Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

by Max Niedzwiecki
Executive Director of Integrity USA

I have a strategy for New Year’s resolutions: I make between six and eight of them, with at least two hard ones and two easy ones, and I tell other people about them.  If there are too many or if I keep them to myself, I’m likely to forget some.  Including easier items helps me to stay encouraged.  Often I repeat the difficult resolutions year after year, until I’ve achieved them.  It took me six years to quit smoking.

My 2010 resolutions were:

Find ways to contribute more to The Episcopal Church in a way that feels “right:” Bingo!  Since starting at Integrity USA in August I have felt a wonderful unity between my spiritual, work, and personal lives.

Read the Bible cover to cover, without even skipping over the genealogies: I grew up Roman Catholic and attended a Jesuit school, but actually knew very little of the Good Book other than the passages that are repeated in services.  The books of Esther and Ecclesiastes blew me away.  Seeing each element of the Bible in the larger context has opened my eyes tremendously.  As Bishop Christopher Senyonjo said on a recent visit to the U.S., reading the Bible nourishes you in ways you don’t understand, just as the food you eat nourishes you.

Don’t stress out over the house renovations: I had good days and bad days with this one.  Early in the year we moved into a century-old house that had been mistreated for decades.  Thankfully, my partner Albert and I found contractors who were honest, skilled, and very patient.

Exercise at least three times a week: On most days, I at least get out for some fresh air.

Enjoy Mardi Gras: Here in New Orleans, Mardi Gras isn’t just a day–it’s the last day of Carnival season, which lasts more than a month.  The key to enjoying the season is pacing yourself.  If you try to do everything, you will collapse during the first week.  I’ve learned that moderation is something you have to be intentional about in my new home town.

Here are my 2011 resolutions:

Find ways to contribute more to The Episcopal Church: This year I will do more to BELIEVE OUT LOUD.  It seems that the work of a gay man (or a lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person) is never over when it comes to the hard work of being open about our lives in a loving way.  This year, I’m going to focus more on opening myself to people who are uncomfortable with LGBT people, or unsure about how we should fit into The Episcopal Church.

Read the Bible cover to cover, without even skipping over the genealogies: Yes, I’m going to do it again.  There’s too much in there for me to take in on the first go-through.  I’ll stick with the New Revised Standard Version.

Exercise at least three times a week: I live next to a park and my gym is less than a mile away.  I’m running out of excuses.

Listen to more new music: I will always love Miles Davis, Astrud Gilberto, Beck, Astral Project, Aretha Franklin, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  But I know there’s more out there.  Suggestions, anyone?

What were your 2010 New Year’s resolutions and how did you do on them?  What are your resolutions for 2011?  Visit and share them as a comment to this post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Message from David Norgard, President of Integrity USA

President’s Christmas Message to Members, Partners & Friends

21 December 2010

Dear Members, Church Partners, and Friends:

As both the Christmas festival and the New Year draw near, I extend cordial greetings to you from all my colleagues on the Board of Directors. Among the blessings that we count for ourselves at this time of year is the privilege of serving this organization – an organization that has for nearly forty years now signaled the advent of justice for LGBT people in both church and society.

The year now ending has been extraordinary. Just last spring, we witnessed the consecration of the Episcopal Church’s first partnered lesbian bishop (as a Suffragan for Los Angeles). Just last week, we received news from Washington of the repeal of the ignominious policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There have been defeats too, to be sure. Yet this is a season of celebration and for these two glorious occasions – as well as countless other less visible steps on the journey toward justice – we have reason to rejoice.

The year ahead also holds promise. Integrity will enter 2011 with a new Executive Director, new allies, new Provincial Coordinators, new Diocesan Organizers, new church partners, new members, new allies. Far and wide, people are recognizing that we can all accomplish much more together than we can separately. From Minnesota to Louisiana, from San Diego to New York, I see people of good will stepping forward to offer their talents and support, to collaborate with one another, and to answer the call to leadership. It is not only a declaration of faith but just as much a statement of fact to say that a light shines forth…and we have reason to hope.

Thanks to each of you for whatever step you have taken in the past year to let the light shine forth. Some of you brought back to your parishes and dioceses the connections and learning you gained at Believe Out Loud workshops. Others of you participated in one of many events held in honor and support of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda. In the name of Integrity and with integrity, you have witnessed at diocesan conventions, in state capitols, on city streets, and in church chancels to the abiding love of God. Indeed, you have incarnated that love.

So, in the hope of letting the light shine still more widely and brightly, I am bold to ask one thing more – no, two. First, let’s stay together. Renew your own membership or your church’s partnership. Secondly and just as importantly, invite a friend or family member or fellow parishioner to join as well. (It is as easy as going to This support and participation is a gift to all those who don’t yet see reason to hope or to rejoice. That is the strange thing about the light that emanates by sharing the love of God. By sharing it, it does not diminish; rather, it magnifies.

Merry Christmas!

The Rev. David Norgard


Click here to make a donation to Integrity USA.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Repealed: Honesty Triumphs Over Homophobia

Integrity USA celebrates the end of Don'T Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) today. In the words of Senator Joe Lieberman:"Removing a legalized form of discrimination from our books is not a liberal or a conservative idea, a Republican or Democratic idea -- it's an American idea consistent with American values. We've come to the point in our history, I hope when neither race nor religion, ethnicity nor sexual orientation should deprive Americans from serving our country."

"We applaud our congress for bringing an end to the institutionalized discrimination against gay and lesbian service members," said Max Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Integrity USA. "Integrity USA has opposed this policy since its inception in 1993. As people of faith, respecting the dignity of every human being is at the core of our values and there is no asterisk that says *unless a person is gay."

"Today is a great day for America and a triumph of honesty over homophobia," said Canon Randolph Kimmler, a former Integrity Board member and Coast Guard veteran. "There have always been gays in the military. It has been a shameful thing that close to 14000 military careers were halted due to DADT's discriminatory policy. These are people who really want to serve and protect our country. These are qualified people who brings the skills and gifts of who they are to the service of our country. When we sign up to serve and protect our country, we bring the values of  loyalty, duty, mutual respect, integrity, honor and personal courage with us. These are common values all service persons share. We are not a distraction, we are a valuable asset and the time is long overdue to recognize that."

The Rev. David Norgard, President of Integrity USA said, "We give thanks to all those who worked so hard and so long to defeat DADT. Americans from all walks of life spoke out, rallied, wrote letters, preached from pulpits, and protested against DADT. We finally won this battle but the war against homophobia continues and we stand ready to challenge it wherever and whenever necessary."

"Our prayers today also extend to one exceptionally brave soldier, Lt. Dan Choi, who was among the first to put a face on those discriminated against in the military, He was recently hospitalized for exhaustion. We wish him a speedy recovery and deep gratitude for his great work."

Integrity USA has advocated for inclusion within the Episcopal Church for over 35 years. To support us in this work, donate here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DADT Repealed in House: One Down One to Go.

Integrity USA applauds the House of Representatives for the passage today of legislation which will repeal the discriminatory Don'T Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military. The fate of the bill now rests in the US Senate.

Integrity's Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki and Board Member Susan McCann spoke out last week about why it's long overdue for DADT to go:

" As most American service members have said, as military leaders have said, and as our President, the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, has said, there is no reason to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation, said Max Niedzwiecki. "Yet, once again, homophobia trumps inclusion. A recent pentagon survey showed that a majority of those who serve in the military are in favor of eliminating DADT. The U.S. Senate has a lot to learn from our troops. In a country that values liberty and justice for all, there is no justification for such blatant discrimination in our military or in our country”.

The Rev. Susan McCann, an Integrity Board Member, a straight ally, and the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty, Missouri said, “The basis behind this discrimination comes largely from the religious community. And the antidote to the religious right is the truth, which will set us free. And the truth is that we must respect the dignity of every human being. The truth is that no chaplain will be forced to minister to a gay in the military if he or she doesn’t want to do so.

We urge all Integrity members to call their Senator today and urge them to repeal DADT.

To call your US Sanator: hone the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Advent Message: "Singing Songs of Expectation"

by Susan Russell

While not officially an Advent hymn, "Singing Songs of Expectation" is on my list of Top Ten Hymns to Hum Through Advent.

It's not just the lilting melody I like -- it's the sense of hope and expectation of good things ahead even as we slog through the work that needs to be done to arrive at last at the realized hope of love incarnate in the Christmas miracle.

And in some ways it feels to me this year as if Advent might be more than just the season leading up to Christmas.

It feels to me that our whole church ... this Episcopal Church ... has been on kind of an Advent journey over these last few decades as we've been been singing songs of expectation toward the not-yet-fully-realized hope of a church where all the baptized are finally fully included in all the sacraments.

We're not there yet. Nobody who reads this blog or follows the church news or participates in the challenge and opportunity to "Believe Out Loud" doesn't know that. There's still a lot of important work to be done.

And some of that work is being done in response to the resolution passed at our last General Convention -- C056 -- calling for "an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships." I am honored to be co-chairing one of the task forces implementing that resolution and we are working very hard to make that "open process" part not just a resolution but a reality.

Toward that end, we issued a survey inviting members of The Episcopal Church to inform us about resources that are or have already been used in a congregational discernment process to welcome same-gender blessings and to prepare couples for a Christian life together and for a blessing ceremony.

We received over 900 responses to the survey. The deadline for responding is approaching -- St. Thomas Day 2010 (December 21) – so we are sending out "on last ask" this week to take that few minutes and click here to give us the feedback that will help us inform the work we will do toward General Convention 2012.

Finally, we have not yet received responses from the following dioceses:

Colombia; Easton; Ecuador - Central; Ecuador - Litoral; Haiti; Honduras; Long Island; Navajoland; Nevada; North Dakota; Northwest Texas; Taiwan; Venezuela; Virgin Islands; West Virginia; Western Kansas; Western Louisiana.
So if you have friends or colleagues in any of these dioceses, please encourage them to submit their response. The survey is also available in Spanish here ... or "aqui."

Implementing C056 is not our destination -- the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is. But it's an important step along the way ... it's a "song of expectation" we are singing toward that final goal ... and it's work I hope you will keep in your prayers as we journey together forward into God's future.

God bless -- thank you -- and HAPPY ADVENT!!

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell is a past president of Integrity, the Chair of the Program Group on LGBT Ministry in the Diocese of Los Angeles and a Co-Chair of the SCLM Task Force on Pastoral Care & Teaching Resources.

Have you registered for Practice Spirit Do Justice during Creating Change?

Practice Spirit, Do Justice @ Creating Change 2011
February 2-6, 2011 in Minneapolis, MN

Gathering the Queer and Allied Multi-Faith Movement for
Praying, Planning and Practicing Justice!

To register:
This first-ever multi-faith gathering of pro-LGBT activists convenes people of faith, LGBT activists, clergy, spiritual practitioners, those who value the body-mind-spirit connection as important and those who seek to bridge the secular/faith divide in our movement.  We will worship and pray and practice; we will do big-picture framing and dreaming; we will build our organization’s capacities; we will learn mass mobilization strategies and we will learn concrete skills. Come and bring your whole body, identity and self to this exciting gathering!

Opening Plenary Speakers Thursday Feb. 3 Practice Spirit, Do Justice:
Hard Work for Our Common Good
  • Bishop Yvette Flunder, Founder, City of Refuge Community Church UCC
  • Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Church
Special Academy/Training Sessions:
  • Intentional Leadership and Followership—Building a Base for Breakthrough Social Change
  • Walking Our Talk—Applying a Racial Justice Lens in Our Organizations
  • Building Faith-Based Partnerships:  Global Justice or Queer Colonialism
  • Mercy + Justice = Winning LGBT Political Campaigns
Workshops include:
  • Fighting Islamophobia and Homophobia: building solidarity in oppressed communities
  • Ask for Money Face-to-Face…Have Faith!
  • Spirit and Desire: Framing a discussion about our spiritual and erotic lives
  • Mobilizing Pro-Equality Catholics on LGBT Issues
  • And many, many more!
To register visit and please be sure to mark that you are attending Practice Spirit, Do Justice! For more information, contact

The Digital Story of the Nativity

Thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton for sending this's a whole new way to evangelize!

Friday, December 10, 2010

“God hates fags” and “Thank you for dead soldiers” – What comes next

A Reflection from Max Niedzwiecki

Ryan Newell was arrested on December 2nd when he was accused of stalking members of a church armed with an M4 rifle, a .45-caliber Glock pistol and a .38 Smith and Wesson pistol.  He was released from jail yesterday to await trial on December 16th.

Why have people from all over the country voiced support for Ryan?  He lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan while serving in the Army.  And he was stalking members of the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for traveling long distances just to hold up signs at military funerals saying “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” (and is currently threatening to protest at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards). According to Westboro, God punishes America because America doesn’t punish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people harshly enough.

Again we see people who call themselves Christians defying God’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Pat Robertson of the 700 Club claimed that gays and other people he doesn’t like were responsible for the September 11th attacks and other disasters.  And yet, according to his website, the 700 Club can still be seen in 96% of American homes, is carried on the ABC Family Network and many other mainstream stations, has been aired in more than 100 languages in 200 countries, and is accessible to more than 1.5 billion people around the world.

Mr. Robertson isn’t alone.  U.S.-based radical fundamentalists have spread their message of hate around the world.  They are largely responsible for the “hang the gays” Bahati Bill that Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and his colleagues have fought so bravely to defeat in Uganda.

 There is no denying that, despite the incredible strides made by the Episcopal Church and some others recently, we are surrounded by people who call themselves Christians and yet ignore Christ’s commandment to put love before all else.  The hate-mongers might be in a minority, but only the most radical of them – like the Westboro Baptist Church people – are outside of the mainstream of American life.

My heart breaks for Ryan Newell.  I have not experienced the kind of traumatic injury he has, but like many people who have been discriminated against I have felt bewildered, humiliated and angry, and I have struggled to figure out what I should do with those feelings.

I just had the privilege to spend a few days with Bishop Christopher during his visit to New Orleans, and I asked him how we as Christians should react when we are discriminated against.  His answer: People will react differently – some with anger, some with shame or fear, others in different ways.  You need to see your feelings for what they are, and not try to pretend they are not there.  You need to read the Bible, because it nourishes you in ways you do not understand, just as the food you eat nourishes you.  You need to share your heart with others.  And you need to always remember the commandment to put love before everything else.

When we say that “God is love,” we sometimes get a rosy glow.  “Love” sounds so simple and sweet.  In real life, though, loving God and our neighbors as we must is often the most difficult and complicated thing.  In fact, without God’s grace it is impossible. 

Max Niedzwiecki is Executive Director of Integrity USA

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Integrity USA calls on President Obama to end DADT.

Integrity USA is deeply disappointed the US Senate's procedural vote which killed a defense bill that would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We now call upon our President to take action to end this appalling policy.

“We lost by just three votes and this is a dark day for America,” said Max Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Integrity USA.. As most American service members have said, as military leaders have said, and as our President, the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, has said, there is no reason to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

"Yet, once again, homophobia trumps inclusion. A recent pentagon survey showed that a majority of those who serve in the military are in favor of eliminating DADT. The U.S. Senate has a lot to learn from our troops. In a country that values liberty and justice for all, there is no justification for such blatant discrimination in our military or in our country”.

The Rev. Susan McCann, an Integrity Board Member, a straight ally, and the rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty, Missouri said, “The basis behind this discrimination comes largely from the religious community. And the antidote to the religious right is the truth, which will set us free. And the truth is that we must respect the dignity of every human being. The truth is that no chaplain will be forced to minister to a gay in the military if he or she doesn’t want to do so.

McCann continued, “President Obama has said there is no compelling reason to maintain the DADT policy. It is now up to him to end DADT. I call on all Integrity members and their supporters, my fellow clergy and faith leaders and all those who believe that discrimination is wrong, to call or write the President Obama today and implore him to do the right thing. Please take action today.”

To write the President:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20500

Or, call the main White House switchboard:

Or the White House comment line:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bishop Christopher back in US to build a broader base of support for his life-saving work

An Update on Bishop Christopher

Integrity USA welcomes Bishop Christopher Senyonjo back to the United States to raise support and funds for his work at St. Paul's Center for Reconciliation and Equality in Kampala, Uganda. He will visit San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC.

“Integrity USA has had a long history of support for our allies in Uganda," said Integrity Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki. “Bishop Senyonjo has taken a brave public stand against laws to criminalize homosexuality, and the support he gives to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are truly life-saving. He gives witness to Christ’s commandment to put love before all else.

“Integrity USA and our donors have been the major source of financial support for Bishop Christopher’s work and now he hopes to broaden that base. The Bishop will seek funding from a wide variety of organizations that have broad human rights missions. Integrity USA will help with those connections whenever we can. We look forward to a long and productive relationship with a man who has become a hero to us all."

"I am so grateful for the support and donations I have received from Integrity USA over the years," said Bishop Christopher. "Your generosity has made it possible for me to develop internal systems to directly receive larger grants from government and private organizations. I am looking forward to developing new relationships throughout the US, while continuing to work with Integrity, the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion for our mutual goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized."

Bishop Christopher will meet with representatives of several foundations, the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies, and several large nongovernmental organizations that promote human rights. He will also preach at a number of churches.

 To learn more and follow the Bishop’s schedule, visit his Facebook page.

Here is an archive of articles on Bishop Chritopher, his work, his mission and his journey from our blog, Walking With Integrity.

• Uganda: Court issues an interim order restraining the “Rolling Stone”

• Bishop Christopher, under threat, returns to the USA

• A note from Kampala

• Bishop Christopher responds to California bill

• California Legislature supports Bishop Christopher

• A summer of reflection: Secular leader hails Bishop Christopher

• A summer of reflection: Bishop Christopher’s visit to SF

• Summer pilgrimage part two: Bishop Christopher’s groundbreaking tour of the US continues

• A summer pilgrimage: Reflections on Bishop Christopher’s groundbreaking visit

• Integrity responds to erroneous story from Uganda

• A summer pilgrimage

• Bishop Christopher in NYC

• Bishop Christopher at St. Luke in the Fields, New York

• The global fight for LGBT rights: A conversation between Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda

• Bishop Senyonjo to visit White House

• Bishop Christopher visits LGBT center in San Francisco

• ENS reports on Integrity’s Bishop Christopher tour

• Integrity sponsored tour with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo continues in San Diego

• First leg of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo’s speaking tour a big success

• Integrity USA sponsors Ugandan bishop’s tour to USA

• Urgent call to action: Join the campaign to stop exporting homophobia

• Integrity USA to bring Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda to US and Ireland for six-week speaking tour on homophobia

• Time Magazine: Being Gay in Uganda: One Couple’s Story

• Our obligation to LGBT Ugandans

• Bishop Christopher reports from Uganda

• Uganda LGBT Valentine’s Day Conference report

• Archbishop Luke Orombi of Uganda’s first comments on anti-homosexuality bill

• To Integrity members from the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

• Church of Uganda recommends amending anti-homosexuality bill

• The Ugandan Frankenstein we have helped to create

• Archbishop of York condemns Ugandan anti-gay bill

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Presiding Bishop: "Pray for a world without AIDS"

A World AIDS Day Letter
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

On the first day of December, people around the world pause to remember World AIDS Day. Christians remember all who live with HIV and AIDS, and all who have died, at the same time we begin the season of Advent. We search for a healer and a hope-giver as we prepare for the coming of the Redeemer. One of the traditional prophetic readings for the season says:

While gentle silence enveloped all things,

and night in its swift course was now half gone,

[God's] all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne,

into the midst of the land that was doomed. [Wisdom 18:14-15, NRSV]

The magnificent contrasts of this ancient vision – silence pierced by the Word, doom cast out by new life – seem a fitting frame for reflecting on the challenges and opportunities confronting us on World AIDS Day 2010.

The world lives in painful silence and gathering doom. More than 30 million people around the world are living with HIV, and at least 2.5 million persons will be infected in the coming year. Developing countries experience HIV and AIDS as major links in the chain of poverty and instability binding so much of God's creation. In the United States HIV rates are also rising among the poor. An increased need for American funding of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment has been met with silence and retreat, as other pressing challenges vie for national and global attention.

And yet silence and doom do not have the last word. The UNAIDS report released last week notes that the rate of new HIV infections has either stabilized or been reduced significantly in 56 nations. New infections have fallen 20% in the past decade, and AIDS deaths have fallen 20% in the past five years. The director of UNAIDS urges the world to break "the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold actions and smart choices." The Centers for Disease Control identify HIV/AIDS as one of six diseases which can be overcome. Research results released last week show promising results in clinical trials of a new prophylactic drug, designed to prevent HIV infection in at-risk communities. This success comes in the wake of recently publicized advances in identifying HIV 'controller genes,' which may lead to advances in vaccines or treatment.

This contrast confronts us on World AIDS Day: great progress and even greater hope despite public discourse and political leadership that rarely prioritizes an end to this deadly and stigmatizing disease. What can Christians do to ensure the victory of hope and new life in the face of silence and death?

The first priority: continue to advocate forcefully for government investment in the fight against AIDS both here and abroad. The U.S. government's has, in the past two years, decreased our nation's promised investment in HIV/AIDS abroad. This reduction had included both funding for particular countries, and our investment in the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote compellingly of President Obama's unfulfilled commitments in a New York Times op-ed this past summer. As the President prepares his budget for the coming fiscal year, I urge Episcopalians to challenge him and the new Congress to keep America's promises to the world. Joining the Episcopal Public Policy Network will connect your voice to those of other Episcopalians working in this and other areas of social justice.

The second priority: Episcopalians must continue to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS within our own communities. This Church still has AIDS, and urgent challenges remain. Stigma continues to be a major issue in the United States and around the world. Encouraging routine testing is essential, particularly among adults over age 50. I commend to all Episcopalians the work of the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, which has done much to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and avenues of healing within our own communities.

Finally, I urge your prayers. As we prepare to mark the thirtieth year of the world's awareness of HIV and AIDS in 2011, pray for all who have died from this terrible disease. Pray for those living now with HIV and AIDS. And pray for a future without AIDS.

These past weeks have brought us new signs that such a future is indeed possible. Pray that we will use our collective resources, imagination, and will to make a world without AIDS a reality.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Integrity USA Supports Obama's Call to End DADT

Integrity USA applauds President Obama's call today for the US Senate  to follow the House of Representatives' lead and vote for a repeal of the DADT law. Here is what President Obama said:

As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.

Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.

With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.

And we take heart in the study released by the Pentagon today which found that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would do little harm overall to the country's armed forces.

Specifically, the study found that : 70 percent of troops surveyed believed that repealing the law would have mixed, positive or no effect, while 30 percent predicted negative consequences. Opposition was strongest among combat troops, with at least 40 percent saying it was a bad idea. That number climbs to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles.

The study also draws a strong correlation between troops who have worked with a gay service member and those who support repeal.

Those of us in the LGBT community know that telling our stories and being open about who we are changes hearts and minds. We agree with President Obama that there is no credible reason to delay ending DADT. There is also no doubt that the military and the nation is ready, if not long overdue, for change.Contact your Senators and urge them to take action and do away with the discrimination of DADT today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Anglican Covenant - Part 2: What's in it?

This is the second installment of Integrity's four part series on the Anglican Covenant, written by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.

If you missed Part 1: Where Did it Come From? Click here.

What makes Episcopalians “Anglicans”? What makes someone in the Church of Uganda “Anglican”? Anglican is a nebulous term and it’s difficult to define exactly what we mean. You can come up with a historical definition – those churches that grew out of the Church of England - but there are always exceptions, like the Anglican Church of Mexico which chose to become Anglican. You can argue that we all use the same prayer book, except that we don’t. The 1789 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was modeled on the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but it wasn’t the same, and the differences have increased since the liturgical renewal movement of the 1970s. Unlike other Protestants, Anglicans don’t have a separate “confession” of faith which defines what we believe – in keeping with the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, we retain the ancient creeds.

The Anglican Covenant is partly an attempt to specify what makes Anglicans Anglican. This wasn’t an issue until the 1970s with the ordination of women and then the resurgence of evangelical thought within the English and Episcopal churches which coincided and conflicted with the greater inclusion of LBGT people. The loose consensus of what it means to be Anglican fell away gradually, accelerated by the orchestrated response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and then the election of Bishop Katharine.

According to the introduction to the Covenant, “we covenant together as churches of this Anglican Communion to be faithful to God’s promises through the historic faith we confess, our common worship, our participation in God’s mission, and the way we live together. “

Section One describes our inheritance of faith in the format of the so-called Chicago- Lambeth Quadrilateral which was originally adopted by our own HOB in 1886 as the basis for ecumenical talks. It has four parts:

1. The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;

2. The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;

3. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;

4. The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

The proposed Anglican Covenant adds two more points: the shared pattern of liturgy, and participation in apostolic mission. Section One also focuses on continuity with catholic tradition and with the Scriptures in teaching, theology and moral reasoning.

Section Two commits covenanters to common mission, including the Anglican understanding of the five marks of mission which makes “mission” much more than evangelism.

Section Three deals with how the Anglican Communion works together. It affirms a Communion of Churches which co-operate “in communion with autonomy and accountability”. Bishops are important as are the four “Instruments of Communion” – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. The proposed Covenant does not change the current power (or lack of it) that the “Instruments” have, and does not define the relationship between the four, but does say that “Each Instrument may initiate and commend a process of discernment and a direction for the Communion and its Churches.” Presumably the Instruments will play well with each other, as the rest of this section commits covenanting churches to, and “in situations of conflict, to participate in mediated conversations”.

Section Four is the controversial one. How is the Covenant policed? The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (until recently the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates) will act as monitor. If a church steps out of line and does something on which the churches of the communion are not “of a shared mind”, there may be “relational consequences”. Go and stand in the corner.

Coming up next, Part 3: Who Wants It?

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall is priest-in-charge at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California. She is a former Integrity Board Member where her portfolio included international affairs and a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving: Max Niedzwiecki

What do we have to be thankful for?
Max Niedzwiecki ~ November 24, 2010

I love Thanksgiving. Food, family and fun are all great parts, but the most important part of the holiday for me is that it helps me refocus. I have worked as an activist for the past two decades or so – for refugees, immigrants, and now the LGBT community – and my work focuses a lot on the future, what needs to change about the church and the world, especially the call to live into Jesus’ commandment to put love before all else. Those of us who are activists find ourselves constantly “fighting the good fight,” looking forward, not always cued into the present moment. Except during Thanksgiving. That's when I take a deep breath, refocus and give thanks for what just is.

Here’s a short list of what I am thankful for:
• The thousands of Integrity members I have begun to meet, and excitement about what we will achieve together
• Louie Crew, who founded Integrity in 1974 and continues to inspire so many
• Hope and confidence that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s work will bring us a new edition of Enriching Our Worship in 2012, and the blessing of same-sex relationships in every diocese
• Ice cream
• The Grace that makes it possible for us to embrace people who are “different”
• John Clinton Bradley, Integrity’s Administrator
• My friends and family, who love me even when that’s not easy
• My new puppy, Dewey, who woke me up at 4:00 a.m. by kissing my nose
• My home church, St. Anna’s in New Orleans
• My growing bond with the transgender community
• The ministries of Bishops Gene Robinson, Mary Glasspool, and all of the LGBT bishops yet to come
• Straight people who show God’s love to all kinds of people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity
• Integrity’s dedicated board members, Provincial Coordinators, Diocesan Organizers, and other fantastic volunteers
• The fact that you don’t have to be a straight, celibate man to be an Episcopal priest
• Bishop Christopher Senyonjo’s bravery in standing up for the basic rights of all people in Uganda despite great hardships
• The fact that understanding the Bible literally is not an Episcopal tradition
• Meeting the love of my life just over 23 years ago

What are you thankful for this season? Write a comment on this blog or email us and we'll post it for you.

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Anglican Covenant: Where Did It Come From?

Breaking News: The General Synod of the Church of England has voted in favor of continuing the process towards adopting the Anglican Covenant.

Today we start a four part series written by the Reverend Caroline Hall, Integrity's resident expert on the Anglican Communion.

Part 1: Where did it come from?

If you look at the official Anglican Communion website, you’ll read that the Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the 2004 Windsor Report. The Windsor Report was the report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion which was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make recommendations following the “emergency” in the Anglican Communion created by the response to Gene Robinson’s consecration as the first openly gay bishop.

In fact, the concept of an Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the Dallas Statement in 1997. This was the statement from a conference attended by 45 conservative bishops and 4 conservative archbishops from 16 nations to develop an anti-gay strategy for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They outlined what they saw as “a shared and coherent orthodox Anglican framework” and called for discipline as a “necessary corollary of accountability” in keeping to the “bounds of eucharistic fellowship within the Anglican Communion”.

Within a few years this idea had developed momentum and in 2001 Archbishops Maurice Sinclair of the Southern Cone and Drexel Gomez of the West Indies published a small book titled: To Mend the Net. This document outlined a series of steps by which a province considered to be ‘erring’ might be encouraged to repent and return to ‘orthodox’ faith and morals. These started with an initial request not to allow changes considered to be outside the limits of diversity and led on to ‘godly admonition’, then to ‘observer status’ for the non-cooperating diocese or province followed by suspension of communion and finally the establishment of a new province or diocese. To the disappointment of many conservatives, To Mend the Net was not immediately adopted, but neither did it go away. It was considered by the Primates Meeting and, in 2003, the InterAnglican Theology and Doctrine Commission.

In 2004 the Windsor Report called for “a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity; the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes).” (paras 117-120).

As a result a Covenant Design Committee was created in 2006, chaired by none other than Drexel Gomez, one of the authors of To Mend the Net (Sinclair had retired). The first draft of the Anglican Covenant, called the Nassau Draft, was produced very quickly by a largely conservative group. After a process of feedback a second draft was produced in 2008, called the St Andrews Draft. This was discussed at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and led to a third and final draft, the Ridley-Cambridge Draft.

The Anglican Consultative Council which met in May 2009 basically approved it except for Section 4 which had to do with discipline. In a move which was broadly seen as supportive of the Episcopal Church, Section 4 was referred back to the provinces for more discussion. After some revision a final text of the proposed Anglican Covenant was sent to the provinces for adoption (or not).

So the Covenant is the result of a process which began to try to make the Episcopal Church exclude LGBT members. Not surprisingly it still seems to many people to be a big stick clothed in fancy words intended to prevent innovation in response to God’s continuing revelation.

Coming Next: What does it say?

The Reverend Dr. Caroline Hall is priest-in-charge of St. Benedict's Church in Los Osos, California. She is a former member of the Integrity Board of Directors where her portfolio included international affairs. She is a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Anglican Covenant: a tool for the strong to oppress the weak

The Church of England will be voting on the Anglican Covenant at it's Synod this Wednesday, November 24th. Integrity USA joins many other allies in opposing the covenant.

Jim Naughton wrote a great article on the covenant posted on today's Episcopal Cafe in which he summarizes the greatest failing of the covenant................

Perhaps the greatest failing of the covenant, however, is not technical but spiritual. The covenant is blind to evil within the church, and the extent to which the church participates in the evils of the world. Put aside for the moment the fact that at a time when poverty and disease are rampant, the earth is warming at a potentially cataclysmic pace, and war ravages much of the planet, the leaders of our Communion are unwilling to move on until the Americans are brought to heel on the issue of homosexuality. Focus instead on the simple fact that much of the evil in our world exists because it serves the self interest of powerful people and powerful institutions. These are people who can always arrange for a fuss to be made on their behalf—who can always claim that any attempt to rectify the balance of power in this world “tears at the fabric” of whatever community has summoned the fortitude to challenge their dominance. The covenant is a handy tool for maintaining the status quo—for making certain that the meek never come into the inheritance that Jesus promised them. The issue may be homosexuality today, but what is at stake is the ability of churches in the Anglican Communion to challenge injustice when it is in the interest of other churches in the Communion to support it.

Click here to read the entire article

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Light Shining in the Darkness: Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston

Early yesterday evening, as the nearly full moon rose above the Boston Common, my partner, our thirteen-month-old and I headed to dinner with a friend and then wandered around the corner for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Upon arriving at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, I was amazed at how many people were already there, even a half hour before the start of the event. Before the night was over, between 325-350 people would crowd into the space, including the balcony (and I got those numbers from the ultimate source, Jim Woodworth, one of the cathedral’s longtime sextons).

One of my favorite things about TDOR is the way it draws people together—I love touching base with people I haven’t seen in a while, and this year I was struck by the variety of contexts from which I knew people: from the Greater Boston trans community, current and former students, and Episcopalians from the Diocese of Massachusetts. In the latter category was the Reverend Stephanie Spellers, priest and lead organizer of the Crossing, and Penny Larson, drummer for the music team of the Crossing, which for the second year in a row hosted an open mic on Thursday for the local collaborative “Transcriptions.” Penny gave some very moving remarks later in the event, which are reposted below.

Also present at TDOR for the first time this year was my bishop, the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw III. He had just come from a eucharist celebrating the 100th anniversary of the clothing of the sisters of St. Anne-Bethany, and was present to deliver a welcome message.

When the MC for the evening, Mesma Belsare, called Bishop Shaw forward, I have to say my heart was absolutely pounding, and I found myself wondering why. I think it was because of the intense way my worlds were intersecting in that moment. And while TDOR was hosted by my congregation over the last two years, and I myself spoke in the slot that +Tom was now occupying, last night’s intersecting worlds felt more intense to me. This was probably because the event was unfolding in this same space in which I was ordained in 2004 and 2005-- actually, as I write this, I’m realizing that last night I was sitting just about where I sat and then stood during my ordination to the diaconate, which +Tom did. But mainly I think I was nervous because I know that members of the trans community have been hurt very badly by people of faith, and especially by churches—in the name of my God. And I was, I admit, concerned that Bishop Tom not say anything to exacerbate that hurt.

He started out by saying that before he welcomed everyone, he wanted to offer an apology. He wanted to apologize for the way in which Christians in particular have hurt transpeople, how Christians have, as he put it, “misrepresented God” to transpeople. Then he went on to reference the work of trans people in this diocese, at which point he referenced me and my colleague Chris, both of us transmen and priests here. I was very moved and humbled by what he had to say about us. He went on to say that both the church(es) and the world are made more whole by the full participation of transpeople in their midst and in their lives. He closed by saying it was therefore a particular honor for the Cathedral to host TDOR.

The applause for +Tom was sustained and, I sensed, at least from those sitting around me, that people were quite moved and perhaps even a little surprised by their positive response to +Tom’s remarks. Of course I can’t know how anyone other than myself, and those who later commented to me, felt—but that was the sense I got.

A number of speakers got up and spoke from their hearts throughout the event, ranging from transpeople to non-trans allies. There were people who spoke of having avoided coming to TDOR in the past because it was too scary, or felt too potentially victim-oriented to them, but who now felt differently. Particularly moving to me were the remarks of young people—one non-trans twelve-year-old spoke of one of her parents, a transwoman, and how lucky she felt to have her as a parent. Two young transmen spoke about the importance of reaching out to trans youth, and to watch especially closely for warning signs of suicidality. Two parents of a young man who died here in MA a few years ago spoke very movingly about their commitment to and love of the community. Several people spoke of people they knew who had taken their own lives, or attempted suicide, and several people came out as suicide survivors. In the wake of the intense reflection in this country about LGBT suicides this fall, this sequence of speakers gave a very important reminder that the T is very much part—indeed, likely even more at risk – of this wider pattern. But risk and loss were counterbalanced by resilience: people spoke of how they have reclaimed their lives, and of how important it is to protect and nurture one another’s unique humanity. One person spoke of this need with beautiful metaphors of light.

That image resonated yet more at the conclusion of the event, when the huge group split into two for the candlelight vigil. One group went across the Boston Common to the State House to read the names of the dead and then walked to the gazebo at another spot on the Common for a final gathering, while the other group went directly to the gazabo. As the groups left, my partner and I decided we needed to take our wiggly little guy home, so after chatting with other stragglers for a few minutes, we gathered our things together and made our way to the back of the cathedral. As we exited the swinging glass doors and stood with Jim out on the cathedral steps, we watched a long train of candlelight slowly make its way across the common, majestically moving from the State House to the gazebo.

The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge


Penny Larson’s remarks, which are also posted at her blog are below:

Good evening. Thank you for coming, and welcome to my home.

I showed up on these steps four years ago, less than six months after my transition, and I was welcomed as an equal sister. I drum here, and I worship here. The Crossing community has prayed for me and laid hands on me during my process. They have marched with me and lobbied with me. This past Easter Bishop Shaw received me into the Episcopal Church as I delivered the sermon during the Cathedral’s Easter Vigil. I feel blessed and humbled to be a part of The Crossing community, and I am profoundly moved that my family is helping to host this Transgender Day of Remembrance.

As you know, this is a somber time, when we remember those that have been lost in the last year to violence. Sometimes the price is high when one lives an authentic life. There is fear, and misunderstanding, and hatred. Whatever the number of people we recognize this evening as lost during this last year, I suspect that the true number is higher. We simply are the victims of violence far more often than could be explained by mere random chance. We are targeted.

I have a dear friend who wonders why we do this every year, I believe she says something to the effect that we are celebrating our victim hood. And I admit that the heaviness of this day weighs upon me, even though this is only my fifth Transgender Day of Remembrance. It might be easier to just let this day slide by with barely a notice, to pretend that a day to remember our dead was unnecessary. But then the easy thing isn’t always the right thing. So while I’m very happy to have been involved with a special open mic night co-hosted by The Crossing and Transcriptions as part of Trans Awareness week, which was far more positive and celebratory, I think the importance of this night can not be overstated.

This past August, I volunteered at the inaugural season of Camp Aranu’tiq, a camp specifically for trans and gender-variant kids between the ages of 8-15. I got pretty attached to those kids, and I’m sure I’ll be back next year. Those kids were amazing, and it was a joy to be around them. This is our next generation. Many of them were experiencing the thrill of being themselves for the very first time at camp. Those kids just want to live happy lives being the people they truly are.

But the reality is stark. And the world that exists presents all sorts of difficulties for those who are perceived as different from some arbitrary standard. I want the world that those kids grow into to be so much closer to perfect than the world I grew up in, and yes, even the world as it stands now. I want those kids to grow into a world where they won’t have to go to a camp to be met with unconditional understanding and acceptance. My mother, when I was very little, taught me to always know that I am no better than anyone else, and I am no worse. I believe that we can all live together, celebrating each others similarities while basking in our uniqueness.

And so it is on this night, more than any other, that it becomes of paramount importance that we stand to fear and hatred, whether from within or without, and refuse to be anything less than our full selves. It is on this night that we should embrace the rich diversity that exists within our world of community, allies, supporters, friends, family, and loved-ones. It is on this night that we must change the world.

Thank you for joining us!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Signs of Endings All Around Us: Transgender Day of Remembrance

This is a strange, liminal time in the liturgical year, when signs of endings are, as the hymn puts it, all around us, even as we look forward to the harbinger of hope and new birth soon to be announced in Advent.

For those of us in the trans community, this is a liminal time in another way—a time when we actively remember and face the ongoing reality of our vulnerability to violence and death, particularly for transwomen of color. And it is a time when we seek to galvanize ourselves and our allies, to take our horror, grief, and outrage and harness it for change. To that end, this Saturday, November 20th, marks the 11th annual, International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).

Brief History

As it so happens, TDOR started with a local murder here in Boston. On November 28, 1998 Rita Hester was found dead, having been stabbed multiple times by an assailant who has never been identified. In the days following her murder, a vigil was held down the street from my former parish, St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s in Allston, MA, where Rita lived. Across the country, San Francisco activist Gwen Smith then started the Remembering Our Dead website, which began keeping track of transpeople around the world who had died due to transphobic violence (that work is now carried on by Ethan St. Pierre at this site). Gwen also organized a vigil in San Francisco in 1999 that inspired similar events around the world. The most common date for holding TDOR, November 20th, marks the death of another Boston transwoman, Chanelle Pickett, who had been murdered on that date in 1995. TDORs now happen around the globe, and in some cases expand to include educational events. Here in Massachusetts, this is Trans Awareness Week, with multiple activities happening across the state.

What Your Congregation Can Do This Week

* go to a TDOR in your community--listen, support and simply be present as an ally.

* host a TDOR in your community—more and more churches are opening their doors in this way, though the events themselves are not usually religious services. Indeed, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that many members of the trans community feel deeply alienated from religious traditions and communities. Simply opening your door, making space for the trans community to come together and organize its own event, is incredibly powerful. More and more Episcopal parishes and cathedrals are hosting these events-- here in Boston, for instance, TDOR will be hosted by the Crossing and the Cathedral Church of St. Paul this Saturday at 6pm). In Sacramento, California, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (@ 27th & Capitol) will be hosting the city's TDOR with a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m.

* Host another event in trans week (or at another time of the year), like an open mic night, or a film viewing.

* Consider making a special space in your service this Sunday to honor the trans community. Perhaps in your Prayers of the People, for instance, you might name those who have died this past year and/or compose a special collect; perhaps you might mention this event in a sermon—be creative, open and compassionate (and if you’re willing to then share what you did and how it went, it would be great to include such vignettes in future blog posts).

* However and whenever you are able, please pray for the trans community. Pray for our strength and stamina in this newly challenging political climate, as we continue to fight for basic nondiscrimination and anti-violence legislation, as we strive for equal access to health care, as we make our way in all sorts of vocations, families, and faith communities.

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge