Friday, February 26, 2010


21 February 2010

By The Rev. Patricia Ackerman
LGBT/SOGI Human Rights Program Officer
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

The LGBT community in Uganda is part of a global minority, a family, a tribe.When one part of the community is under threat of state and extra-judicial violence as we witnessed here in Uganda, the global LGBT community is called to act. What we do should be directed by the Ugandan LGBT community, but all the LGBT citizens of Uganda we saw, in the hundreds, asked for international support.

In proposing to imprison LGBT their friends families, doctors, and teachers, the state of Uganda threatens to be in violation of multiple treaties. If the anti-homosexuality bill should pass, all treaties and UN instruments related to sexual violence, violence against minorities, human rights, human rights defenders and others will be violated by this bill. Under "The Responsibility to Protect", the state of Uganda will be in violation. Under RTP, a state is bound by the UN to protect vulnerable populations, not to rid themselves of a minority.

I witnessed Martin SSempa's hate filled rhetoric first hand. It is a xenophobic hatred calling for the extermination of the gays. It was chilling and terrifying. Though he is said to be a consummate showman, the crowd he inflames is extremely impoverished and disenfranchised. Should the bill pass, crowds will hunt and kill LGBT people on the streets of Kampala. This is being stated by the the dozens of LGBT people we have spoken to here in Kampala, the media, and even US Embassy personnel who have no plan in place to help the LGBTI.

I witnessed Ssempa and a dozen pastors place their hands on the head of David Bahati, the MP who introduced the bill. I watched as they "consecrated" him to "rid Uganda of homosexuals." Calling feverishly for Jesus to save the world from homosexuality, Ssempa projected bizarre pornographic images on a screen in the church. He described and demonstrated the pictured s & m acts in great detail before an audience of several hundred, causing women to fall off their chairs weeping and clawing the air, and children sitting stone like in their chairs. During his demonstration which depicted the eating of feces, penises, bondage and fisting, children in the church were forced to watch. Ssempa demonstrated the acts with his hands and mouth.

Ssempa is a permanent resident of the United States of America. He worked directly for "Pastor" Rick Warren for years, perhaps planning his anti-gay crusade. He is said by LGBT Ugandans to have had "another life in the USA" - you guess. He has a blonde wife, one LGBTI Ugandan told me.

My experience of Martin Ssempa is that he is wily and strategic. At times he makes reference to colonialism and donor interference, all from the pulpit of a perverted Christianity - the ultimate western import. At one point during the crusade event he was laid out on the stage pounding his feet screaming for Jesus to "save us from the homosexuals." He looked like a toddler having a tantrum except that he had a huge phallic like horn which he occasionally trumpeted. What is most frightening is that he is often on the nationwide radio inciting hatred and violence against gays.

Ssempa has poisoned the hearts of Ugandans toward their LGBT community. It was bad before but now it is criminal and genocidal. He pronounces warped statistics about gays being pedophiles terrifying parents that their children at boarding schools will be attacked and converted by gays. His network of support reaches far into the parliament. A representative at the US Embassy here claims that 75% of the parliament will vote for the bill. We have heard as much as 90%.

In the crusade, there were posters of Rick Warren labeling him a betrayer. In discussions with the LGBT community, the names of Americans Scott Lively, Caleb Brundidge and Don Schmeirer came up. During an interview with a Trans activist here, I asked what he would like to see happen to change the current situation. Not missing a beat he said, "I would like Scott Lively to come back to Uganda to apologize. It is right that he should return here and recant about what he has done." Scott Lively lives in Springfield, Mass. He was one of the masterminds of the current Anti-Homosexual emergency and a drafter of the bill. I hope we can plan an action to visit him and convey the content of this request.

LGBTI Ugandans are strong, smart, and strategic but they are exhausted and have few resources. When asked what we can do to support them back in the states one man, John Wambere, a leader of a LGBT grassroots org said, "Literacy. You can send us computers and help LGBT people learn to write so they can get jobs." Literacy is at 65% here in Uganda, and lower in the LGBT community as people are often harassed and bullied out of school for being gay. They also need legal support and assistance. If the bill passes they plan to sue the government. There is also the possibility of prosecuting Ssempa for inciting genocide, through international channels.

I asked LGBTI activists if in the event of a pogrom they have a plan. Currently there are few safe houses and LGBT move addresses, are on the run, and are constantly changing their phone numbers. They simply do not have the funds to go on this way. If the bill stays tabled or even if it is debated in the near future, LGBTs will continue to have an ax hanging over their heads. And we will continue to have an obligation to witness and act on their behalf.

The Rev. Patty Ackerman is a former Director of Communications for Integrity USA.


Dear Members, Partners, and Friends:

This is the first in a series of Annual Messages I expect to make during my three year term as Integrity’s President. It is one of several ways by which I plan to keep the members and partners of Integrity informed about the organization’s mission and ministry.

The Board of Directors that was elected last May and seated in October held its first full face-to-face meeting in January and I am pleased to report that it was enormously productive. We set out plans that, as implemented, will have an impact on the rest of the entire triennium.

To provide some context, though, let me recount briefly the events of 2009. It was quite a year. Looking inward, Integrity’s leaders recognized a need for change in the organization itself in order to minister more effectively in the years ahead. A thoughtful review of various options eventually resulted in a new structure for the Board of Directors, for leadership positions throughout the organization, specifically Provincial Coordinators and Diocesan Organizers, and for a commitment to seek new leadership in the office of an Executive Director.

Of greater consequence with respect to our fundamental mission, however, were the actions taken at General Convention. At Anaheim, the Episcopal Church at long last took an unequivocal stand in favor of welcoming and recognizing the ministry of LGBT persons in all orders of ministry, including especially the episcopate. And it moved forward toward recognizing and blessing same-gender relationships. Anyone and everyone who has ever belonged to, financially supported, or otherwise been affiliated with Integrity over the past 35 years has reason to rejoice for, indeed, Integrity’s unflagging encouragement and counsel has been critical to the Church’s progress in its journey toward these historic shifts in understanding.

What can anyone say to this? The Psalmist says it best: “No good thing will God withhold from those who walk with integrity.” (Psalm 84:11)

Yet now we are faced with a new challenge. We need to play an equally vital role in turning these legislative victories into living realities from the Diocese of Alaska to the Diocese of Southeast Florida, from the Diocese of Maine to the Diocese San Diego. And this means that we need to focus on building relationships that transform communities at the diocesan and state levels. This work, I firmly believe, represents both our mission over the next several years and where we can be most successful in advancing it. It will require three things: people, money, and coordination.

Concerning coordination, the Board of Directors adopted a Strategic Plan for this triennium that touches upon all facets of our life and work – program, administration, development, and governance. The centerpiece of Integrity’s program over the next three years (the heart of it all really) will be Believe Out Loud and I will leave it to our Acting Executive Director, John Clinton Bradley, to describe this unprecedented new initiative in his letter. If you are interested in reviewing the complete Strategic Plan 2010-2012, e-mail me and I will be glad to send you a copy.

Concerning money, we have also adopted a Development Plan for the next three years. It starts with the 100,000 Blessings Campaign currently underway. Through this campaign, we are inviting one and all to share a story of how Integrity has been a blessing to them or their church over these past 35 years, in light of the historic decisions made at Anaheim. We are also asking financial support for Integrity’s work and witness moving forward. (I hope everyone will participate with both a financial gift and a story.) The development plan also outlines several new ways by which we will be inviting support. To name just a couple of these, we are now prepared to receive and appropriately recognize memorial and tribute gifts as well as bequests…and we are becoming more adept at inviting everyone – fellow parishioners, straight allies and friends, diocesan leaders, and churches – to join us as members or partners. (Do you have a friend who cares about the LGBT community and the Episcopal Church? Send him or her an Integrity membership brochure right now!)

Beyond the money and the coordination, as with any community’s vision, people, ultimately, are what move it from dream to reality. To truly accomplish the work of making the legislative victories of 2009 into living realities, it is clear that we need to have an active presence in every diocese of the Episcopal Church. Toward that end, we have redefined the role of our Diocesan Organizers (formerly Network Coordinators) and will be starting to identify competent and committed leaders wherever such individuals are not already in place. The new office of Provincial Coordinator will be coordinating these and other Integrity initiatives on the provincial (i.e. regional) level.

The time has come when Integrity also needs an Executive Director. John Clinton Bradley, our Acting Executive Director, has served us nobly for a long while and for his extraordinary service we are most grateful. He has communicated to the Board of Directors, however, that he is not “the one.” We must look for another to fulfill the role on a permanent and full-time basis. And so the search is already underway. We anticipate announcing our selection before the end of June.

Finally and most importantly, there is every one of you. Integrity has a glorious history, replete with heroes and heroines and stories of challenge, sacrifice, and achievement despite few resources and great odds. It also has a future mission, important and urgent. There are still many places where the simple yet profound message of welcome to all is not yet ringing clear and true. There are places where the very news of what happened in Anaheim has been deliberately obscured or ignored or rejected.

And so there is indeed more for us to do – together. If you can give, give generously. If you can identify possible leaders or church partners in your diocese, call quickly. If you yourself can step up to new service, step lively. You are needed – welcomed – appreciated – anticipated in this ministry. Friends, let there be no mistake. We have come a long way toward where we want to go AND there is still purpose in our walk together.

On a personal note, I want you to know that in my 25 years of ordained ministry, I have never felt more privileged to be of service. I am thankful for all that has been and I say “yes” to what will be. Integrity has given countless people a new perspective on themselves – liberating, strengthening, inspiring. We have given people a new perspective on their sons or daughters or fellow parishioners too – one of respect and dignity and grace. And in such new perspectives lie always – always – the seeds of a more just and gracious community. I hope you will join me with enthusiasm and generosity in the adventure still ahead.

The Rev. David Norgard President

Integrity’s Mission StatementThe mission of Integrity is to be a witness of God’s inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

Integrity’s Vision StatementAdopted by the Board of Directors, 15 January 2010 The Episcopal Church truly makes all the sacraments available to all. Every diocese engages in discernment processes for bishops and other clergy that include LGBT candidates. Every diocese recognizes and celebrates same-sex unions in a manner consistent with national liturgical canons.

Integrity’s Strategic Priorities 2010 – 2012 Adopted by the Board of Directors, 15 January 2010 PROGRAM: Implement Believe Out Loud in the Episcopal Church and transform the legislative victories achieved at General Convention in 2009 (D025 and C0560) into living realities throughout all the dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

DEVELOPMENT: Increase membership and church partnership.

ADMINISTRATION: Ensure that broad-based income is sufficient to fund staff and programming. Ensure that the organization has the appropriate quantity and quality of staff to fulfill its programmatic, developmental, and administrative needs.

GOVERNANCE: Adapt to the new organizational structure and create effective leaders at national, provincial, diocesan, and local levels.

Thursday, February 25, 2010



The Rev. David Norgard, President of Integrity USA, will speak at Virginia Theological Seminary on Thursday, March 4, 2010. Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church and was founded in 1823. The graduate seminary school prepares men and women representing more than 50 different dioceses and 9 different countries for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers. The newly elected President of Integrity was invited to VTS by its Dean & President, the Very Rev. Ian Markham.

Norgard will lecture on The Future of Inclusion in the Episcopal Church. “Integrity USA has been an advocate and powerful witness for full inclusion of all the baptized for 35 years. And, I can proclaim with certainty that inclusion will play a large part in growing the Episcopal Church in the future, said Norgard. He will speak to both the challenges and the opportunities that face the church of the future in view its recent movement toward greater diversity.

The lecture begins at 7pm in the Lettie Pate Auditorium. There will be a reception before the lecture begins and Norgard will take part in a Question & Answer session afterward. The lecture is open to faculty, students, and the general public.

Virginia Theological Seminary is located at 3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22304

For more information contact:
Susan Shillinglaw, Director of Public Affairs
703-461-1764 or

Integrity’s Gratitude to Bishop George Packard - our Beloved “Warrior Bishop”

By The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle
As the Church of England had its last “Warrior” Archbishop of Canterbury in Robert Runcie, (the last Archbishop to have seen military service) so the Episcopal Church recognizes the contribution of our own “Warrior” Bishop, George Packard. For the past decade, the Episcopal Church’s ministry to the men and women of our brave armed forces has emanated from the soul of Bishop George Packard. He celebrated his final Eucharist at the Pentagon on Ash Wednesday.

As Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries, Packard was responsible for the care of 19,000 Episcopalians in the armed forces, federal prisons and veterans affairs facilities. As a decorated Vietnam veteran he has served in the midst of some of the most difficult events in the history of this country, from relief efforts following 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. Bishop Packard leaves a legacy of what it means to be pastor and an advocate in the midst of human suffering and disaster.

It must also be noted Bishop Packard served his church and nation during one of the most unethical periods in the history of modern warfare: the invasion of Iraq, the failure of the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive Strike, the prisoner abuse and torture of recent times and the unworkable policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Military policy and practice has been highly criticized for its failure to address complex domestic and international situations. These failures undermined our nation’s confidence in our military leadership, moral authority and foreign policies, including questionable challenges to the Geneva Conventions themselves.

While Bishop Packard served his church he saw this country’s largest employers, the US Government and Military, begin a campaign of deliberate discrimination of gay and lesbian employees that has affected 14,000 people since the creation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. We give thanks for Bishop Packard’s consistent efforts to share the values and polity of the Episcopal Church under these very difficult conditions.

Integrity continues to advocate both within and outside the church for full inclusion and calls for the end of all employment discrimination, particularly by our government. Brave men and women, many of whom are highly skilled and decorated veterans, are still excluded from serving their country. Thousands more live in constant fear or intimidation because of these senseless and cruel policies and practices. Half the states in the Union still allow employers to fire someone merely based on their sexual orientation. It is time to end this discrimination.

Bishop Packard’s successor will continue to have a challenging ministry and deserves the full support of our church. It is our hope that his successor will continue to be a pastor and advocate for the marginalized. This is not a time to settle for “the status quo”, particularly as we seek to repair failed policies of the past decade that have caused so much suffering to thousands of people, including members of our own church community.

With the election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, the Episcopal Church is one step further in removing all obstacles that have prevented the LGBT faithful from fulfilling their God-given vocations. Likewise, the appointment of the new Bishop Suffragan for Federal Affairs offers the Episcopal church a new opportunity to move outward and to share our experience, theology and polity of inclusion with our military and federal institutions.

Integrity remains committed to working with the new bishop to advocate for ending, once and for all, this blatant discrimination that hurts our church and shames our country.

Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Vice President for National and International Affairs with Integrity.

Bishop Christopher Reports From Uganda

Dear Canon Ogle,

I am glad to inform you that Pastor Martin Sempa's rally in Kampala was blocked and he held one in another town of Jinja on Feb.15.

On Valentine Day Feb.14,2010 I was invited by some Christians and we held a big conference in GBK Hotel in Kampala in opposition to the anti-gay bill. The theme of the conference was on 'STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE'. I was asked to present a paper entitled; Re-imagining Valentine Day. My approach was that St.Valentine died for his obedience to God, for supporting the young men who had fallen in love and wanted to marry, he also preached the gospel of caring for the poor and the sick. So Valentine Day should remind us on an inclusive love [agape] that does not stop with only romance from us.

Then on Feb.19 another conference was convened at the Imperial Royal hotel by the Coalition on human rights and constitutional law with special focus on the question of sexual orientation.

The Guest speaker was prof. Makau Mutua, Dean of Buffalo Law School, the State University of New York.

The ant-gay bill was hotly discussed. Some members of Parliament were in attendance and contributed to the discussions. It was made clear to the law maker that the bill was inhuman.

Best regards,
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo is the Chairman of Integrity Uganda.  The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Integrity USA's Vice President for National & International Affairs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Want To Converse On Religion? CONTACT ARIANNA and HuffPost Religion

Arianna Huffington February 24, 2010 03:18 PM

I've always been fascinated by religion.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my family's summer holidays on the island of Corfu. August 15 is when all of Greece pays homage to the Virgin Mary. I remember going to church on that day every year, and sitting quietly among widows in black kerchiefs and younger women smelling of summer wool and candle smoke. I would watch, enthralled, as deep faith and memories moved them to tears of grief and hope. And, in my childish way, I shared their love for her.

I believe that we are all hardwired for the sacred, that the instinct for spirituality is part of our collective DNA. I wrote about this instinct 15 years ago, and called it the fourth instinct, the one beyond survival, sex, and power. It propels us to find meaning and transcend our everyday preoccupations.

For some, it involves organized religion. For others, it's a personal spiritual quest. Seventy percent of Americans belong to a religious organization and 40 percent attend services once a week.

Yet, despite the central role religion plays in American life, all too often, when talking about it, we end up talking at each other instead of with each other. This is a shame -- especially at a time like this, when the economic struggle in so many people's lives has led to a deeper questioning of our values and priorities. Whether you are a believer or not, this is an essential conversation to have...which is why I'm delighted to announce that we are launching HuffPost Religion -- a section featuring a wide-ranging discussion about religion, spirituality, and the ways they influence our lives.

Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news -- in this case about all things religion-related -- served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently -- and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.

HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.

So, among other things, you can expect discussions about the relationship between religion and science; the role religion can play in overcoming personal obstacles and attaining a sense of well-being; the ways religion is portrayed in pop culture; how religious commitments influence politicians and key domestic policy debates; and the effect of religion on foreign policy issues and international relations.

The bloggers who will be posting on HuffPost Religion will be a great mix of religious heavyweights and up-and-coming voices in the field. Today's thought-provoking lineup includes Rev. Jim Wallis on the spiritual crisis of the recession; Deepak Chopra on the continued importance of spirituality; Eboo Patel on the crucial importance of interfaith relations; Sister Joan Chittister on the future of the Roman Catholic Church; Rabbi Or Rose on the role of religion when it comes to the environment; Dr. Eddie Glaude on the declining power of the Black Church; Sharon Salzberg on Buddhism's "middle way"; Brian McLaren on 'new Evangelicals'; and Steven Barrie Anthony on technology and spirituality.

"Ask your soul!" pleads Herman Hesse in My Belief. "Your soul will not blame you for having cared too little about politics, for having exerted yourself too little, hated your enemies too little, or too little fortified your frontiers. But she will perhaps blame you for so often having feared and fled from her demands, for never having had time to give her..."

So give a little time over to explore these questions and concerns that are at the heart of HuffPost Religion. And let us know what you think. The conversation starts now

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The Diocese of Los Angeles has announced that the Reverend Canon Diane Jardine Bruce has received the consents necessary to confirm her election as the first woman bishop in the diocese's history.

Bruce is the 16th woman to be elected to the House of Bishops. She has always been a staunch supporter of Integrity and an advocate for LGBT issues

Integrity looks forward to working with Bishop-Elect Bruce in the future.

One down and one to go!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Uganda LGBT Valentine's Day Conference Report

“This was different from other conferences… gay banners and flags… no pretence, it was very straight forward.”  --A conference attendee

"Our conference showed  that religion does not need to be an enemy to the cause of LGBT concerns. LGBT people have a strong sense of religion and God and values.  What is at stake here in Uganda is  religious freedom, human rights and minority protections. We pray that the international community will continue to stand with us.”  --Rev. Mark Kiyimba

More than 200 LGBT Ugandans (including many young adults) gathered in Kampala to strategize and organize a response to the anti-homosexuality bill that is about to voted on by the Ugandan parliament.

Risking arrest and certain imprisonment these courageous activists convened by Ugandan Unitarian Universalist minister Mark Kiyimba, Spectrum Uganda and other grassroots LGBT community organizations engaged in hours of discussions what one organizer described as a “Pride Parade in a closet.” Although the subject matter was deadly serious.

The conference attendees called for complete decriminalization of homosexuality, full access to services, human rights and protection by the state. Sessions included talks by religious and human rights activists.  The keynote speaker was Anglican Bishop and Integrity Uganda president Christopher Ssenyojo, a champion ally of LGBT rights spoke on the theme of Love and justice. Bishop Christopher, was formerly exiled from Uganda and continues to offer Christian sanctuary to the LGBT community at great risk.

Immediately following the conference, the Ugandan Daily Monitior newpaper reported that police are currently seeking to find and arrest the organizers of the conference.

At the meeting there was a strong sense from the grassroots of feeling supported and given a voice in the midst of persecution.  The conference culminated in a petition for equality which is to be presented to the speaker of the house or a local member of parliament.  The conference has promised to bring legal action against the state if the bill is passed. Organizers stated that a procession had been planned to deliver the petition on foot, but as one organizer put it: “If we walk through the streets we will surely be stoned.”

According to Pastor Kiyimba, whose church members include many LGBT persons, “I cannot stand by and watch as my community is exterminated. My church will become illegal and cease to exist if this bill becomes law”

Source:  The Rev. Patricia Ackerman
LGBT/SOGI Human Rights Program Officer
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gay clergy vote splits South Dakota Lutheran churches

From the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Argus Leader:

Gay clergy vote splits South Dakota Lutheran churches
At least seven congregations take steps to leave ELCA

East Lake Andes Lutheran Church is an eclectic, spiritually self-reliant congregation.

The 100 or so members from the farms and ranches near Armour and Parkston come from a variety of Protestant and Roman Catholic backgrounds, in addition to Lutheranism.

"It just kind of blended together into a community-type rural church," said Bill Van Gerpen, co-pastor and a Baptist.

So when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's general assembly voted in August to allow sexually active gay clergy in committed, monogamous relationships to serve as pastors, members of East Lake Andes who opposed the move explored the idea of leaving the ELCA. In the process, they've found that their own spiritual tradition runs deeper than their ties to the ELCA.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Update from the Diocese of Los Angeles

In the Diocese of Los Angeles, the consent process for the elections of bishops suffragan Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool continues to move forward and plans are underway for the consecration, scheduled for Saturday, May 15.

Weekly updates on Standing Committee consents (which are filed with Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles) are posted on the diocesan website on Wednesdays. Consents for bishops with jurisdiction are filed in a parallel process with the Presiding Bishop's office. The deadlines to receive the necessary consents (a majority of the 110 dioceses in both orders) are May 5 for Bishop-elect Glasspool and May 8 for Bishop-elect Bruce. (The difference in dates is simply the result of required paperwork for the consent process to begin having been received by the Presiding Bishop's office on different dates for the two bishops-elect.)

Integrity Board member Louise Brooks had the chance to check in with Bishop-elect Glasspool when she was in Los Angeles for meetings last week.

"We are confident the elections will receive the necessary consents," she said, "and here in the Diocese of Los Angeles we are so looking forward to the sharing the gifts of these two extraordinary women with the whole church as our bishops -- and to the mission and ministry we will do together."

Integrity continues to invite prayers for the Diocese of Los Angeles, for their bishops-elect and for the whole church, as it continues to become more fully the Body of Christ more fully including all the baptized in all the sacraments -- in order to serve the world by proclaiming God's inclusive love available to all people!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations


Enables Parishes To Add "We Really Mean It!" To "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You"

ROCHESTER, NY (February 12, 2010)—Integrity is delighted to be a partner in the transdenominational Believe Out Loud campaign launching February 14th across the country.  We are also proud to announce the Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations initiative as a component of the Episcopalian wing of the campaign.  Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations provides a much-needed national network for Episcopal parishes committed to welcoming and affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as beloved children of God.   

Believe Out Loud is based in a simple truth: Privately believing LGBT persons should have an equal share in our church and society is not enough; we must publicly proclaim that belief.  Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations gives the parishes and missions of our denominations the means to do exactly that.

Over 300 Episcopal congregations already participate in welcoming parish programs through diocesan LGBT ministries or Integrity. These congregations will automatically become Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations, both widening their network and putting them in national search engines used by seekers looking for inclusive congregations.

For other Episcopal parishes, this is the chance to them to make explicit what has been implicit for many—that the "Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign outside their church door means "We Really Mean It!" when it comes to LGBT people.  

"I constantly receive phone calls and emails from LGBT people looking for a safe place to worship," said John Clinton Bradley, Integrity's Acting Executive Director.  "By the end of the year I hope that parishes and missions in every diocese of The Episcopal Church will register themselves as "Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations."

Twenty-five years ago Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning famously proclaimed that The Episcopal Church would be a church with "no outcasts." The "Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations" initiative will help us continue to claim that proud history as we move forward together into God's future.

Visit for more information about Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations.  Beginning February 14th, visit for more information about Believe Out Loud.

Press Contact: 

John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
585-313-1059 [mobile]

Integrity News: New Chapter of Integrity USA Forming in Delaware

Integrity USA is pleased to announce the formation of a new Integrity Chapter in Delaware.

Recently, members of the LGBT community and their straight friends and allies gathered at Christ Episcopal Church in Dover, Delaware to vote on forming a local chapter of Integrity USA. The vote was a resounding YES to move forward and seek "Chapter in Formation Status".

Bishop Wayne P. Wright, Bishop of the Diocese of Delaware, while unable to attend, offered his full support and assistance in the formation of the new chapter. The Diocese of Delaware was well represented, however, with several members of the clergy in attendance (some of which are already national members) and two newly ordained permanent deacons.

The "Chapter in Formation Application" has been approved by Neil Houghton, Integrity USA Vice President for Local Affairs. "We are thrilled to welcome our brothers and sisters in the newly formed  chapter to Integrity USA. We thank Bishop Wirght for his support in helping us bring the legislative victories of GC09 to the local diocese and parishes," said Houghton.

One of the first actions of the new Integrity Chapter will be to have an Integrity Table at the Diocese of Delaware's Annual Diocesan Convention on March 12-13, 2010 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Lewes, DE.

Their next meeting will take place on Saturday, March 20, 2010, 10 AM at Christ Episcopal Church, So. State & Water Sts. (501 S. State St. for GPS), Dover, DE 19904. Everyone is welcome.

 For more information contact Jon Rania, Lay Ministry Assoc. at Christ Church at 302-734-5731 or e-mail Jon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Integrity Has Blessed Albert Ogle

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Integrity's Vice President for National Affairs.

Click here to watch a video of Albert's story.

Click here to read Albert's story.

Click here to contribute to Integrity's 100,000 Blessings campaign.


A Report from Neil Houghton.....

This year's "Creating Change" Conference on LGBT Equality took place in Dallas and was a time for much celebration and focus on mission.

John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director and Neil Houghton, Vice President for Local Affairs were both participants in the preeminent annual national conference for LGBT leadership sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force(NGLTF). One of the most important things we've seen happen at Creating Change in the last few years has been the inclusion of people of faith as leaders in the movement, thanks to the Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR)which became a part of NGLTF a few years ago.

Before the conference began, John attended a two day meeting where the Arcus Foundation, one of Integrity's major funders, talked about their mission. They presented a major evaluation of their support for several faith based groups. We were extremely pleased when Arcus announced that their investment in Integrity was over the last few years has as a major success! So much so, that they will continue to fund Integrity's particiaption in the Believe Out Loud campaign. Stay tuned for more information on that.

The youth driven energy of this conference is always contagious. This year there were an abundance of semniars, gatherings, meetings caucuses and networking for Episcopalians and other people of faith.

Dallas was one major locus for the American Prayer Hour, the inclusive counterpart to the National Prayer Breakfast. Bradley and Houghton attended along with Harry Knox, Director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program, who was one of the key participants.

Another gathering that took place at Creating Change was The National Religious Leaders Roundtable. IWR was responsible for a full day workshop and a series of half day sessions. Vicki Wunsch, who we are thrilled to have work with Integrity on our Believe Out Loud provincial workshop, skillfully facilitated a memorable session. She had facilitated Integrity's training in St. Louis for "After Anaheim." Neil represented Integrity as well as his home Diocese of Rochester at these sessions. He also took part in a "TransACTION" curriculum that has been developed for congregations wishing to extend their knowledge of a welcome to the transgender people.

Many other workshops covered an incredibly diverse range of topics. Plenary sessions were designed to focus the LGBT movement on issues important to us, such as highlighting immigration policy as it affects the LGBT Community.

On Saturday evening, the Episcopalians at the conference met for dinner. John and Neil spoke about Integrity's progress into its new leadership structure, the "Believe Out Loud" campaign and entertained questions about the work ahead. Their presentation was so inspiring and well received that attendees contributed $600 to Integrity's "100,000 Blessings" campaign.

It was a wonderful conference! Don't miss it next year.

Neil Houghton is IntegrityUSA VP of Local Affairs. His blog is MANY THINGS TO SAY.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Ash Wednesday Reflections

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

Integrity USA VP for National & International Affairs

There is a form of public confession that asks for forgiveness from the things we have done and the things that others have done on our behalf. As we enter the holy season of Lent, I am thinking about the things the Anglican Church has done to damage the LGBT community, particularly in Uganda.

If there is any doubt about the intention of Ugandan Anglicans to imprison gays (while exempting pastors, counselors and doctors as “Christianity Today” has reported) it is very clear that the Ugandan crisis is no longer about LGBT rights but about the struggle between the ideals of democracy and theocracy. Ugandan Anglicans, influenced and bribed by western fundamentalism are the prime movers in this struggle.

By outlawing homosexuality, they are not only prepared to send their gay sons and lesbian daughters to jail or to the gallows, but have dealt an incredible blow against Ugandan extended family values. If a mother or brother does not report even a suspected homosexual in their family, they will not be exempt from this draconian law. It is something straight out of the Salem Witch trials where a tightly knit community turns in on themselves and theocracy and hysteria win over democracy.

There is no reasoning with a theocrat. If the Bible has become their idolatrous god, then their interpretation of God’s will through their interpretation of scripture cannot be rationalized any further. It is only when they terrorize and torture enough so their paranoia is finally seen, that the majority of their fellow human beings wake up to the wrongs that are being done on their behalf. But that usually takes a long time and a lot of people get lost on the way. Britain suffered under Cromwell’s Commonwealth for 16 years before they got rid of his fanatical Puritanism and began to enjoy life again.

I know a brave Anglican priest named Gideon Byamugisha who has worked many years in HIV in Uganda. He says:

"I believe that this bill [if passed into law] will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be."

Byamugisha went on to say that gay people were being used as "scapegoats" for Uganda's social problems.

"What makes this proposed law truly distasteful is the amount and level of violence that is being proposed against suspected, rumored and known individuals who are gay, and their families and community leaders in their places of worship, residence, education, work, business and entertainment."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, (probably the most famous referee in the world right now) addressed the Ugandan and other important moral issues at the Church of England’s General Synod today. He is a brilliant theologian and his mastery of weaving together a diversity of issues into some coherent and understandable format is remarkable. He referred to the tensions that exist between the exclusive autonomy of religious and civil communities, both called to co-exist and make important decisions for their constituencies:

“The rights and dignities of gay and lesbian people are a matter of proper concern for all of us, and we assume with good reason, even, I should say, with good Christian reason, that the securing of these rights is obviously a mark of civilized and humane society. When those rights are threatened – as in the infamous legislation that was being discussed in Uganda – we quite rightly express repugnance”.

He later compared the decision to consecrate Gene Robinson with the decision of the Ugandan Church to criminalize homosexuality even further.

“But when the affirmation of that good takes the form of pre-empting the discernment of the wider Anglican (and a lot of the non-Anglican) fellowship, and of acting in ways that negate the general understanding of the limits set by Bible and tradition, there is a conflict with another undoubted good, which is the capacity of the Anglican family to affirm and support one another in diverse contexts. The freedom claimed, for example, by the Episcopal church to ordain a partnered homosexual bishop is, simply as a matter of fact, something that has a devastating impact on the freedom of, say, the Malaysian Christian to proclaim the faith without being cast as an enemy of public morality and risking both credibility and personal safety. It hardly needs to be added that the freedom that might be claimed by an African Anglican to support anti-gay legislation likewise has a serious impact on the credibility of the gospel in our setting.”

I was horrified by the Archbishop’s comparisons. Nothing Gene Robinson has ever done, or ever could do, has caused the kind of potential genocide that Gideon Byamugisha is talking about.

It is unfortunate that one of the greatest theologians, particularly gifted on issues of human sexuality is Archbishop Rowan Williams and his paper on “Embodiment” is one of the masterpieces that affirm human sexuality in all its mystery. Yet we sabotaged ourselves by making him Referee of the Anglican Communion and lost an important voice in the debate about “incarnational theology.”

Where is the moral voice of the Anglican Communion? The Ugandan Church’s current position on homosexuality underscores the utter failure of the Anglican Communion’s listening process. Theocrats have a hard time listening. They are too busy telling everyone what God is thinking. The silence from the leadership of the newly formed Anglican Church of North America is also very interesting. Maybe they will soon endorse the Ugandan Churches position.

According to the Anglican Communion website: “The aim of the Lambeth Conference’s Listening Process is to hear God and engage in his mission to all people in evangelism, discipleship, service and striving for justice”.

If you read the Anglican Church of Uganda’s formal position on homosexuality and Resolution 1:10 written in 2005, there is a lot of attention paid to the interpretation of scripture (as referred in Lambeth Resolution 1;10) but has nothing to say about the pastoral, educational and civic responsibility to protect human rights that made up the majority of the resolution itself. Only scripture is dealt with and a heavy preoccupation with the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire. They refer to Gene as a divorced man with two children who is living in a same sex relationship with another man but omitted the fact that Gene was largely responsible for millions of our tax dollars of AIDS relief to their country long before Rick Warren was even aware AIDS existed.

They further used the Lambeth Resolution twice in a recent document to reaffirm their support for the further criminalization of the gay and lesbian minority community.

No one in the Anglican Communion has challenged the Ugandan hierarchy’s consistent misuse of this resolution that was -- I believe -- the historical genesis of the current wave of religious and state sanctioned hysteria against gay people.

We have sinned in letting others do the dirty work of building a climate of terror for us, without owning our Anglican complicity.

It is one thing to condemn this bill. It is another stage admit our common participation in the systemic persecution of a voiceless and faceless community within Uganda. Except for courageous clergy like Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the face and voice of this part of the church and her “good news” has been absent.

The Church of Uganda, in yesterday’s statement may not want to send Senyojo or Fr. Gideon to prison, but their choice to become “the church militant” seems inevitable. They are isolating and silencing all who oppose their righteous march to the kingdom. Senyojo is a persecuted bishop in a church he has served for 50 years. He pleaded with two archbishops to put him on trial so he could make his case, but the silence continues. He is without pension and continues to pray with educate and support LGBT people and their families. He cares for the children of his son who like so many fellow bishops, lost their children to AIDS. No-one is reaching out to him. They are not listening to their own voices never mind the likes of Archbishop Williams or the Episcopal Church.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” is one of Uganda’s most famous inspirational choruses. Now the church militant is blessing the state to begin the martyring. Ironically, the church’s own history of persecution under Amin and others has now been passed on to the LGBT community and their families. Persecution will only make this little movement for democracy and liberation even stronger in Uganda and will not destroy it. Read your own history, listen to the stories of your ancestors and ask yourselves “Why are we persecuting in the name of God?”

As we stand on the eve of Lent and gaze up at the cross, we may ask ourselves, “Are we one with the crucified, or are we complicit in the crucifying?”

Archbishop Luke Orombi of Uganda's first comments on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From Daily Monitor, Uganda

Archbishop Luke Orombi, in his first public comments on the controversial Bill, however said they do not recognise homosexuality as “a human right”.

“The Church of Uganda believes that homosexual practice is incompatible with the Scripture,” the prelate said in a statement issued yesterday, citing a resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Britain.

He added: “At the same time, the Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning.”

“The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing. As a Church; we affirm the necessity of appropriate amendments within the existing legislation...”

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rowan Williams issues 'profound apology' to gay Christians

From Times Online February 9, 2010

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a “profound apology” to the lesbian and gay Christian community today.
In a powerful address to the General Synod, Dr Rowan Williams warned that any schism within the Church would represent a betrayal of God’s mission.

But he made clear that he regretted recent rhetoric in which he has sought to mollify the fears of the traditionalist wing of the church.

The Archbishop is from the Church’s liberal wing and a man who once espoused equal rights for gays within the Church. More recently he has adopted a conservative line for the sake of Church unity.

Today he said: “There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them.

“I have been criticised for doing just this and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.”

Addressing the even more contentious debate over gay ordinations — something which threatens to split the Church farther with the expected consecration in May of Canon Mary Glasspool, a lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles — Dr Williams said it had not been helped by those who ignored the fact that many worshippers were gay, as well as many “sacrificial and exemplary priests”.

Read the rest of Ruth's column here.

To Integrity Members from the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

To Integrity members

Thank you for your prayers and financial support of our ministry to Integrity Uganda. This past weekend I spoke to Bishop Christopher by telephone, who leads a prophetic ministry there and he is also grateful for your prayers and support. The International community's outrage is helping to turn the tide of hatred and discrimination in Ugandan, and there is an enormous amount or repair work to do, particularly through training and much needed educational materials. Bishop Christopher is also providing pastoral support to the many LGBT people in Uganda who are fearing for their lives and their futures if this actually is passed. Please watch this video and read about how you can continue to make a difference in the important weeks ahead.

If you have not done so, please make a contribution to the Integrity Uganda fund by clicking here

Thank you.

Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

Vice President for National and International Affairs

Church of Uganda Recommends Amending Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From Christianity Today

The Church of Uganda released its official position on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that, if passed in its proposed version, would recommend the death penalty or life in prison for various homosexual acts.

The bill suggests the death penalty for people [who] have homosexual sex with minors, the disabled, while being HIV-positive, serial offenders, or if the person is in authority over another. In its executive summary, the Church of Uganda addresses the proportionality in sentencing but does not offer specific recommendations for changes to the proposed sentences.

 In a statement provided to Christianity Today, the Church of Uganda expressed concerns with the bill, recommending that the bill be amended to reflect the following:

1. Ensure that the law protects the confidentiality of medical, pastoral and counseling relationships, including those that disclose homosexual practice in accordance with the relevant professional codes of ethics.

2. Language that strengthens the existing Penal Code to protect the boy child, especially from homosexual exploitation; to prohibit lesbianism, bestiality, and other sexual perversions; and to prohibit procurement of material and promotion of homosexuality as normal or as an alternative lifestyle, be adopted.

3. Ensure that homosexual practice or the promotion of homosexual relations is not adopted as a human right.

4. Existing and future Educational materials and programmes on gender identity and sex education are in compliance with the values and the laws of Uganda.

5. The involvement of additional stakeholders in the evaluation of the gaps in the existing legislation, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its Department of Immigration and other relevant departments.

6. The undertaking of a comprehensive legislative and literature review of all the laws and literature related to the subject at hand in order to identify the actual gaps in the existing legislations.

The Church of Uganda said it appreciates the following objectives in the bill:

a) provide for marriage in Uganda as contracted only between a man and woman;

b) prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family;

c) prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the Act;

d) prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.

According to the 2002 census, about 36 percent of the country belongs to the Church of Uganda while 42 percent of the country belongs to the Catholic Church.

Several American Christians such as Rick Warren and Charles Colson have denounced the bill. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni distanced himself from the bill, and David Bahati, who proposed the bill, said he was willing to "amend some clauses."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Actress Anne Hathaway contemplates becoming an Episcopalian after brother comes out

From pinknews....reporting on an interview Hathaway recently gave to GQ.

Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway has revealed her family became Episcopalians after her brother came out.

The Devil Wears Prada star grew up as a Catholic in New Jersey but when Hathaway's brother Michael told the family he was gay, they decided to leave their faith.

Hathaway told GQ magazine: "The whole family converted to Episcopalianism after my elder brother came out. Why should I support an organisation that has a limited view of my beloved brother?"

Read the rest of the story here.

Overwhelming Catch

As we near the end of Epiphany, season of illumination, the signs of God's presence among us begin to overwhelm. Two images from yesterday's readings for the fifth Sunday in Epiphany offer a strange combination-- one of abundance and the other of desolation-- that echo two major, recent events in the U.S. trans community.

In the gospel of Luke we had the improbable plenitude of fish pulled up by Peter and his companions upon the prompt of Jesus. So many were these fish that they threatened to sink the boats into which they had flopped. "Go away from me!" cried an unnerved Peter, knee deep in slimy muck, "I am a sinful man."

And in the Hebrew Bible reading, we had the fearsome scene of Isaiah's prophetic call, in which seraphim touch his lips with a live coal and God commands him to speak difficult truths to a people far from ready to hear them. The passage ends with successive images of desolation.

For trans people in the U.S., the last two weeks have brought an overwhelming combination -- to consider only two major news stories-- of grief and victory: a week of desolation in which the Houston trans community grappled with the murder of one of its own, followed by a precedent-setting decision by the US Tax Court in favor of a Massachusetts trans woman.

In July of 2007, a Boston area woman named Rhiannon O'Donnabhain decided to sue the IRS. At issue was the agency's denial of her tax write-off of expenses related to her transition from male to female. As the original Boston Globe article reported, she could have repaid "the approximately $5,000 she received in her tax refund, but decided to challenge the IRS because she believes the ruling against her was rooted in politics and prejudice."

O'Donnabhain declared, "'This goes way beyond money. If I were to give the money back, it would be saying it's OK for you to do this to me. It is not OK for them to do this to me or anyone like me."

You tell 'em, I remember thinking as I read the story. I never tried to write off expenses related to my own transition-- I remember thinking about it, and even discussing the possibility in a peer support group, but I didn't try. I sure could have benefited from it on my then graduate student budget (almost every insurance company explicitly denies coverage for any medical care related to transition).

Then last week we got the very good news that the US Tax Court ruled 11-5 in O'Donnabhain's favor in this first-of-its-kind decision. Not only is it a ruling that respects O'Donnabhain; it's also a decision that could begin to open the door for insurers to consider procedures related to bodily transition as medical, not cosmetic. See the National Center for Transgender Equality's report on the case here.

As Jennifer Levi, Massachusetts-based attorney for the Transgender Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), commented in last week's Boston Globe story:

“I think what the court is saying is that surgery and hormone therapy for transgender people to alleviate the stress associated with gender identity disorder is legitimate medical care."

GLAD senior staff attorney Karen Loewy added in a press conference, “It’s incredibly big to have a statewide court setting a national precedent. This is the first time a court that has jurisdiction nationally has reached this conclusion.”

As Chuck Colbert reported, "the tax court ruled that GID [Gender Identity Disorder, which is listed in the DSM] is a 'disease' within the meaning of the tax code. The court said the IRS’s claim that all the treatments were 'cosmetic' was 'at best a superficial characterization of the circumstances that is thoroughly rebutted by medical evidence.' The court said that the IRS must consider sex reassignment surgery in the same manner, for example, as an appendectomy or even heart surgery."

Not all procedures one might undergo would necessarily count as medical, for tax deduction purposes, but the fact that some clearly do is a big deal for those trans folks who medically transition.

I add that caveat about transition because it's important to remember that a) not all trans folks actually do medically transition, and that b) those who do change their bodies do so in a variety of ways, contra the assumptions underlying the oft-asked query, 'have you had the surgery?'. Plus, c) in addition to differences of embodiment, there are also a variety of ways that people narrate their experience. While plenty of folks resonate with statements such as O’Donnabhain's of feeling "trapped in the wrong body", many of us don't experience ourselves in those terms.

That said, this is a major victory that brings us a step closer to being treated with the dignity we expect and deserve.

And, frankly, the trans community really needed some good news last week. Because two weeks ago we began mourning the death of yet another trans person found murdered, this time in Houston. Ical's death marks the seventh time a gender variant person has been murdered in Houston over the past ten years, as Chris Seabury reported for Edge Boston. Ical died, as the Executive Director of the the Transgender Foundation of America, Cristan Williams, put it in an interview with KHOU, "struggling for her life." “It’s personal," Wiliams continued, "I feel it on a personal level."

Ical was found at 2 in the afternoon in an empty lot. Local leaders feel strongly that given her proximity to a busy intersection, someone must have seen something. And given that the murder took place in Houston's Montrose neighborhood, an LGBT stronghold, witnesses (if there are any) could well be LGBT themselves. But relations between the LGBT community and the Houston police are not strong, Williams commented: "The LGBT community feels very isolated because of the Houston Police Department’s (HPD) often violent past towards LGBT Houstonians." She is calling for the appointment of an LGBT police liaison.

Ical's memorial service was held two weeks ago today. Featuring a moment of silence followed by a moment of noisemaking, the service aimed both to honor Ical's memory and to "encourage people to make noise about the violence that is inflicted on our community," as Kelli Busey reported on planetransgender.

This is the local news coverage of the memorial:

It is crucial to make some noise, not only in memory of those we have lost but also out of sheer determination to forge our way forward. Thank God for the community in Houston, for the ways in which they are clearly claiming their power. Thank God for the courage of Rhianon O'Donnabhain who was willing to make noise and say "this is not OK."

The catch of the trans community at this time and place is indeed overwhelming, a decidedly mixed bag. As we progress, we find ourselves still very much in the wilderness.

As we move toward my very favorite Sunday in the liturgical year, Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany, I am mindful of the combination of glory and grief that are mysteriously incorporated in the image of the Transfiguration. The New Zealand Prayerbook's revision of the 1928 BCP collect for the Transfiguration says it particularly well:

God of life and glory,
your Son was revealed in splendour
before he suffered death upon the cross;
grant that we, beholding his majesty,
may be strengthened to follow him
and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory;

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.



February 8, 2010

Op-Ed Contributor
Beverly Hills, Calif.

THE election, two months ago, of the Rev. Mary Glasspool, a priest who has been in a committed relationship with another woman for more than 20 years, as a suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has brought added turmoil to the Episcopal Church in the United States and to the worldwide Anglican Communion. There has been sporadic schism since the regular ordination of women as priests in 1977 and especially since the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. He is the first openly gay bishop in the history of those Christian bishops — Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Greek and Russian Orthodox among them — who trace their succession back to the apostles.

In protest, several dozen parishes have aligned themselves with conservative Anglican bishops in Africa, and the Roman Catholic Church has offered to take in disaffected Episcopalians. In 2008, the leadership of the Anglican Communion, to which the American church belongs, tried to keep things together by urging the Americans not to elect other openly gay people as bishops until the Communion could establish more common ground. The Los Angeles electors’ choice of a gay woman as bishop has pushed the denominational envelope to the point of tearing.

The Glasspool election and its ensuing uproar make me realize how much has changed since 1976, when my father, who came to the Los Angeles diocese as a priest in 1947, died. About the biggest controversy within the church during most of his ministry was over proposed revisions to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

At that time, marriage was strictly Adam and Eve. Gays were closeted, whether they were in the congregation or the male-only priesthood. Until 1971, when women were first ordained as deacons, the highest post a woman could attain was member of the vestry, the elected group that manages parish business. But even that was uncommon; usually the highest ranking woman in the parish was the leader of the altar guild, which arranges the flowers in the church, sets up the Eucharistic vessels and washes and irons the linens used in the service. Women could not be priests because — according to the reasoning that had held for two millenniums — none of the apostles was a woman. This made as much sense as saying that, as none of the apostles was a scholar, scholars could not be priests, or that because all the apostles were Jews, only Jews could be ordained.

In 1977, I interviewed one of the controversial new priests, the Rev. Carol Anderson, for an Esquire article, and thought she was simply marvelous. Twelve years later, as either coincidence or a wave of the hand of God, she arrived as the new rector of my now nominal parish, All Saints’ in Beverly Hills, and we have become great friends. Oh, and now the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

These changes did not come until I was in my 30s. I had always been deeply devout, an altar boy from age 6, a regular at church camp and then on its summer staff, and the vice president and then the president of our diocese’s Episcopal Young Churchmen. I attended Hobart College, in Geneva, N.Y., which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, my tuition paid in part by a clergy scholarship. Until well into my 20s, I gave regular consideration to becoming a priest myself.

I had a good model in my father, a man of immense humor who understood the frailties of humanity and who annually challenged his faith by reading agnostics from Thomas Huxley to George Bernard Shaw. He was a solid defender of Anglican orthodoxy and the guidance of the New Testament, but he also believed that every bit of Christian teaching could be summed up in three words: God is love. “The miracles,” he once told me, “are window dressing.”

Love. Treat others as you would have them treat you. If you feel you are a child of God, then honor your common and equal status with others as children of God. Except (and there are always exceptions with sibling rivalry) if they are women and therefore not qualified to perform the holiest sacraments of the church. Except if two members of the same sex engage in long, committed and faithful love; God may be love, but this love is ungodly.

Just look, some vigilant Christians say, at the “clear teaching” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (“Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”); in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 (“The law is laid down ... for the unholy and profane ... for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”); and especially in Romans 1:26b-27 (“Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”)

I know that this will offend some Christians, but the notion that Scripture is perfectly clear is wishful thinking, as a recent white paper prepared by the All Saints’ clergy demonstrates. The writers of the four Gospels don’t agree on even so simple a thing as which people were present at Christ’s empty tomb. Considering that, over the centuries, the Bible has been translated into and out of multiple languages, it only makes sense to consider the context of what’s written rather than believe that every word is literal divine revelation. In rebuttal to the notion of a clear teaching of Scripture, the evangelical author and speaker Tony Campolo has said that “sodomites” is a word of dubious translation. “Nobody knows what the word means,” he said. “Interestingly enough, up until the 14th century it was translated as masturbation.”

Timothy’s reference to sodomites, for its part, is in the context of boys who were castrated to maintain their feminine and childlike characteristics and then exploited for sex — a far cry from two consenting adults of the same sex consummating their committed love.

Today, there is much reference to the supposed Christian teaching that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman, but it was not until the 12th century that marriage became a sacrament in the Western church.

Sex, though, has always been a particularly Christian problem. Orthodox Jews are commanded to marry, but the early Christians found celibacy a high calling. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wished all Christians could stay single and celibate, as he had. He knew, however, that not everyone could and so he adds, “But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

Less quoted than Paul’s advice that it is better to marry than to be engulfed by desire is what he says earlier in the passage: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.” One having one kind of gift and another a different kind is a pretty good definition of humanity in all our variety, and to me this passage expands the heart of what it means when two people, gay or straight, commit themselves to each other in the sight of a God who understands human differences.

A central tenet of Christianity is that all of us are born into sin. Then, as we grow older, we decide that some of our equals sin more than others, and in far worse ways than we do ourselves. We divine the word of God to mean that the acts we don’t like of others — what they eat, how they pray, whom they fall in love with — are an abomination in his sight, as if we can presume to decide in our own way what pleases God, and therefore what acts should be excluded and whom we can judge and damn in his name.

Exclusion always seems to become part of some people’s faith, though often over time what was excluded becomes accepted, only to be replaced by another ban: People of one denomination can’t marry those in another; people of one color cannot marry those of another.

Among my father’s parishioners in the 1950s were two men in their late 40s who came every Sunday to the 7:30 a.m. communion service and who shared a house. My parents referred to them as “confirmed bachelors,” code words for the love that dare not speak its name. They were kind and gentle men, who to even a 10-year-old obviously had some sort of special and personal bond. I am certain that they were in a loving and committed relationship that the church would then not recognize or bless, but as long as the fiction of their just being two people who happened to live together was maintained, they would continue to be accepted and valued members of the congregation. Which, of course, was well meaning but also hypocritical. Now, a multitude of parishes across the country would openly welcome the couple.

My own faith has eroded over the years, though my father’s belief in the supremacy of love still guides me. And so I can’t help but wonder, how can Christians not recognize and honor love that binds two people, any two people, together unto themselves? And if a priest has fulfilled her sacred duties with the distinction that persuades those to whom she would minister to elect her their bishop, and has led an open life of committed love that honors the essence of their God, why should her choice of a partner matter?

Eric Lax is the author of the forthcoming “Faith, Interrupted: A Spiritual Journey.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Ugandan Frankenstein We Have Helped To Create.

Editor's note: Corrections: The Executive Council has not made a statement on Uganda. The Presiding Bishop did issue a statement on December 4, 2009. **

By The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Vice President for National and International Affairs, Integrity USA.

Last week's meeting between the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Archbishop of Canterbury and United Nations Secretary General talked about everything important to people of faith, except one glaring omission, Uganda. Even though the Church of Canada’s House of Bishops, faith leaders in Europe and the international human rights community have all come out condemning the proposed anti-homosexuality bill being discussed by the Ugandan parliament, we have yet to have a definitive statement on this important issue from either Archbishop Rowan Williams or the Anglican Observer at the United Nations, Helen Grace Wangusa, (who is originally from Uganda). Why the silence?

The first priority of the Anglican Communion’s Observer’s work is to ensure the commitment of the faith community within Anglicanism for the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights. “A cross thematic area to ensure all policies adhere to the Declaration of Human Rights for the protection of the dignity of the rights of every individual in the world” as the website reports. Yesterday was a missed opportunity!

When Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo, former Anglican Archbishop of Uganda returned home following the 1998 Lambeth Conference, he made sure to tell a press conference at Entebbe Airport that the Anglican Communion was behind him and President Musevene to extend hasher laws on homosexuality. In concert with his bishops (who influence one third of the population of Uganda and a higher proportion of government ministers and Uganda’s elite) the Archbishop began a crusade against Ugandan homosexuals blaming western and particularly Episcopal Church influence. This was clearly unfounded a lie. With a Bush White House and greater financial influence from American fundamentalists, the movement to misrepresent the Anglican Church’s position on homosexuality created a Frankenstein. Nkoyoyo said nothing about either the listening process, the need to condemn homophobia and violence against LGBT people and extending pastoral care, all recommendations to the world wide Anglican family contained in Resolution 1:10. He also never mentioned Resolution I: I, committing to uphold the Declaration of Human Rights. The Church of Uganda was never publicly reprimanded by the Anglican Communion Office or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or indeed any significant body of peer bishops for their misuse. Silence equals endorsement.

When the history of this sad chapter in the life of the church is written, we may discover that Anglicans are the architects of this monster, now manifested in Uganda and about to spread to other parts of the African church. Later, leaders like Rick Warren and Exodus international would bring their own distinctive body parts to this new creation.

On 17th February, Pastor Martin Ssempa is threatening to bring one million angry Ugandans on to the streets of Kampala to show Musevene’s government that “God fearing Christians” want no leniency for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Musevene is now caught between the unanimous outcry of the international community and even the Vatican against this further violation of human rights, and the Frankenstein we have helped to create. We can trace some of the growing hostility to the gay community last year when Exodus International and other American fundamentalist leaders held conferences and meetings to encourage Ssempa and his Christian fascism to continue their rein of terror and threats. Musevene, as an Anglican leader, whose government was courted and bribed by the fundamentalist Christian lobby, also shares in creating a monster that is about to turn on him. I once met a gay Ugandan in the middle 1990’s who told me Musevene had threatened to gun anyone down on the streets who even dared to celebrate gay pride. Fifteen years later, there will be a different demonstration and the threat of gunning them down will not work this time. When a young democracy like Uganda neglects the role and place of its minorities, as Musevene has done for 20 years with the support of the United States government, Ssempa and Bahati, (the author of the bill) become a manifestation of a deep illness that is within this society.

As with the Rwandan genocide, once the fear, hatred and dehumanization of any population has taken root, there is not much rational and inclusive citizens or the international community can do to change the course of a potential blood bath. When we looked back on the causes of the Rwandan genocide, one of the main forces that created the climate of destruction was the Christian Churches. There is clear evidence that without the years of preaching, using communications and media networks and the organization of the churches in particular, the genocide of 600,000 people could not have happened. The Catholic Church denied its role and the Pope commented that because a “few bad apples” were involved in some horrific events, the institutional church could not be blamed. Similarly the Anglican Communion was largely silent about our participation in the genocide and a few Rwandan bishops escaped To Uganda and Kenya who were accused of helping to mastermind local atrocities and informing the mobs about where terrified groups were hiding in sanctuary-often in there churches. The then Archbishop of Canterbury did not call for an ecclesiastical inquiry or demand bishops be tried by their peers or court. His office and the office of the Anglican Communion largely remained silent and the focus shifted to rebuilding the infrastructure and leadership of the Rwandan church without any significant reflection on our corporate role in creating this former Frankenstein. I have friends working in Rwanda and many of these issues are still to be resolved. Every 25 years, we can anticipate the build up of animosity, fear and intimidation that are largely religiously condoned. Rwanda is about to introduce it’s own form of the anti-gay bill and President Kagame, (a close friend of Rick Warren) is Musevene’s former Defense Minister. As the “Purpose Driven Country”, Rwanda and Uganda shares the same moral vision and a common hatred for gays. Rick Warren’s recent “Letter to the Pastor’s of Uganda” was a brave attempt to put the cork back in the bottle and to distance himself from something that his movement has helped to create. But the genii has escaped. Frankenstein will be marching on the streets of Kampala on 17th February, in all its frightening monstrosity and carrying a very large Bible.

If a million Ugandans take to the streets on February 17th, one third of them are probably Anglicans who will be calling for death to gays and fines and imprisonment for those who minister to them. Some of our Anglican bishops may also support the demonstration. For the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church not to make a statement on this potential crisis in the modern human rights movement, knowing we helped to create this madness, is still a mystery to me. Maybe they are doing a “Rick Warren” and making sure the Church truly distances itself from this ugly situation. It won’t work.

History can help us make sense of the present, if we allow it to. Rwanda is a reminder, that leadership, and religious leadership in particular, has a remarkable way of inciting the crowd and then when things get a little out of hand, to be silent, or in Rick Warren’s case, to make a video. Like Pilate, the sweet smell of Orange blossom soap ensures the blood of the innocent and the vulnerable will not soil our hands. Rwanda is also a reminder that our religious leadership can be struck silent at any moment when there is something important that could have said. Clinton apologized as a secular leader, we did not. Recent Christian history from this troubled region also teaches us that the silence is usually followed by an extended state of amnesia. We forget what we helped to create. Every Anglican bishop who voted on the 1998 Lambeth Resolution bears the corporate and institutional responsibility for what is happening in Uganda right now as human dignity and emerging democracy is diminished in the name of Christ. As the inheritors of the institutions who helped get us into this mess, both Primates need to break your very loud silence.

** From the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle: " Though Integrity supports and welcomes the Presiding Bishop's comments in December, it was a missed opportunity for her not to have publically raised the Episcopal Church's concerns at this high level UN meeting in January. This was the perfect opportunity for her to encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury and the UN Anglican Communion Observer to finally address the violation of human rights in Uganda and the misuse of Lambeth Resolutions by the Anglican Church in Uganda. Integrity feels this remains an important and critical issue for many respected leaders in the international and faith community that it ought to have been addressed specifically at this meeting."