Friday, July 30, 2010

Attention Target Shoppers: Follow Your Money

Louise Brooks
Integrity Director of Communications

Integrity joins several other LGBT advocacy groups who have expressed disappointment in Target for its campaign contribution supporting an anti-gay politician.
In case you missed it, here's the backstory story from

Demand Target Stop Donating to Anti-Gay Politicians

Retail giant Target has given $150,000 to a political candidate in Minnesota, Tom Emmer, who has ties to a radical Christian rock band, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, that has called for gays and lesbians to be murdered. The money, given by Target to a political action committee known as Minnesota Forward, has made its way to the Emmer campaign, despite Emmer's closeness with the anti-gay group.

What makes this move all the more troubling is that Target openly markets to the LGBT community, and has previously incorporated a number of LGBT-specific corporate policies. For them to filter money, let alone such a high amount, to an organization funding a candidate with ties to an anti-gay hate group flies in the face of their corporate practice, and sends a message that a politics based on fear and hatred toward LGBT people is acceptable.

Once the story hit, Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s Chief Executive Officer, responded that his support of the gay community is "unwavering." You can read more about his email to Target employees here.

The Human Rights Campaign, which previously gave Target a 100 percent approval rating for their treatment of LGBT employees, issued this statement last Monday:

"Target has worked hard to create a fair and equitable workplace for its LGBT employees, and should be proud of its leadership in this area. It is for this reason that HRC is very disappointed in Target's significant monetary contribution to Minnesota Forward, a group supporting the most clearly anti-LGBT candidate for Governor in Minnesota. We have reached out to Target to express our concern over this contribution. While political contributions to support candidates are not a factor in HRC Foundation's Corporate Equality Index, HRC finds it puzzling that Target would take great steps to support LGBT inclusiveness while simultaneously helping a candidate who shamelessly rejects equality for LGBT Minnesotans."
There is now a Facebook group calling for a boycott of Target.

My household represents a market share attracted to Target for certain items and we shop there regularily. We have emailed Target's CEO to express our concern. Please join us and send an email to:
fax: 612-696-6325

One thing is clear, you can't say you are pro-gay and then support anti-gay politics. You can't take our hard earned money and then give it to an anti-gay politician and expect us to keep coming back. We enjoyed the bargains we got at Target but frankly, my family can't afford to shop there anymore.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where in the world is Virginia?

The Reverend Dr. Caro Hall, Rector
St. Benedict's Episcopal Church
Los Osos, California

The churches in northern Virginia whose congregations have joined CANA and hence have ‘dual citizenship’ (according to CANA Bishop Martyn Minns) in ACNA, lost their most recent case in the battle over the property of the Episcopal Churches. Now they are going back to court claiming that they are not, in fact, part of the Nigerian church. They don’t seem to have checked their facts with Archbishop Nicholas Okoh who last week (without mentioning his presence to the Episcopal bishop of Virginia) was speaking at a CANA conference in Herndon, Virginia.

According to Archbishop Okoh, the CANA churches split from the Episcopal Church and joined Nigeria in order to prevent a schism. Huh? The only way that makes any sense is to understand that the conservative coalition has changed the map of the Anglican Communion. Instead of discrete national churches or provinces (some provinces like the US-based Episcopal Church include dioceses in more than one nation) who come together in a spirit of free communion, the conservatives have turned the map on its head and said that its all one Anglican Communion with little artificial boundaries between administrative areas.

This is a subtle change – a bit like pictures where you can see two different images depending on whether you see black or white as the foreground.

A vase or the silhouette of two faces? Is the Communion the real organization and the provinces local chapters, or are the provinces, like the Episcopal Church and the Church of England autonomous and independent? When push comes to shove there’s no debate. The Church of England is still the established church and is still under the thumb of Parliament. They can’t enter into an international treaty which would make another body more important than Parliament. Even Archbishop Akinola was quite clear that the Church of Nigeria is autonomous when in December 2008 he told a news reporter of the Nigerian Sunday Tribune, “The Church of Nigeria, we are sovereign”.

However, from a conservative perspective, ‘truth’ trumps organization. When it’s more beneficial to be an autonomous ‘sovereign’ province so it is, when it’s more convenient for the Anglican Communion (read the Primates Meeting) to have binding authority, so it is. When it’s more beneficial northern Virginia is part of Nigeria. When it’s not, it’s part of an American church.

This keen disregard for geographical boundaries with any connection to reality ‘on the ground’ may be seen as the postmodern approach to living in a global society. It’s a new way of doing church where place is irrelevant, what’s most important is the community of interest. I find this highly problematic as downplays the incarnational nature of our faith. God incarnated in one man, Jesus Christ, in one time in one place. We get to live as the Body of Christ at one time in one place. It’s great that we can communicate across geographical boundaries, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of spiritual living, don’t we need to see and touch and listen to each other?

Which of course is which Archbishop Okoh visited Herndon. The good people of CANA (currently the Convocation of Anglicans in North America but see Father Jake’s updated piece on their shape-shifting) want to see their father in Christ. Thank goodness for air travel! But that leads to another problematic question.

What about peak oil? How long can an incarnational relationship which depends upon oil continue? What about stewardship? One round-trip between Uganda and the East Coast creates almost 7000 pounds of carbon dioxide. How much longer can we countenance the damage that these trips cause?

Conservatives have done a good job of (nearly) changing the ground rules by proclaiming again and again that the Episcopal Church is/was the American branch of the Anglican Communion, that Lambeth resolutions are binding (even as they ignore the parts they don’t like) and that Primates (sorry, some Primates) have authority. They have created a church, or perhaps a denomination, which thinly covers much of North America but shares many of its citizens with several African churches.

But they have yet to find a way to move Manassas and the Bull Run to the Niger Delta.

Caro Hall is the former Vice President of International Affairs for Integrity USA and a frequent blogger for Walking With Integrity.

"Believe Out Loud" Comes to Connecticut

Believe Out Loud Provincial Workshop in Danbury
by Neil Houghton, VPLA

On July 23/24, forty people gathered at St. James, Danbury for the third "Believe Out Loud" Provincial Workshop. Despite heat and humidity the group was engaged from beginning to end. There were many stories shared and skills learned about how to spread the Good News.

"Believe Out Loud" equips Episcopalians to tell their stories and -- in the process -- to find that we have more commonalities than differences. We also discover that we can celebrate not only our common ministry but the wide range of diverse gifts and experiences we bring to the work of inclusion. Matching the stories with the audiences is a powerful tool  as we work together for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.

The radical hospitality extended by St. James and their rector, Joseph Krasinski, made it evident that this was a "way of being" for them, not just for this event. Ernie and Lyn, our local contacts went above and beyond the call of duty. Chap and John, Province 1 and 2 Coordinators, facilitated with great skill.

Through the generous support of the Carpenter and ARCUS foundations, we are able to share skills, identify leaders and leave energized to do the work of Believing Out Loud in the Episcopal Church.
More "Believe Out Loud" events are already scheduled in Martinsburg, West Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas and London, Ohio -- and an event in Denver, Colorado is in the works.

For details, visit the Integrity website ... or contact our office at 800-462-9498. There is still room for YOU at one of these events!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Pilgrimage Part Two: Bishop Christopher's Groundbreaking Tour of the US Continues

Orange County

Bishop Christopher visited two churches in Orange County during his historic tour: St. Mark's Presbyterian Church (pictured here with St. Mark's pastor Gary Collins) in Newport Beach and Irvine United Congregational Church.

He shared his personal journey to how he became an advocate for LGBT rights in Uganda and gave Orange County, (the choice of the International Ex Gay Conference in June), an insight into what the American Christian Right has been doing in his country as the true authors of the Bahati Bill (“Kill the Gays”).

Inspired by his witness over a hundred Orange County residents turned out for an incredible conference “It’s Not a Choice” and a protest at the Ex Gay conference itself on 26th June. He also was one of the keynote speakers at the first Harvey Milk Day celebration in Orange County organized by the Orange County Equality Coalition.

A fundraiser was held for him at the home of Scott Westerfield and Ed Miscevitch  with distinguished guests -- including Jim Burroway of “Box Turtle Bulletin” fame (pictured left)-- who broke the original story of the Ugandan Bill and its connection to the Ex Gay Movement. His visit was about building ecumenical support for the ongoing work of a progressive form of Christianity in Uganda.

San Diego

That same week, San Diego welcomed Bishop Christopher with a three day visit that included a talk with Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, preaching at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a party at The Park Manor Hotel organized by Integrity, Human Rights Campaign and Equality California and a memorable address at the second annual Harvey Milk Day Breakfast attended by over a thousand people.

It is reassuring to know Bishop Christopher addressed more people that day than Lou Engle addressed in Kampala!! He had standing ovations at all events and was given the “Black Eagle “ Award by the San Diego Imperial Court and recognition by the San Diego Human Relations Commission. Linda Miles hosted the bishop and had this to say about his impact on her community:

Rick and I hosted Bishop Christopher on the second week of his tour. It was an experience we will never forget. We were truly touched by this brave, wise, and kind man and his determination to help LGBT people in Uganda. His vision to change the anti-gay attitudes in Uganda rubbed off on us during his week with us.

It is amazing that the Bishop has managed to be such an optimist despite the tribulations he has endured over the years. We saw the eagerness in his eyes when he discussed his vision for educating gays kicked out of school. He is passionate about giving gays fired from jobs a skill such as tailoring that will enable them to start their own small business.
We told the Bishop about PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). He was interested in how PFLAG might be able to enlighten the families of LGBT people in his country. Our local PFLAG leaders emailed him pictures of parents hugging their gay and lesbian children and carrying signs at parades and other events saying how they loved their children. I printed out a bundle of these pictures for him to take back and post in key locations. He is eager to assist us in starting a PFLAG organization in Kampala. He is a realist and says that changing entrenched homophobic attitudes will take years, perhaps generations.

During his last breakfast with us, I asked Bishop Christopher if he had ever met Idi Amin in the '70s. He told us of being summoned to Amin's offices with local bishops. They were made to stand six hours in a hot courtyard without water alongside their Archbishop Luwum, a brave man who had complained to Amin about human rights abuses. They were all accused of treason. Most of the bishops were released that night, but the next day they read in the newspaper that the Archbishop and two government ministers had been killed in a car accident. The families found upon opening the coffins that they had been tortured and shot. Bishop Christopher went into hiding and then self-exile abroad. The next time he went into exile was due to the threats he received over his support of the gays in his community.

We feel fortunate to have met this great man and to have seen his human side. - He loved his evening cup of tea and cake. He delighted in telling us about his beloved wife Mary and their children and grandchildren. Once, after a long day of speaking at several events, he called Mary from his bedroom phone and came down to take his tea visibly happy and relaxed. We could see that Mary gave him strength. When he preached later about how important it is to be able to share a life with the one you love, gay or straight, we knew he spoke from the heart. He knows what real love is.

I could go on and on about the many things the Bishop has done but suffice it to say, he is a good man who is dedicated to defeating the pending bill in Uganda and to educating the homophobic people in his country to the facts about gay people and God's love for them.

Bishop Christopher then headed north to Sacramento -- where he was warmly welcomed by Dean Brian Baker, Bishop Barry Beisner and his wife, Rev. Anne Hallisey (pictured here with Integrity VP Albert Ogle.)

While in Sacrament he also with New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who was given an award by Equality California. He visited the legislature and lobbied for LGBT rights in California, speaking at a press conference with Senator Mark Leno. He had a meeting with Senate Pro Tem Daryll Steinberg and shared his concern that some California Churches were abusing their 501 c 3 tax exemption by extreme lobbying a the United Nations and funding measures like Proposition 8 to strip Californians of their right to equality.

Integrity Coordinator in Sacramento, Steve Skiffington was our host and writes about his impressions of +Christopher. He entitles his reflections “Being Blessed:”

There are times in our lives when we offer to do something because we believe in the cause, only to realize again that in the doing we are blessed beyond belief. Such was the time when my husband and I hosted Bishop Senyonjo and the Rev. Albert Ogle during the bishop's visit to Sacramento in May of this year as part of his tour on behalf of LGBT Ugandans.

Bishop Christopher was in Sacramento to meet up with Bishop Robinson, spend a day of lobbying at the Capitol in support of Gay Marriage, and then to appear at the EQCA Awards that evening as Bishop Robinson was again recognized for his work on behalf of the LGBT community. We were also lucky enough to have Bishop Christopher speak at Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento. The Bishop is such a man of strong faith that being in the same room with him makes you have hope, and stand just a little taller.

I have to tell you of an incident that occurred on his last day in our home because it is just a small example of the dignity of the man. We were in the kitchen finishing breakfast and getting ready for the day when the Bishop asked permission to use my phone to call his wife as he had not heard her voice for several days, and I of course said yes. As I was doing the morning kitchen clean-up thing, he placed the call. While I don't understand Ugandan, I understood the tone completely, it was great love and joy in talking to his wife.

After a few minutes he said, "My wife wants to talk to you. Her name is Mary." When I took the phone and said hello, the first words out of her mouth were, "Thank you for taking care of my husband. I pray for his safety every day." My heart swelled and broke at the same time. Here was a couple who have sacrificed so very much for the sake of LGBT people, and she was thanking me for a simple offer of hospitality. They were thanking me, and yet I owe them so much for their courageous stand. Talk about being blessed!
Bishop Christopher's historic pilgrimage continues to be a blessing as we work together to reap the seeds sown by his witness to God's abundant, inclusive love. And Integrity is hard at work helping make that happen. You can be part of that work and witness by:

Renewing your Integrity membership today -- or joining Integrity if you're not currently a member

Forwarding this blog post to your friends and family and encouraging them to become Integrity members.

Keeping the work of Integrity and the witness of Bishop Christopher in your prayers as we all work together toward God's dream of a world free of homophobia and bigotry, where the whole human family is fully included and celebrated as beloved children of God.

Monday, July 19, 2010

If you loved Bruce Garner's reflection.........

Today, past Integrity President Bruce Garner allowed us to post a reflection he sent to the House of Bishops & Deputies listserv about GC 1991 and the tremedous strides made after two deputies took the bold step to "come out" at that gathering.  It was an amazing "Believe Out Loud" action and Bruce shares with us what happened subsequently. It's a wonderful reflection and many have written to say how much they appreciate it.

Bruce lives in Atlanta, Georgia and he will be attending Integrity's Believe Out Loud workshop in Atlanta on August 6th and 7th. If you live in the area, it would be a great opportunity to meet Bruce in person and learn about his incredible work with Integrity in the past. To check out that workshop click here.

Believe Out Loud is a multi-demoninational campaign aimed at helping churches become fully inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

BOL is a multi-denominational program which utilizes community organizing and social marketing strategies.  It is designed to support individuals and churches in their efforts toward LGBT inclusion.

A partnership of the country’s leading LGBT advocacy groups, both religious and secular, Believe Out Loud seeks to accelerate the existing Christian movement toward LGBT inclusion and significantly increase the number of local churches and denominations that are fully-inclusive of LGBT individuals, both in practice and policy. It works to create a widespread Christian movement for LGBT equality in the church and in broader society.

It’s not enough for us to silently believe that all are equal in God’s eyes. It is time for us to put our beliefs into action.

Break the silence.

Join the movement.

Believe Out Loud.

Plan to attend a BOL (Believe Out Loud!) workshop near you.

Former Integrity President Bruce Garner Reflects On GC 1991

Behind the Scenes in Phoenix at GC 1991
Bruce Garner
Member, Executive Council & Former President, Integrity USA

Two Deputies "coming out" on the floor of the House of Deputies in 1991 was an historic and momentous event. At Patrick Waddell noted in his testimony, LGBT folks could finally speak for themselves. They didn't have to depend on straight friends and allies to speak on their behalf. It also meant that the General Convention was no longer able to just talk about LGBT folks...we were among them and they began to understand the importance of talking to and with us.

There were activities going on "behind the scenes" that would have an impact beyond that General Convention and would affect the church even to this day.

GC 1991 was when what we called "table church" was used for the daily Convention Eucharist's. Deputies, bishops, alternates and visitors were divided up into groups for the daily service. Each table had a chalice and paten, bread and wine, as well as the other necessities for the Eucharist.

The manual acts of the Eucharist taking place at the large central altar were duplicated at each table. It was quite an experience. A different priest or bishop presided at each table each day. The time usually reserved for a homily was instead devoted to Bible study.

I was attending my first General Convention. I was there in my capacity as the National President of Integrity. Integrity was participating as fully as possible in the work of the GC, including staffing an information booth in the exhibit hall, sponsoring a special Eucharist, tracking legislation and participating in hearings on legislative issues.

The opening Eucharist for the Convention included a ceremony conducted by Native Americans where the space for the Convention was blessed and sanctified using Native rituals and Episcopal liturgy. Some complained about that. I thought it very gracious of those from whom the land had been taken decades earlier to bless the very land that had been taken. The complaint about inclusivity of such activities should have been a warning to me.

Our table church assignments had been done at random. There were folks from all across the spectrum of thought at my table. One of the several bishops at my table was extremely conservative. He essentially referred to me as trash. He later would fly the Episcopal Church flag upside down from the diocesan house of his diocese. There is no point in naming him now.

I can usually convey a "poker face" but after a few days of table church and the negative discussions about human sexuality, my facial expressions apparently gave away the toll the painful situation was having on me. One of the bishops at the table went to my own diocesan bishop to express concern for my well being.

My bishop sought me out to ask what was wrong. I was honest with him and shared the frustration and pain that I (and many others) were having over the general tone of the convention.

Time has made it a bit fuzzy as to whether I asked to meet with the Presiding Bishop (Ed Browning) or whether he asked me to meet with him..either way, a meeting was scheduled for us to meet.

My Integrity colleagues and I put our heads together to seek out ways to use this meeting to the benefit of all involved. We came up with several requests, none of which were of "earth shaking" consequences, but which would help all of us further the discussions about human sexuality.

When I arrived at the meeting, it included Presiding Bishop Browning, the Vice President of the House of Bishops, the Secretary of the House of Bishops and my own diocesan bishop. I shared with them our concerns: The tone and tenor of the discussions at this convention were far from civil, much less being a model of Christ-like behaviour. The convention was not living up to the Presiding Bishop's promise that there would be no outcasts in this church. All of us were baptized members of the Body of Christ, and it seemed appropriate that we should convey the respect called for by the vows of our Baptismal Covenant. We were weary of being discussed as if we were not present. We were present, some openly and others still closeted (for obvious reasons at the time). We also sought to have the Rev'd Troy Perry, founder of The Metropolitan Community Church, introduced to the convention. They were having their convention in Phoenix across town from us.

The reaction of the bishops after I finished speaking was "that's it?" They seemed surprised that we were not seeking anything radical or earth shaking from them. I recall being slightly amused at how they had misjudged what they thought I would request.

I also remember my amusement at their reaction to having Troy Perry introduced. I was asked: "You mean you don't want him to address the convention?" I said, "Good Lord, no.we don't want to listen to him. We just want him introduced..the same courtesy afforded the heads of the adjudicatories of other denominations."

The tone of General Convention began to change, although ever so slightly. Some will remember that the House of Bishops began going into executive sessions as a result of the rancor of some of the debate among the bishops.

Still, some progress was made. The resolutions passed by the convention could have been much worse. I was one of those in the circle outside the hall, as Ann Fontaine noted, who was "singing for our lives." Yes, the tears did indeed flow.

Two important events in my personal spiritual journey ultimately came out of General Convention 1991. I became the first OPENLY gay or lesbian person to be appointed to a commission, committee, agency or board of The Episcopal Church. (Obviously, I was not the first gay or lesbian person to be appointed, just the first one open about his/her sexual orientation.) The appointment was to the (now defunct) Standing Commission on Human Affairs.
I also became the first National President of Integrity to meet with a Presiding Bishop. For those who have not had the privilege of getting to know The Most Reverend Ed Browning, he remains one of the most loving and pastoral persons I have ever met. Our conversation was warm and cordial..much like a discussion between family members, between a son andhis father.

As the convention drew to its close, I arranged to purchase one of the chalice and paten sets that had been used during convention. I wanted it to take back to the Integrity Atlanta Chapter of Integrity for use at our regular meetings. When I made the purchase, I realized that the chalice and paten would either be a symbol of the further oppression of LGBT people bythe church or it would be a symbol of at least the beginnings of our
liberation from that oppression. Thankfully, it would be a symbol of the latter.

Progress toward the inclusion of all of God's children in our church has indeed been made. We are inching closer and closer to being able to truthfully proclaim that we respect the dignity of every person and that we are seeking and serving Christ in all. Yet much work remains to be done.

We continue to struggle with the collect in the Book of Common Prayer that exhorts us to make no peace with oppression. We still grapple with racism, sexism, misogyny, heterosexism and all of the "isms" that represent our continued failure to seek and serve Christ in each other and to respect each other's dignity as children of the Living God. For me personally, General Convention 1991 will always be remembered as the convention where we began to take baby steps toward those goals.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Today is an important "Believe Out Loud" Anniversary

From the Rev Susan Russell's blog:

Louie Crew draws our attention to the fact that today is an important anniversary:

On this day In 1991 Jane Garrett+, a deputy from Vermont, and Pat Waddell, a deputy from El Camino Real, came out as deputies at General Convention in Phoenix, the first deputies ever to do so. General Convention has never been the same since.

Nineteen years ago yesterday there were no "out" gay or lesbian deputies to the Episcopal Church's General Convention.
 Nineteen years ago today Jane and Pat ended the silence and spoke their truth to their Episcopal Church -- a giant step forward in living out the scriptural promise in John 8:32 that the truth WILL set us free.

Jane and Pat believed out loud. Integrity is asking members, parishes and dioceses to follow the lead of these early activists and join the Believe Out Loud in the Episcopal Church Campaign.

Jesus Christ called each of us to love one another.

At its core, this is what Believe Out Loud is about – helping churches live out this Christian principle by becoming fully inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Using community organizing and social marketing strategies, we support individuals and churches in their efforts toward LGBT inclusion. A partnership of the country’s leading LGBT advocacy groups, both religious and secular, Believe Out Loud seeks to accelerate the existing Christian movement toward LGBT inclusion and significantly increase the number of local churches and denominations that are fully-inclusive of LGBT individuals, both in practice and policy. In doing so, we seek to create a widespread Christian movement for LGBT equality in the church and in broader society.

It’s not enough for us to silently believe that all are equal in God’s eyes. It is time for us to put our beliefs into action.

Break the silence. Join the movement. Believe Out Loud.

Plan to attend a BOL workshop near you.

Integrity Proud Parish Partner Honored at San Diego Pride Festival

Integrity Proud Parish Partner in San Diego, St. Paul’s Cathedral,  named recipient of the Stonewall Service Award in 2010 San Diego Pride Festival

Since hosting the first national convention on the West Coast in the early 1980s and calling for LGBT rights within the Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Bankers Hill area of San Diego has visibly campaigned against Proposition 8, and deployed its priests and clergy to go door to door in spreading a message of equality. It has also openly denounced hate crimes and false claims made by leaders of the ex-gay movement in their attempts to turn LGBT individuals straight.

The cathedral serves as a beacon for tolerance, welcoming people of every faith regardless of their sexuality. The cathedral also recently hosted the first “Believe Out Loud” workshop for Province IX and led the Bishop Christopher Senyonjo tour of the USA and Ireland.

 The Award will be presented to the cathedral on Friday 16th July at the opening of the Festival in Balboa Park.

Integrity USA honors the Society of St. Paul

At a recent meeting of the Board of Directors of Integrity, a resolution was passed honoring the dedication of the Reverend Canons Andrew Rank and Barnabas Hunt to creating a fully inclusive church. As members of the Society of St. Paul, they joined Integrity in 1995 and have been major supporters of Integrity’s work to ensure the sacraments were available to everyone, including the ordination of LGBT candidates and the consecration of openly gay or lesbian bishops. A formal presentation will be made to the brothers on Sunday 18th July at the 10.30 a.m. service by Canon Albert Ogle who serves on the Integrity Board as Vice President for National and International Affairs. Albert remarked, “St. Paul’s Cathedral continues to play a leading role in supporting Integrity’s ministry through countless hours of volunteer service and fundraising. St. Paul’s Cathedral gave one of the largest gifts of any congregation and city to both Integrity’s General Convention Fund and the recent tour of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda. In their commitment to Integrity and so many other ministries (where the inclusion and care of the marginalized and persecuted is their primary gospel value) Andrew and Barnabas have touched lives from Tijuana to Kampala, from children to seniors and we all follow in their prophetic saintly footsteps”.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BOL Workshop | August 27-28 | London OH

Registration is now open for the Province 5 Believe Out Loud Provincial Workshop, which will take place August 27-28 in London OH [near Columbus]. Click here for more info and to register!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BOL Workshop | August 13-14 | Austin TX

Registration is now open for the Province 7 Believe Out Loud Provincial Workshop, which will take place August 13-14 in Austin TX. Click here for more info and to register!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Summer Pilgrimage: Reflections on Bishop Christopher's groundbreaking visit

Lou Slimp & Terry Takeda, Integrity members from All Saints Church, Pasadena, hosted Bishop Christopher in their Glendale, CA. home during his visit to the Los Angeles area. They are pictured here with the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Integrity's VP of National & International Affairs and the organizer of the Bishop's tour. Here is Lou's reflection on his stay.

Terry and I have been asked to share our thought on hosting Bishop Christopher during his stay in Los Angeles.

Even though his flight arrived in Los Angeles over 5 hours late at 3:30 in the morning, this retired Bishop came bounding down the stairs with a BIG Smile on his face-after traveling for over 24 hours! He was so excited and happy to start his visit to the United States. I was impressed with his enthusiasm and energy after such a long and delayed trip-and that was just the beginning!

Bishop Christopher and I were able to spend much time together. I was struck by his humility, and sense of humor in spite of everything that he has gone through. We discussed the current situation in Uganda and East Africa, as well what he endured during the Idi Amin years. This Bishop of the Church has lived a courageous and valiant life. I was struck by his passion for equality for all of God's children and the risks he is willing to take. He has lost much due to his stand for equality and inclusiveness. Yet, he is quick to laugh, enjoys meeting people, and enjoys life! He is a real inspiration.

Each new day was an adventure with the Bishop. He spent much time in prayer and reflection in preparation for each new day, and worked tirelessly on speeches, and sermons. He was always very interested in learning what he could about the group that he was speaking to next. He really enjoyed looking at the information on the internet and learning as much as he could about his next audience. He has seen a lot of changes in his life from growing up in rural Africa and appreciates all that life has to offer. Bishop Christopher also was interested in current events and things that were happening in the world. He looked forward to visiting old friends and making new ones on his U.S. tour.

It was an amazing and enriching experience to be with him for his first five days. He taught us much about endurance and persevering against the odds, about not giving up hope when everyone is against you. He taught us about faith in GOD when everyone else around you sees things otherwise and think you are wrong.

He has the conviction that truth and justice will triumph in the end. He is sustained by the example of the Apostle Paul and God's love for all of Her children.

I am grateful that he was able to touch our lives!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


July 7, 2010

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo--recently returned from his seven-week speaking tour of the United States and Ireland—today issued a public statement on recent reports that the headless body of an Integrity Uganda member had been found in Uganda…
"I have never worked with anyone who goes by the name Pasikali in my organization. I also did not make any comments as quoted in earlier statements made by Rev. Erich Kasirye. Rev. Erich Kasirye no longer has any legitimate connection to Integrity Uganda and the e-mail address is no longer available as a link to the leadership of Integrity Uganda."
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Integrity USA's Vice President for National and International Affairs added, "This story is a wakeup call for all of us to ensure that something like it will never actually happen. The climate of fear and intimidation created by the Bahati Bill by external organizations like Exodus International and religious leadership in Uganda has increased the potential for violence against the LGBT community and their families. As we all painfully learned in Rwanda, the dehumanizing of one part of the population occurred over years of scapegoating long before the genocide occurred. Religious leaders were unfortunately part of a conspiracy of misinformation that created the crucible of hatred that gave license to destroy innocent human beings on a mass scale. We cannot allow the rhetoric of misinformation and misinterpretation of Holy Scriptures to justify hatred and fear towards our fellow human beings. The genocide begins when we hear of human slaughter and not only do nothing about but may secretly feel it is somehow deserved. By then, we are already on the slippery slope. Jesus warned us to pay attention to what is going on in our hearts and our intentions as if they are reality. Although this story was imagined, it is a wake-up call to the climate that we have all somehow created and all have a responsibility to repair."

Ogle concluded, "One thing I have learned from this unfortunate incident is there is an urgent need to provide our Ugandan brothers and sisters with adequate technology and communications systems so stories like this can be more quickly verified and appropriate action taken. I encourage everyone to assist us in these efforts by contributing to Integrity USA's Hopkins Fund."

Online donations to the Hopkins Fund can be made at Checks can be mailed to Integrity USA, 620 Park Avenue #311, Rochester NY 14607.

Press contact:
Louise Brooks
Director of Communications, Integrity USA

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Summer Pilgrimage

Written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, Integrity's Vice President for National & International Affairs, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 2010

In religion and spirituality a pilgrimage is defined as "a long and sometimes sacrificial journey in search of a great moral significance." Integrity and many of our friends and allies across the country and in Ireland have shared a deeply enriching pilgrimage with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop of West Buganda, Church of Uganda. We are so indebted to him and his East African spiritual traditions and wonderful family for their generosity and sharing so much time with us all.

The bishop arrived safely in Kampala yesterday. For eight weeks, he shared his life and dreams with all of us. There is a Celtic pilgrimage tradition observed by saints like Columba and Gall of "White Martyrdom," where the pilgrim is for one reason or another is exiled from his or her base community and sets forth on a journey completely dependent on the goodwill of others and God’s Grace. Integrity’s own John Fortunato once wrote "The spiritual journey always begins in exile," When Christopher was speaking in many different venues, he was aware of the many marginalized and spiritually exiled people in his presence. His message of welcome always resonated through Christopher’s own personal exile from his "home" community. Pilgrims were inspired by his courage to face it. His openness and love was infectious and we were all drawn into his family. Like the Celtic saints before us who made friends of strangers and exiles, Christopher invited everyone to become part of the "ecclesia" (gathered ones) and fellowship of the Beloved. St. Francis once said, "Preach the Gospel at all times and use words if you have to". In an age where we define church solely as buildings and property, pilgrimage is a counter-cultural way of becoming part of the "gathered of God" and I sense many church damaged people have been healed and walk a little lighter on the earth because of Christopher’s testimony.

This summer, as part of a different personal pilgrimage in the steps of St. Paul, I visited cities and sites in Greece, Italy and Turkey associated with this very "under-rated" Christian. The conservative and progressive churches have both found different ways of exiling St. Paul from "gathered of God". We have trapped him in "leaded stained glass windows" or (for progressives) often reject his work totally because of interpretation of several misquoted passages on women and gays. My summer trip to the sites of Paul helped to liberate him for me. I was ordained on the Feast of Peter and Paul in 1978 and now see Paul totally differently than I have ever viewed him in my 32 years of ministry. My goal is to live to see these significant sites [i.e. Ephesus and Corinth] associated with his life and work as important enough to be considered part of a trans-border World Heritage Site, with reconciliation as his "Outstanding Universal Value." Imagine an international World Heritage Trail that brings Muslim Turkey, Catholic Italy and Orthodox Greece together! The dialogue between EU countries and Turkey could do with a boost right now and Paul is the undiscovered link to Europe’s future because he is so embedded in the traditions of Europe’s past with a strong connection to the Middle East. He is, next to Jesus Christ, the most important figure and influence on a billion-person movement. His work is still read and studied every week through Christian liturgical practices and he is an inspiration to a cross section of people from Christopher Senyonjo to Pope Benedict XIV. His life was a pilgrimage to join together male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free, and every "opposite" humanity might imagine into one "human and divine" family. His life was full of hardship and suffering and even today in his own birthplace of Tarsus, there is still no recognition to the achievement of this most famous "Turkish leader" to reconcile humanity. Yes, we don’t think of Paul as Turkish…and that’s my point. Not even the Turks claim Paul as one of their own–an interesting starting point for Christian Jewish dialogue? Christopher loves Paul. He uses his teaching ALL the time.

As I journeyed with you all and with Christopher this summer, there was something very "Paul-like" about his mission to us. Here was someone who was being persecuted by his own community for religious reasons and risks all for the gospel of inclusion, even if it means going to jail. As I was with him, I was aware many times of being in the presence of the holy and many of us were touched by Christopher’s intelligence and ability to communicate the issues and share his wisdom with us. He represents the best of the Anglican tradition in East Africa–a gospel of the Love of God in Jesus and a compassionate church that has not quite sold out to newly-fangled " Gospel of Prosperity"--the brighter upside of the darker religious homophobia were have exported to Africa. He may be the last remnant of a great East African church that, under the glitz of the "Prosperity Gospel" is passing away, but God has a way of working with remnants that defy statistics and trends.

I am beginning a summer series for the Walking With Integrity blog inviting fellow pilgrims to share their thoughts and reflections on how Christopher touched and perhaps changed their lives when he was visiting your community. There was so much that happened during the tour that only a fraction of it could be actually communicated and reported to date. Now is the time to share more deeply what he left with us and how we are moving together into deeper community.

Finally, I want to end by expressing my deep gratitude to my fellow board members of Integrity USA--and particularly Louise Brooks, who led the media and communication strategy for the bishop's pilgrimage. Thank you to John Clinton Bradley, our wonderful Acting Executive Director who, with Bruce Coburn, gave support to the tour and our national team of city hosts. We are now able to continue our financial support of Integrity Uganda because of sponsors like the dioceses of New York, California, New Hampshire and Los Angeles; Equality California; the Human Rights Campaign; and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), particularly through the work of Ann Craig and her strong amplification of the Ugandan progressive voices. The support of the Domestic Workers Union of the USA also made the pilgrimage possible. I give thanks for the two outstanding consultations at the Center for American Progress--coordinated by Sally Steenland, Sharon Groves and Josh King--and the inspiring United Nations Consultation around the decriminalization of homosexuality with eighty organizations and delegations represented. Many thanks to Bruce Knotts and Rev. Patti Ackerman, Geronimo, and Erin for all your dedication to make this a memorable visit for all of us. Every "city host" also played a significant role of offering hospitality and arranging visits to important people and institutions and I am grateful to Lou Slimp and Terry Takeda in Los Angeles, Rick and Lindy Miles in San Diego, Ed Miscevitch and Scott Westerfield for their hospitality in Orange County, Andrea Shorter and Rev. John Kirkley in San Francisco, Dean Brian Baker and Bishop Steve Skiffington in Sacramento, and the EQCA offices in Sacramento who made the bishops visit to the California Legislature so memorable. Thanks to my friends at Integrity at St. Paul’s Cathedral, HRC San Diego, and the Imperial Court for a wonderful fundraiser at Top of the Park led by Linda Perrine, and a later event at Pamela Morgan and Joyce Rowland’s home. It was great for an old friend of Bishop Christopher to host him in Minneapolis, the Rev. Cynthia Black--whose "Voices of Witness Africa" video was of great help to all of us. Rev. Lee Ann Watkins and Rev. Mark Thompson and the good people of St. Paul’s and the Cathedral community all made his visit to Minneapolis such a success.

Finally, his visit to Washington DC and New York would not have been possible without the support of the Rev. Joan Beilstein, and Libbie Griffith who hosted the bishop in DC with Rev. Peter Antoci and Chap Day and Rev. Winnie Varghese who worked with Anne Craig and the UN Universalist Unitarian Office in New York, arranging so many meetings for us, including Union Seminary, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Rehoboth Church in Harlem and Joseph Tolton. The bishop was particularly grateful to Josh King from HRC who accompanied him to all the meetings Josh and Michael Guest had arranged for him in DC. The bishop enjoyed meeting with staff and board members of Intersections in New York and staff at Trinity Wall Street, the Arcus Foundation and the Episcopal Church Center. We were guests of the Lutheran Ministry to Seafarers, again a fitting image of a pilgrim people with an international perspective. Finally, I am grateful to my friend Archbishop John Neil of Dublin for opening the doors of Christchurch Cathedral to our Ugandan pilgrim and to one of my oldest friends from high school, the Rev. Mervyn Kingston, and Dr. Richard O’Leary of Changing Attitude Ireland. Thanks to the Dean, Canon Michael Mays and Rev Darell McCallig of Trinity College, Dublin; Stephen Adair and Philip Reain; David McConnell and Rev. Sandra Pragnell for opening their Irish homes and hearts to a contemporary Celtic saint who happens to come from Uganda! He loved your welcome and was inspired by the reconciliation work that has been accomplished in Ireland. The Irish share a wounded and "colonized" soul similar to the Ugandans and we have much to share in our experiences of healing each other and our institutional "post colonial" damage, particularly in the churches. We are now common pilgrims and fully included in the "ecclesia of God" just incase anyone hasn’t noticed!