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.