Friday, November 28, 2008

My Day at "Love Won Out"

by Bill Oliver

(Focus on the Family (FoF), is the mega-evangelical-organization founded by Dr. James Dobson, which claims to “nurture and defend” the family while promoting his interpretation of biblical truth. Love Won Out (LWO) is the ministry at FoF that claims to help gays and lesbians “who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions.” On Saturday, Oct 25, I attended the LWO conference held on the FoF campus in Colorado Springs (COS) because I wanted to better understand their positions, knowing that people of good faith can profoundly disagree.)

I wasn't certain I was going to be admitted, as they could have reason to know that I am not a fan of Dr. Dobson. However, the introductory speaker noted that “if you're a gay activist and angry with Focus, we welcome you!"

Dr Dobson was not present, but gave a pre-recorded welcome. The week before, I read Joe Dallas's book: "The Gay Gospel - How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible.” He is ex-gay and now married 21 years. Dallas spoke and emphasized that being gay is not a choice and for most it was felt from early childhood. However, he insisted that no one is “born gay.” He and LWO assert that even if being gay was found to have a genetic component, that wouldn't change the clear biblical prohibition (in their reading). Their going-in premise is that one cannot be both gay and Christian. He acknowledged that while one can change his behavior, it is very difficult to change one's sexual orientation, which could take years - and he continues to struggle with same-sex attraction to one degree or another.

I was surprised that there was never an opportunity to ask questions. During lunch I joined a large informal assemblage of parents who have a gay child. (LWO insists that parents should love their gay child unconditionally - while still "upholding Biblical truth.") I was drawn into a group of three pairs of parents. I could grieve with the dad next to me that all the dreams he had for his son now appear shattered. When they wanted to know if I too had a gay child, I think they were stunned, but remained very welcoming, when I said: “No, I’m a single gay Christian.”

Someone commented: "Don't you find it hard living here?" I chuckled: “No, I love living here because of the mountain access and as it’s easy to demonstrate at FOF." I told the dad that, irrespective of whether or not his son stayed gay, I could join him in praying that his son not lose his faith. I emphasized to the group that it really mattered that we listen to each other's sacred stories, also discovering how much we hold in common.

Surprisingly, Joe Dallas kept admonishing the conservative Christian church that it needed to repent of the anti-gay stance it has commonly taken and provide a welcoming home to gay people, though not accepting their "behavior.” I wish Dr. Dobson had been present, for his often untruthful and misleading statements have certainly contributed to a fear and loathing of gays, although he also claims to love them. It is my fervent prayer that someday the Lord would enlarge his heart that he could Focus on all God’s Families.

Bill Oliver is the leader of the COS chapter of Integrity, a national organization of GLBT Episcopalians and their supporters.

An excellent resource here:

Weekly Witness For November 28th

Happy Thanksgiving!

The staff of Integrity USA hope you are enjoying your long holiday weekend. We are too. The Rochester office is closed until Monday morning.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

General Convention Project Manager Chosen

Mr. Michael S. Bell has been selected to serve as Integrity's half-time General Convention Project Manager/Meeting Planner. Michael has an impressive amount of experience managing complex projects and planning large conferences for the healthcare sector. He demonstrated his dedication and abilities as a tireless Integrity volunteer during the three arduous weeks of the Lambeth Conference last summer.

Michael lives in Southern California and is a postulant in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He will begin work in early January.

Amendments To National Bylaws

Integrity USA has grown rapidly over the past two years. Our staff has increased from a quarter-time employee to two full-time employees and two half-time employees. We have a public office for the first time in our 35-year history. Our grant income has increased dramatically. Our programming, development, and administration have expanded geometrically. In other words, Integrity USA has made a quantum leap to the next level of organizational maturity. It's time for our governance structure to change accordingly!

In response, Integrity's board of directors recently approved a number of amendments to the national bylaws. They include...

. Appointing an executive director as the chief leader of the organization
· Reducing the size of the board of directors
· Converting the regional vice presidents to provincial coordinators
· Forming a stakeholders' council

These amendments must be ratified by the membership before they can take effect. If you are a member whose dues were current as of November 25th, you will soon be receiving an email or postcard [depending upon whether or not we have your email address on file] with voting directions. The polls will open on December 15th and close on February 15th.

While you are waiting for the voting instructions to arrive, click here to read more about what is being altered and why!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tony Perkins accuses Prop 8 opponents...

... of vandalizing churches and disturbing worship services.

This is worth seeing -- Perkins has nothing new to say.

Bishop Gene Robinson on prophets, Prop 8 and progress

By Tony Grew
Pink News
November 25, 2008 - 15:06

Gene Robinson is a calming presence. The world feels less dangerous when you talk to him, and evils such as racism and homophobia seem less threatening and somehow distant.

The Bishop of New Hampshire seems never to tire of being the gay Anglican leader, a man sought after by press and public alike because he is out on a world that seems wedded to keeping people in the closet, with their mouths shut.

Bishop Robinson may be a figure of controversy for some in the Anglican communion, but for millions of others he is an inspirational voice.

He is more than a turbulent priest or a poster boy for gay rights - Gene Robinson is a man of God.
He visited London earlier this month to collect Stonewall's Hero of the Year Award, and found time to speak to His quiet faith was evident as he talked prophets, Prop 8 and progress.

Read the rest at Interview: Bishop Gene Robinson on prophets, Prop 8 and progress - from Pink News - all the latest gay news from the gay community

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Talking Turkey" for Thanksgiving

Am about to head out "over the river and through the hills" to my brother's for Thanksgiving. But before I do, wanted to share with you this great piece that came to me from my friend and colleague, Rabbi Denise Eger -- who is one of the things I'm most thankful for this year! I think you'll find it helpful -- even if you don't live in California! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!



The Great Thanksgiving Conversation:
Let’s talk all the way through the Holidays.

This Thanksgiving many of us will be leaving our families of choice and spending time with our families of origin. At these dinner tables thousands of conversations will be had. As you are thinking about the conversation around your family dinner table this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season, it is a great opportunity to talk to them about human rights and equality for members of the family who are LGBT. Many of us will encounter “mixed” family tables – with family members who voted on both sides of Prop 8.

Inevitably talk will turn to events of this important election, including the meaning of the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

Become a community organizer and help educate your family on marriage equality and the truth about Prop 8. This is one social justice activity you can engage in that will help all of us in the future, whether the courts overturn Prop 8 or we face another ballot measure.Proposition 8, and its approval, make it lawful to discriminate in California and is just the beginning. It will have serious implications for minorities around our country.

It is important that we continue the conversation, especially with our friends and family in to win the hearts and minds of our friends/family. Many of them will likely use the same arguments that have been used since the election - that they like their gay/lesbian friends but voted for Proposition 8 because their faith/tradition told them to do so.

We are encouraging you to have a conversation with your friends and family this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. In order to get the conversation started we have included some “conversation starters” as well as some facts to counter some of the arguments that are being used in defense of passing Proposition 8 in California.

Here are the key messages that confused and convinced good Californians to vote YES on 8, and the truth about them:

1. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Without Proposition 8, Churches would be forced to marry gay people even if it conflicts with their ideas, and they could lose their non-profit status.”

Proposition 8 unfairly blurred the boundaries between the separation of church and state, and the Yes on 8 Campaign outright lied when it said that churches would be forced to officiate at the marriage of gay men or lesbians. In fact, page 117 of the Supreme Court’s original decision last May guaranteed protections for churches to follow their faith’s teaching on the matter and to NOT officiate if that is their teaching. The YES on 8 campaign further blurred the boundary between church and state when it said that it would cause churches to lose their non-profit status. Nothing could be further from the truth. Churches would still be protected as affirmed again by the Supreme Court.The misinformation and outright lies of the Mormon and Catholic and Evangelic Christians communities caused confusion and pain among many. The state constitution should never promote one religion over another.

2. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Only the church can say who is married.”

This is absolutely false. As long as couples must get a marriage license from the state for their marriage to be recognized—then you can’t deny citizens from equality. The state issues licenses and you do not have to go to a rabbi, priest or minister or imam to get married. As long as there is civil marriage then it must be open to everyone. It is discrimination to do otherwise.

3. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Gay people don’t have civil right; they belong to African Americans.”

In America we have fought for equality for all citizens regardless of race, creed or color and in California that equality is extended to those of different sexual orientation. We have the equal protection clause that says all groups must be treated equally under the law. We are sensitive to the particular history and struggle – and sense of ownership that African Americans have over the phrase “civil rights”. However, they are called “civil rights”, “equal rights,” or “human rights” -- this bundle of rights confers dignity to all people, including gay people. Even those who go to church can understand the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The constitution should not be used to deny or retract rights, and that is what Prop 8 did. If you start with gay people—who will be next? Blacks? Latinos? Jews? Blond haired people? Those without a college degree? Catholic?Prop 8 crossed a dangerous line by imposing the tyranny of the barely-a-majority on one group.

4. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Why do you need to use the term marriage? Isn’t domestic partnership or civil unions good enough?”

Separate but equal is never good enough. It didn’t work before in the United States with drinking fountains or education or in the Jim Crow era of South Africa. Marriage holds unique and special dignity for the couple and their children. Our society is not built on civil unions but is built on the idea of marriage which takes two unrelated people and makes them next of kin. There are differences in domestic partnership and marriage. The most notable difference is in the reactions of others. Everyone understands when a couple says they are married. Most do not understand when you say your partner, they misinterpret regularly. Also there is a profound difference for those who are married. Their families are accorded the proper dignity and respect in the world and there are some benefits from one’s employer that are available to married spouses that are not available to domestic partners.

5. YES on 8 MESSAGE: “The people had their say and the vote of the people should be honored.”

It is never okay for the majority to impose its will if it eliminates the rights of a minority. Our constitution and the judiciary exist to protect the minority voice from the tyranny of the majority. This is not an “activist” court. This is a conservative court – a majority is Republican -- that interpreted the Constitution and in May of 2008 declared that gay and lesbian people were protected by the equal protection clause. Now the legal case before the Supreme Court will examine whether or not the Prop 8 vote, garnered through an expensive campaign of lies and misinformation, was proper. There have been other instances in California when a ballot initiative was declared improper and/or unconstitutional including Prop. 187 (that would have denied illegal immigrants services).

6. POST-ELECTION MESSAGE: “Gay people should just get over it. It’s just not a big deal.”

One can never get over completely the wounds of oppression and discrimination. The passage of Proposition 8 hurt gay people in California – and lots of their straight friends and family, too. For a few short months gay people knew full and complete marriage equality as never before. 18,000 gay and lesbian couples got legally married. And then in an instant that equality was taken away. This is a deep wound. When justice and equality are denied, people are moved to express their cry for freedom through their first amendment rights to free speech, through protest. Engaging in peaceful rallies and marches to voice our concern is an American tradition, and helps lead to change.

These talking points ought to help you move our cause forward in your family.

Here are some additional actions you might want to take:
• Think about wearing a button that states how many months/years you and your partner have been together.
• Keep your Vote NO on Prop 8 bumper sticker on your car
• (Re)Introduce your partner as your husband/wife
• Talk about a rally or your personal participation in the No on Prop 8 campaign
• Take some wedding cake home for desert
• Take pictures to share of your family
• Ask what they think about what California did with the passing of Proposition 8
• Talk about a wedding (same-sex or opposite-sex) that your attended over the summer

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving….Keep the conversation going through the Holidays!Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Rev. Neil Thomas
Torie Osborn
Rodney Scott

Pastoral resource issued for same-gender couples counseling

By Lisa B. Hamilton

[Episcopal News Service] A Province I task force has issued "a pastoral resource for Province I Episcopal clergy ministering to same-sex couples."

The document is the first of its kind in the Episcopal Church.

The report was accepted at the Province I synod held November 21 at St.

Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, New Hampshire with a resolution stating that its "use is to be determined by diocesan bishops."

The document consists of four parts: an historical and theological overview of same-gender unions; an exploration of issues specific to same-gender couples and their congregations; a statement of legalities, which vary from state-to-state; and a framework for counseling same-gender couples who desire a public commitment. An appendix of websites, books, documents and other resources is also included in the report.

Full story:


Monday, November 24, 2008

A Reminder About Comments

Any comments about items posted to the Walking With Integrity e-mail list are automatically discarded.  However, you are welcome and encouraged to to add comments to the blog version of any post using your Google, Blogger, OpenID, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, or AOL account.  Anonymous comments cannot be made.  Comments deemed inappropriate [such as hate speech] by the blog faeries may be removed at their discretion.

Trans fiesta celebrated

JUCHITAN, Mexico (Reuters) - Attaching flowers to a ribbon headdress, pulling a lace slip under an embroidered skirt and draping a necklace of gold coins over his head, Pedro Martinez puts the finishing touches on the traditional costume of Zapotec women in southern Mexico.

"When I get all dressed up like this my father always says, 'Oh Pedro! You look just like your mother when she was young," beams Martinez, 28, gluing on fake eyelashes in front of a mirror.

Martinez spent two hours in the hair salon he owns getting ready for this weekend's festival of the "muxes," indigenous gays and transvestites in the town of Juchitan who have found a haven of acceptance in Mexico's macho society.

The muxes (pronounced moo-shes), mostly of ethnic Zapotec descent, are widely respected in the southern town where a dance and parade that crowns a transvestite queen and celebrates the harvest has been held annually for the last 33 years.

Anthropologists say the tradition of blurring genders among Mexico's indigenous population is centuries old but has been revived in recent decades due to the gay pride movement.
Several dozen muxes were blessed by a Catholic priest at a mass before joining visiting transvestites and other townsfolk at a raucous party on Saturday night. The muxes wore either traditional local costumes or ball gowns and high heels.
Native people in the Americas with ambiguous gender were often regarded as wise and talented, said Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

"They were seen as have having a kind of spiritual power that comes from being more like the ancestors who are mothers and fathers at once, and more like the divinities who may be dual gendered," Joyce said.

Anthropologists have found evidence of mixed gender identities across Mesoamerica, from Mayan corn and moon gods that are both male and female and Aztec priests who ritually cross dressed.

The Spanish conquest in the 16th century and the Catholic Church snuffed out much of that tolerance.

"The colonizing power was very rigid about sex. They came in and rapidly suppressed all these practices, which doesn't mean they went away. It means they went underground," Joyce said.

While homosexuality has long been accepted in Juchitan, it is only recently that muxes feel secure enough to cross-dress and they have taken on causes like AIDS education, since the region has one of the highest HIV rates in the state of Oaxaca.

"There have always been muxes, but before they would wear just a dress shirt with a feminine touch, like gold buttons. The transvestites are the new generation," said Santamaria.

Read it here.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good news from Diocese of Missouri

Lisa Fox reports from the diocesan convention of the Diocese of Missouri:
Many you know there is s national move afoot to get dioceses on board to repudiate B033 and apologize for its effects, to ask General Convention to affirm same-sex-blessings, and to re-open the door to LBGT candidates to the episcopate. Some brave souls decided to try to get the Diocese of Missouri "on the record" supporting those initiatives, and I lent my support without much hope of success. You'll find those resolutions in our convention materials here. I had worked quietly to support these resolutions, but I did not believe they had a snowball's chance of passing in the Diocese of Missouri. I expected to be overwhelmed by "no," "no," and "no." Mind you, I walked into Missouri's diocesan convention yesterday believing they were right, and prepared for a quixotic battle to argue their adoption, but absolutely certain not a one of them would pass in this very, profoundly "red state" in which gay rights had failed 3:1 in a 2006 "popular" referendum.
Last weekend, I would not have bet a plug nickel that any of these resolutions would have passed in this conservative diocese.

But, my friends, all of them passed – all of them! – all four of them. Yes, everyone of them. Tonight, my head is reeling that all of them passed – and passed by such a wide majority that we didn't even have to count the votes. They all passed overwhelmingly. Overwhelmingly. In this conservative/moderate diocese. In this red state. My head is spinning.

Read it all here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"No We DON'T"-- Reflections on Homophobia & Hope

In California, we face the uphill battle to undo what a multi-million dollar campaign of fear based disinformation did on November 4th when we took a historic step backward by writing discrimination into the state constitution and eliminating the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage by passing, by a narrow margin, Proposition 8.

[What I'm wondering] is if the 2008 California election has not done for systemic homophobia what Hurricane Katrina did for systemic racism -- exposed it to the harsh light of day in a way that it can no longer be either ignored or denied. And I’m wondering if we can’t claim that reality and mobilize around it.

Read the rest here

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Witness For November 22nd

Have You Registered For Creating Change?

Outraged by the passage of anti-gay ballot measures on Election Day? Attending Fight the H8 rallies and wearing white marriage equality knots for are all well and good, but are there more effective tactics for winning the hearts and minds of the "moveable middle" in your community and state? Find out at Creating Change--which will be held in Denver from January 28th to February 1st!

Creating Change has "got religion" this year. There will be a day-long institute titled "Empowering and Working with People of Faith" on January 29th geared for those of us who are struggling for equality within the Church. In addition, Integrity will be hosting a workshop titled "How Can You Change What The Bible Says By A Popular Vote?" that will explore how our organization and other LGBT Christian groups are creating change in our respective denominations.

Integrity's board of directors encourages all local Integrity leaders and inclusion activists to consider attending Creating Change. The early-bird registration deadline for Creating Change is November 30th. Click here to register now!

Interviews For General Convention Project Manger Conducted

Acting Executive Director John Clinton Bradley has been interviewing candidates for the part-time General Convention Project Manager/Meeting Planner position. Over a dozen applications were received! John will be making a selection and offer early next week.

Electronic Voting On The Horizon

The board has voted to enter into a contract with eBallot to enable secure, online voting. This service will be used for to approve amendments to the bylaws during December and January, and to elect new officers in May. Electronic voting is less expensive and more green than voting by mail.

2007 Financials

Bonadio & Company LLP has concluded its audit of Integrity's 2007 financials and we have submitted form 990 to the IRS. Click the hyperlinks to view PDFs of the documents.

News You May Have Missed

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remember: Faith Communities Can Save Transgender Lives

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2008) is set aside to
remember those lost to anti-transgender violence in the last year. Much of
this violence is fueled by a sentiment that it is tacitly and explicitly
reinforced by narrow understandings of gender, as well as outright
transphobia and homophobia expressed in the name of a Christian God. Too
many of us have not only heard "God condemns you" -- but also "It would be
better if you were dead."

It is a profound and important step for every faith community to join in a
resounding chorus that condemns all forms of violence against people who are
differently gendered.

* By vocally condemning anti-trans bullying, harassment, and hate crimes, we
begin to chip away at the self-righteous fuel that feeds those who believe
they are doing God's will by punishing the differently gendered.
* By loudly proclaiming that people of all genders are beloved, we begin to
address the rampant rate of depression and suicide among transgender youth
and adults that so to often encouraged by religious judgment.
* By reaching out in love to the transgender community, we begin to
undermine the isolation and low self-esteem that can undergird substance
abuse and high-risk behaviors (which inform high rates of HIV and AIDS).

Beyond the hate and judgment, trans people's lives are at risk because we so
often struggle to meet our most fundamental needs such as safe employment
and basic health care. Faith communities need to be out in front of such
justice issues as well.

So, this year, let us (re)commit ourselves to the work of speaking up and
speaking out, to the work of educating ourselves and educating others, to
the work of reaching out in love.

Chris Paige
Publisher, TransFaith Online

Followup reading:

* NCTE Health Priorities:
* TransFaith InterSections:
* TransFaith - Where do we begin?

Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell

On November 17th, Integerity President Susan Russell appears opposite Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition on the CNN Headline News program "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell." Here's the transcript...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are looking at exclusive footage shot over the weekend and sent to this show by somebody at these protests. These stunning images take you inside one of the massive protests against California`s Prop 8 that are sweeping across the nation.California`s Proposition 8, which passed on Election Day, removed the right of same-sex couples to marry. Leaders of these protests believe they can spark a nationwide push for gay rights with many calling it a civil rights issue, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1960s.Meantime, a shocker this weekend when comedian and actress Wanda Sykes from the hit show "The New Adventures of Old Christine" said this at one passionate rally.

WANDA SYKES, ACTRESS: I don`t really talk about my sexual orientation; I didn`t feel like I had to. I was just living my life and not necessarily in the closet. I was just living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I`m gay, they know, you know. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a black woman. And I am proud to be gay.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is an issue that will not and should not go away.
Here to give their views on both sides of this issue is the Chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, the Reverend Louis Sheldon, who is also the author of the book "The Agenda: The Homosexual Plan to Change America." Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.Both men supporters of Prop 8 and on the other side, the Reverend Susan Russell, senior associate for pastoral life at All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena, which has performed gay marriages.

Reverend Russell, let`s start with you. Do you think Prop 8 has now backfired in that it has galvanized gay and gay-friendly Americans like never before and really unified it as a national civil rights movement?

REV. SUSAN RUSSELL, ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH: I think the hard truth is that many were complacent about their rights, and to see a bare majority here in California take the effort to strip away fundamental rights from Americans is just fundamentally wrong.I think the outrage you are seeing in the streets is precisely what should be happening. And I do believe, I think it`s perhaps the beginning of the end for those who want to write discrimination into our constitution and take civil rights away from gay and lesbian Americans. Its time for them to step up and speak out and that`s what we`re doing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Louis Sheldon, these demonstrations haven`t just gone national, they have gone global -- Canada, England, Australia, other European countries also planning demonstrations.If Prop 8 was designed to shatter the gay rights movement, hasn`t it had the opposite effect?

REV. LOUIS SHELDON, TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION: Well, in America, you only have two states that allow gay marriage, 48 do not. I believe in the rule of law, and I believe very clearly what we have done -- we went to the Attorney General, we gave him the language we wanted, he gave us a title in summary.We went out and got the signatures and we won. Now, if these people want to be anarchists, and they want disturb --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait -- anarchists?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Demonstration is a very fundamental part --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: These are not rioters. These are not riots --

SHELDON: You have not seen the demonstrations that they are doing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m looking right here.

SHELDON: In San Francisco, oh no that is only one example. You have not seen what happened in San Francisco --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re not participating in the demonstration.

SHELDON: May I speak? You brought me down here and now let me speak and don`t be so rude.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, finish it off, but don`t call it a riot, it isn`t.

SHELDON: But I`ll do what I will. Don`t you allow me any freedom?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m telling you not to lie.

SHELDON: Let me tell you this, that in San Francisco, there is footage, but you won`t show it, where they were beating up people because they are pro-Proposition 8. That -- these are anarchists.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, there are plenty of -- there are plenty of cases where people who happen to be gay have been beaten and even killed -- Matthew Shepherd, for example --

SHELDON: Listen, I have been under attack in that city --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I don`t think we need to go to the extreme of citing people who have broken the law, because people have broken the law on both sides.

SHELDON: But you believe in disturbing the law?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s bring in the Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.Let me ask you this question pastor, because a lot of people who voted yes for Prop 8 say they`re not against gays, they`re just against gay marriage. What is your position on homosexuality?

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: Well, I preached the sermon this Sunday why gay is not ok. We had 100 protestors outside of our church. They were very peaceful. But what I said was, from the biblical viewpoint, Jesus said that marriage is between a man and a woman. God made us. God is the one who designed us. He created sex, and in his owner`s manual, the bible, he said that the way sex best works is between a man and a woman and a marriage relationship.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s kind of interesting, because Jesus Christ himself wasn`t married. Let me ask you this, Reverend Russell, if Jesus were here today, what would he say, in your opinion about this whole controversy?
RUSSELL: I think Jesus is here today, and Jesus is here in the body of Christ of those faithful Christians out in the streets saying this is wrong. If Jesus were here today, what he would say is spending $46 million to write discrimination into our constitution has nothing to do with the gospel Jesus came to teach of peace and love and caring for your neighbor. I will defend defend Louis Sheldon`s right to believe anything he wants. He doesn`t have the right to write it into our constitution, and that`s why we`re in the streets of California, and that`s why we`re going to prevail.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Sheldon --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I believe that gay marriage should be a right for all Americans. In other words, this should be ok across the country. You have 30 seconds. Change my mind.

SHELDON: Why did not Jerry Brown, the Attorney General for California, when we submitted the language, tell us this and say this is not constitutional material? He allowed us to go ahead. You cannot go back when the Attorney General, the law enforcement agent of the entire state of California, says green light. Go get your signatures. And when we won, it`s very clear this is nothing but sour grapes.Now, remember, when we lost in May 15th to the Supreme Court overturning Prop 22 --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, that`s it, you had your time. Guess what, you didn`t change my mind, but this is an issue that even --
SHELDON: Who can change your mind?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- a former Mormon recognizes is larger than one church`s agenda. Take a listen to this woman from our exclusive footage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- great many gay friends, and I felt as a former Mormon and a resident native of Texas, there`s a lot of people in my friendship circle that are very much on the right wing it was really important for me to speak out and make sure that that group of people heard from me as a straight person who has really nothing to gain from giving gays the right to marry, that this is an issue that`s important to everybody, not just gay people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pastor Jeffress, there you hear from somebody who is not gay but who is just an American saying, hey, this is a civil rights issue. Isn`t the mark of a movement coalescing when it`s joined by people who don`t necessarily benefit themselves?

JEFFRESS: Jane, they don`t understand the societal implications. Countries in Scandinavia that have embraced same-sex marriages have seen the rate of heterosexual marriages plummet to their lowest rates, and the result is, children are being born out of wedlock, it`s destabilizing society. Whenever you counterfeit something you devaluate and homosexual marriage is a --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I looked around the world, I don`t see the Netherlands as an example of a nation falling apart. I see, you know, there are plenty of areas in this world that are suffering crisis. In Africa, there are kids who don`t even have food to eat.

JEFFRESS: Jane, 70 percent of the prison population in America today is people who were born out of wedlock. And if marriage is whatever you say it is, if it`s not just a man and a woman, why not a man and three women or four women and a man? You devalue something when you counterfeit it, and it has great societal implications.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Reverend --
JEFFRESS: And that`s why we need to stay with the traditional definition.By the way, it`s when the Supreme Court upheld in 1885 when it said no legislation is more profitable for society than that which supports marriage between a man and a woman in Murphy versus Ramsey.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well a couple of things. Ok, I`m hearing you, but a couple things. One, I think it`s actually going to hurt California economically, and that`s what various government officials have said. Because all those gay marriages that were going to happen, --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- they`re not going to get those tax dollars in.But I want to ask Reverend Susan Russell, and I`ll get your responses all to the hypocrisy within the movement to stop gay marriage.Look at the Reverend Ted Haggard. He was absolutely adamantine about stopping gay marriage. He was speaking for 30 million Evangelical Christians as the one-time president of the National Evangelical Association. And then he was accused of having a gay relationship himself. And he resigned and he admitted sexual immorality and being a liar and a deceiver. What do you make of that?

RUSSELL: I think internalized homophobia does really dangerous things to people, and I think what we`re seeing right now, and I applaud those who are coming out of the closet as a result of this fight.I think at the end of the day, what we need to do is absolutely support the sacrament and the sanctity of marriage, but that means all marriages. And we need to look at the values that make up a marriage, not the gender that makes up the couple. And we need to stop letting religious bigots write their theology into our constitution. We need freedom of religion and freedom from religion in this country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Sheldon, your response to the Haggard scandal?
SHELDON: Well, there`s no question about it. There are many people that are in the closet, and that I don`t think is the issue at all. I think the issue is that you can be redeemed. I put a word in my book --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re saying you can unlearn homosexuality, like you can go to a camp and they can make you heterosexual again?
SHELDON: I don`t know what psychological training you had at all, but let me just mention --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What psychological training have you had?
SHELDON: I`ve had an awful lot of counseling people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Were you in therapy?
SHELDON: Yes. Now may I speak?

SHELDON: You get awful sassy as a reporter who`s supposed to be a little bit neutral.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, no this is an opinion show, sir, and you`re giving your opinion and I`m giving mine.

SHELDON: Yes, so let me just mention to you very clearly that reparative therapy -- the greatest people that are persecuted are those that are delivered from gender identity conflict. It is not a gene. No one has ever found the gene, and even if they did find the gene it wouldn`t make a lot of difference.But they have never found the gene. And that gene says that, you know --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, guess what? I think you`ve spoken probably more than anybody else on our panel tonight, so don`t say I haven`t given you a chance to have your say.I think that gay marriage should be a right, and I think that these protests are going to get bigger and bigger. And I think this issue isn`t going anywhere.Thank you, Robert, Louis, Susan, all. Come back, we`ll argue some more in a little bit.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: CA Court agrees to hear challenges to Prop 8

From the Sacramento Bee:

The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider complaints by opponents of Proposition 8 that it improperly revised the constitution to ban gay marriage.

The court declined to stay its enforcement in the meantime.

Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said the court asked the parties involved to write briefs arguing three issues:

(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation-of-powers doctrine under the CaliforniaConstitution?

(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

Holton said the court established an expedited briefing schedule.

She said oral argument could be held as early as March 2009.

Couple plan 450-mile walk against Prop. 8

Pasadenans to trek to Supreme Court in San Francisco
By Janette Williams, Staff Writer
Pasadena Star-News
Posted: 11/18/2008 10:36:12 PM PST

PASADENA - When Tracie Jones and Valerie Paget awoke the morning of Nov. 5, they were "devastated" to find that California voters had passed Proposition 8 and that same-sex marriages like theirs were no longer legal in the state.

"There aren't words to describe how we felt - it was a sad and depressing time," said Jones, 38, who wed Paget in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, in April, their 10th anniversary as a couple.

But, that same day, after being "energized" at a Revoke Proposition 8 rally, the Pasadena couple decided to take their case for equality on the road - a 450-mile march to the doors of the state Supreme Court in San Francisco.

They left Tuesday morning from West Hollywood Park and, walking at a rate of 10 to 20 miles a day, expect to take about five weeks to reach their destination. With them is a 200,000-signature petition they hope to add to as they walk up the coast.

"Our goal is to harness all the energy that people are showing" in opposition to Proposition 8, Jones said.

"Everybody has a story, and we want to collect them as we go," she said. "It makes a difference when you put a human face on things. We live our lives like everyone else. We get up, shower, drink our coffee and go to work. Nothing subversive."

The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena - which conducted same-sex weddings and hosted pre-election phone banks to drum up opposition to Proposition 8 - said Tuesday that the couple's march is more than just a symbol.

"It's exactly what people of faith should be doing - putting their faith into action ... taking the opportunity to stand up for one of the defining civil rights issues of our time," Russell said. "We hold these women in our prayers, and we think it's exactly the kind of action we'd like to see more of as we continue to battle the effort to write discrimination into our Constitution."

Four legal writs have been filed with the state Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8, Russell said, but working through the legal system is only one part of the opposition.

"I think everything we do is going to be effective" in fighting Proposition 8, she said. "As this couple takes a symbolic journey for justice, our prayers will move this state and this country."

Full article: Couple plan 450-mile walk against Prop.

'Laramie' spurs talk by Robinson

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Staff
November 18. 2008 9:05AM

RINDGE, NH-- The Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, gave a series of presentations at ConVal High School Thursday as part of the school theater's production of the controversial 'Laramie Project.'

The play consists of a reenactment of actual interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyo., following the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay university student, in 1998. Robinson folded the subject matter of the play into the story of his own experiences as the first openly gay bishop. As an advocate for gay and civil rights, Robinson has developed a friendship with Shepard's mother, Judy.

'She took the horrific tragedy of her son's death and turned it into a wonderful quest for civil rights,' said Robinson.

Full article: Ledger-Transcript Article - 'Laramie' spurs talk by Robinson

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gay Marriage Debate Continues in California

By Mike O'Sullivan
Los Angeles
18 November 2008
Voice of America News


Thousands of demonstrators have marched in California to protest Proposition 8. Sympathizers have marched in Chicago, Boston, Portland and other U.S. cities. In Pasadena, California, the Reverend Zelda Kennedy of All Saints Episcopal Church criticized supporters of Proposition 8 in a rally at her church.

"Hell no, you are absolutely wrong," said Reverend Kennedy.

Political analysts say the large turnout of minority voters contributed to passage of the measure. More than half of California's Latinos supported it, and 70 percent of African Americans. Kennedy, who is black, says that saddens her.

"What happens to our brothers and sisters, happens to us," she said. "Now, we may not be able to feel it immediately, but it impacts us in the long run."


The Reverend Susan Russell heads a national organization in the U.S. Episcopal Church called Integrity, which supports gay rights. She calls Proposition 8 a temporary setback.

"I'm absolutely convinced that the arc of history bends towards inclusion, and that we have taken maybe a step backward, and we're gearing up to take another couple of steps forward

Full aticle: VOA News - Gay Marriage Debate Continues in California

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown urges high court to let Prop. 8 take effect

By Maura Dolan
November 18, 2008
Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Francisco -- As more lawsuits against Proposition 8 landed before the California Supreme Court, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and the anti-gay-marriage campaign urged the court Monday to review the suits but allow the measure to remain in effect during that review.

Brown, whose office defends state laws, said in papers filed with the court that the lawsuits against the anti-gay-marriage initiative raised issues of statewide importance that should be addressed by the state's highest court "to provide certainty and finality."

But Brown's office also said the court should refrain from granting a preliminary order to put the measure on hold pending a court ruling.


A wide array of groups and local governments have urged the state high court in six lawsuits -- two more were filed Monday -- to overturn the measure. The lawsuits contend that Proposition 8 illegally revised the state Constitution by altering fundamental constitutional principles.

The latest anti-Proposition 8 lawsuit was filed by the California Council on Churches, the Episcopal Bishop of California, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and the Unitarian Universalist Assn. of Congregations.

Full article: Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown urges high court to let Prop. 8 take effect - Los Angeles Times

California high court asked to hear challenges to voter-approved ban on gay marriages

By LISA LEFF Associated Press Writer
9:21 PM CST, November 17, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The state attorney general and sponsors of the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California urged its Supreme Court to hear a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban, saying the matter is too urgent to be unsettled.

"The petitions raise issues of statewide importance, implicating not only California's marriage laws but also the initiative process and the Constitution itself," Attorney General Jerry Brown argued in his filing.

"This court can provide certainty and finality in this matter," he said.

Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote earlier this month, overturned the high court's May decision legalizing gay marriage in California. The measure inserts language into the constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.


Meanwhile, the interfaith California Council of Churches and the Episcopal bishops of Northern California and Los Angeles added their petition Monday to those asking the high court to invalidate Proposition 8. They argue that if voters are permitted to take away rights from a group based on sexual orientation, the same could happen to religious minorities.

Full article: California high court asked to hear challenges to voter-approved ban on gay marriages --

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gay bishop with Episcopal Church to be honored at Dallas' Black Tie Dinner next weekend

By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News
10:57 PM CST on Friday, November 14, 2008

None other than Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, who is openly gay and thus a figure of controversy in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

He'll be honored at Dallas' Black Tie Dinner on Nov. 22 – a week after today's vote by the Fort Worth Diocese on whether to leave the Episcopal Church. One reason Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth has argued for leaving is the Episcopal Church's acceptance of Bishop Robinson.

Bishop Robinson said by phone that he's used to controversy and looks forward to speaking to and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Dallas.

"What I'm trying to do is to bring a religious voice to the debates that we have," he said. "It's my contention that LGBT people are worthy and acceptable and equal, not just because we say so, but because God says so."

Full article: Gay bishop with Episcopal Church to be honored at Dallas' Black Tie Dinner next weekend

Texas Faith: Can we reach a middle ground between religious liberty and gay civil rights on marriage?

Dallas Morning News

Texas Faith is a weekly discussion that poses questions about religion, politics and culture to a panel of religious leaders.

This week's question: "Is a compromise between religious liberty and gay civil rights regarding marriage possible – and if not, which of the two is more important?"

Here are excerpts from some of this week's answers:


Katie Sherrod, Fort Worth writer/producer, Episcopal Church activist: "I think this question poses a false dichotomy between rights and liberty. One of my friends in California wrote this: 'As a priest in the Episcopal Church – but to speak more broadly than that, as an Episcopalian, as a Christian, and as a person of faith – I have taken a vow to respect the dignity of every human being. The intention of that vow, made in faith, is mirrored in the civic realm by our constitutions – in this case, the state Constitution. Constitutions exist to protect the dignity of all our citizens, not to take away that dignity or deny the rights of our citizens. Proposition 8, crafted to take away the rights of our citizens, is mean-spirited, fear-based, and wrong-headed.' "

Full article:

Gay bishop to visit Seattle

One of the most controversial churchmen in recent American history, gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, will speak, preach and celebrate the eucharist in Seattle early next year.

Robinson, a non-celibate gay in a committed relationship, is Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and has become a lightning rod in the church.

He is also an enthusiastic celebrity. Robinson has taken a "60 Minutes" camera crew into a favorite gay bar, endorsed Barack Obama, taken a leave of absence to battle alcoholism, and was famously not invited to Anglican bishops' worldwide Lambeth Conference in England last summer. He showed up anyway.
The Diocese of Olympia, nearly a decade ago, became one of the first dioceses in the Episcopal Church to adopt a resolution calling for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church.

Until his resignation last March, a gay clergyman -- the Rev. Robert Taylor -- served as dean of St. Mark's Cathedral. The cathedral on Capitol Hill has also employed a lesbian priest on its staff.


Bishop Robinson will celebrate the eucharist at St. Mark's Cathedral and preach during a 4:30 p.m. service on January 12th. He will deliver "A Community Speech" at 7:30 that evening at Town Hall Seattle.

Full article: Gay bishop to visit Seattle

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Transformative Experience

Gregg L. DesElms, a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Ceremonies in Santa Clara
County, CA, gave a Fight the H8 speech on the steps of the Napa city hall on
Saturday. You can find a PDF of it at

Fighting the H8 in St Louis

My two favorite signs for the hundreds that were there.
1000 people gathered on the steps and in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis. The Old Courthouse is where Dred Scott and his wife sued for their freedom.
Barbi Click, Vice President of the South Central Region, Integrity USA

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fight The H8 In Rochster

Neil Houghton, Integrity's Northeast Regional Vice President, organized the Fight the H8 rally in Rochester, NY. In this video, Neil introduces himself--mentioning Integrity and the Episcopal Church...

Friday, November 14, 2008

LOS ANGELES: County supervisors latest to urge overturning gay marriage ban

[Episcopal News Service, Los Angeles] The furor over California's controversial gay marriage ban escalated November 12 as sporadic protestors, dissonant religious voices, the Los Angeles County board of supervisors and even superstar Sir Elton John weighed in on opposite sides of the fray.

After hearing from more than a dozen speakers, including the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA, an Episcopal gay rights activist group, the Los Angeles supervisors agreed to join a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8.

"Some of us may ask why the county supervisors would be involved and get so involved in this issue," Supervisor Gloria Molina said, citing the board's responsibility to supply marriage licenses, uphold the law and "balance the enforcement of Proposition 8 with recognizing the constitutional right of all our citizens." Molina added, "On a personal note, I am here to say that the passage of Prop. 8 saddened and angered me on various levels."

The lawsuit, filed by the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara County, seeks to overturn the initiative, approved 52% to 48% in the November 4 election, and which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

"So much of the rhetoric that has fueled the fires of discrimination in this election was fueled by religious voices insisting that somehow they had the entitlement to write their theology into our constitution," Russell, an associate rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, told supervisors during their regular November 12 meeting.

Read the rest here.

Sad News

Historic Mount Calvary Retreat House victim of Montecito wild fire

(Episcopal News, Los Angeles) -- The raging Montecito wildfire has destroyed historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, staff and Santa Barbara County officials have confirmed.The resident brothers, members of the Order of the Holy Cross, and staff are safe following evacuation, said Nancy Bullock, program director for Mount Calvary, speaking by phone from All Saints by-the-Sea Church in Montecito.
Bullock said that All Saints is currently working to determine if any parishioners have lost homes in the blaze, which has claimed more than 100 residences across 2,500 acres. Bullock's husband, Jeff, is rector of the parish.
Historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, shown here in a file photo, was destroyed by a wildfire that started on November 13.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who is in close telephone contact with clergy leaders in the Santa Barbara area, asks the prayers of the diocesan community for all those affected by the fire. The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts.
Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026.Mount Calvary's prior, the Rev. Nicholas Radelmiller OHC, is leading the brothers and staff in assessing next steps of response to the fire damage.

Bullock said the brothers and staff at Mt. Calvary, were able to leave with some of the hilltop retreat house's valuable art treasures, as well as computer records, "but so much is lost."Mount Calvary staff will assist groups and individuals in seeking alternate locations for upcoming retreats, all of which are now cancelled owing to the fire, Bullock said. The Cathedral Center retreat center in Los Angeles is available to assist this process.
At Santa Barbara's Trinity Church, rector and deanery co-dean Mark Asman is meeting with staff and volunteers to assess the situation and crisis response. Further information will be reported through the Episcopal News email list as soon as it becomes available, Asman said.

Asman said Trinity Church's rectory and parish house were able to accommodate the brothers overnight November 13. St. Mary's Retreat House, an Episcopal Church site near the Santa Barbara Mission, has also extended hospitality, although it was subject to a temporary evacuation November 13.

Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the fire zone a disaster area as fire fighters continue to work to contain the blaze.Mount Calvary Retreat House, with its panoramic ocean views, was founded in 1947 by the Order of the Holy Cross, based in West Park, N.Y.

--Report filed by Bob Williams, canon for community relations, Diocese of Los Angeles.

Weekly Witness For November 14th

The Weekly Witness will be brief today since a long one was posted last Monday.

A National Day Of Protest

On Election Day, voters in 4 states [Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Florida] approved discriminatory measures. Thousands of LGBT people and straight allies across the nation--including many Integrity members--are participating in a coordinated series of protest events on Saturday, November 15th. Click here to find the one closest to you!

"I encourage Integrity members to show up and speak up and talk about how to put our righteous indignation into constructive change," said Integrity President Susan Russell when asked about the events. "I'm speaking at Pasadena City Hall and the Diocese of Los Angeles will have a presence at the L.A City Hall."

Other News You May Have Missed

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Witness For November 10th

Integrity Board Meets; Agrees To Reorganize

Integrity USA's board of directors held its semi-annual meeting in Las Vegas from Thursday thru Saturday last week. The top issue on the agenda was whether and how to restructure the organization for greater effectiveness during the next triennium and beyond. Thanks to the facilitation skills of the Rev. David Norgard, Integrity's development consultant, the board reached consensus on a new leadership model that decreases the size of the national board and increases participation from constituents at the the local level.

Here are the key changes of this new model...
  • A paid Executive Director--rather than the volunteer President--will be the chief leader and public spokesperson for Integrity. The Executive Director will be appointed by the board and sit as an ex officio member of it. The Executive Director will supervise other staff.
  • The President will chair the board and ensure that staff have the support they need to do their work.
  • The Secretary will function as the Director of Communications.
  • There will be a Vice President for National Affairs, who will be responsible for overseeing Integrity's programming, development, and administrative work at the national level.
  • There will be a Vice President for Local Affairs, who will be responsible for overseeing Integrity's work at the provincial, diocesan, and congregational levels. This officer will act as mentor to the provincial coordinators described below.
  • The current regional vice presidents will become provincial coordinators . Their primary role will be serve as field organizers—providing encouragement and technical assistance to the members, parish partners, congregational circles, diocesan network coordinators, and chapters of their region—with the aim of starting new work and strengthening existing work. The provincial coordinators will be elected by the members of their region but will not serve on the board.
  • A Stakeholders Council will be formed composed of chapter conveners, diocesan network coordinators, congregational circle moderators, parish partner representatives, lifetime members, provincial coordinators, past presidents, members of the board, allied organization representatives, and the executive director. The members of the Stakeholders Council will elect a Chairperson, who will serve as a member of the board. The Stakeholders Council will meet at least once per year.

In order to implement this new model, the board approved a number of bylaws changes--which the membership will be asked to ratify during December and January.

Come, Labor On: The Movie

A highlight of the board meeting in Las Vegas was a Holy Eucharist for Human Rights at Christ Episcopal Church. Susan Russell, President of Integrity, preached on Proposition 8. Buck Belmore, rector of the parish, presided. Special music was provided by a jazz ensemble. Dinner followed.

The text of Susan's sermon was posted earlier. Below is a video of her sermon.

General Convention Logo & Theme Unveiled

While in the Las Vegas, the board selected a logo and a theme for Integrity's witness at General Convention 2009 in Anaheim. The seven rainbow-colored circles in the logo represent the seven sacraments. The theme restates Integrity's core message that all baptized members of the Episcopal Church are entitled to equal access to all of its sacraments--including ordination and marriage.

You can order button, shirts, and other merchandise online with this logo via Integrity's CafePress store. We encourage you to use these products at your diocese convention and local pride events.

Groundspring Donor Management Suite Up And Running

Integrity's new online, integrated constituent management system is now operational. It has three components that work together. Here's an example...
  1. A member visit Integrity's DonateNow page and makes a secure, online donation [for dues or special projects] with a major credit card. This component is hosted by Network For Good in partnership with Groundspring.
  2. The member's contact and donation information is updated in a secure, online database. This component is hosted by Salesforce.
  3. Integrity staff send a thank-you message to the member via e-mail. Staff and offers will also send other e-mail messages to the the member periodically--including renewal notices. This component is hosted by Vertical Response.

If you provided your email address to Integrity when you joined or renewed, watch for a message in the near future. Please make sure that "" is listed as a safe sender in your junk mail filter!

Office Closed

Integrity's headquarters in Rochester, New York, was closed late last week for the board meeting and will remain closed thru Veteran's Day. It will open again on Wednesday, November 12th.

Diocese of Niagara bishop calls for rite for same-sex blessing

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

Marites N. Sison staff writer
Nov 6, 2008

The bishop of the diocese of Niagara, Michael Bird, on Nov. 6 said he
intends to follow in the footsteps of two other bishops in the Anglican
Church of Canada who have informed their synods about their intention to
develop a rite that would allow the blessing of same-gender couples who have
been civilly married.

"As is the case with our brother and sister Anglicans in the dioceses of
Montreal and Ottawa, I believe we are among those who have been called by
God to speak with a prophetic voice on this subject," Bishop Bird said in a
letter issued on the eve of the diocesan synod scheduled Nov. 7 to 8 in
Hamilton, Ont.

"I, therefore, intend to ask for a rite to be developed for the blessing of
same-sex couples who have been civilly married, along with a process to
enable these blessings to take place that will at the same time honour the
diversity of tradition and theology that exists across Niagara," he said.

Bishop Bird said it is his hope that the process will "move ahead as
expeditiously as possible and that I will be in a position to report back to
the diocese within the next few months." He assured, however, that all
clergy and all parishes would be "fully free to follow their own conscience
on this matter, as and when we are able to move forward."

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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Come, labor on!

Sermon preached at Christ Church, Las Vegas on Friday, November 7, 2008 by Integrity President Susan Russell:

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. On election night, I stood on a stage in Hollywood in a standing room only theater and watched our president-elect give his acceptance speech – joining hundreds of jubilant leaders of our community as tears of pride, excitement and amazement flowed at how far we have come as a nation in our journey toward liberty and justice for all.

And a few hours later, I stood with many of those same leaders while other tears flowed – the tears of alienation and marginalization as the ballot count continued and it became clear that the forces seeking to disenfranchise same sex couples from equal protection in the State of California would pass their proposition designed to end same sex marriage in California.

What I want to say tonight is that Proposition 8 may have passed but it will not prevail.

And I want to share with you a little of what it has been like for some of us in California over the last few months.

It is always a deep joy and amazing privilege to be invited into the profound intimacy of two beloveds making their love tangible in vows professed and rings exchanged in the sight of God and of the community gathered. And for the 140 days between June 17th and November 4th at All Saints Church in Pasadena, as 43 couples invited us into that holy space with them, their joy was often accompanied by a sense of urgency.

And that urgency included a pinch of anxiety labeled “Proposition 8” -- giving the traditional words from the marriage vows, “Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder” new power and poignancy.

And after Proposition 8, those whom God has joined together remain joined together – in the sight of God and of All Saints Church – as we redouble our efforts to fight for the dignity of every human being and to speak for liberty and justice for all. And while I am confident we will succeed in the end, I am haunted today by a voice mail I received the day after the election from someone named Jason.

“We were getting married next month,” he said voice full of pain, “And now I feel like I want to die. My life has been stolen from me and I just don’t understand it.” My only answer was to stand with Jason in his pain the way we stood with Mel and Gary – and Bear and Susan, and Joe and Joey, Harry and Mike, and all the others in their joy. The witness to God’s love made tangible in these marriages and in this struggle is nothing other grace in action, as we continue to work with God to turn this human race into the human family it was meant to be.

And we are the ones who will make it happen. We – those of us gathered at Christ Church tonight and those of us committed to the gospel agenda of the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments all over this great church of ours – we have been called in this time and in this place what prophets always do – to claim the high calling of comforting the afflicted – and afflicting the comfortable.

You may not feel like a prophet. I know I don’t. And you may have as many excuses as Amos – prophets always do. In the OT reading we hear “Hey, God – not me! I’m just a vinedresser a herdsman … my dad wasn't even a prophet and I’m no prophet ... you've got the wrong guy!”

And yet Amos did as he was charged by the God who knew him better than he knew himself and became the prophet whose legacy offers us what are arguably among the most stirring of the clarion calls to justice in our scriptural legacy: “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

And then there are these words from the modern day prophet, Abraham Heschel – words which I find particularly appropriate for tonight as we gather in the aftermath of an election that held both tremendous promise and great pain: for Heschel famously said: “Patience, a quality of holiness may be sloth in the soul when associated with the lack of righteous indignation.”

As we celebrate the historic election on Tuesday we need to celebrate both the patience and perseverance of generations of justice doers who have brought us thus far on the way toward liberty and justice for all. And then we need to put our righteous indignation to work on how far we have yet to go.
Come, labor on.
Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain,
while all around us waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
"Go work today."

This work we are about is nothing less than the building of that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather as God’s beloved people – every time we receive the bread and wine made holy and pray to be sent out to do the work we have been given to do – every time we take up our cross and go out into the world as bearers of the Good News of a God who loved us enough to become one of us … and called us to love our neighbors in exactly the same way.

And you don’t love your neighbors by spending millions of dollars on a fear based ad campaign in order to take away their right to marry by writing discrimination into the constitution intended to protect the rights of all citizens. The New York Times got it right when it said in its lead editorial on Thursday, “the immediate impact of Tuesday’s rights-shredding exercise is to underscore the danger of allowing the ballot box to be used to take away people’s fundamental rights.”

And yet, in the election of Barack Obama, there is a bright light of hope that once thought impossible obstacles to fairness, equality and respect for the dignity of every human being can be overcome. We are not done with racism in this country by a long shot – and yet we rejoice today as we prepare for a January 20th inauguration many of us could never have dreamed we’d see in our lifetime.

Let us tonight commit to claim the light of that hope in our own struggles against the marginalization, discrimination and demonization of LGBT people – and let us remember that we go out to do that work empowered by the one who promised us:

“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

And it has NEVER been more important for us to bear that light we have been given by virtue of our baptism out into the world as we take our ministries as the Body of Christ in the world. For the sad reality we face tonight as people of faith is that it was other people of faith who fueled the fire behind Proposition 8 in California – and behind the initiatives in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas as well.

And our voices are the ones needed to speak out, to step up and to offer our alternative message of hope, love, inclusion and acceptance. Not my voice, as President of Integrity. Not “their” voices as members of our Integrity Board. But your voices … ALL of your voices – at the local grassroots level and in the national church legislative level. It’s not an either/or – it’s not “the local” vs. “the national” – it’s all of us together moving the church forward toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.

I want to close tonight with a personal testimony to how I’ve seen that happen.

Truth be told, and hard as it might be to believe, I myself wasn't at all convinced women's ordination was such a great idea. At least I wasn't in 1976 when it was approved by General Convention.
Now don't get me wrong -- I was appropriately "liberal" about the concept. I mean, I was all for the ERA and women's rights and everything. But when it came to me, personally -- well, I wanted a "real priest" -- and what that looked like to me was a "Father" – because that was the only image I had for priesthood. So when in 1988 I was invited to attend a women’s retreat weekend, I went aware that there was going to be a woman priest on the staff -- and I went rather condescendingly "open to the experience:" a perfect set up for the Holy Spirit.

On the opening night of the three day retreat, as I sat in the silence of the candlelit chapel after the priest gave the opening meditation, I realized that it was the first time I had ever been sorry that a preacher had stopped preaching and sat down. As I walked back to the dorm room following the service it was already clear to me that I was going to have to re-evaluate my whole position on this issue. And by 1993 I was in seminary.

The 1976 General Convention vote on women’s ordination didn’t change my mind or touch my heart. She did. But her ministry would not have been able to if the vote hadn’t happened. And I think today of the hundreds of women whose gifts and graces have enlivened our worship, inspired our spirits, challenged our intellect, pastored our people in the years since 1976. I try to imagine this church without them. I not only “can’t" -- I don’t want to.

And I can say the same about scores of gay and lesbian people -- lay and ordained: living lives of faithful service, committed to God and to each other, touching hearts, changing minds, living the Gospel. I believe that it is their witness and example – YOUR witness and example – are what the Holy Spirit will use to change not only hearts and minds but VOTES in the General Conventions AND the General Elections yet to come!
So …

Come, labor on.
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
by feeblest agents may our God fulfill
God’s righteous will.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pastoral Letter from All Saints Church Rector Ed Bacon

On Tuesday, our nation and world experienced a momentous and decisive shift away from the politics of fear and domination toward a new day of cooperation, interdependence and hope. During our liturgies Sunday, we will joyfully mark the beginning of a new day for this nation and the world, reflecting on the tasks at hand for us at All Saints, a community whose mission is to make love tangible and to help turn the human race into the human family.

While we have a renewed sense of hope and resolve, we at All Saints are also deeply disturbed, angered, saddened and embarrassed by the passing of Proposition 8, an attempt to revise our State’s Constitution to be a document of discrimination against an entire class of citizens. How immoral to use the State Constitution to deprive some citizens of their human rights instead of guaranteeing human rights for all! The proponents of Proposition 8 seem to be callously unaware of the abusive impact on lesbian and gay citizens and their allies when California votes to give rights to poultry and take them away from human beings.

What is particularly shameful about Proposition 8’s victory Tuesday is that so many religious people promoted it using a distorted interpretation of Scripture. Jesus himself reversed many Biblical guidelines when they were not aligned with the central admonition of Scripture to love your neighbor as yourself. Not everything in the Bible is Godly, moral, or Constitutional (Jacob’s defining marriage as between one man and two women Genesis 29: 17-28; stoning rebellious children Deuteronomy 21: 18-21; killing those who work on the Sabbath -- Exodus 31: 14-15; eating shellfish seen as an abomination Lev. 11:10). The separation of Church and State prevents religious oppression as well as writing the Bible into the Constitution particularly discriminatory interpretations of Scripture.

So what will we do at All Saints? We will be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, help the afflicted, and honor all persons. We will continue to work passionately and tirelessly for equality, freedom, and justice for all. We will continue to bless same-gender unions until we can once again legally celebrate same-gender weddings. We will fight to make sure that although in this election Proposition 8 passed, it will not succeed.

President-elect Obama on Tuesday night spoke words resonant of Dr. King’s. He reminded us encouragingly of what can be achieved when people who are not cynical, fearful, and doubtful put “their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.” That characterizes the DNA of All Saints people. Come to church Sunday where we will recommit ourselves to doing our part to help the long arc of the universe continue to bend toward justice.

Yours in Love,
The Reverend J. Edwin Bacon, Rector
All Saints Church, Pasadena