Monday, January 30, 2012

A Congregation Gently Pushes It's Rector: Celebrates 20 Years of Blessings

Integrity co-sponsored a two-day celebration at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA this past weekend which told the story of how two men who wanted to commit their lives to one another, gently pushed their Rector until he agreed to bless their union, and how the Vestry and a Task Force on "God, Sex and Justice" studied and prepared the parish to move forward with the unprecedented blessing. Integrity President The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall represented the organization at the event and here is her account of what took place. 

It was like a family reunion at All Saints, Pasadena last Saturday. Over one hundred and fifty people gathered to remember and celebrate the twenty years that have passed since All Saints celebrated its first same-gender union in January 1992. They certainly weren’t the first church to bless a same-gender couple, but All Saints is high-profile and their decision to go ahead made news the Los Angeles Times and was reported nationally by the Episcopal News Service.

I was fascinated that Rector Emeritus George Regas shared that it was a difficult decision for him. Not the decision to bless same-gender unions but the decision to buck church teaching. He said, “It was hard for me… there was something about violating the churches rules on marriage that had a different feel about it.” What made him do it? The gentle persistence of his congregation.

In the early 1980s gay and lesbian people started making themselves known at All Saints, and they formed a group – GALAS. Regas, then the rector, joined them in a potluck and Q &;A session twice a year, “It was,” he recalled, “my first experience of going significantly into a gay or lesbian person’s life…. Every time I would go [to GALAS] they would push me to bless their unions but I questioned how to put it into practice and still keep my job”.

The Rev. Dr. George Regas & Mark Benson

Mark Benson and Phil Straw were among those who pushed Regas further. In November 1986 they first asked for a blessing on their union. When Regas offered to do something quiet and small in his office they politely declined. They had something else in mind – a service just like straight folk.

And that’s what they got, eventually. In 1990, George announced his intention of blessing same-sex unions. After a congregational Task Force on "God, Sex and Justice" had spent a year introducing the idea to the wider congregation and developing plans and protocols, the blessing went ahead. It wasn’t a small wedding. Yesterday we saw footage of the day itself with procession, banners, choir, the whole nine yards.

It didn’t stop there. All Saints has continued to support LGBT inclusion every step of the way. They supported Bishop Walter Righter during his heresy trial for ordaining a gay man; they organized the conference “Beyond Inclusion” to provide momentum for the LGBT agenda at the 1997 Philadelphia General Convention; after the Denver 2000 they supported the development of the Claiming the Blessing collective which went on to organize support for Bishop Gene Robinson’s confirmation in 2003.

Bishop Gene Robinson & All Saints' Rector Ed Bacon
Did I mention that Bishop Gene was there yesterday? And Bishop Mary?  Together. It was history making... because the two Bishops have never spent time together getting to know on another.

The Rev. Dr.Caroline Hall, Louise Brooks & Cindy Smith
I got to hang out with Louise Brooks, Integrity Board Member and Director of Communications; Jim White, the LA Diocesan Organizer, longtime Integrity volunteer Randy Kimmler; as well as Cindy Smith, Provincial Coordinator for Province 8. I also got to meet for the first time Jamie Hebert who is a Producer for the forthcoming dvd, Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, who was there with his husband, actor and comedian Alec Mapa, sharing about their experience finding All Saints and why they are choosing to bring their son up in this inclusive congregation. It was certainly a gay day.
                                                                               Producer Jamie Hebert & Actor Alec Mapa

My thanks go to the good people of All Saints for all they have done to make the Episcopal Church truly welcoming, and for the beacon of hope they are for so many, that there can be a home for us here. Special thanks go to Canon Susan Russell for her work in putting this celebratory festival together to remind us how far we have come in just two decades.

To see video of the event go to the All Saints website.

Integrity USA Goes to Washington

Rev. Harry Knox

I’ve lost count of the times I have trekked to Capitol Hill in Washington to lobby right wing Republican senators on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and now the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The polite, non-committal responses we always receive might discourage me if I didn’t have the benefit of clarity around my mission as an advocate for justice.

Rev Harry Knox of Integrity, Ja' Briel Walthour, Trey Ramsey, Minister Joshua Holiday of the Fellowship visit Sen Saxby Chambliss' (R-GA) office.

Why do I keep lobbying enemies of justice, as I did last week as part of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s Lobby Day? Three reasons come to mind:

1. The Bible says I should not only pray for my enemies, but should seek to bless them. (Matthew 5:44) It was my privilege to introduce staff members of Sens. Johnny Isaakson and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia to two beautiful representatives of Georgia’s transgender and queer communities – Ja’Briel Walthour of Hinesville and Trey Ramsey of Atlanta. Ja’Briel and Trey blessed everyone in the room as they courageously shared their stories of being denied promised promotion because of gender transition and of having been harassed in Georgia schools because of perceived sexual orientation.

2. The young staff members, who hear our stories (so their bosses won’t have to) are the next generation of leaders in their party – and they are different from those in power today. Polls show we are making significant inroads into the hearts and minds of young Republicans. So I am never discouraged at seeing “just a staff member”. I was once one of those young Republican staffers, and I know the future can be different for them if they are exposed, as I was, to new ideas.

3. Ja’Briel and Trey and I are empowered and encouraged for having told our own stories. It feels good to have taken action for justice, even if we don’t know what the direct outcomes might be. As we sought to bless our enemies, we found ourselves blessed. Thanks be to God.

When I was executive director of Georgia Equality, the local LGBT newspaper often asked me a question: “Since the Georgia legislature is stacked against you, and Georgia Equality has so little money, and people are hesitant to take risks for your cause, do you really think you have the resources you need to be successful?” My answer was always the same. “No; so we better get started.”

For some reason, the press never printed my response. I don’t think they understood what we in Integrity understand. We don’t have to know the outcome before we respond to God’s call to action. It’s a matter of faith; and it’s what makes us different from those who leave the world largely as they found it. Heaven save us from that fate.

The Rev. Harry Knox is Executive Director of Integrity USA

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harry From Sundance: Gracefully Engage & Reach Out With Love

Harry Knox
Executive Director
Integrity USA
In the movie Love Free or Die, which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Bp. Gene Robinson asks the question: Who are we to question 2000 years of Church teaching? He then answers his own question: if we don't, who will?

One if the many things I love about this film is that it shows the tremendous possibility for church growth inherent in our willingness to courageously confront dogma that kills while offering life-giving Good News. Is it hard? Sure. But the joy on the faces of those finding their way home to parishes that embrace them as they are, with all their human complexities makes all our struggle worthwhile.

Love Free or Die tells the story of +Gene and how he, and we, have changed the Church. But it is really a story about making the Gospel real for those Christ said we should always have in the front of our minds:  the marginalized. It documents the ways all of us are enriched when people of Godly courage reach out on love to seek to move their neighbors toward greater compassion.

Tied to this powerful film is a campaign of "graceful engagement" - the loving and caring way to reach across our divides to those who are not yet with us. Integrity has 35 years of graceful engagement under our belts and we wholeheartedly support the LFOD Friends and Family project. This project invites everyone in this General Convention and general election year, to think of one person we love who loves us back, but votes against our well-being. It equips us to engage that person in respectful conversation to help them see why we need them to have us in mind when they vote at General Convention or for President of the United States.

Sharon Groves of HRC, Jeff Krehely of Center for American Progress, Rebecca Voelkel of NGLTF, film maker Macky Alston with his daughter Penelope, and Harry Knox of Integrity.

Screenings of the film in local parish halls and at Integrity chapter meetings around the country will be sure to prompt the healing conversations the Church, and the world, sorely need. Contact us at about how to make those screenings happen. You will be blessed and God's beloved world will be changed!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Postcard from the Sundance Film Festival

Harry Knox
Executive Director
Integrity, USA

The beautiful people! The paparazzi! And that was at church!

I’m having a wonderful time representing Integrity at events tied to the premiere of Macky Alston’s new film, Love Free or Die, at the Sundance Film Festival. LFOD tells the story of Bp. Gene Robinson’s election to the episcopacy and highlights his courageous struggle to help the Episcopal Church and the whole Anglican Communion to make real Christ’s universal welcome. The film will debut tonight, but yesterday was a gorgeous sunny, snow-capped Sunday at St. Luke’s, Park City, UT, where The Rev. Charles Robinson is rector.

Bp. Otis Charles filled in for +Gene, who was in Kentucky celebrating the life of his dear mother, Imogene. +Gene will join us this evening. +Otis shared a winsome sermon on his own experience coming out as a gay man. He focused his sermon on the value of integrity; on truth-telling as a discipline that leads to freedom and joy. I was gratified to hear him describe how Integrity USA helped him find his own voice and companions on the journey out of the closet in the 1990s.

The congregation stayed for our panel discussion on graceful engagement of our neighbors around the need for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Church and the gift that blessings of same-sex unions in our congregations will be.

Love Free or Die will be a vehicle for expanding that conversation in local parishes and Integrity chapters nationwide in 2012. Keep an eye out for more on that in coming days. In the meantime, check out :

Friday, January 20, 2012

Six Answers About Same Sex Marriage From a Minnesota Priest

Integrity Province 6 Coordinator the Reverend Scott Monson [pictured left] serves in Minnesota and so is bracing for a long and potentially polarizing campaign upcoming after state lawmakers there agreed to allow voters to decide whether to limit civil marriage to heterosexual couples – a prohibition that already exists in state law.

Much discussion is going on about the issue. A commentator in the The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently published an article titled "Six questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to answer -- forthrightly" and asked for responses.

A friend and clergy colleague of Scott's who is a straight ally and supporter of same sex marriage, the Rev. Lisa Cressman, sent in a response which the Star Tribune liked and published. (See below.) Scott wants to share her answers with our readers to file away and use when necessary. He says, "Her responses are loving, compassionate and wise—in a word, Christ-like. I think that is why they ring so true."

Here is that article:

Marriage Questions, Asked and Answered

• Article by: The Rev. LISA CRESSMAN
• Published January 17, 2012 - 11:21 PM

Editor's note: The Jan. 14 commentary "Six questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to answer -- forthrightly" inspired an unusual outpouring of response, with scores of readers submitting answers to commentator Dan Nye's questions. Although each counterpoint writer brought a unique voice and perspective, their answers were similar in substance. We have selected this rebuttal as representative:

1. Were our ancestors all dumb and bigoted?

Our ancestors knew many truths, but not all. A common example of what our ancestors held to be self-evident, biblically sanctioned truth, which we now hold in abhorrence, is slavery. It's appropriate to ask ourselves whether a particular societal tradition is the best way for us to continue.

2. Don't our sexual organs exist for reproduction?

Reproduction is one of their purposes, but so is intimacy. If our sexual organs existed solely for reproduction, couples would have sex only at the times necessary for procreation. Moreover, if this were the case, physical fulfillment in marriage wouldn't be enjoyed by couples who cannot have children (for medical reasons or by virtue of advanced age) or who choose not to do so.

3. Do we just give in to our sexual desires?

Our sexual desires have been channeled through the worthy tradition that people choose one mate and make a promise of fidelity through marriage. A mutual, joyful and public commitment, permanently held, one to another, is the healthiest way to build stable families and a stable society. This would argue for encouraging members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community likewise to make a commitment of marriage as the appropriate avenue for their sexuality.

4. Adultery, pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. So homosexuality?

Adultery is a problem because of the trust shattered when marriage vows are broken. Pedophilia and bestiality are anathema because there cannot be mutual consent -- an adult always holds power over a child or an animal. Homosexual commitment is mutual between consenting adults.

5. Changes in norms require universal acceptance. Prevalent homosexuality will not work.

Many changes in our country have taken place without universal acceptance. Indeed, many laws in our country were designed to protect the very people who do not receive universal acceptance.

As to prevalent homosexuality, the long-held estimate is that roughly 10 percent of the population is homosexual. No law has the ability to increase or decrease those numbers.

6. The religious question: Shouldn't we be trying to encourage others to repent of a wrong?

The assumption is that homosexuality is wrong. Assumptions are fair to question, even religious ones. We understand now, in a way our biblical ancestors could not, that medically and psychologically, homosexuals are born, not made. Would a loving God deliberately create someone who is fundamentally a mistake?

If it's a question about "love the sinner but hate the sin," the way we discern whether something is, in fact, sinful, is to look at its consequences. The consequences that result from committed homosexual relationships are as positive as they are for committed heterosexual relationships: stable, tax-paying, caring-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin families. These are the kinds of consequences that benefit all of society.

Marriage matters to the GLBT among us as much as it does to the rest of us. Surrounded by family and friends, to make a promise to cherish that one other person until parted by death, matters.

This is a big change, surely. I am persuaded, however, that change based on a commitment, a lifelong commitment of mutual joy, will benefit us all.

* * *

Lisa Cressman, of Lake Elmo, is assistant priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church-Basswood Grove.

© 2011 Star Tribune

The Rev. Scott Monson
Province VI Coordinator
Integrity USA
1015 Sibley Memorial Hwy. #310
Saint Paul, MN 55118-3684

Celebrating Victory, Pursuing Truth: Transgender Equality Bill Becomes Law in Massachusetts

Speeches in the Senate Reading Room
By the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge
cross-posted at TransEpiscopal

On this bright January morning, as the hour of 11am neared, I emerged from Boston’s Park Street T stop, turned left and began walking up the hill toward the State House.  Today (or rather, at this late hour, yesterday) marked the ceremonial signing of the Transgender Equality bill here in Massachusetts.  This legislation, first filed in 2007, passed on November 15th, and officially signed on November 23rd, adds gender identity and expression to the state’s existing hate crimes law and the nondiscrimination statutes in the areas of housing, employment, education and credit. In a fitting twist, the week of its official passage was also Transgender Awareness Week, a time of educational and community events leading up to the eleventh annual observance of Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20th. 

The Senate Reading Room, where today’s signing took place, was packed with observers, a joyful crowd savoring the celebration.  Lawmakers were clearly also buoyed, as their inspiring comments demonstrated.  “You have no idea how beautiful you are as you stand here beaming,” said state Auditor Suzanne Bump.  “Remember that you are powerful,” offered Senator Brian Downing, followed by fellow Senator Sonia Chang Diaz: “it's days like this that remind us why we ran for office... Thank you for reminding us [legislators] of our own power, in addition to showing us your power.”  Representative Byron Rushing, who joined Representative Carl Sciortino in co-sponsoring the bill from its very first days, declared, “this hasn't just been a discussion of gender identity but of the identity of Massachusetts, and hopefully it will become a discussion of our national identity.” 

Representative Rushing, photo from
In his Episcopal Church context, as a longtime member of the Diocese of Massachusetts’ deputation to General Convention– Deputy Rushing inspires us to  pose that question of church identity.  Faith communities can ask, and indeed are asking, what do we stand for as people of our respective traditions?  In the Episcopal Church we might well ask—and have asked at the 2009 General Convention and various diocesan conventions before it– what does it mean to declare in our baptismal covenant that we strive for justice and respect the dignity of every human being? In 2009 the Convention passed resolutions putting The Episcopal Church on record in support of transgender equality in the civic sphere (D012 and C048), and pledging within our ecclesial life to make administrative forms accessible to gender identities beyond male and female and to protect transgender lay employees from discrimination (D090 and D032, respectively).   As our collective conversation continues, we might allow the varied lives of transgender as well as intersex people – communities and individuals whose lives are textured not simply by complex embodiments of gender but also by race, class, sexuality and ability-- to deepen our understanding of the human person.  How do we interpret and live out the mystery of being created in the image and likeness of God?

At the signing this morning, I was reminded of a startling moment in the November 15 debate that I watched on my laptop. Representative Sciortino was speaking movingly in support of the legislation when he began to describe the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul the year before.  He made a point of detailing the apology that my bishop, the Right Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, had offered on behalf of Christians who had condemned trans people and in the process had “misrepresented God to” us.  The apology had been stunning enough in its own right, but to hear it reported, in some sense repeated, on the floor of the House of Representatives, was positively astounding.  As I sat there dumbfounded—actually, calling out to my partner to come see this!--  receiving these words afresh in an unimagined context, I was reminded of a strangely parallel moment at General Convention three years earlier.  The Convention had managed to pass D012, the Trans Civil Rights Resolution, on the same day that the Massachusetts Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing on its own Trans Equality legislation—an earlier version of what has now finally passed.  As a team of trans people and allies worked toward the resolution’s passage in Anaheim, a fellow Episcopalian in Massachusetts learned about it (on his laptop, while waiting to testify in the stultifying heat) and shared it in the course of his testimony three thousand miles away.  The Episcopal Church supports this bill, he was proud to be able to say.  It all came full circle.

Also on my mind today were the words (viewable here as blurry video), offered by Bishop Shaw at this year’s TDOR.   Speaking at the end of the program, he welcomed us to the Cathedral and then offered a word of gratitude that felt almost like a meditation: “because of your honesty, because of your integrity, because of the way you so pursue the truth of your identity, you tell me about the nature of God, because that is how I think God is.  And so I thank all of you not only for the way that you enlighten my understanding of God but how much you preach to the rest of the world about courage, and about bravery, and about truth and about perseverance of identity.  We owe all of you a huge debt of gratitude.  Thank you.” 

I got the sense people were both honored and stunned by his words, working to digest and contemplate them— I know I was.   His comments about perseverance in pursuit of the truth of identity—language I had not heard him use before— reminded me of words from the Gospel of John that I first really took in at a middle school summer Bible camp: “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32). 

From this chair, at the end of this day, looking out at the striking vista of falling snow, it strikes me how the process of knowing the truth and being freed by it is both lifelong and communal—by turns grueling and wondrous, and inextricably relational, even as it is distinctive to each person. 
Governor Deval Patrick signs the bill, photo from

An important truth about the MA trans equality law is that it is far from perfect: it does not include protections in public accommodations—access to public gender segregated spaces.  Everyone was resolved to come back and get that done.  And as I think about how far we have come, how much more free we are than we were just a few short months ago, I know that what we need more than anything else is the will, the support, the conviction to keep pursuing the truth.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Forming Relationships to Change Hearts and Minds

A Relection
 The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall
President, Integrity USA

One of the wonderful things about being Episcopalian is the freedom we have to believe something slightly different from the person next to us in the pew. Our liturgy provides such a strong connection that we do not need a confessional statement to keep us together. Of course that’s not comfortable for everyone, and it certainly isn’t convenient. It would be much more convenient for us if General Convention were to decide that every diocese and every parish had to be fully inclusive of LGBT people. That isn’t going to happen, because we respect each other, we respect diversity, and we respect the Holy Spirit leading us through the councils of the church. Where there is disagreement over a controversial innovation, we allow local flexibility.

As a result the LGBT advances we make at the national level are not always reflected locally. One example of this is the November election of the conservative Gregory Brewer as Bishop of Central Florida. He still has to be confirmed by a majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees but unless there is a big surprise, by mid-March Central Florida will have a new bishop whose theology is very similar to his predecessor’s.

In his responses during the process of Bishop selection, Brewer stated,

put, there
Biblical precedent
to practicing gay
people. I agree
that portion
Report that
forward with
ordination of
the bonds
Communion, and
I am
staying within

Bishop-elect Brewer is not likely to approve blessings for same-gender relationships in his diocese anytime soon, regardless of what General Convention decides. This is a big disappointment for those of us who had hoped for a new perspective, especially those who are members of, and minister to, the large number of gay people living in Central Florida.

But Bishop-elect Brewer also talks the talk of relationship, “The
equally clear
to walk
as Christ loves

politics, we
work together
both Biblical
compassion, and

If you’re like me, the implication that having a relationship with LGBT people somehow requires “compassion” in a way that relating to straight people does not, grates on the nerves. But if we read the Bishop-elect’s words with compassion ourselves, we can see that there is an opening here.

Bishop Jack Spong who became a champion of LGBT inclusion in the Church was once on the other side of the aisle. What changed him? Relationships with the LGBT clergy and lay people in his diocese. People, even Bishops, rarely make the move from opponent to ally unless they come to know, trust and respect gay people.

That is why the work of local Integrity networks, chapters and partners is so important. How will Bishop-elect Brewer ever come to see things differently unless the people of Central Florida who have themselves experienced God’s call to be gay and Christian, work without ceasing to form relationships with him and to tell him our stories? This is hard work, sometimes discouraging, but it is the work that changes hearts and minds. It may mean refusing to be silenced, refusing to be forced to meet in secret, insisting that Brewer put into action his language of relationship.

Looking back over the early issues of the Integrity newsletter, we see Louie Crew and others doing just this - constantly knocking on the doors of bishops, writing to them, asking questions and going back again and again. I am grateful to them for their work. I am grateful to all those who have seen the oppression of LGBT people and chosen to take action. I am grateful to the LGBT people in Central Florida and all our straight allies there who will take heart from the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Her persistence eventually paid off, and so will theirs.

And let us all support their work and that of Bishop-elect Brewer in prayer, asking that he may come to a new understanding of the Biblical imperative of justice and equity.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Integrity Applauds Episcopal Diocese of New York

Integrity USA applauds the Convention of the Diocese of New York which adopted by a vast majority the following resolutions regarding marriage equality this past weekend. Thanks in part to the Bishop"s Committeee on LGBT Concerns on which Integrity's Board Member Elisabeth Jacobs sits and Integrity Lifetime Member Michael Cudney is Chair. These resolutions move forward to General Convention 2012.

Here is the resolution:

[ 7 ] RESOLVED, That, the 235th Convention of the Diocese of New York urges the 77th General Convention to revise the current Canons of The Episcopal Church with regard to marriage, to provide for the marriage of same-gender couples in those jurisdictions that have or will have civil
marriage for same-gender couples; and be it further

[ 8 ] RESOLVED, That the Diocese of New York urge General Convention diligently to continue the work called for in its Resolution C056, to "collect and develop theological and liturgical resources" for the blessing for same-gender couples;, and be it further

[ 9 ] RESOLVED, That the Diocese of New York, in light of its continued support of faithful and committed same-gender couples, including the support for civil marriage equality by the 232nd Convention of the Diocese and our Diocesan Bishop and other leaders, encourages the Bishop to interpret Resolution C056 of the 76th General Convention ("bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of
this Church") to mean that clergy throughout the Diocese are permitted (but not required) to sign marriage licenses and officiate at marriages for couples legally eligible for marriage in the State of New York.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bishop Gene Robinson & Bishop Mary Glasspool to Lead Pasadena Celebration of 20 Years of Blessing

Integrity joins with All Saints Church in Pasadena in:
January 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the first blessing of a same-sex couple — Mark Benson & Phil Straw — at All Saints Church in Pasadena. The milestone will be celebrated with a series of events and programs the weekend of January 28/29 both celebrating the past and mobilizing for the future!

Saturday, January 28
Confirmed participants include:

All Saints Rector Ed Bacon - Bishop Mary Glasspool - Rector Emeritus George Regas - Bishop Gene Robinson

Morning program in the Forum will include a multi-media look at the last twenty years; reflections from our “God, Sex & Justice” history makers; remembering Beyond Inclusion's beginnings and the Claiming the Blessing years. There will be opportunities for Q&A and conversation with Bishops Glasspool and Robinson. Come be informed and inspired!

[The morning program will be live-streamed on the All Saints website.]

Afternoon workshops will include Faith-based advocacy; Civic Engagement on LGBT issues; Keeping Kids Safe from Bullying (with Bill Brummel’s brilliant documentary “Bullied”); A la familia — a bi-lingual guide to LGBT inclusion from our HRC colleagues; Strategic Storytelling for changing hearts and minds, offered by IntegrityUSA; Reclaiming Scripture as a tool for inclusion with Soulforce founder Mel White ... among others. Come be equipped and empowered!

The afternoon will conclude with a Festive Holy Eucharist: Mary Glasspool, preacher and Gene Robinson, celebrant.

Then Saturday is “Movie Night!”

All Saints is thrilled to be hosting the West Coast “sneak preview” of “Love Free or Die” — the just released documentary on the work and witness of Bishop Gene Robinson ... premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23.

"Love Free or Die" begins with the story of a man whose two defining passions are in conflict: his love for God and his love for his partner, Mark.

Gene Robinson is the first openly gay bishop in the high church traditions of Christendom. His consecration in 2003, to which he wore a bullet-proof vest, caused an international stir, and he has lived with death threats nearly every day since. Bishop Robinson refuses to leave the church that has taught for centuries it has no place for people like him. And he refuses to leave the man he loves, even though he has been taught it is God's will for him to do so. And of course he is not alone. Bishop Robinson lives in a nation and a world in which many are caught in this ultimate double bind.

Love Free or Die documents the lives of Bishop Robinson and a host of others in the church/state struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in America. Shot over three years, Love Free or Die reveals from the intimate inside how our culture and our laws change due to the convictions, courage and commitments of specific individuals and communities. Bishop Robinson as he changes hearts and minds on the LGBT equality issue, from working class towns in the northern mountains of New Hampshire to the Lincoln Memorial at Barack Obama's inauguration. In the All Saints Forum at 7pm.

Sunday, January 29

The celebration will continue on Sunday morning at All Saints Church where both Bishop Glasspool and Bishop Robinson will be with us for the 9:00 & 11:15 services. Gene Robinson will preach and Mary Glasspool will celebrate on a morning as we conclude our celebration with a very special Rector’s Forum.

For more information on email All Saints staffer Linn Vaughan or call 626.583.2744.
To register online [beginning January 15] visit the All Saints website.

An All Saints Church Celebration,
with thanks for generous support from HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and Integrity USA

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Gifts of God for the People of God"

guest blog by the Reverend Canon Susan Russell

One of the gifts of God for the people of God we celebrated on Sunday here at All Saints Church in Pasadena was the gift of sharing with the Reverend Jeff Martinhauk in the celebration of his first Eucharist as a priest in the Church of God.

Ordained on Saturday at St. John's downtown with this great crop of newly minted priests (pictured here with Bishops Bruno, Bruce and Glasspool) ...

... Jeff will return to Austin in the Diocese of Texas where he is currently serving as chaplain at a Children's Hospital. He was sponsored for ordination by All Saints, Pasadena and was for a time a member of the Integrity Nat'l Board, serving as our Treasurer before heading off to seminary.

So won't you join us here in Pasadena in rejoicing in this new chapter of ministry for Jeff ... and join with us in praying for the time when the fullness of that ministry will be as celebrated throughout the whole church as joyfully as it was celebrated in the Diocese of Los Angeles last weekend. Because there's still work to be done to make that 1976 resolution about "full and equal claim" a reality ... but the Holy Spirit has a stubborn streak that we're counting on as we keep on working for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.

Let those with ears to hear, listen!

[And if you'd like to send a "mazel tov" to the new priest ... you can email him here.]

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thirty Five Years Ago Today

Integrity Celebrates Thirty Five Years of Ministry
of the Reverend Dr. Ellen “Sr. Bernadette” Barrett

Integrity marks the 35th anniversary of the January 10, 1977 ordination of Ellen M. Barrett to the priesthood with reflections by two prophetic women leaders: the Reverend Dr. Caro Hall (President, Integrity USA) and the Reverend Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton (President, Episcopal Women's Caucus) Rejoice with us -- and with them -- as they share the story of one of the great trailbazers in Episcopal Church history.

Standing on the Shoulders of the Saints

by the Reverend Dr. Caro Hall
President, Integrity USA

Where were you thirty-five years ago today? I had just moved to Lexington, Virginia and was trying to find my feet in the US. I wish I had been at Holy Apostles in New York where on a cold and snowy day Ellen Marie Barrett (who coincidentally was confirmed in Lexington, Virginia) was ordained priest by Bishop Paul Moore of New York. On January 10, 1977 Barrett was one of the first women to be ordained. She was also the very first openly gay Episcopal priest.

In 1975 Barrett had become the first women to have a leadership role in Integrity, as an assistant editor of Integrity Forum. She was described to the readers as a “former teacher, A Gay activist and a writer who has served as a co-chairwoman of DOB/NY[Daughters of Bilitis, New York], a moderator of Gay Students Liberation at NYU and as a member of Gay Liberation Front, Radicalesbians, et al. She lectures frequently on Gay liberation, on sexuality in general, and on women’s history – as she puts it, enough so as ‘to make a circuit-rider queasy’.”

It wasn’t easy for Barrett to become a priest. Although in 1972 she was turned down for ordination by both Bishop Moore and Bishop DeWitt of Philadelphia (women were ordained as deacons starting in 1970), she went to General Theological Seminary and got her MDiv anyway. This paid off, as Moore saw her commitment and deep sense of vocation and agreed to ordain her. Her diaconal ordination was a quiet affair but in January 1977 the media were all over her priesting. The story went all over the country – it even made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle!

For many women in those early days, finding a job was harder than getting ordained. For the first-openly-gay-woman-priest-in-the-Episcopal-Church it was even harder. Even in Berkeley where she was pursuing graduate study, Barrett had difficulty finding a church that would fully accept her ministry. She received hate mail and threatening phone calls from people across the country outraged by her audacity.

But it was her audacity that opened the door which I walked through with ease and grace twenty-seven years later. For the Commission on Ministry in my diocese of El Camino Real it seemed that my gender didn’t turn a hair and my sexuality didn’t make an eyelid bat. How much had changed in the years since Barrett’s courageous actions!! Of course, we still have a ways to go before all LGBT aspirants experience true non-discrimination in the process.

Truly my ministry, both as a lesbian priest and as a leader in Integrity is on the shoulders of saints like Ellen Marie Barrett. Today I give thanks for her and her powerful legacy.

You can read more about Ellen Marie Barrett at the Religious Archives Network. Today she is a sister in the Order of St Benedict and a priest in the Diocese of Newark. You can congratulate her through her Facebook page or by email

Shout the Gospel With Your Life:
Celebrating 35 years of the Rev’d Dr Ellen (Sr. Bernadette) Barrett
by the Reverend Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton President, Episcopal Women’s Caucus

Charles de Foucauld was Trappist monk who had a “ministry of presence” among “the furthest removed, the most abandoned” in the Sahara Desert. He saw the purpose of his work not to proselytize or to believe as he did, or convert people whose faith and culture differed from his, but to “shout the gospel” with his life. He strove to live so that those around him who witnessed his life would contemplate, “If such is the servant, what must the master be like?”

Agnes de Mille once wrote: "No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently."

Trumpets may not have sounded on the morning of January 10, 1977 when Ellen M. Barrett was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Paul Moore in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, but the front page of the New York Times that morning blared, “Lesbian Woman to be Ordained Priest.”

That headline was, at the time, more of a scandal than V. Gene Robinson’s election and consecration as the first openly gay male bishop. That may be news to some who read this, so a little historical context may be in order.

The 1976 General Convention had passed a resolution to “regularize” the ordinations of eleven women, which had taken place at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974. The following year, the month of January held no less than forty-one ordinations of women to the priesthood in many Episcopal churches and cathedrals around the country with twenty-eight more ordinations by June of 1977.

A new day was dawning in The Episcopal Church and for many of “God’s frozen chosen,” it was a rude awakening. Some churches flew the Episcopal flag at half-staff or upside-down. Some rectors and their congregations left – or threatened to leave – The Episcopal Church. The “Chicken Little School of Theology” was on high alert, certain that the sky was falling and this would be THE END of The Episcopal Church many had known all their lives and loved with all their hearts.

While The Episcopal Church has certainly – thanks be to God - changed over the last thirty-five years, I believe history will reveal that what happened on January 10, 1977 to be one of the more significant and transformative events in the life of our church. I think it reveals the truth of Ms. de Mille’s statement, “Destiny is made known silently.”

One of the silent fears at the time was that opening ordination to women – besides making unification with Rome that much more difficult (strike that) impossible – was that the only women who would seek ordination to the priesthood were women who really wanted to be men. Read: lesbians.

The New York Times hardly “scooped” the story about Ellen being a lesbian. She was, from 1974-75, the co-president (with Jim Wickliff) of the then fledgling organization known as Integrity, which had been founded by Louie Crew. Her diaconal ordination in 1975 at St. Peter’s, Chelsea, had even drawn a small protest demonstration. The headline only served to feed into the worst fears of sexism and homophobia, each of which has deep roots in the other.

Nick Dowen, long time convener of Integrity/NYC, remembers it clearly. “I had come home from work and turned on the six o’clock news. There was a film clip of Bishop Moore, ducking his mitre under heavy television cables on his way into Church of the Holy Apostles (where the ordination took place). It was clear that he was not pleased with all the attention.” “I was thunderstruck,” Dowen said. “This signaled a new openness for gay men and lesbian women in the church – my church – and I couldn’t have been more proud.”

That was to be short-lived. At the next vestry meeting of the Church of the Ascension, which had been the meeting place of Integrity/NYC, the Vestry voted to ask the group to leave the church premises. Dowen was a member of the vestry at the time and only he and one other vestry member voted against the move.

“It was an unexpected and decisive vote and it really shook me,” said Dowen. “I have been part of what I like to call ‘liberal American Protestantism’ all my life, which had a long tradition of extending a warm welcome to everyone.” “This was one of the most formative and transformative experiences of my life. I had never even heard of Integrity before Ellen’s ordination, but you can bet I got involved.”

Anyone who knows Ellen – now a monastic known as Sr. Bernadette – can tell you that she is the least likely person to cause such a tempest in the baptismal waters of the teapot known as The Episcopal Church. According to the Religious Archives Network

Barrett was born on February 10, 1946 in Lawrence, Kansas where she was baptized at Trinity Episcopal Church in September of that year.

The family later moved to Lexington, Virginia, where her father was a professor at Washington and Lee University, chairing the Department of Roman Languages, until his death in March of 1972. Her mother, Marie Hamilton McDavid Barrett, was for many years secretary of the English Department at Virginia Military Institute. Barrett was confirmed in the R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia. She began school at the Colegio Americano de Quito at age 5, while her father was attaché to the U.S. embassy in Ecuador from 1951 to 1953.

Shortly after enrollment there, she was withdrawn from the school due to illness; she was then tutored under the Calvert System by her mother. Her secondary schooling began in Stuart Hall, an Episcopal school for girls in Staunton, Virginia. She later graduated from Lexington High School in Virginia. Her undergraduate career had two stages: she first attended Southern Seminary Jr. College in Buena Vista, Virginia, graduating in 1967; from there she went to Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut, graduating in 1970 with a BA in English literature.

In 1975, Barrett was awarded a M.Div. with honors from the General Theological Seminary, a member of its second class to admit women. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in medieval history from New York University in 1982, writing her dissertation on the only indigenous religious order in medieval England, the Gibertines, covering the order from its foundation in 1131 to the canonization of St. Gilbert of Sempringham in 1202. Barrett’s ministry has found her serving a variety of city and suburban parishes, beginning her career in Berkeley, California and eventually settling in dioceses in the New York and New Jersey areas.

She held clerical positions ranging from non-stipendiary Assisting Priest to paid Curé. She eventually specialized in interim ministry in parishes where a long-term rector had retired or the incumbent had been removed for misconduct. In addition to the usual pastoral and liturgical responsibilities of an Episcopal priest,

Barrett ran a number of educational programs for parishioners, aimed at both adults and children. She also led numerous spiritual retreats and quiet days, and served on various diocesan councils and committees. In addition to her work within the church, Barrett taught medieval and church history at a variety of academic institutions in the Greater New York area, including Fordham University, New York University, Manhattan College, Union Theological College, New York Theological Seminary, and the Theological School of Drew University. Her scholarly work on Church history includes an essay entitled "Validity and Regularity, an Historical Perspective," published in the Anglican Theological Review in July of 1976. She also presented papers at a number of academic conferences.
Real radical stuff, eh? Such a pity she has contributed to the downfall of the church in particular and Western Civilization in general, not to mention the destruction of family life and the corruption of the morals of our youth – and, no doubt, is the real cause of Global Warming, tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes.

Today, Sr. Bernadette lives the solitary life of a monastic, occasionally augmenting her below-the-poverty-line pension with short-term interim and supply duties. “She has paid a huge price in deployment because of her pioneering,” says Louie Crew, a long-time friend and fellow pioneer.

The thing about decisions and destiny is that many may happen quietly and even silently, but the ones that change lives rarely come without high cost. I am deeply grateful for those who came before me who stepped out in faith, never counting the cost. I believe with all my heart that I would not have been ordained almost 26 years ago without the courageous witness of Ellen Barrett.

The Rev’d Dr. Ellen “Sr. Bernadette” Barrett has gone about these past 35 years quietly doing the work God has called her to do, being an unsuspecting prophet in a not-for-prophet church. Like Foucauld, she has shouted the gospel with her life, as the destiny of the church has quietly been made known – despite the occasional blaring of headlines. “If such is the servant, what must the master be like?”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Parish Fractured by Schism To Host Integrity Eucharist

By Andy McQuery
Integrity, Oregon

“Where charity and love are, God is there.”

The 12th century Cistercian abbot Aelred of Rievaulx was self-evidently a remarkable person of deep faith, humility and wisdom. That he might have been gay should almost be irrelevant. However, the possibility does matter, precisely because so many of us, at large in the universal church and especially in our political leadership, insist that same-sex attraction is the product of a disturbed and warped mind, an “intrinsic disorder,” as the Vatican terms it, a rejection of God’s word and God’s intention for humanity. Homosexuality is often described as an addictive behavior, grouped with alcoholism and drug abuse, but is also thought of as if it were contagious, the mere mention of it in the presence of impressionable young ears enough to open the floodgates of unnatural imaginings and start children down the path to hell. Tennessee recently banned teachers from talking about it. The governor of Texas said Christians don’t have to go to church every Sunday to know that something is wrong with this country when gays can serve openly in the military.

As the apostle Nathanael might have put it, “Can anything good come from a homosexual?”

“It is no small consolation in this life to have someone to whom you can be united in the intimate embrace of the most sacred love; in whom your spirit can rest; to whom you can pour out your soul; in whose delightful company, as in a sweet consoling song, you can take comfort in the midst of sadness; in whose most welcome, friendly bosom you can find peace in so many worldly setbacks; to whose loving heart you can open, as freely as you would to yourself, your innermost thoughts; through whose spiritual kisses – as by some medicine – you are cured of the sickness of care and worry; who weeps with you in sorrow, rejoices with you in joy, and wonders with you in doubt; whom you draw by the fetters of love into that inner room of your soul, so that though the body is absent, the spirit is there, and you can confer all alone, the two of you, in the sleep of peace away from the noise of the world, in the embrace of love, in the kiss of unity, with the Holy Spirit flowing over you; to whom you so join and unite yourself that you mix soul with soul, and two become one.”

Few of us would bat an eye at the idea that there is something holy in the physical, sexual expression of intimate love, but the fact that these are the words of Aelred, a monk living in a community of other men, written in On Spiritual Friendship, his last and most famous work, means for some that if he is speaking of physical intimacy, it must be theoretically, and of course within the context of a mixed-gender union sanctified by the church. The suggestion that Aelred might have been describing an intimate relationship with another man, whether from his own experience or his unmet desires, is rejected. He is speaking of friendship, we are told. Spiritual friendship.

Upon the death of his “friend” Simon, Aelred is recorded to have said, “He was the refuge of my spirit, the sweet solace of my griefs, whose heart of love received me when fatigued by labors, whose counsel refreshed me when plunged in sadness and grief... What more is there, then, that I can say? Was it not a foretaste of blessedness thus to love and thus to be loved?"

We can’t really know, of course, whether Aelred was gay, or how he understood his feelings for Simon, or whether there was any physical relationship beyond “the sleep of peace away from the noise of the world, in the embrace of love, in the kiss of unity,” but it’s not hard to see how gay men and lesbians can and would want to recognize themselves in these words. It’s harder to understand why so many would prefer that we didn’t.

The great, sweet irony of this year’s Integrity Eucharist in Portland in honor of Aelred is that it is hosted by the parish of St Matthew’s, which less than two years ago was devastated by the departure of the priest and the bulk of the congregation. Though the reasons were complex, one of the sorest of the sticking points was the increasing acceptance and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk in the life and sacraments of the church. It is hard in this context to ignore the sting of chastisement in Paul’s words appointed for this feast day, “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind….in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” I think that clearly cuts both ways in this sad situation, but ultimately the truth is that one group took their toys and went home. They saw some people in the church they didn’t think belonged there, and they wanted to go someplace where they could lock the door.

What were they afraid of? Did they think maybe a bunch of gay folk and their friends and families might try to coordinate a community service day and paint their narthex? Did they worry we might try to weed their memorial garden and power wash the parking lot in a gesture of friendship? Did they think we would try to organize a Eucharist and donate a dinner to feed 100 people?

If so, their fears were well founded, because that’s exactly what we did.

One version of the Eucharist in this church draws our attention to the fact that “we have denied our goodness in each other, in ourselves and in the world.” It is, rather, that fear of the potential for goodness in “the other” that drove them away. It’s why the hero of the parable is a Samaritan; Jesus wanted to challenge our assumptions, to get us to stop making generalizations about traditional outsiders, to get us to view each other as individuals and not as faceless groups; as people, not as issues.

Two years ago, Dennis, Catherine and Simon would likely have been warmly greeted by the people of St Matthew’s. But not Dennis and Michael; not Catherine and Heather; not Simon and Aelred. The possibility of goodness in those people and those relationships was rejected, and the idea that such relationships might be greater than the sum of their individual parts and, indeed, even holy, was denied. The suggestion that their inclusion was anything other than a mortal threat to the church and an affront to God meant schism.

“Where charity and love are, God is there.”

It is with a nod to Aelred’s first published work, The Mirror of Charity, that “Ubi caritas” was chosen to be the offertory anthem for this year’s celebration. Duruflé’s justly famous setting, based on the original Gregorian melody, unfortunately does not contain the full text of the ancient hymn. It goes on to say, “As we are gathered into one body, beware, lest we be divided in mind. Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease, and may Christ our God be in our midst.”

As we celebrate the truly good work that Integrity has done, both here in Oregon and around the country, and the wonderful life that continues and grows at St Matthew’s, let us also pause to lament our failures along the way that brought us to this moment. Let us pray, truly, for all people everywhere who seek to know God and, in discerning and following their conscience, make difficult and painful decisions with which we may not agree. Let us confess that we don’t have all the answers, and acknowledge that now we see through a glass, darkly. Let us pray that God fills the holy universal church with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where God finds corruption, may there be purification. Where God sees error, may we heed direction. Where God sees anything amiss, may there be reform. Where the church is right, may it be strengthened; where it has needs, may they be met; and, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, where it is divided, may it be reunited.

The Mass for the Feast of St Aelred will be celebrated beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, at St Matthew’s Episcopal Church at 11229 NE Prescott in Portland. A catered supper and party follow in the parish hall.

All are welcome.