past-president Michael Hopkins offers the following reflection:

Matthew Shepard and the Church
by the Reverend Michael Hopkins

Ten years ago a young gay man, Matthew Shepard, was beaten and left to die in rural Wyoming. Two days later he did die. His death received national attention, joining with the death not too long before of an African-American man, James Byrd, dragged behind a truck in Texas.

The two deaths revealed the intolerance and hatred of "minorities" that still lies just below the surface of America. It can be said that we have come farther along in these last ten years both in terms of sexual orientation and race, but hate crimes continue as a sign that we have many miles to go.

I had a personal relationship with the death of Matthew. Besides being a gay man myself, Matthew was also an Episcopalian, as, of course, I am. In addition, I was President of IntegrityUSA (for all of ten days) at the time of his death. I felt compelled to attend his funeral at St. Mark's, Casper, on behalf of his sister and brother gay and lesbian Episcopalians.

There I came face to face with the hatred that killed Matthew in the guise of protestors from a church in Kansas led by a man named Fred Phelps. They held signs proclaiming Matthew was a "fag" who was even now burning in hell, and their verbal taunts were even more horrific. The only consolation was a group of good souls standing silently between them and those of us waiting in line in the cold outside the church.

Mr. Phelps and his followers are in the extreme even in the realm of those Christians who are of the opinion that sex between men or between women is intrinsically sinful. And yet the entire church that remains ambivalent about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is culpable in the physical, psychological and spiritual violence inflicted on us. This includes my own beloved church, much as most of it would term itself "progressive." Real discrimination continues and discrimination is at least spiritual violence, pure and simple.

In the Episcopal Church, one of the options for the general confession in our liturgy includes repentance for "the evil done on our behalf." It is a powerful phrase, although the church has barely begun to unpack the many ways it is true and face up to them, which is the only way for repentance to be genuine. The awful truth is that the death of Matthew Shepard was part of the "evil done on our behalf." Any amount of ambivalence or hostility toward lgbt people is in collusion with such an evil act.

Someone at the time of Matthew's death, on various listservs on which Episcopalians can be found, emotionally declared that the church had "blood on its hands." The statement was met with a great deal of protest and even outrage. As a leader, I myself distanced myself from the remark, its own collusion. It was, however, the truth.

My deep prayer as I contemplate this anniversary is that one day, in my lifetime, the church (at the very least, my church) will own up to this truth, repent of it, apologize, and finally amend its life to erase the ambivalence. As Matthew showed us, it is a matter of life and death.

Matthew Wayne Shepard
December 1, 1976 - October 12, 1998

May he rest in peace and rise in glory


In the News

  • We rejoice at the news from Connecticut on the Supreme Court ruling there in favor of marriage equality. Integrity's statement, issued shortly after October 10th ruling, applauded the decision as one "in favor of marriage and against bigotry."
  • Meanwhile, in California, the work continues to defeat Propostion 8 and protect marriage equality. The shift in the poll numbers in California indicate that the multi-million dollar full-of-lies ad campaign launched by the resolution proposers has been influential. No on 8 forces are working hard to respond and Integrity is working with them. The margin is still "razor thin" ... visit the No on 8 website to see how you can help save marriage equality in California on November 4th.
  • We also want to note the courage of the witness of Roman Catholic priest Fr. Geoff Farrow in coming out and speaking out against Prop 8 in Fresno, CA. Read about his witness here ... and give thanks for all those who risk so much to speak truth to the powers that continue to oppress and marginalize LGBT people everywhere.

Upcoming Events

  • Creating Change will take place January 28-February 1, 2009, in Denver. On January 29th the conference will include a day-long institute titled "Empowering and Working with People of Faith." Is is geared for people of faith and religious organizers who want to build a more powerful faith-based movement for LGBT equality and for secular activists who want to build stronger relationships with communities and leaders of faith. This year's Institute will emphasize the strength of multi-faith organizing and will explore sexual liberation, sexuality, and the ways in which religion and spirituality are resources. Conference registrations are now being accepted. The early bird registration rate of $250 is available until November 30, 2008. Integrity encourages all local leaders and inclusion activists to attend.
  • Looking further ahead, the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be held in Anaheim CA from July 8-17. Some information is already available on the General Convention 2009 web pages. Check them out and bookmark them for future reference as we move toward GC'09.