Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Letter from Integrity USA's President, the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

Dear Friends:

It's Christmas! The season when we celebrate with astonishment the gift of God; the ultimate generosity of the God who became human and experienced the worst and the best of humanity and inhumanity. Why? So that we might have the chance to discover what it means to be part of the household, the family of God.

And so this weekend most of us will be gathering in families and households to celebrate God's gift by giving gifts and to resonate with God's love as we express our love for one another. Many of us will be gathering for worship in churches where we feel loved and accepted, communities where our gifts are celebrated and our loves are cherished.

But not ALL of us.

There are those who are not welcome to come home. Those who are alone, abandoned by loved ones. Those who do not know a loving, nurturing faith community. Those for whom there is no room at the inn.

Our hearts go out to them.

Let us make a commitment this Christmas not to stop until the Episcopal Church truly welcomes everyone who comes seeking God, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Even one person who experiences TEC as unwelcoming is one too many.

May the God of welcome warm your heart and your hearth this Christmas. If you find yourself outside the inn, may you meet the One who was also unwelcome, and may your heart be strangely warmed. If you find yourself in a family or household may God bless you with eyes to see those who long to be invited in.

Merry Christmas!

The. Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall
St Benedict's, Los Osos
President, Integrity USA

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blue Christmas

A Reflection By The Rev. Canon Ed Sniecienski

Have you ever wondered how many shades of blue exist? The best explanation I've discovered is that there are an infinite number of possible shades of blue, each changed slightly by adding a new color.

Recently, I heard the question asked “what was your favorite Christmas.” It’s an interesting question.. I know from experience how easy it is for many of us to remember our worst Christmas. For some among us, pain was the only gift under the tree.

Last evening, I attended a service titled: “Blue Christmas: A Service of Comfort & Light.” As the church pews slowly filled, I wondered what shade of blue each participant was carrying like the father and his very young son sitting across from me. Where was the Mom? Or, the man with his head in his hands crying softly? I recognized a transgendered woman in her holiday best.....looking sad and lonely. The gentleman in the pew in front of me clutched a photo of him and his partner. What color blue is mourning? A few rows back, two beautiful women exchanging tissues, holding hands just wanting to live their lives out loud. So many shades of blue.

As candles were lit we prayed –

We lit the first candle for those persons who have been loved and lost. We paused to remember their names, their faces, their voices. We give thanks for the memory that binds them to us this season.

We lit the second candle to redeem the pain of loss: the loss of relationship, the loss of jobs, the loss of health, the loss of dreams. As we gather up the pain of the past, we offer it to You, O God, asking that into our open hands in exchange for the gift of peace.

We light the third candle for ourselves this Christmas time. We paused and remember the past weeks, months and, for some, years of difficult times. We remembered the poignancy of memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurt, the pain of reflecting on our own mortality.

We lit the fourth candle to remember our faith and the gift of hope which God offers to us in the Christmas story. We remembered that God, who shares our lives, promises us a time and place of no more pain and suffering. The time is now and the place is now.

So many shads of blue......and so many shade of hope.

Come, let us join hands and carry the light of the fourth candle into our hearts, lives and the world. One is brighter than two and so forth. Let's exchange our tears for smiles wrapped in light and radiant with hope. The gift of love is freely given and waiting under the tree.

This was a wonderful service! At the end, I felt that the best Christmas was only days away because we can bring our pain and loss to the manger and exchange them for joy, light, and the knowledge that we are beloved by God. And, here's the thing...... God’s love is anything but blue!

A personal note of thanks to the Rev. Carri Patterson Grindon, friend and colleague for offering Blue Christmas: A Service of Comfort & Light at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Altadena. CA.

Ed Sniecienski’s professional career encompasses forty years of diverse experience in the fields of Education, Business and Non-profits. In 2001, he joined the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles as special assistant and senior advisor to the Bishop. In January, 2005, Ed was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church and named Canon in 2007. Recently, he launched Discern with Me an interactive web site where we can share with each other our journeys through the “in-between” places of our lives. Ed is a proud member of Integrity and the LGBT community.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diary Of An Arrested Priest

"My friend Michael Sniffen - a strong straight ally - was arrested on Saturday night with Bishop George Packard as a part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  This is Michael's reflection on the experience, and in the context of Advent (shared with permission). It is a powerful reflection and I want to share it with the readers of this blog." -- The Rev. Jon M. Richardson, Vice President of National Affairs

Diary of an Arrested Priest
The Rev. Michael Sniffen

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”

-Matthew 25:37-40

"The church is the church only when it exists for others." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On Saturday, December 17th 2011, in the third week of Advent, I was arrested in a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church, New York.

Earlier that day, I had visited the flagship Apple Store to purchase a Macbook Air as a Christmas gift for my brother. My wife and I strolled down 5th Avenue looking at the Christmas decorations, soaking in the holiday spirit and window shopping. It was a refreshingly crisp winter day and New York was glittering and beautiful. After some lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in SOHO, I went to join clergy colleagues at an Occupy Wall Street celebration and rally at 6th Avenue and Canal street.

I became involved in the OWS movement when a visit to Zuccotti Park in September motivated by simple curiosity turned out to be a convicting religious experience. The encampment in Zuccotti seemed to me a post-modern incarnation of the community depicted in the book of Acts. Sharing things in common, working for the common good, wrestling with the fundamental inequities in society. Since that visit, I have spent as much time as I could listening to the prophetic voices coming out of the movement. I have helped coordinate housing and food for occupiers. I have been part of ongoing discussions among faith leaders throughout the city, the country and the world regarding the urgent need for a dramatic shift in the economic and social realities which are crippling God’s people. I have preached about the movement, with the movement and to the movement. Over the past three months, I have come to view OWS as both a catalyst and a first fruit of the change I wish to see in the world as a person of faith. Not only do I support what the movement stands for and hopes to accomplish, I also support and love the human beings who make up this movement. They are sacraments of God’s love, God’s justice and God’s peace among us.

On the 17th, occupiers and various community leaders from New York (and beyond) gathered to celebrate the movement’s three month mark. Several civil rights heroes of mine were expected to speak and I wanted to meet them. I planned to visit the celebration and then return home and rest before Sunday. I thought, “Is it really only one week till Christmas? Where has the time gone? Has OWS only been a reality for three months? seems a lot has happened in that time. What a gift to the world!”

The mood at the rally was celebratory. There was a general sense of enthusiasm, happiness and passionate commitment. The Church needs more of all three. As I came around the corner where folks were gathering, I spoke with some other clergy who passed on the word that folks were planning to go forward with an act of civil disobedience. They would be entering the vacant lot which had been proposed as a Winter encampment site for OWS. This made me a little uncomfortable. I had considered participating in civil disobedience on other occasions, but had evaluated each situation and decided that it was not right for me personally to participate. I felt the same way today. I did not think that entering the lot would move the good people of Trinity to change their minds regarding use of the space. I was also not sure how helpful the action would be to the movement and, truth be told, I had not planned to stick around for more than an hour. So, I decided not to participate if any act of civil disobedience did take place. I would be there as a non-violent witness, an OWS supporter and a representative of the Church. Good enough.

As the rally unfolded, I was standing near Bishop Packard (retired bishop to the Armed Services), his wife, other clergy and faith leaders. Suddenly, a large staircase emerged from the crowd and was placed against the fence on the north side of the lot. Was it Jacob’s ladder? People began to cheer. Banners were raised. I watched as Bishop Packard went up the stairs and over the fence in a purple cassock and cincture given to him by the Archbishop of Canterbury. His cassock ripped and he fell to the ground on his back. I lunged forward in fear and concern. At that same moment, the police began to push in hard on the crowd. I could feel the physical pressure through dozens of people whose bodies were pressing on mine. More people began to climb the staircase. Up and over they went into an empty gravel lot. And there was jubilation! Could standing in an empty lot really cause so much excitement, so much joy? They felt completely liberated. I could see it on their faces.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a large gathering of police wearing riot gear and carrying weapons. My stomach drops. When I was 16 years old, a police officer hit me hard on the arm with a Maglite on the beach my hometown. It left a painful bruise for weeks. That act of violence was minor compared to what I have seen happen to participants in the OWS movement for simply sitting still.

I look at the people inside the fence and have a feeling which I can only describe as overwhelming love and concern. I must decide, in an instant, where to place my body as a priest. It is no time for sitting on the fence. I climb the stairs and enter the lot. People are cheering and chanting, some are crying, some are silent. I see a sign which read, “Trinity Church - Hero of 9/11. Be a hero again!” I turn and flashed a peace sign to the crowd and to the cops. The same thing I do with parishioners whose hands I can’t reach from the aisle on Sunday. Where are the Trinity clergy? The work of non-violent peacemaking is not best left to the quasi-military NYPD. My iphone vibrates in my hand as I dash toward someone who has fallen over the fence. On the phone is a reporter from the Episcopal News Service. “Michael,” she says. “Are you there? What’s happening?” I tell her that occupiers have entered the lot and I have entered with them. My attention is with the fallen women. “Are you ok?” I ask. She nods and brushes herself off. I say into the phone, “As a priest, I have to be with my people and these are my people. I am here in solidarity with them.” Full stop. I have a deep and overwhelming sense of responsibility that cannot be overcome by reason or logic. It this what it feels like to be a parent? Is this what the incarnation really means? Damn it. What have I climbed into?

This may sound like overstatement, but the option of not going over that fence felt roughly equivalent to abandoning Christ on the cross. I kid you not. I felt the pain and the courage of the occupiers viscerally. I could not let them go alone. Not with the risk of violence which I saw mounting. Not after I had stood with them and they with me in so many other places. My conscience as a priest and as a human being took over and I knew which side of the fence I had to be on. It was obvious. As someone whose spirituality is deeply rooted in the liturgy, I heard the words spoken by my Bishop on the day of my ordination, “You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor...My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood. Answer: I believe I am so called.”

Some clergy and I begin to sing, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” as the police enter the lot in force. We’re attempting to calm the tension and embody a non-violent, peaceful presence. I realize that I still have the Episcopal News Service on the phone in my hand. “I have to go,” I say, and put the phone in my pocket. The police come in fast and hard. I raise my hands. Was I blessing them? Was I trying to slow them down? Was I showing them that I had nothing in my hands? I can’t say for sure. Maybe all three. An older male officer in a white shirt throws a young woman next to me to the ground and jams his knee into her back with his full weight. I lunge forward and shout, “This is not necessary! She’s not resisting you! Just calm down!” He looks up and I see him glance at my collar. “You calm down!” he shouts at me as he gets up, moves toward me and brings his pointer finger within an inch of my face. Then he turns to another officer and shouts angrily, “Start collaring people!” Are we having an ordination?

A younger male officer, as gently and kindly as a mother touches her child, takes hold of my arms and puts plastic cuffs on me. He does so, dare I say, lovingly.

The officer in the white shirt moves on to another young woman wearing a pink Tutu. He flings her around roughly and onto a makeshift bench face down. Her bag goes flying. He twists her arm dramatically behind her and shoves it upward toward her shoulder as he pushes her off the bench and onto the ground. Her stockings rip and her knees begin to bleed. I can see the pain on her face. Not just physical, but spiritual. “Stop it! You’re hurting her!” I shout. Is my voice audible? The officer man-handling her turns and looks at me again. His face is red with rage.

The gentle officer holding me appears to be upset. “Are you ok?” he asks me. “I’m fine,” I say. “But I am concerned about these other people. Can you stop him from being so rough?” The officer shrugs and raises his eyebrows dispassionately. I see sadness in his face. He sees the concern in my eyes.

I look around as action in the lot comes to a stop. Who is here? A humble bishop in ripped vestments, a group of ecumenical clergy, a Roman Catholic nun, students, hunger strikers, parents, grandparents, and others. What crime have they committed? Stepping onto church property as a statement of solidarity with the poor, the least and the lost. This motley crew has hurt no one and is hardly threatening. No personal property has been destroyed. In Advent, we celebrate the in-breaking of God and they call this trespassing. We better be careful with our theology.

I cannot make sense of this situation. I cannot get past the fact that I am an Episcopal priest standing in a vacant lot owned by an Episcopal parish, performing a priestly duty and I am under arrest. Wow. I think about my wife and how she is expecting me home right about now. I’m sorry. I did not plan to climb any fences, but here I am.

In John’s gospel it says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus [asked], ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:8-10) There are so many things that I do not understand, and I am supposed to be a teacher of the faith. Lord, help me to understand.

As we are loaded onto the police bus, people sing, “We shall Occupy” to the tune of, “We shall Overcome.” I sit silently on the bus and stare out the window as people stop their cars in the middle of traffic, get out and cheer. People on the sidewalks down Canal street pump their fists in the air. Some on the bus feel encouraged. I am overcome with sadness as the brokenness of the world floods my soul. Where is the greatness of God in this season of Advent? Be still and know that I am God.

As I am having my mugshot taken, the flash of light reminds me of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary in the gospel I am not yet ready to preach tomorrow morning. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) God grant me courage and wisdom in these troubled times. Grant me strength of heart and mind and soul and body to say alongside Mary, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; Let it be with me according to your word."

One by one we are processed, separated male and female and locked into large holding cells. Inside, we talk about the movement and how desperately we want peace, justice and equality for all God’s people. Clergy speak one on one with occupiers. The bishop convenes a General Assembly. We talk about the experience of being arrested. We get to know one another and share our stories. Several occupiers remark about how much better they have been treated during this arrest. They reckon it is because clergy were present. I find that small bit of good news gratifying. A supervising officer brings us bread, cheese and milk. It reminds me of being in kindergarten and having snack delivered to the classroom. Someone asks, “Can I have two milks?” Response: “don’t push it.” Fair enough.

A hunger-striker who had not eaten for 15 days as part of “the ask” for Trinity to grant use of this empty lot to the movement rises to his feet. He does so slowly and unsteadily from a bench in the corner of our cell. A tear runs down his face. "It is an honor and a privilege to break bread with you today, my friends." The hair on my arms stands up. I cry. Others do too. This is one of the clearest experiences of “church” in my life. Christ is palpably present in this cell as sure as you’re born. I could have reached out and touched the wounds if I wanted to. My middle name is Thomas, after all. We embrace the breaker of bread and each other. Afterwards, I sit on the floor of the cell at the Bishop’s feet.

As I recount this Eucharistic moment to my congregation on Sunday morning after my release, I weep in the pulpit. Sweet sacrament divine. As I end my sermon and walk to my stall, people stand and applaud. They are not applauding me. They are applauding the presence of Christ in the midst of brokenness. I can feel it. I cry all the way through the Nicene Creed. That’s got to be a new one. I look around through my tears and members of my choir are crying. As I distribute the Body of Christ to my parishioners as I do every week in almost exactly the same way, something is different. People grab my hands and hold them. Not one person, but many. One man who always keeps his eyes down looks me straight in the eyes. “The Body of Christ,” I say. “In the name of justice,” he says. I lose it and begin sobbing. I almost drop the patten. Another parishioner approaches with tears in her eyes. “The Body of Christ,” I say. “Thank you,” she manages while holding my shoulder and squeezing. Tears hit the Host. “The Body of Christ,” I say to one of my wardens. He says to me, “I want to shake your hand.”

At the end of the service, I raise my hands which were cuffed behind my back the night before. “Life is short, and there is not much time to gladden the hearts of those around us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you always.”

Forgive us, Lord. We know not what we do. I did not mean to trespass on your holy vacant lot. But I did, and now you’ve broken into me. How can I keep from singing?

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

The Kingdom of God is inside us and all around us. The world is a mess and yet the beauty of community is springing up in the most unexpected places. In an empty lot. In a prison cell. God is building staircases into our hearts this Advent. Sacrificial love is rushing up those stairs. It is the most powerful force on earth and it cannot be stopped. “We are unstoppable,” says God. “Another world is possible.”

What happened on the 17th of December will be forgotten pretty soon. The media cycle will move on. People and institutions will move on. I’m out of jail now, but I am still arrested. God’s Holy Spirit has placed me under arrest. It’s troubling and comforting and overwhelming. I feel completely alive and scared and hopeful. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Help me climb your staircase one step at a time and meet me on the other side. For you promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Be with us all in this season of brokenness and mending.

A “collaring” prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know things which were cast down are being raised up; and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 528)

The Rev. Michael Sniffen
The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew
520 Clinton Ave, Brooklyn NY 11238

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bishop Robinson on MSNBC

Bravo, Bishop Robinson!! Great job on MSNBC this morning!
It is breathtaking (and not in a good way) when someone who aspires to be the Commander in Chief denigrates the soldiers he means to command. Just like all the other soldiers in our military, our gay and lesbian soldiers are dodging bullets and IED’s to preserve our rights as Americans. The right of all Americans to represent their country in our military is now the law of the land, a law that Gov. Perry apparently disagrees with and presumably would work to change if elected president.

The blood of gay and lesbian soldiers flows as readily and as redly as that of other young Americans fighting in Afghanistan, yet Gov. Perry feels free to use them as political cannon fodder for his campaign. In an attempt to garner conservative Christian votes, he would stigmatize these brave young men and women who are, as we speak, risking their lives on our behalf. If this is patriotism, count me out!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

White House Memorandum on LGBT Rights

Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons


SUBJECT: International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights. I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.

That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, "no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere." Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Read the specifics here. ...

... and please, please, PLEASE do take a minute to say "thank you" for this powerful and prophetic step. We know the White House will be hearing from the "religious right" on this one ... let's make sure they hear from us, too. Here's the Contact the White House link to make it easy for you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Q & A on the Deputy Online Forum

As noted earlier on this blog, the Online Deputy Forum topic from 11/14 - 11/27 is C-056 ... the General Convention resolution calling for the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships. Here's a question posed by Ruth Meyers -- Chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music -- and answered by Integrity's past-president Susan Russell:
"How might this work, that is, the provision of theological and liturgical resources for blessing same-gender relationships, advance the mission of the Episcopal Church?"
The church – our Episcopal Church – has been at this work of discerning the Holy Spirit at work in the lives, vocations and relationships of its gay and lesbian baptized for a very long time. In my parish we are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first same-gender blessing of Mark & Phil in January 1992. Since then there have been more calls for us to “do the theology” than I can count – and it was a great privilege to be part of the task force collecting and developing the resources being presented by the SCLM to GC-2012. That said, I would like to offer a three-fold answer to Deputy Meyer’s question, framed by the definition of that mission from our Catechism:

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

(1) As we continue to live into that high calling to restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ, these theological and liturgical resources will equip and empower the Episcopal Church to more fully include all the baptized in the sacramental life of the Church as we to strive to make the “full and equal claim” promised to gay and lesbian members of this church in 1976 not just a resolution but a reality.

(2) In those jurisdictions where the bishop authorizes their use, these resources will not only inform and bless the congregations and couples participating in the theological work and liturgical blessings, they will be an outward and visible sign to those who are still standing as strangers at the gate that “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” sign really means it. They will, in short, be a means of proclaiming the Good News of God’s inclusive love –a means of evangelism.

(3) Finally, the provision of these resources for trial use will allow the Church to move beyond what I have come to call “the inclusion wars” and into a new era of mission and ministry focused on what binds us together as those who believe the Good News of God’s love, justice and compassion rather than on what divides us as those who disagree about theology, sexuality and natural law.

We carry within us the DNA of Anglicans who managed – against all odds -- to be a church both catholic and protestant in the 16th century. These resources will equip us to continue that good work into the 21st as a church committed to the mission of restoring all people – gay and straight – to unity with God and each other in Christ.

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell,
Deputy: Diocese of Los Angeles

If you're a Deputy to General Convention it's not too late to weigh in. And it is also not too late to encourage your diocesan deputies to step up and speak out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Diocese of New York Elects Dietsche on 3rd Ballot

Integrity responds to the election of the Reverend Canon Andrew Dietsche as Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of New York

Today, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of New York have concluded months of discernment by electing the Reverend Canon Andrew Dietsche as their Bishop Coadjutor. Integrity joins the Diocese of New York in celebrating the election of an able pastor and with the whole Church in praying for continued joy in mission and ministry for this trailblazing diocese.

“What we have seen in the Diocese of New York during these weeks and months of discernment is our church at its best,” said the Reverend Dr. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity. “This diocese opened itself up to the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct it through a transparent discernment process that resulted in an exemplary and diverse slate of candidates.”

“They have led the Episcopal Church another step toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments becoming a reality in the Episcopal Church – not just a resolution of General Convention. We owe them our thanks and gratitude for their visionary leadership.”

Integrity looks forward to the day when the inclusion of qualified LGBT candidates for the episcopate will be the norm whenever slates for the election of a new bishop are presented to diocesan conventions. We are grateful for the legislative progress made at our last General Convention that opens the way for each and every diocese to choose from all the qualified candidates the best bishop for as the chief pastor for their diocese – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin or gender identity.

We look forward to working with bishop-elect Dietsche as we continue to work together toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments in living out our baptismal covenant commitment to respect the dignity of every human being.

For more information or further comment contact:
Louise Brooks, Director of Communications, 714.356.5718

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Attention Integrity Members: Time for Action on Behalf of Blessings!

Call to Action: Urge your deputies to take part in the C056 Forum

The Deputy Online Forum on C-056 -  has begun. It would be a shame if deputies only hear from the person whose comments thus far are all about “natural law”. We need to create a buzz that blessings are the next great thing for the Church. Please contact your deputies and ask them to read the white paper from the Standing Commission on Music and Liturgy and to comment favorably on the forum.

These are the suggested discussion questions for the forum. Here are a few:

In what ways do the theological principles summarized in the white paper (first bullet on
page1) describe your experience of lifelong monogamous relationship (your own or
someone else’s)? How do or might they help the Church consider the monogamous,
lifelong, covenantal relationships of same-gender couples?

How well do the report and resolutions as outlined in the white paper respond to the
current pastoral realities and needs of your diocese?

How might the General Convention continue to honor the historic and dynamic Anglican
tradition of the Episcopal Church as it receives and acts on the resources for blessing
same-gender relationships that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has

How might this work advance the mission of the Episcopal Church?

How might the Episcopal Church continue to be in dialogue with other provinces of the
Anglican Communion as we make decisions about blessing same-gender relationships?

Again, ask your deputies to speak out for blessings! Those of you who are not deputies or first alternates can view the conversation, but not post, at

Please let us know you have contacted your deputies and what their responses are. Email Brent Cox at


Rev. Harry Knox
Interim Executive Director
Integrity USA

In Massachusetts, An Unfolding Dream

It's been a tense, exciting day in the Boston area as the legislation known as the "Transgender Equal Rights Bill" makes its way out of the Judiciary Committee for the first time in six years.  The bill is heading to the legislature with a vote expected tonight or tomorrow as the winter recess approaches.  

Yesterday the Boston Globe and Boston Herald reported on the impending vote, and this morning both papers reported on dueling press conferences in which the bill's opponents called the vote a "distraction" from economic issues.  When one such representative argued, "The goals of the advocates is to have this litigated in the courts,” he was confronted by Ken and Marcia Garber.  The Garbers' transgender son was, as the Globe explained,"bullied and discriminated against before he lost his life to a drug overdoes at the age of 20." When the representative "said he did not have time to answer their question because he was late to a meeting," the Garbers, faithful members of Dignity Boston, "challenged Lombardo’s contention that the transgender bill is a distraction from bills that would protect the state’s economic future, [saying] 'Some of these people will never have a future if they don’t do something' to pass the legislation."

The trans community had strong victories late last Spring with Connecticut and Nevada added to the ranks of the now fifteen states and 132 counties and cities  with nondiscrimination and hate crimes protections.  

This drama happens to be unfolding during Massachusetts' "Transgender Awareness Week," in which a number of colleges, universities and other community spaces are holding trans-themed events.  The culmination of the week is the twelfth annual observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).  Though international in scope, the TDOR movement was sparked by a death here in Allston, about a mile away from where I write.   Rocker Rita Hester was murdered on November 28, 1998 almost three years to the day after the loss of Chanelle Pickett on November 20, 1995.  A growing number of Episcopal (and other) congregations have been hosting TDOR events in solidarity with trans communities, even as the observances themselves usually avoid the languages, music or imagery of specific (or at least any one) religious traditions.  Indeed, in his TDOR welcome at a packed Cathedral Church of St. Paul last November, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw offered an apology to the gathered community for the ways in which Christian communities in particular have failed to welcome trans people and have, as he put it, "misrepresented God" to us.  I posted a piece about that TDOR here.  This Sunday the Boston TDOR will take place once again at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. 

Today Bishop Shaw reiterated his support, that of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts (as of its 2008 Convention), and that of The Episcopal Church (as of the 2009 General Convention) for the legislation.  His statement reads,

"Hopeful that after six years the transgender equal rights bill will come to the Massachusetts Legislature for a vote this week, I continue to urge lawmakers to support it.  Now is the time to carry civil liberty for all people another step forward by safeguarding the equality and honoring the human dignity of transgender people.  Passing the bill this week will serve as a powerful sign of hope, particularly as Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed at our Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston this Sunday.  I pray that Massachusetts will open this new door this week so that we might step through it together toward social justice for all." 

The full text of the statement is available on the Diomass website, here.

As it so happens, Sunday is also one of the major examples of what I call "hinge days" in the liturgical year, those days in the Christian calendar that form us with peculiar intensity as we move from one liturgical season to the next.  November 20th marks the last Sunday after Pentecost, otherwise known as the Feast of Christ the King or the Reign (or perhaps, as Verna Dozier might put it, the Dream) of Christ.  Sunday's gospel text from Matthew 25 issues the ultimate challenge of justice from the Son of Humanity, enthroned in eschatalogical splendor:  will we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned?  As we "do it unto the least of these," we "do it unto" Christ, we are reminded with unsettling specificity. 

As the battle over this legislation heats up, I find myself seeking to be present to it as a holy time and space, as an invitation to be, as Bishop Shaw often puts it, opened.  It strikes me that this openness is not simply a static state of welcome and inclusion, but an ongoing process of being opened, transformed by God, ushered into new ways of being in the world, into a new time and space that Christians name as the reign or dream of God. That notion of openness is unsettling and challenging indeed, but hopeful and promising beyond our wildest imaginings.  May it be—may it become – so.

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is the Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University and a Lecturer at Harvard University.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mobilizing Integrity Membership:Contact your GC-Deputies today!

November 11, 2011

Dear Integrity members,

Next week the Episcopal Church will take another important step toward achieving one of Integrity’s long-time goals: the approval of liturgies for the blessing of same-gender unions. On November 9th House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson announced that the next topic on the Deputy Online Forum will be launched on Monday, November 14th – and the topic of discussion is the Status of Resolution C-056: Rites for Blessings.

Deputies and First Alternates will be invited to reflect on the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Musis (SCLM) Blessings Task Force as represented in the white paper posted on the PHOD website from November 14th -27th.

As a member of the Blessings Task Force it has been a tremendous privilege to be part of the work of creating the resources that the SCLM will present to the Church in Indianapolis. And it was a high honor to be part of the Integrity leadership team that worked so hard to move the Episcopal Church forward on blessings through the years. Today I am writing to call all Integrity members to encourage the Deputies from their diocese to [a] read the C-056 white paper and [b] participate in the Deputy Online Forum discussion.

We can use our grassroots networks to reach out to our Deputies and let them know we expect them to lead the Episcopal Church in taking another important step forward toward the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. Together we can prepare our Deputies to head to Indianapolis and General Convention 2012 equipped to make history by authorizing liturgies for the blessing of our relationships. Call or email your Deputies today. Together we can make this happen.

All best blessings,

Integrity past-President
SCLM Blessings Task Force co-chair

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Harry Knox: Celebrating Incremental Victories

Integrity USA Applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee Vote to Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

The Senate Judiciary Committee took the historic step today of voting in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).. "Equality is never a special interest," said Senator Chris Coons in support of the bill. The vote was 10-8 in favor of repealing DOMA

"For the first time in history, the Senate Judiciary Committee recognized gay and lesbian couples who want to marry as people who share the same values about love and commitment as they themselves do," said Rev. Harry Knox, Interim Executive Director of Integrity USA. "Thanks to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, we now can move forward to the Senate floor another chance for historic vote to end federal discrimination ."

On whether this bill has a chance to pass in the Senate, Knox continued, "A Gallup poll earlier this year found that 53 percent of Americans support marriage equality, and another poll found 51% of Americans support repealing DOMA. But as long as DOMA stands there are 1138 rights and privileges denied gay and lesbian couples. Today was an incremental victory in the audacious goal to repeal DOMA. I call on every Integrity member to call his or her Senators and ask them to support the Respect for Marriage Act. That way, this audacious goal will become a long overdue reality."


For more information conatct:
Louise Brooks
Director of Communications
Integrity USA

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Move the middle on marriage with "Committment" not "Rights" language

A message from Harry Knox
Interim Executive Director
Integrity USA

"The most important lesson is that for the middle, marriage is about commitment—not rights." - Thrid Way

It’s always nice to get validation for our work. It is especially so when that validation is backed by solid data. When I saw the report  ( this week on messages that work to help the moveable middle support marriage equality, I am more convinced than ever that Integrity’s approach to advocacy for blessings of marriages for all committed couples is effective both inside and beyond the Church.

The report came from Third Way a Washington think tank that helps moderate politicians find their way to support for progressive causes. A few years ago, I worked with Third Way on efforts which lead to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I am proud of work I did with them and look forward to using their new research moving ahead.

One of the major findings of focus groups and polls utilized in the study was that voters who are moving toward support for marriage equality become more comfortably settled in that support when they learn that most lesbian and gay couples want to be married for the same reason their straight neighbors do – because they are committed to each other and want the world to know it. Messages that center on commitment work better with these voters than those that focus on the civil right to marry or financial benefits that derive from marriage.

For many people, it all comes down to something spiritual. Isn’t that what Integrity has been saying all along? Our work for the blessing of the church in our local parishes is driven by a desire to celebrate with our church families the love God has given us and to ask for the prayers of the people as we commit to support and care for each other come what may. Our desire for legal rights and financial protections derives from our commitments to care for our spouses -- not to make a political point.

The more we engage our neighbors in the pew to tell that story – and the more our engagement is overheard by those outside the Church – the easier our neighbors find it to give us the blessing of their support. Let’s keep at it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Call to Action: Call your Legislator to challenge DOMA

Legislation which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act was to be debated by a US Senate Judiciary Committee but is delayed until November 10th. But, here's some good news.......

132 House Democrats have signed onto an amicus brief challenging the discriminatory DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act)

Here's a PDF of the brief

If your representative IS a signer CALL AND THANK THEM. RIGHT NOW. JUST DO IT. [Here's a link to find the number if you need it. ]

If your representative is NOT a signer then use the same link to call and tell them how disappointed you are NOT to see their name and remind them there's an election coming up.




Important New Survey on Transgender Issues

New Survey: Strong Majorities Favor Rights and Legal Protections for Transgender People

Americans have Solid Understanding of Transgender Identity

Washington, D.C. – Overwhelming majorities of Americans, across the political and religious spectrum, believe that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as other people, a new survey finds.

The August and September Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys were conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and released amid the increased attention towards transgender issues following Chaz Bono’s appearance on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The combined surveys constitute one of the first independent studies of attitudes on transgender issues and Americans’ knowledge of transgender identity.

"Three out of four Americans say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. "This strong support is also broad, persisting across party lines and the religious spectrum."

Approximately three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people. Additionally, the survey found that roughly two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term "transgender" means.

"To explore whether Americans know what the term ‘transgender’ means, we allowed them to define ‘transgender’ in their own words," said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. "More than two-thirds of Americans were able to give an essentially accurate definition of the term ‘transgender’ without any assistance."

Among the Findings:

Overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as others.

  • Approximately 9-in-10 (89%) Americans—including strong majorities of all religious and partisan groups—agree that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.

  • Approximately three-quarters of Americans both say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people, and favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.

Three-quarters (75%) of Americans agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination. This support persists across the political and religious spectrum.

  • Approximately three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to only 22% who oppose.

  • Approximately two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term "transgender" means.

Two-thirds of Americans agree that they feel well informed about transgender persons and issues, while 3-in-10 disagree.

In order to determine whether Americans understood the term "transgender," PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term "transgender" meant to them in their own words. Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition. Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term "transgender" means without any assistance.

To read the topline questionnaire and survey methodology, click here:

Both the August and the September Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys were designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the August survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,006 adults conducted between August 11, 2011 and August 14, 2011. Results of the September survey were based on random digit dial telephone survey of 1,013 adults (301 were reached by cell phone) conducted between September 14, 2011 and September 18, 2011. The margin of error for both surveys is +/- 3.0 percentage points.

Public Religion Research Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and education organization dedicated to work at the intersection of religion, values and public life.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Susan Russell writes Kim Kardashian

Dear Kim,

My mother brought me up to write my thank you notes on Crane's Informal Notes with good penmanship -- but in this case I'm hoping a blog post will suffice to extend to you my deep appreciation, profound thanks and tremendous gratitude.

I am not sure you can appreciate just what a gift it is to have the extraordinarily well publicized news of the end of your hysterically hyped marriage come the very week our congressional leaders are set to begin debating the Respect for Marriage Act on Capitol Hill.

Seriously. As a marriage equality activist I cannot thank you enough for your gift of the stunning example of how the gender of the couple saying "I do" clearly has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with respect for the institution of marriage. It is a gift -- I promise you -- that will keep on giving.

As we continue to work for Family Values that value all families and a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriages we will have your example to add to Britney Spears' 55 hour marriage, Larry King's eight marriages and Newt Gingrich's three (just to name a few) as proof positive that marriage needs protection all right -- but not from gay and lesbian couples who want to pledge to live together until death do they part.

We will have another great example to contrast to those couples building lives, families and a future without the 1138 federally protected rights that you and Kris Humphries enjoyed for the 72 days you were married to each other. Rights like social security, inheritance, taxation, hospital visitation and immigration status. Just to name a few.

We will have another opportunity to talk about the values that make up a marriage -- values that transcend the gender and sexual orientation of the couple. Values like fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and love -- the values that we in the Episcopal Church have held up as the standards we hold for relationships blessed by our church.

And it will give me the chance to talk about the marriages I know about that actually embody all those traditional values which were so utterly lacking in your $10 million dollar nuptial debacle. Like Alec and Jamie. Gay men who have been together for 10 years. Married since 2008. New parents to a 5-year old son adopted out of the foster care system. A son they are raising in a stable, loving home, bringing him to Sunday School every Sunday ... and teaching him to write thank you notes. On Crane's Informal Notes. With good penmanship.

So thank you again, Kim. As we work without ceasing to secure for Alec and Jamie and their family the rights you and Kris threw away after 72 days of marriage, I hope you will know how deeply grateful we are for the "on a silver platter" gift you gave us this week as we head into Senate Judiciary Hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act and look ahead to the repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Honestly, we just can't thank you enough.


The Reverend Canon Susan Russell

All Saints Church, Pasadena

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell is an Associate Rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA. She is also a past president of Integrity USA. You can follow her very popular blog, An Inch at a Time here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kudos to Integrity Connecticut!

This past  weekend Integrity Connecticut celebrated the passage of Resolution # 6 at their diocesan convention: RESOLVED: That the 227th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut urges the Bishop of Connecticut to acknowledge that there are people living in same-gender relationships of mutuality and fidelity who want to be married by their clergy; and be it further RESOLVED: That the Bishop of this Diocese may permit the clergy of the Diocese to determine the appropriate generous pastoral response to meet the needs of the members of his or her own local Eucharistic community, including officiating at weddings of same-sex couples and acting as legal agents of the State in signing marriage licenses.

Resolution #6 was developed by Integrity Connecticut and sponsored by supportive clergy and lay delegates and was passed by a broad majority of the delegates present.
It is work like this done in the Diocese of Connecticut by Integrity Connecticut and their allies that will bring us one step further to achieving our goals for marriage equality at General Convention 2012.
Here is a letter from Larry Besel, Jr summing up their success:

Dear Integrity USA Friends,

I am delighted to report that our Diocesan Resolution calling upon our Bishop to permit our clergy to voluntarily marry same sex couples passed the 227th Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut! Approximately 75 to 80 percent of the convention delegates voted in support the resolution. The resolution brought about a generous amount of diverse dialogue including a discussion on whether the church should even be involved in the performing a function which might be better handled by local justice of the peace. There was a minor change made to our original wording, but nothing that would change the original intent. I will forward the final wording as it is posted from our Diocesan web site.

Copies of our videos were given to delegates during the two day convention/ We also distributed copies of the 8 page same sex marriage rite as authorized for use clergy of the Diocese of Washington (DC).

I've compiled some statistics which can be measures of interest in our initiative and present them below for folks who are interested in that sort of thing:

To date, our principle video "A Call for Marriage Equality in the Diocese of Connecticut" has been viewed 125 times on YouTube.

Statistics for our other videos as presented on YouTube are as follows::

Integrity Connecticut - Father Frank Kirkpatrick - History of Marriage in the Church had 51 views:

Integrity Connecticut - Father Don Hamer - A clergy's perspective had 64 views

Integrity Connecticut - Christene and Linda - Lesbian couple 70 views

Integrity Connecticut - Alex and Ryan - Gay couple 48 views

Integrity Connecticut - Tom and Enid Straight couple 30 views

Integrity Connecticut - Linda and Mark Straight couple 30 views

(You can view all these videos at the Integrity Connecticut website.)

Now that the convention is over we will refine the tags we use to bring people to these video - just haven't had the time up until now to focus on that as we were directing folks to it through the diocese blog of our resolution which had our website in the resolution.

Thirteen separate resolutions were up for consideration by our Convention. The Convention blog site statistics indicates 280 individuals viewed our resolution prior to the convention (there were approximately 600 delegates at the convention. The next highest number of individuals visiting a convention blog was 159 individuals who visited the blog related to a resolution calling for a 'Year-long Dialogue on Open Communion".

Finally, over the past 16 days, our Integrity Connecticut web site recorded 2330 hits with the vast majority of the hits being directed toward our Marriage Equality page our Alternative Rites for Same Sex Couples page and our Where Clergy May Officiate at Same Sex Marriages page.

Please accept my heart felt thanks for what each of you did to support our Chapter in this journey!


Larry Besel, Jr. - Convener
Integrity Connecticut

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Richardson attends South African Consultation on Justice & Sexuality

Integrity USA Vice President of National Affairs, the Rev. Jon M. Richardson, recently represented us at a consultation on justice and human sexuality in Durban, South Africa organized by our Chicago Consultation colleagues "working with the Ujaama Center in Kwazulu-Natal University—gathered 30 Anglican African Church leaders and 15 North Americans to discuss issues of justice and sexuality. For the first time on the continent of Africa in the Anglican Communion people came together to talk about both mission and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. "

Integrity USA applauds and celebrates the great work of our collaborative partners.

The Rev. Bonnie Perry, co-founder of the Chicago Consultation, preached a sermon about the recently concluded consultation to her congregation at All Saints Church in Chicago last Sunday. Here is a part of what she had to say:
"Every morning in small groups

we did Bible-study for an hour and half.
We poked and rolled around,
immersing ourselves
in our common scriptural heritage.
We listened to each other—
we talked about where we do ministry
and what our many challenges are.
Then we had tea.
Then people told their stories.
African and North American.
We listened deeply and intently.

Most of the Africans in attendance
were Biblical scholars—
far more educated than most of the Americans.
Surprise number one of many for me.
That said, this was for many of the Africans
the first time they’d met Americans.
Certainly the first time they’d ever related
to someone who happened
to be openly gay or lesbian.

We told our stories.
And our African sisters and brothers listened:

We dispelled half-truths and myths.
One man was under the impression that Bishop Gene Robinson—
the first out, gay partnered bishop of New Hampshire
was elected by gay people.
It was their belief that New Hampshire,
all of New Hampshire is gay.
For how else could this have happened?

A priest from Nigeria asked,
“But don’t you have all gay churches?”
He asked this with profound curiosity
and confusion after listening to my presentation
on our ministry here at All Saints.
He watched one of our annual meeting slide shows—
and your pictures—
did not fit his previous beliefs.

We can laugh—
we can shake our heads in disbelief.
But let me ask you this—
how much do you seriously know about villages in Kenya?
How many of us can even find Tanzania, Rwanda or Unganda on a map?
When we answered their open, honest, candid questions—
they listened and they believed us. "

You can read Perry's entire sermon on Episcopal Cafe here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

$35 in gratitude for 35 years

$35.00 for 35 years…

35 years ago at its 65th General Convention the Episcopal Church adopted a ground-breaking resolution affirming that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

This resolution provided the foundation for 35 years of progress for LGBT Episcopalians including:

• inclusion of sexual orientation in the non-discrimination canons in 1994

• movement forward on the blessing of same-sex relationships in 2000 & 2003

• consent to the elections of Bishop Robinson in 2003 and Bishop Glasspool in 2010

Just two years after its 1974 founding Integrity helped the Church wake up to the need to open its doors and its sacraments to all of God’s beloved – and 35 years later we are still at it! Your gift of $35 in gratitude for 35 years of commitment to change can help us finally make that 1976 resolution a reality. Donate now.
That was then…This is now!

In 1976 Integrity challenged the 65th General Convention to address the full and equal claim of homosexual persons – and in 2012 Integrity will partner with TransEpiscopal to challenge the 77th General Convention to address the full and equal claim of transgender persons.

"Out of the Box: The Gender Continuum" – another in the award winning Voices of Witness DVD series -- will put the “T” in LGBT by celebrating the work and witness of the transgender community. We will meet the challenge of educating deputies and bishops on what it means to be transgender and why it is important for our canons to specifically include gender identity and gender expression. The DVD will be distributed – along with a study guide -- to all Bishops and Deputies prior to GC-2012.

And your $35 gift in thanksgiving for 35 years of activism will help make it happen. Donate now.

As God has blessed us, we are turning our gratitude into passion for even more justice. Together we can finish the work of claiming the church’s blessing for same-sex unions as we stand in new and powerful ways with our transgender sisters and brothers. Help Integrity continue to make history. Make your $35 donation now.

Thank you for your support,

Caro Hall
President of Integrity

PS Your $35 gift for 35 years today will be matched by our generous colleagues at the Arcus Foundation. Please give all you can and our partners will see to it that your gift is multiplied!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Integrity's Harry Knox reports on his recent road trip

On the road for Integrity this week, I had a unique opportunity to celebrate our past and to help shape our future. I was privileged to pray with two iconic leaders: Louie Crew, the courageous founder of Integrity - and Val Kalende, the young lesbian who has stepped into the leadership vacuum left when our martyr David Kato was murdered in Uganda.

I had a few minutes to reminisce with Louie and his partner Ernest Clay in Savannah as we helped Integrity Georgia celebrate it's 10th anniversary. History was made. For the first time since the chapter's founding, the resident bishop, The Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, celebrated the Eucharist with Integrity members. But it was Louie's stories of the early days of Integrity that moved me most in those moments. He and Ernest laugh now about the frustration of being turned down by three printers as they sought to get out the first Integrity newsletter. They smile as they mention that the printer who finally agreed to produce a publication with the word gay in it, was a Muslim.

I remember rural Fort Valley, Georgia in 1974. It was a dangerous place to tell the truth about sexuality. And in that post-Watergate period, the country was in no mood for a new movement. Thanks be to God Louie and Ernest didn't wait until models were developed for LGBT advocacy, or for perfect conditions in which to begin. Their leap of faith in those uncertain days began a march with all of us that has brought us closer than ever to our goal of availability of all the sacraments to all the baptized in the Episcopal Church.

I left Savannah for New York and a meeting of a United Nations consultation on the decriminalization of homosexuality and gender variance, which was inspired by the work of Bp. Christopher Senjonyo in Uganda. As always, I was inspired by being with Bp. Christopher again. But the rare treat was the opportunity to meet in person the young woman who has accepted the mantle of public leadership of her queer peers in Uganda since the assassination of Davis Kato. Val Kalende thanked us for our support of Sexual Minorities in Uganda (SMUG), asked for our continued support, and reminded us of the importance of encouraging indigenous, culturally appropriate movements among LGBT people in other lands. Like Integrity in 1974, they are finding out what works for them in their setting. They need our prayers, our practical help for the vital basics of every organization, like computers, office space and gasoline - the worldly implements through which Holy Spirit reaps a harvest of reconciliation. For more information contact the Rev. Albert Ogle at:

What a privilege to gaze at icons of our past and future as I prayed this week for Integrity. Please be sure you are praying for Integrity, too!

Harry Knox+
Executive Director
Integirty USA