Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter People in a Good Friday World

Cross-posted from the Trans-Episcopal Blog

Retired Bishop Barbara C. Harris has a saying that we are “an Easter people in a Good Friday world.” That’s what I find myself pondering as I think of the current state of affairs for trans people in the U.S. right now. If we are an Easter people—an Easter body—we are, as tomorrow’s passage from John 20 so strikingly depicts it, a risen body marked by wounds that remain open.

The U.S. trans community got some good news this week when the Department of Labor announced it has added "gender identity" to its equal employment statement. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's press release on the addition can be found here.

We also got some good news two weeks ago when the state legislature of Hawaii sent legislation to Governor Neil Abercrombi that would protect trans people in the area of employment. On Monday, April 18th, Hawaii’s House of Representatives passed Bill #546 which, as the Star Advertiser explained, “would bar employers from discriminating on the basis of gender expression, bringing Hawaii's labor law in line with similar protections in the areas of housing and public accommodations.” The governor is widely expected to sign this legislation.

That Hawaii already protects trans people from discrimination in several areas, particularly access to public accommodations, is also significant. In other states, public accommodations access is being hotly debated, with opponents of equal access often caustically terming such legislation “bathroom bills.” The specter these opponents raise in such debates is of vulnerable women and children being open to attack in women’s restrooms—if not by trans people, then by people posing as trans. With such fear tactics, they seek either to prevent the passage of laws that would safeguard trans access to public accommodations, or they seek to repeal legislation already on the books.

The state of Maine is currently considering just such a repeal, as shown by Integrity Maine member Ben Garren’s recent testimony against that repeal effort.

As of Monday, Texas became the home of another repeal effort, this one attempting to prevent trans people from marrying. As Bay Windows reported earlier this week, “The legislation…. would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married, effectively requiring the state to recognize a 1999 state appeals court decision that said in cases of marriage, gender is assigned at birth and sticks with a person throughout their life even if they have a sex change.” In addition to preventing future marriages, this legislation may well undermine the legal standing of existing ones—my own, for instance, if I lived in Texas.

Meanwhile on April 11th in Maryland, the Gender-Identity Discrimination Act (House Bill 235—which addressed employment but left out public accommodations) was effectively killed for the current legislative year when it was narrowly voted back to the state’s Judiciary Proceedings Committee. As the Baltimore Sun reported, “While the bill was being debated on the House floor, one delegate alluded to Cpl. Klinger, a comic-relief character from the TV show "M*A*S*H" known for wearing women's clothes while trying to get a psychiatric discharge from the Army. The delegate wanted to know if his colleagues wanted Klinger leading a day care center.”

On April 18th, one week after the bill was killed, a young transwoman named Chrissy Lee Polis was attacked by young non-trans women as she tried to enter a bathroom in a Baltimore MacDonald’s. The story of the beating, including a video taken by a MacDonald’s employee -- in which Polis can be heard asking “what bathroom am I supposed to use?!” -- went viral in the days that followed (youtube has now removed it). This story has been covered everywhere, from this call to action by Chris Paige of TransFaith online to an NPR story yesterday and a Washington Post piece earlier this week. A Baltimore Sun story from earlier today considers whether perhaps this horrifying event may be a moment we look back upon as a turning point.

As TransEpiscopal co-founder Donna Cartwright put it in a letter to the editor of the New York Times today, “Defiance of rigid cultural gender expectations still makes many people uncomfortable, and all too often we pay the price for others’ discomfort.” Nevertheless, she continues, “we can create new cultural space by being who we are, without apology.”

When I think about the process of creating that “new cultural of space,” I can’t help but be reminded of the mystical theology of Julian of Norwich, whose feast day falls on May 8th. I think of her vision of the body of Christ, its side mystically opened to all as to Thomas in the upper room—opened in a strangely infinite capacity as a place of refuge, a body of transformation, a passage of rebirth.

An Easter people in a Good Friday world indeed.

-Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is a Lecturer and Interim Episcopal Chaplain at Harvard University

Friday, April 29, 2011

Integrity Grants Available: Apply Before May 15th

Proclaim “All the Sacraments for All the Baptized” in Your Community

Ideas for Grants in your Community

Max Niedzwiecki, Ph.D.
Integrity USA Executive Director


Integrity USA is offering grant funding to Chapters, Proud Parish Partners (P3s) and other groups that want to proclaim “all the sacraments for all the baptized” but need extra money and help to do that more effectively. Grants will be in amounts of up to $1,500. The application deadline is May 15, 2011. Here is the full request for proposals.

This is the first time that Integrity has made grants to member groups. We are doing it because we want to insure that victories at General Convention are implemented in parishes around the country. Resolutions are just words if they don’t make a difference in people’s lives. Also, Integrity’s future successes at General Convention depend on support from people in every diocese. “All the sacraments for all the baptized” isn’t just a slogan Integrity board members, Provincial Coordinators, Diocesan Organizers, and staff keep repeating: It’s a rallying cry coming from Episcopalians in churches throughout the United States and beyond.

Some have said to me: Max, of course we want LGBT folks to be more warmly welcomed in our parish and our diocese. Of course we want our churches to celebrate the unions of same-sex couples, as well as different-sex couples – through marriage ceremonies, or at least “blessings.” We know that our church needs to learn more about the transgender community. We know that people in committed same-sex unions need to be able to heed God’s call to become deacons, priests, and bishops. And we want more people to know about all of that. That’s why we’re members of Integrity!

But how can we make that happen? Give us some ideas - how can this grant help us?

So, here are just a few ideas to get you thinking: These are not the only options! We want to hear your creative ideas, and different approaches will work in different communities.

Host a series of dinners: You could host a series of dinners in church halls or homes where LGBT Episcopalians and the people who love them tell their stories, make the case for inclusion, and open dialogue with people who are struggling with homophobia. Follow up on this by writing a short article about the experience (preserving confidentiality where necessary) and submitting it for publication in your diocesan newsletter, the local paper, and Walking with Integrity.

Stage a film and discussion series: Many films about faith and human sexuality are available on DVD. “For the Bible Tells Me So,” the award winning “Voices of Witness," "Voices of Witness Africa,” and the historic video of the Integrity Eucharist at General Convention 2009 are just a few examples. Start a weekly series of film screenings and discussions in a church hall, community center, public library, college, or even a gay or lesbian bar. Advertise the events in LGBT, mainstream, and college newspapers, as well as parish and diocesan newsletters. Include information about the Episcopal Church in your discussion. Invite reporters to participate, or write about your experiences and then try to get them published.

Schedule a celebration connected to LGBT Pride: Work with a rector, lay leaders and straight allies to stage a special celebration of the Holy Eucharist that specifically honors the contributions of LGBT people to the Church, as well as the need for greater inclusion. Build the Church by marching with a banner in the Pride parade, and invite clergy to march in their collars. Capitalize on the media attention around Pride by working to get news items on what you are doing published in papers and newsletters, and covered on TV news.

Publish your stories. Collect personal stories that show how important it is – to individuals and to the Episcopal Church – that the Church extends a radical welcome to all of God’s children. Print them in a booklet, produce a DVD, or post video clips to YouTube and our Walking With Integrity blog. Distribute the stories to clergy and other Episcopal leaders in your diocese. Write a short piece about your project that could be placed as a Letter to the Editor in the local paper, or the diocesan newsletter.

In addition to a grant of up to $1,500 from Integrity USA, you might use funds from your Chapter or a special community fundraising effort to support projects like these.

Integrity USA will provide help with drafting and placing news items, if you would like, in addition to the funding.

These are just a few examples of what you might do. Share your ideas with us or ask us questions by writing to us

Remember – the deadline for applications is May 15th.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Fight for Marriage Equality: Fueled by Hatred?

That’s what Maggie Gallagher, the chair of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) says.

Ms. Gallagher, who heads the group that led winning efforts to repeal marriage equality laws in California and Maine, said in a public event during Holy Week that “What [marriage equality advocates have] done now is that they’ve stopped trying to persuade people that gay marriage is a good idea… What they are doing is … directing a relentless torrent of accusations and hatred against anyone who speaks, no matter how civilly, for marriage.”

Let’s set the record straight:
  • Integrity proclaims that loving, committed, faith-filled relationships are beautiful in the eyes of God.
  • Our beloved Episcopal Church affirms that these relationships enable us to “see the image of God” in our spouses.
  • We are most definitely FOR marriage – between a man and a woman, two women, or two men.
  • And we do our best to follow Jesus’ commandment to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44).
Last week, I asked you to reflect on parts of your life, your community and the Church that are still in need of healing.  And I asked you to consider whether you feel called to join Integrity’s ministry in a new or deeper way.

Now I have two more specific requests:

First, write to Ms. Gallagher and her colleagues at NOM ( and send a copy to  Here is a sample message:
As Jesus commands us (Matt 5:44) my friends and I at Integrity USA are praying for you.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will show you that loving relationships – marriages - need to be supported and treasured, regardless of whether they are between a man and a woman, two women, or two men.  These loving relationships help to build a healthy society and the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Second, make a special donation to Integrity so we can keep proclaiming that the struggle for marriage equality is the struggle for love and mutual respect.  And if you would like to become more active as a volunteer for marriage equality, send us a note at

Max Niedzwiecki
Executive Director, Integrity USA

Calling on McDonald's to Protect Our Children

From our colleagues at the National Religious Leaders Roundtable


The beating of a transgender woman in Baltimore is horrific. I've heard many people say they wish they could do more to respond to what happened in the Baltimore area McDonald's, after they have signed the petition seeking justice. I'm writing with a personal suggestion for more people to followup with McDonald's corporate leadership as people of faith and as people concerned for the well-being of our children -- whatever your gender or affectional experience.

Please contact McDonald's corporate leadership and ask them to put policies in place that will protect our children from experiencing or witnessing such horrific violence in the midst of an allegedly child-friendly eatery. This is not only about transgender people. It is about whether McDonald's employees are prepared to maintain a safe, child-friendly environment on their business properties.

I am concerned that the corporate response from top McDonald's leadership fails to address the need for (1) non-discrimination policies relating to transgender people (2) mandatory diversity training for employees on transgender (and LGB) issues (3) policies and standards for how employees are to handle bullying, harassment, and/or violence on the premises.

McDonald's markets themselves aggressively to children -- but their employees are clearly not prepared to address misbehavior by patrons. Therefore, I must conclude that my neighborhood McDonald's is NOT "a safe welcoming place for everyone."

I've called the 1-800 number. I've also written to the CEO and Chief Diversity Officer, with a copy going to media conctacts and others. You can read my note here:

Chris Paige
Contact information:1-800-244-6227
7 days a week7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Easter Message From Max Niedzwiecki, Integrity Executive Director

God Is Doing A New Thing
by Max Niedzwiecki
April 20, 2011

“We can see the broken places of our world either as complete and utter disaster, or as seedbeds – graves, even – in which God is doing a new thing.”

When our Presiding Bishop used those words in her Easter message this year, she was referring to the tragedies in Haiti and Japan.  Let us pray for their continued recovery.

These words also have resonance for us,  for our communities, and for the Church itself.  We all have “broken places” inside ourselves.  LGBT folks are often hurt  by many who call themselves “Christian” but judge us or our loved ones to be abominations in the eyes of God.

And yet God is doing something new in these broken places.  More than ever before, God’s grace is uniting openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with the body of Christ.  God is healing our wounds, and the mental illness called homophobia.  And the Holy Spirit is granting us the wisdom and courage we need to transform the Episcopal Church into a community where all people are truly “welcome.”

Holy Week and Easter are times for us to reflect on our broken places, and the miracle that the resurrection promises a new and more authentic life for us in Christ.

One aspect of Integrity’s mission is that it is a healing ministry.  We proclaim the truth that God loves absolutely everyone.  We help members create a warm welcome in their parishes and dioceses.  We work to make the phrase “all the sacraments for all the baptized” a reality throughout the Episcopal Church.  We declare that as people of faith we stand for equality.  And we do all of this so that our hearts, our churches, and our communities are better prepared to welcome the healing power of the Holy Spirit.

This Easter I ask you to take a moment, and consider how God is doing a new thing in your life and your Church.   I ask you to reflect on parts of your life, your community and your Church that are still in need of healing.

Finally, I ask you to consider whether you feel called to join Integrity’s healing ministry in a new or deeper way.

Please email us if you would like to talk about how you could become more involved with Integrity, or consider making a special donation in honor of this glorious season.

Monday, April 18, 2011

To sign or not to sign? That is The Question

by the Reverend Dr. Caro Hall

I’ve been waiting for certainty, but I admit, I still don’t know. Should we sign on to the Anglican Covenant or not? Perhaps it’s no bad thing to be in a place of not-knowing, of beginner’s mind, rather than jumping in with a definite opinion at this stage. We, The Episcopal Church, will make our decision during our General Convention next year and the Holy Spirit may surprise us, as she has done many times before.

So I offer two thoughts; spaciousness and obedience.

This morning I have been privileged to sit on the terrace at St Mary’s Retreat House (run by the Order of the Holy Cross) in Santa Barbara, looking out over a valley filled with tall sycamores, eucalyptus and oaks to the blue-green mountains beyond, and I have been challenged by spaciousness - the tremendous spaciousness of God’s love and of the eternal now. That is, for me, the essence of Anglicanism – the spaciousness of mystery in thought and worship.

A few years ago the apocryphal quote, “I pray that none will be offended if I seek to make the Christian religion an inn where all are received joyously, rather than a cottage where some few friends of the family are to be received,“ went the rounds. It was attributed to 16th century theologian Richard Hooker, but if he said it, it was in private correspondence currently lost to the public eye. If he didn’t say it, he should have. It sums up the sense of possibility, of exploration, of spaciousness which is one of the qualities I love in our tradition.

At the same time I am pondering Christ’s passion as Holy Week is here and the necessity of offering some homiletic interpretation looms large on my personal horizon. “He was obedient even unto death…” Obedient. I don’t really understand (or perhaps I don’t want to understand) obedience; how the Trinity is constantly in joyful obedience and submission to one another, and how humanity is also called to participate in the Trinitarian dance of obedience and submission.

I experience it in a small way in my marriage. We just celebrated nineteen years together and people who don’t know us have started to ask if we’re sisters. (They say that dog owners start to look like their dogs - I’d rather look like Jill than like my dog who has a very long nose and exceedingly large ears!) Jill and I have come to look alike just as two trees grow entwined together, because we do live, most of the time, in mutual obedience and submission.

Perhaps the ideal for the Body of Christ is that we learn to live together like that. But it’s hard enough to work out what that might mean with my vestry, let alone trying to practice mutual submission with my sisters and brothers in Africa or Myanmar who I have never met and probably never will.
I think the Anglican Covenant tries to express a paradox – the sense that we are most free when we are bound in love. As a result it attempts to combine the spaciousness of Anglican identity with rules intended to respond to our failure to live up to the ideal of the mutual submission demonstrated in the Trinity. But we’re not God and we don’t know how to do it.

There are huge differences in culture, understanding and experience of God among the humans living in my little town of Los Osos, California, population about 14,000. The differences between Episcopalians across our several nations are even greater, and those between Episcopalians and other Anglicans, often huger still. However much we may want to live the ideal of mutual interdependence etc. I think we’re more like the Pacific rim of fire – enormous tectonic plates crashing against each other as we move and change and grow. It’s awesome rather than pretty. The Anglican Covenant is too small.

The brilliance of the great Anglican compromise of the sixteenth century was that our differences of theology and practice were subsumed in our joint worship. Perhaps this is where the true Anglican Covenant could happen –in a covenant to pray for one another. What if our Anglican Cycle of Prayer became not just a rote line in the middle of the Prayers of the People but a meaningful expression of who we are?

What if we could be Anglicans because we covenant to pray for one another? Nothing more, nothing less, than to be united in common prayer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Breaking News from the Diocese of San Joaquin


Dear Friends,

Last week the Equality Commission and I met. We discussed the next steps in this diocese toward the blessing of same sex unions. One of the products of the discussion was the following Q and A document. It will provide some definitions and clarify some of the terms that are used to describe the sacramental blessing of a sacred union.

Please read the introduction and the conclusion carefully and thoughtfully. They will provide a context for the discussion.

Faithfully Yours,

From the "Q&A" document referenced above:
The Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin is authorizing the use of a rite for the “Sacramental Blessing of a Sacred Union.” This sacramental rite maybe used to bless the union of a man and a woman or it may be used to sacramentally unite persons of the same gender.
Read the rest here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Calling on Bret Easton Ellis to Give Up Homophobia for Lent

From the report in US Magazine online:

As an acclaimed, best-selling author, Bret Easton Ellis should understand the power of the written word.

"I like the idea of Glee, but why is it that every time I watch an episode I feel like I've stepped into a puddle of HIV?" the literary icon asked his nearly 142,000 Twitter followers on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old American Psycho author was then bombarded with criticism for his off-color remark, but instead of apologizing, Ellis continued to fan the flames. "No, I wasn't drunk last night," he tweeted on Wednesday. "I was watching Chris Colfer singing 'Le Jazz Hot' and felt like I had suddenly come down with the hivs."

Golden Globe winner Colfer, 20 -- and the rest of the Glee cast -- have yet to respond to Ellis' comments.

Well, the Glee cast may not have responded yet but we can.

We can respond by demanding the same "zero tolerance" for his homophobic rhetoric on Twitter that Kobe Bryant received for his homophobic rant on the basketball court.

We can send a mobilized message from everyone who cares about ending bullying, stereotyping, the marginalization of LGBT youth and the stigmatizing of those living with HIV that he repent of his unconscionable comments.

Yes, I said "repent." It's a good old-fashioned word that means "a change of thought and action to correct a wrong" -- and what better time to call for repentance that during Lent?

Unlike Kobe Bryant, in Ellis' case there's no NBA Commissioner handing down $100,000 fines but there is a publisher -- Random House -- with a vested interest in the book he has coming out in May. Email them at or send them a message on twitter -- @randomhouse. Let them hear -- loud and clear -- that the days when homophobic rhetoric was tolerated are past and the time when HIV stigmatization was accepted is gone.

And let Bret Easton Ellis hear -- loud and clear -- that his words do have power as we call him to use that power to eradicate rather than exacerbate homophobia.

Speak up. Step out. Go. Do it. Now!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diocese of Los Angeles declines to endorse Anglican Covenant

[The Episcopal News, Los Angeles] -- Thanking the Anglican Communion for "taking this time of discernment" to develop the proposed Anglican Covenant, elected representatives of the Diocese of Los Angeles have issued a response declining to endorse the document.

"We cannot endorse a covenant that, for the first time in the history of The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, will pave the way toward emphasizing perceived negative differences instead of our continuing positive and abundant commonality," states the response, signed jointly by the diocese's bishops and General Convention deputation.*

A video report documenting the process by which Diocesan Convention initiated the response is here. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and Executive Council member Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine jointly requested that each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses provide responses by April 24 in preparation for review by General Convention's 2012 meeting in Indianapolis.

The full statement is here.

* Integrity Immediate Past President Susan Russell is a member of the Diocese of Los Angeles Deputation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bishop Christopher Speaks at United Nations

From ENS

Retired Uganda bishop speaks at UN, calls for global decriminalization of homosexuality

[Episcopal News Service] Retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an outspoken activist for human rights and equality in Uganda, delivered a presentation at the United Nations in New York on April 8 calling for the global decriminalization of homosexuality as a way to make progress in the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"The criminalization of homosexuality remains the most significant barrier that needs to be dismantled to reduce the spread of AIDS," said Senyonjo, during a panel discussion that formed part of an informal interactive hearing at the U.N. "We need to make our laws and agreements more binding. We need to ask if our laws or beliefs help or prevent the spread of HIV and hinder or support families caring for loved ones."

Senyonjo noted that more than 80 countries still criminalize homosexuality "and see it as a crime against God and nature. Denying people their humanity puts us all at risk because AIDS spreads fast in the darkness of ignorance."

The panel was moderated by Mark Schoofs of the Wall Street Journal, and also featured presentations by Eric Goosby, Global AIDS Coordinator for United States; Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and executive director of; and Pardamean Napitu, co-founder of Indonesia Social Changes Organization.

The day-long event brought together a diverse mix of non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and the private sector, governmental leaders and other observers to weigh in on issues to be tackled at the U.N. General Assembly's High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which will be held June 8-10 in New York.

Senyonjo was ousted by the Anglican Church in Uganda in 2007 for his ministry serving the marginalized and oppressed, including the gay community, in a society where corruption and intimidation are commonplace. Through the Kampala-based St. Paul's Centre for Equality and Reconciliation, Senyonjo ministers to those in need regardless of their gender, social background or sexuality.

The center also runs programs in illiteracy and education, and provides support to single mothers and those living with HIV.

In Uganda, current laws on homosexuality carry sentences of up to 14 years in prison. In October 2009, a controversial bill was proposed to the Ugandan Parliament that called for broadening the criminalization of homosexuality in the East African country and introducing the death penalty in certain cases.

Following international public condemnation, the bill has been temporarily withdrawn, but is expected to be reintroduced. In March 2010, Senyonjo was among those who delivered to the Ugandan Parliament an online petition containing more than 450,000 signatures of people opposing the law.

"We need to decriminalize homosexuality globally. Further we need to remove laws that criminalize sex workers because these laws are often used to prevent education and services being given to these stigmatized populations," Senyonjo said, calling for the creation of a "gay/straight alliance ... [to] win the battle against this prejudice. We have to defeat the prejudice before we can defeat the virus."

"We leaders in the faith community must teach one another to listen and to live with differences," Senyonjo added. "We must work hard to not to impose our religious values on the whole society. It begins as simply as couple counseling before marriage and, on a larger scale, to respect human rights and avoid scapegoating a vulnerable minority."

Bravo Integrity Maine! Bravo Ben Garren!!!

From the Bangor Daily News:

Bill on transgendered restroom use draws heated, emotional debate
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill concerning transgendered people’s right to choose which restroom they use generated heated debate at a public hearing Tuesday. Dozens of people gave impassioned, emotional testimony on LD 1046, which would allow the operator of a restroom or shower facility to decide who can use which gender’s restroom. Read the rest of the story here.

Integity Intern Ben Garren was one of those who testitifed today on behalf of Integrity Maine.

Here are his comments:

Good afternoon, Senator Hastings, Representative Nass, my name is Ben Garren, a resident of South Portland, and I am testifying in opposition to LD 1046 – An Act to Amend the Application of the Maine Human Rights Act Regarding Public Accommodation on behalf of Integrity Maine. Integrity Maine, part of an international orginization, is a faithful witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

As a christian of non-Jewish descent the treatment of transgender individuals, individuals for whom the gender binary of male and female does not readily function, is highly important to me. It is important because the first non-Jewish christian was amongst their number; this person is known as the Ethiopian Eunuch. The recounting of this baptism is encountered in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. This individual might have been made a Eunuch, by choice or not, or this individual might have been born neither clearly anatomically male nor anatomically female. Either way this was an individual who was genderless, who could specifically go into areas where only men were allowed to go but could also go into areas where only women were allowed to go. Until this Eunuch was baptized Christianity did not exist outside of a Jewish context.

My baptism was an essential moment in my life. For me it was the day I died to sin and became alive in Jesus Christ. The day when I was sealed for all time to Jesus in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. My baptism came about because of the Baptism of the Ehthiopian Eunuch, because of an individual who today would fall into the definition of Transgendered and be affected by LD1046. So I look at this bill and ask what would this bill mean for the Ethiopian Eunuch? If this bill was made law how would Maine treat the first Christian baptized from a non-Jewish race?

And it saddens me to think that a group of legislators of my state would look at this individual, this holy individual chosen by God to be the example for all future gentile Christians, and say “we consider you second class”.

As I said in my introduction I am from Integrity Maine, the local chapter of an national group of Christians who feel called by our faith in Jesus Christ to advocate for the equality of all God’s children. I am here on their behalf as a matter of faith. I am here because the words “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” are not simply words upon my lips but actions of my heart. This is my passion that drives me to deliver to you a rather simple message.

I identify as a male. I dress as a male. I present to you as a male. My doctor and psychiatrist inform me that to live a full and healthy life I need to live that life as a male. This means that when I need to use the bathroom I use the one marked male.

I do not think this is a very complicated system. It is a system that has been on the books and working in Maine for five years with no problems. The amendment presented is not here to fix anything. It is here to take a simple working system and make it burdensome for the sake of prejudice.

The baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch opened Christianity to the world outside of Judaism. In doing so it transgressed many sections of the Jewish Law Codes and called Christianity to recognize God’s love for all people beyond the binary of male and female. Thus as a Christian I cannot advocate for any Law Code that does not recognize this inherent equality.

To that end I stand, representing Integrity Maine, in opposition to prejudice, in opposition to any law code that does not recognize the equality of each individual, in full opposition to LD1046.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Presiding Bishop’s 2011 Easter Message:

“We give thanks for the Resurrection, and we become part of Jesus’ ongoing work, as we become aware of its power in our own lives.”

Easter 2011

The Resurrection must be understood in significantly different images and metaphors in the southern hemisphere, when Easter always arrives in the transition from summer to winter. Even as a hard, hard winter lingers on in northern climes, with unaccustomed April snow in many places, we yearn for the new life we know is waiting around the corner. As Christians, we’re meant to have the same hunger for the new creation emerging all around us.

We can see the broken places of our world either as complete and utter disaster, or as seedbeds – graves, even – in which God is doing a new thing. The situation in Haiti is dire, yet day by day and person by person hope lightens and leavens. Plans are emerging for civic reconstruction in Port-au-Prince that would bless the nation with pride in its heritage and more effective government. The Episcopal Church is a partner in those possibilities, as the vision for a rebuilt cathedral takes form. The graves are becoming gardens, at Cathédrale Sainte-Trinité and Collège St. Pierre. New and more life-giving relationships are emerging between development ministries and the lives of the people. Resurrection is happening in many places, even if one must search for it, like looking for the first buds on the trees as ice and snow give way to the warmth of spring.

The aftermath of earthquake and tsunami in Japan continues to look a great deal like winter, and the trials and failures at Daiichi Fukushima currently resonate more with apocalypse than Easter. Yet across northeastern Japan the work of the faithful is feeding senior citizens, ministering to displaced persons in shelters, and prompting challenging questions about social priorities, energy use, and consumerist lifestyles.

The gift of Easter insists that human beings are capable of divine relationship, for as Athanasius put it, “God became human that human beings might become divine.” The life, death, passion, and resurrection of Jesus are the cosmic insistence that nothing can separate us from the divine passion for humanity. Easter people are imprinted with the assurance that God is always working some new grace of creation out of death and destruction.

For most of us the dying is not cosmic. It may start with a small willingness to set aside self, or a new opportunity for grafting onto a greater whole. Or it may involve lowering the barriers between self and other to become more readily aware of our fundamental oneness, our common heritage as offspring of the Holy One. If we are to be followers of Jesus, we share the work he did on our behalf. We give thanks for the Resurrection, and we become part of Jesus’ ongoing work, as we become aware of its power in our own lives.

May your Eastertide be filled with the grace of new life. Go, discover, and BE resurrection for the world around you.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Marriage Equality, Byron Rushing and The Fight For Fairness"

A Star is Born!!!!

“Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing And The Fight For Fairness” is a documentary that connects the Black Civil Rights Movement with the Lesbian and Gay Marriage Equality movement. MARRIAGE EQUALITY, a project of award-winning filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, was commissioned by Tribeca Film Institute’s ‘All Access’ Program in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The film will premiere as part of an international celebration of Nelson Mandela in the autumn of 2010.

The fifteen-minute documentary interweaves archival footage and photos with contemporary interviews to illuminate events surrounding the pivotal Massachusetts state constitutional convention on Same Sex Marriage which gave new momentum to the national same Gay Marriage movement as a Civil Rights issue. At the center of our story is Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who took the campaign for Same Sex Marriage into African American communities, directly challenging many religious leaders, and defining the right to Same Sex Marriage as a Civil Rights issue on par with the liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s. An unlikely Gay Rights hero in some respects, Rushing, a heterosexual man of strong faith, has spent a lifetime championing the causes of the underserved, overlooked and oppressed.

In addition, MARRIAGE EQUALITY is partnering with a diversity of national and local organizations including the Human Rights Campaign to create a nationwide outreach campaign that will launch with the film’s premiere and include events and screenings in African American communities across North America including special events in Washington DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, California, and New York and will speak to both Gay communities and Black communities about this basic Civil Right.

To see and exceprt:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stories from the Pews: Former Slave's Parish Welcomes, Affirms Gays

Ben Garren
Integrity Intern

My uncle wanted to make chicken and dumplings. A simple enough task. As I watched him slowly write out the grocery list in his precise architect’s script, however, I knew completing that task would take much of the day’s energy. Recovering from spinal meningitis decades into his fight with HIV/Aids simple tasks were no longer easy. I sadly mulled this over as I drove to the store with his list. At which point, as always, my uncle made me smile. His meticulous list was arranged to the specific floor plan of the store. Pity ain’t gonna stick to that.

I get a chance to visit my uncle whenever I go to see my mother’s family. It is one of those larger rural towns; it has numerous traffic lights. It is big enough that as only a sometime resident I get lost even though everywhere I look I see a familiar sight from my childhood. This odd feeling of being familiar with your surroundings but at the same time lost is not unlike what I often feel as a part of the younger generation of gay men. I was an infant during the HIV/Aids crisis; I didn’t experience it. What I do experience is the vacuum it left behind, a generation gone leaving the next with only parts of a legacy.

This is one of the great blessings my uncle has been able to give, a direct link to this lost legacy. A great part of this has been hearing his faith journey.

When I was young and visiting my grandparents they took me to the same church they had taken my uncle when he was my age. It was my first encounter with fire and brimstone preaching. Thirty minutes was about the edge of my adolescent Episcopal ability to sit through any sermon, so once I slipped out of church at this half way mark. Only to be found by the pastor’s wife who quickly informed me that my inability to listen to God’s word proclaimed by her husband was a sign of my depravity and lack of faith. I cannot imagine what growing up in that church as a gay teen must have been like. I always thought that my uncle was thoroughly dechurched. I was wrong.

A few years ago my uncle became a confirmed Episcopalian. My memory is of him explaining that it was not a sudden decision, but one he had known for a long time. He talked about Integrity, not in any great way but by the simple fact that Integrity existed. That it had actual purchase in our church’s polity and this meant that the Episcopal Church was a place where he could worship God with his full self. Decades of the Episcopal Church being in the background had made it the place he knew he would go when he was ready once again to enter into a churched relationship with God.

His parish, though, is amazing. I was always told there were two Episcopal parishes in town. One is actually a continuing Anglican parish that split off when the new prayer book was made. I have worshiped at the other one when I am down there, and I knew it to not be affirming of the LGBT community. I could not see my Uncle there and he wasn’t.

My uncle was at the other Episcopal Church, the hidden Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church built by Episcopal slaves so they could worship out of sight and mind of their Episcopal owners. It was there that my uncle found welcome, affirmation, and a space where he could worship God in Truth. The first white individual known to be a lay member of that parish.

My uncle lives, he loves life, he gets out the cloth napkins and does life right. And with that as beacon I cannot help but do the same.

Our church, our church has its problems, but if the results of one of our most darkest deeds, our party to the enslavement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, is that a former slave parish in the deep south is now a place a gay white man can finally worship God in truth, then there is overwhelming hope amidst our current problems.

My uncle and his parish are two of my Icons. Windows into the reality of what God would have us do with our life and what God would have us know of the church. I bring to mind whenever the details bog me down. I offer them to you in hopes that they may serve you as well. Amen.

Ben Garren is a cradle Episcopalian and a member at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke's, Portland, Maine. He works with homeless women at a low barrier shelter in Portland.

Trans Faith Action Week Launches

Cross-posted from the TransEpiscopal blog:

Yesterday I participated in a press conference at the Massachusetts State House in which religious leaders called for the passage of "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights," a bill that would add "gender identity and expression" to existing nondiscrimination legislation in Massachusetts. For the past three years this bill has failed to make it out of committee, despite a great deal of support in the legislature and from the governor. The main speakers at the press conference were the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; Sean Delmore, an openly transgender man who is the Assistant Minister at College Avenue United Methodist Church (Somerville) and a member of Cambridge Welcoming Ministries, and a candidate for the diaconate in the United Methodist Church; and Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’nai Israel in Revere, MA. The press conference was part of a weeklong effort, dubbed by the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition as "Transgender Faith Action Week," a week in which congregations from various religious traditions are calling for transgender equality.

An article by Lisa Wangsness about yesterday's press conference was on the front page of the Metro Section in this morning's Boston Globe, and is pasted below (the above photo by David L. Ryan was taken from it). This article comes on the heels of last week's Guardian article by Becky Garrison, which featured interviews with a number of transgender clergy in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the UK, as Rev. Dr. Christina Beardsley has explained in a series of blog posts for Changing Attitude, the week of March 21st featured seven short video interviews by on Channel 4 (unfortunately not available for viewing outside the UK) at the intersection of transgender and religious identities. Garrison's article pointed back toward the UK video series and forward toward Trans Faith Action Week, here in Massachusetts.

-Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge is a Lecturer and Interim Episcopal Chaplain at Harvard University

Here is today's Globe story:

Religious leaders revive bid to pass transgender bill

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and several other clergy yesterday called on Massachusetts lawmakers to pass transgender-rights legislation and asked religious communities to throw their support behind the bill.

Shaw said that virtually all transgender people have experienced discrimination or harassment and about one-quarter have been fired from their jobs.

“Supporting this legislation, and supporting transgender people in the life of the church and in secular society really has to do with the living out of my baptismal covenant,’’ he said.

The bill would prohibit discrimination in Massachusetts against transgender people in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit, and would expand the hate- crimes statute. Thirteen states and more than 130 cities nationwide have passed similar legislation.

A majority of lawmakers in both the House and Senate cosponsored the bill last year, but it never came up for a vote. Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr. of Medford, a lead sponsor, said the political climate changed dramatically after Scott Brown won the special election for US Senate in January 2010.

“The level of willingness to take up controversial votes diminished after that,’’ Sciortino said.

The issue became particularly charged a year ago, when Republican gubernatorial nominee Charles Baker derided the legislation as “the bathroom bill,’’ a term opponents use to reflect their belief that it would give sex offenders greater access to children in public bathrooms by effectively making the facilities unisex. Supporters of the bill say that is not true: People would still have to use bathrooms that match the gender they present.

Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which opposes the bill, said yesterday that his organization remains concerned about “the privacy, safety, and modesty of all citizens.’’ He said there is no need to broaden the state’s nondiscrimination and hate-crimes statutes.

He noted that the number of sponsors had declined markedly this year — from 81 to 52 in the House and from 23 to 16 in the Senate, according to the website of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

Gunner Scott, the coalition’s executive director, said 35 former cosponsors either did not run again or were not reelected. Supporters of the legislation are talking to freshmen and hope to find additional support, he said, adding that the bill still has more cosponsors than about 95 percent of other bills.

Governor Deval Patrick also backs the legislation and this winter issued an executive order protecting transgender state employees from discrimination.

Representative Byron Rushing, another lead sponsor, said religious groups supporting gay rights showed their political strength in 2007 when they helped defeat a proposed ban on gay marriage. “I think what religious groups offer is their theological perspective on justice . . . but it’s also very important that we hear from those denominations that have begun to end discrimination against transgender people within their own denomination,’’ he said.

Other religious groups, including the Massachusetts Conference of Catholic Bishops, fought against the gay marriage bill in 2007. The bishops also opposed the transgender legislation last year.

About 135 clergy are publicly supporting the bill this year, according to the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality. The coalition this week is asking congregations to work for its passage. Appearing with Shaw yesterday were the Rev. Cameron Partridge, a transgender man who is interim Episcopal chaplain at Harvard; Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’nai Israel in Revere; and Sean Delmore, a transgender man who is assistant minister at the College Avenue United Methodist Church in Somerville.

Shaw acknowledged that it might be tougher to rally as large a coalition for transgender rights as for gay marriage, if only because relatively few heterosexual people know someone who is transgender.

Getting to know transgender people personally, he said, has “taken me deeper into my own faith life and proved to me once again that unless everyone has equality . . . nobody is really free.’’

And here is last week's Guardian story:

Trans clergy are finally gaining greater acceptance
As we approach Transgender Faith Action Week, progress can be seen in attitudes to trans people within the church

Becky Garrison, Wednesday 30 March 2011 18.04 BST

Last week, the Rev Dr Christina Beardsley, vice-chair of Changing Attitude, a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual members of the Church of England, was one of the voices featured on's week of short films featuring trans people and faith.

While the US Episcopal church developed a maverick reputation within the Anglican communion for blessing same sex marriages and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy, the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England's report Some Issues in Human Sexuality, issued in 2003, contained a chapter titled "Transsexualism". Currently, one can find about a half dozen trans clergy in the UK and US. These numbers are imprecise, as some clergy do not wish to go public beyond the scope of their individual parish or diocese – a concern that's understandable given that the trans community seldom receives even the legal protections afforded gays and lesbians .

Beardsley, who was ordained for 23 years prior to her transition in 2001, observes that "some within the Church of England feel the issue of trans clergy has been settled" by citing such cases as the Rev Carol Stone and the Rev Sarah Jones. However, she says: "Not all trans clergy have been supported by their bishop, as these two priests were, and some have been excluded from full-time ministry because of Church of England opt-outs from UK equality legislation."

During the 2008 Lambeth conference, a decennial gathering of Anglican bishops, Beardsley organised a panel titled "Listening to Trans People". While only four bishops attended this gathering, it represented the highest number of bishops to participate in an Inclusive Network to date. Also, this panel helped consolidate Changing Attitude's networking with Sibyls, a UK-based Christian spirituality group for trans people, and the US-based online community TransEpsicopal.

The Rev Dr Cameron Partridge, interim Episcopal chaplain and lecturer at Harvard University, served on this panel as the sole US representative. He transitioned in 2002 during his ordination process and has been an instrumental player in guiding the passage of four resolutions supporting trans rights during the US Episcopal church's 2009 general convention.

The Rev Vicki Gray, a Vietnam vet before her transition, and currently a deacon with an emphasis on ministry to the homeless, noted that their goals at general convention were to assert that we exist as flesh-and-blood human beings, to demonstrate that we are here in the church as decent and devout followers of Jesus Christ, and to begin the process of education and dialogue that will lead to full inclusion in the life of the church, not only of the transgendered but of other sexual minorities such as the inter-sexed (known to some as hermaphrodites).

Following the murder of trans rocker Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, in 1998, a vigil held in her honour became the impetus behind the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event held on 20 November. Even though this day to reflect and remember those who have been killed by anti-transgender hatred or prejudice is not a religious service, in 2010 memorial services were held for the first time at Episcopal cathedrals in Boston and Sacramento.

The Rev Christopher Fike, vicar of Christ Episcopal Church in Sommerville, Massachusetts, who transitioned in 2003 after having served in a fairly high-profile position as a female cleric, believes that moving this memorial to the cathedral signifies that the church views this as a justice issue. He says: "The more we normalise people who are outside the typical in their gender expression, the more room there is for that range of expression. We no longer have to hide our real identity from the church."

The Rt Rev M Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop of Massachusetts, admits that ordaining and providing pastoral oversight to trans clergy proved to be a life-changing experience for him. Initially, he struggled with the idea and the reality of having trans clergy until he saw they were doing the same ministry as everyone else.

From 3-10 April, Transgender Faith Action Week will be held in the Boston area in the hope of bringing forth faith leaders from different traditions to increase awareness of the trans community in religious circles. Partridge, one of the organisers, says: "We call upon the church to consider carefully its vision of theological anthropology, its theological vision of the human person. How does gender factor into our conception of the human?" After all, in Genesis 1:26, God created ha-adam, a nonsexual term that means "human being". Then, after he created humanity, she declared that it all was "very good".

Monday, April 4, 2011

Listening Process Resolution Passes at Dio of Lousiana Convention

Integrity USA applauds the Diocese of Louisiana for it's passage of Resolution R-3 this past weekend. The resolution calls  for "honest, heartfelt conversations" to take place across the diocese. Respectful conversations and the sharing of each other's stories are a first step toward bringing folks together and changing the hearts and minds of those in the moveable middle or even those who say thay are opposed to support equality and inclusion for all.

Here is the full text:

2001 Resolution R-3

Purpose: A Resolution for Unity and Honest, Heartfelt Conversation within our Diversity

Resolved, that the 174th Convention encourage each ecclesiastical unit to honor our Baptismal Covenant and sustain our unity in light of the diversity of our opinions by engaging in honest, heartfelt conversations in order to listen to the experiences of gay and lesbian Christians as God works to change us all into holy people.

The resolution was introduced by the Rev. Canon William Barnwell (Trinity, New Orleans)
Here is the text of his statement:

Statement to the 174th Convention of the Diocese of Louisiana
Submitted by the Rev. Canon William Barnwell

A resolution for Unity and Honest, Heartfelt Conversation within our Diversity

Each generation of the church has dealt with just how we can make the church as fully inclusive as possible. Perhaps the greatest dispute of them all arose in the earliest years of the church. Did the Gentiles have to become Jews symbolically through circumcision and by obeying food and Sabbath laws before they could become Christians?

Members of the Jerusalem church at first said yes, Gentiles would have to become, in effect, Jews before they could become Christians. (See Acts 15.) Peter and then Paul in one of his most eloquent arguments (in Galatians two) said no. God would take the Gentiles as they are, as they are, and make them fully part of the Body of Christ. Gentiles would marry in the church. They would become priests and bishops. . . . If the church could settle that dispute, as charged as it was, it could settle most anything.

Throughout its long history, every time the church moved toward inclusion, despite proclamations of doom to the contrary, it grew in strength if not always in numbers. Jesus himself had built the first church—the disciples, including but not limited to the twelve—out of a most diverse lot: women as well as men (if you pay attention to passages like Mark 15:40, 41), despised tax collectors in cahoots with Rome, prostitutes and other “sinners,” revolutionaries (called Zealots) and anti-revolutionaries like Matthew, Jews and Gentiles. Jesus brought in everyone.

Later, the universal church drew people from outside as well as inside the Roman Catholic faith, people of all nationalities and races, the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the divorced and remarried—all would be full members of Christ’s Body, at least from an Episcopal Church point of view.

In 1802 Absalom Jones was ordained as the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church. It wasn’t until the 1880s that the first African American was ordained bishop in our church. His name was Samuel David Ferguson, and he came from my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, where he was freed from slavery as a young boy. Ferguson served as bishop in Liberia.

But it has only been in the last generation that African Americans have been ordained as priests and consecrated as bishops in growing numbers. It seems unthinkable now that we would not welcome blacks into the full ministry of the church, but that has not been the case for most of the life of our church.

Likewise, it seems unthinkable to many that our church would not ordain women as priests and consecrate women as bishops, but it wasn’t until the middle seventies that the first women were ordained priests. It wasn’t until 1989 that the first woman was consecrated bishop. This was Barbara Harris of Massachusetts. Now, of course, Katharine Jefferts Shori is our first female Presiding Bishop.

When I first became a priest in 1968, it would have been nearly impossible in many dioceses for someone who had been divorced to become a priest or remain a priest. I went through a divorce in 1974, one that I did not choose. And later I was remarried. Even though Jesus himself said that people who divorce and remarry commit adultery (I refer to Mark 10:11), the church kept me on as a priest—I can thank Bishop James Brown for that—and the church has kept on many like me, again in the church’s attempt to be as inclusive as possible.

Gay people may have to contend with St. Paul (though even that is debatable), but those of us who have been divorced for whatever reason and remarried have to contend with Jesus himself. I hear a lot of talk these days about Leviticus and Romans 1:27, but I don’t hear many people quoting Mark 10: 11 on what Jesus said about divorce.

The hands, the head, the feet, the heart, are all part of one body, in the words of St. Paul. It is time it seems to me and to many others in our church that lesbians and gays be fully included in our church. So many who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender contribute so much to who we are and what we do as a church. I don’t need to tell you that.

How can we make these, ours sisters and brothers, fully part of our church? A way to begin is by having conversations, hearing each other’s stories, and this is what my resolution calls for—storytelling! Stories about why we believe what we believe.

I might say that while the resolution comes from me, it also represents what the New Orleans branch of Integrity is asking for.

To thank the Rev. Canon Barnwell for his moving testimony and his introduction and support of this resolution, you can email him here: .

Integrity USA had a strong presence at the Diocese of Louisiana convention. It is the home diocese of our Executive Director, Max Niedzwiecki.  We will follow the listening process in the Diocese of Louisiana with great hope and pray that the telling of stories will bond these faithful communities even more closely together.

Mary Christie (L), Integrity-New Orleans Board Member

Regina Matthews (R), Integrity-New Orleans Convener