Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

by Max Niedzwiecki
Executive Director of Integrity USA

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

My 2010 resolutions were:

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my 2011 resolutions:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Message from David Norgard, President of Integrity USA

President’s Christmas Message to Members, Partners & Friends

21 December 2010

Dear Members, Church Partners, and Friends:

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

The Rev. David Norgard


Click here to make a donation to Integrity USA.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Repealed: Honesty Triumphs Over Homophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DADT Repealed in House: One Down One to Go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Advent Message: "Singing Songs of Expectation"

by Susan Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Digital Story of the Nativity

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

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

A Reflection from Max Niedzwiecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Niedzwiecki is Executive Director of Integrity USA

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Integrity USA calls on President Obama to end DADT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, call the main White House switchboard:

Or the White House comment line:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

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

An Update on Bishop Christopher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Bishop Christopher, under threat, returns to the USA

• A note from Kampala

• Bishop Christopher responds to California bill

• California Legislature supports Bishop Christopher

• A summer of reflection: Secular leader hails Bishop Christopher

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

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

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

• Integrity responds to erroneous story from Uganda

• A summer pilgrimage

• Bishop Christopher in NYC

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

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

• Bishop Senyonjo to visit White House

• Bishop Christopher visits LGBT center in San Francisco

• ENS reports on Integrity’s Bishop Christopher tour

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

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

• Integrity USA sponsors Ugandan bishop’s tour to USA

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

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

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

• Our obligation to LGBT Ugandans

• Bishop Christopher reports from Uganda

• Uganda LGBT Valentine’s Day Conference report

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

• To Integrity members from the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle

• Church of Uganda recommends amending anti-homosexuality bill

• The Ugandan Frankenstein we have helped to create

• Archbishop of York condemns Ugandan anti-gay bill

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Presiding Bishop: "Pray for a world without AIDS"

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

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

While gentle silence enveloped all things,

and night in its swift course was now half gone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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