Saturday, March 31, 2012

Practicing Lent & Justice

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson, Integrity's Vice President of National Affairs, is one Integrity's major policy strategists and will be the Team Leader of Integrity's GC 12 campaign to Claim the Promise: Make All Really Mean All.

This is a Lenten reflection he was commissioned to write for the blog of St. Luke in the Fields, Manhattan.

I often describe Lent to my parishioners as a time set aside each year to practice faithfulness in the midst of wilderness.  When Lent comes around, we may, or may not, be in the midst of actual, in-the-moment spiritual wilderness, but sooner or later - in the season of Lent or in some other season of our lives - at least a bit of wilderness will inevitably fall.  So in this season of the church year, we learn how to be faithful even in the midst of those more difficult times.  And we learn through continued practice, again and again.  The work is never really done.  We always have more to learn and we always can grow ever deeper in our spiritual maturity.

The same is true in our commitment to justice.  Despite the amazing strides we, as a church and as a society, have made in recent generations, the truth is, the struggle for justice for all of God's people is ongoing.  In the past few weeks, I've seen a few theater pieces that have reminded me of this anew.  As a part of my own spiritual disciplines of self-care and nurturing my creative tendencies, I regularly go to the theater and reflect on what I've seen.  Recently I've seen two shows that have reminded me that the work of striving for justice for all is not yet finished.

One (perhaps unlikely) source for this reminder was found in the current off-Broadway revival of Carrie - a musical adaptation of the 1976 horror film of the same name.  You can read my full review here (, but the take-away for me was a firm reminder that - despite incredible progress - we still live in society where misogyny and bullying are very real, and that those realities continue to have tragic consequences.

Also, earlier this week, I saw the current Broadway revival of the Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.  (Full review at  Though we in the United States have been consistently struggling with racial inequality for many generations, our work there is nowhere near ended, either.

As Vice President for National Affairs of IntegrityUSA, people often ask me, "Haven't we already won?"  It's true that openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy are the norm in many of our dioceses.  It's true that openly LGBT parishioners are welcomed and fully assimilated into many more of our congregations.  It's true that we now even have bishops who are openly gay and lesbian.  But if we can learn anything from our sisters and brothers in other justice movements, it's that the struggle for equal access to God's justice in human institutions continues long after the initial signs of progress are won.

Justice is not so much a goal as it is a discipline.  That's why the work of IntegrityUSA is still important, even in the shadow of the incredible progress we've made in recent years.  That's why we still need to keep showing up to General Convention, and why we still need to keep educating and empowering people at every level of the church.

Just as we have to keep practicing Lent, we have to keep practicing Justice.  The reign of God is still too much a dream.  Wilderness is still too near.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Presiding Bishop's Easter Message

Easter 2012
One of my favorite Easter hymns is about greenness. “Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain.” 
It goes on to talk about love coming again. It’s a reminder to me of how centered our Easter images are in the Northern hemisphere.  We talk about greenness and new life and life springing forth from the earth when we talk about resurrection. 
I often wonder what Easter images come in the Southern hemisphere, and I think that church in the south has something to teach us about that. 
I was in Japan a month or so ago, and visiting the area of Japan that was so affected by the tsunami and the aftermath of the earthquake.  The earth there is - was at that point - largely colorless, brown, in the middle of winter.  No greenness.  But at the same time the work of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Japanese church in that part of Japan, has brought a great deal of new life, life abundant for people who have been devastated and displaced, who are still mourning their loss of loved ones, the loss of their homes and employment. 
New life comes in many forms, even in seasons that seem fairly wintry. 
As we began Lent, I asked you to think about the Millennium Development Goals and our work in Lent as a re-focusing of our lives.  I’m delighted to be able to tell you that the UN report this last year has shown some significant accomplishment in a couple of those goals, particularly in terms of lowering the rates of the worst poverty, and in achieving better access to drinking water and better access to primary education.  We actually might reach those goals by 2015.  That leaves a number of other goals as well as what moves beyond the goals to full access for all people to abundant life. 
In this Easter season I would encourage you to look at where you are finding new life and resurrection, where life abundant and love incarnate are springing up in your lives and the lives of your communities.  There is indeed greenness, whatever the season. 
Give thanks for Easter.  Give thanks for Resurrection. Give thanks for the presence of God incarnate in our midst.  
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The PB on Blessings, Gay Clergy & Birth Control

From an article posted in the Huffington Post. Staffers at HuffPost questioned the Presiding Bishop for an hour and here's what she had to say:

NEW YORK -- The movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage and the acceptance of gay people as clergy and lay members of religious groups is "a done deal" that represents "phenomenal" progress, the top figure in the Episcopal Church told The Huffington Post during a recent visit to its newsroom.

In an hour-long conversation with HuffPost staffers, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, touched upon subjects that ranged from her views on how to interpret scripture and challenges that face the church as its demographics change to debates over contraception and the relationship between religion and science.

Jefferts Schori is the first female bishop to lead a province of the Anglican communion, a 85-million member global denomination whose U.S.-based body is called the Episcopal Church. Since being installed in 2006, her tenure has been marked by tensions within the church over the ordination of openly gay bishops. Dozens of Episcopal parishes have left the American church over the issue and have aligned themselves with more conservative Anglican bishops in other parts of the world. The bishop reaffirmed her support for the gay rights movement during her visit.

On same-sex marriage and other gay rights issues, Jefferts Schori said she has been "stunned at how quickly public opinion has changed in the U.S." though she cautioned that she doesn't expect controversy over gay clergy in the Episcopal Church to fade. As more states legalize same-sex marriage, she said, conflicts in the church could become more frequent.

We muddle through [controversial issues] in a very public way," she said of the church that has just under two million members in the United States.

"I would guess that at [General] Convention, we would adopt a trial rite for blessing same-sex unions," she said, referring to the annual meeting of the church's governing body, which meets every three years. It will next meet in July in Indianapolis. Jefferts Schori said that no priest is required to bless any marriage, but that formal same-sex blessings could become optional.

She also spoke of the recent controversy over a federal requirement that employers' health insurance plans provide contraception coverage.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has fought against the requirement, which exempts plans provided to employees of houses of worship but in its original version did not exempt those of religious institutions such as Catholic schools and hospitals. President Barack Obama later broadened the exemption to shift the cost of contraception coverage to insurers in cases where a religiously affiliated employer has a moral objection, but Catholic bishops have said that the adjustment still violates their religious beliefs because many Catholic institutions self-insure.

"It's appropriate for couples to plan their families," Jefferts Schori said, adding that contraception is a "normative part of health care." She also said the Episcopal Church "has taken a very nuanced approach on abortion. We say it is a moral tragedy but that it should not be the government's role to deny its availability."

The bishop said that much of the conflict over sexuality among Episcopalians and Anglicans -- and more widely, among Christians -- comes from their differing interpretations of scripture. She warned against taking a strictly literal approach to the Bible.

"The best of scriptural interpretation is about looking at the whole document and the direction in which it is moving rather than pulling out pieces that point to your point of view or prejudice," she said. "When Christians read their scripture that way, they have much more fruitful conversations with Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs who read their scripture that way."

Jefferts Schori, who was Roman Catholic as a child, was received into the Episcopal Church at the age of eight, after her parents decided to join. She received a doctorate in oceanography from Oregon State University in 1983 and worked as an oceanographer before being ordained as a priest in 1994. She was a rector, hospice chaplain and university lecturer in Oregon before becoming bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada in 2001.

The bishop said her career as a scientist has influenced her belief that religion and science, which are often painted as incompatible, can coexist. Jefferts Schori said she encourages parishes to tackle issues such as climate change and poverty.

"We are increasingly concerned that the way human beings use resources here in the developed part of the world has an increasing impact on poor people not only here but around the world," she said. "Our part in what we call God's mission is to help heal the world, heal the brokenness of the world."

Like many Protestant denominations, the Episcopal church, which is considered a "middle way" between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, has declined significantly in membership. In 1966, it had 3.6 million members. A 2010 count turned up 1,951,907 members in the U.S. The church also has 173,105 members in other countries and territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Taiwan and Venezuela.

Jefferts Schori said that she is "not caught up in the numbers game."

"I don't know if people in the 1960s were as well-formed or as well-committed ... It was socially normative to be part of a church in the 50s and 60s," she said, adding that she believes attending church today is a more active decision than it used to be.

"We don't count the right way. How many lives has the work of a congregation touched this year?" she said. "That's a more important question than counting who came to church on a Sunday."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is the Anglican Communion over?

Integrity President The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

On Saturday several English Dioceses voted on whether the Church of England should adopt the Anglican Covenant.

According to Thinking Anglicans the current figures are 23 diocesan synods against and 15 in favor and it is therefore impossible for a majority of the 44 dioceses to vote in favor. Consequently the proposed adoption of the Covenant cannot return to the General Synod in this quinquennium (ending in 2015). After that any consideration of the Covenant would have to start again and include a new reference to the dioceses.

So the Church of England has said no to the Anglican Covenant, at least for another three years. Eight other Anglican provinces have approved the Covenant, and it is expected to be one of the Big Issues at this year’s General Convention.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Kenneth Kearon, wants us to carry on as if nothing’s happened. But it’s really quite silly to imagine the Anglican Communion without the Church of England. So is the Covenant dead? And if so, is the Anglican Communion also a dodo?
What would have to change for the dioceses of the CofE to change their minds? I’m not sure but it’s not going to happen very fast and in the meantime the rest of us should take a wait and see approach – there’s no point in an Anglican Covenant that excludes the Archbishop of Canterbury. My best guess is that the next Archbishop will let the Covenant wilt, die and quietly disappear.
Is that the death knoll of the Anglican Communion? Not at all. The Anglican Communion has always relied on relationships. This is a messy arrangement which does not have neat lines of authority, central control, or clear boundaries. Its shadow is that it has the potential to exclude, intentionally or otherwise, simply by failing to relate. Its upside is that it helps us to model the reign of God which is what Jesus was all about.
For those who imagined the Anglican Communion as a transnational church with national chapters this is the end of the dream. Sorry, that’s not who we ever were and it’s not who we will become. The Anglican Communion is an international communion of churches who choose to work together. That has not changed just because the Brits don’t want to play the Covenant game anymore.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Colorado Integrity Chapters Meet With Bishop Robert O'Neill

A Report 
Ron Ramey

The four Integrity chapters in Colorado (Colorado Springs, Denver Metro, Fort Collins and Four Corners) co-hosted, with other progressive organizations, a Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Robert O’Neill at St John’s Cathedral, Denver on February 11th.   The other hosts were:
  • The Richard Hooker Forum;
  • Jubilee Ministries and its CO Episcopal Public Policy Network; and
  • The Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

There were close to sixty-five attendees (plus the Holy Spirit) -- a great turnout, considering the poor weather.  The meeting had to be rescheduled from the original Feb. 4 date because of a major snow storm that affected most of Colorado.

Bishop O'Neill was so welcoming and gracious.  He was delighted to be with us.

As he has before, the Bishop thanked our gay & lesbian members for their patience, and he noted that these members are a gift and a blessing to all of us. He also spoke about mere "toleration" as an impoverishment -- a polite indifference, a passive co-existence -- vs. "engagement." There will always be the "Other" among us, and we are challenged to embrace the Other as a divine gift -- so that the Other might transform us.

Bishop O'Neill speaks at the Town Hall Meeting
He explained the process he had gone through with his announcement last May at a clergy conference which allowed a parish to go through a discernment process if they wanted to allow same-gender blessings.  This process required a parish to hold parish meetings and to consider all points of view.  The parish had to prepare a summary of the points of view expressed for his review and approval in order to offer same-gender blessings.  He noted that he did not receive any negative feedback from the clergy regarding the process.

Note:  Same-gender marriage is illegal in Colorado by Constitutional amendment.

He also discussed the Civil Unions bill that was before the Colorado State legislature in March 2011.   He noted that he wrote a personal letter of support to several key (opposing) legislators!  As the bill has been re-introduced this year as Senate Bill 2 (SB-2), he is again willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, where it failed last year by one vote, if his schedule allows.  As his schedule didn't allow him to testify last year, The Rev Becky Jones and Bill Oliver, the Integrity Diocesan Organizer for Colorado each testified on his behalf.

Jeremy Shaver, Executive Director of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, spoke briefly about the Faithful Voices for Strong Families Coalition in support of the pending Civil Unions Bill, SB-2.  They're hoping to enlist more clergy as Faithful Voices to counter the opposition to this bill by so many other Christian clergy.  Bishop O'Neill is a prominent member of the Faithful Voice coalition!

Status Reports

There were also wonderful status reports regarding same gender blessings from several churches:

  • St. Thomas, Denver:
    - Their rector, The Rev Ruth Woodliff-Stanley and the congregation pioneered work two years ago to create a blessing liturgy with the Bishop that led into the current discernment process announced last May;
  • St. Andrew's in Denver has already had two same-gender blessings;
  • St. Laurence in Conifer is in the discernment process;
  • St. Paul's in Fort Collins:
    - Has completed the discernment process.
    - The third same-gender blessing in Colorado will occur on Feb. 18.  More about this below.
  • St. Barnabas in Denver:
    - Their assistant rector, The Rev Deb Angell gave an update on same-gender blessings at St. Barnabas.
    - The Rev Al Halverstadt, a retired priest and former rector of St. Barnabas, gave a stirring story about their trail-blazing work on same-gender blessings twenty years ago.
    - St.  Barnabas is likely to conduct a blessing this summer.
  • St Brigit in Frederick:
    - The Rev. Felicia Smith-Graybeal stated their parish is in the discernment process and will probably have a same-gender blessing this summer.
  • St. Martin in the Fields in Aurora is in the discernment process, and
  • St John's Cathedral in Denver:
    - The Rev Sally Brown reported that the Cathedral is in the discernment process.
Jack Finlaw and Larry Hitt, both General Convention deputies, were engaging and masterful in their great tag-teaming presentation on SCLM's (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) work on developing a same-gender blessings liturgy.  The Commission's (180-page) report for GC should be released in about a month.  It looks very promising that GC will approve their work as a blessing liturgy to be used on a trial basis until GC in 2015.

Jim Steinborn (left) and Bill Rogers (right) at their blessing
On Feb. 18 at St. Paul’s in Fort Collins, the third same-gender blessing in the Diocese was held between two long time Integrity members, Bill Rogers and Jim Steinborn, who is also the convener of the Ft. Collins chapter.  Bill and Jim have been together nearly 21 years.  Jim said, “It is about time we were made honest men.”  Several Integrity members traveled to St. Paul’s, which was packed with well-wishers, for a very moving service using the beautiful liturgy that was developed by The Bishop, The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, and others.

This was the fourth Town Hall Meeting that Bishop O’Neill has held with the GLBT community since 2003 when he was elected Bishop.  It was well received by all.  After the meeting, there was a good deal of interest in the Interfaith Alliance in Colorado.  Many wanted to know what they could do to help with the upcoming hearings on Senate Bill 2 to allow Civil Unions.

Ron Ramey was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1979. He first joined Integrity Washington DC chapter in the early 1990s. When the DC chapter closed in 1999, he joined  the Virginia chapter and was co-convener in 2000. He returned to Colorado in October 2000 and served as Network Coordinator from 2003-2010,  served as the Denver Metro Chapter convener from 2004-2010 and volunteere on the Integrity General Convention staff in 2006. He is a member of Holy Comforter, Broomfield, CO and serves as a chalice bearer.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vagina Dialogues and White Gay Men: A Lenten Discipline

This week the Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson published "Vagina Dialogues and White Gay Men: A Lenten Discipline on HuffPost. In this blog he challenges his gay male comrades: "As a white gay man, I am dismayed by the near-deafening silence from my gay  brothers concerning the twin poisons of sexism and racism in our society. This is deeply troubling..."

Do you agree with Jay? Please share your opinion with a comment below. We are anxious to hear your thoughts.

Here is the full text of Jay's letter: 

Dear gay male comrades:

Have you talked with each other lately about how important vaginas are? Or about the women who need to guard those precious organs at nearly every turn from the hands of prying male politicians? If you're gay and white, have you talked with each other lately about the poison of white supremacy infecting our relationships and sabotaging social progress?

As a white gay man, I am dismayed by the near-deafening silence from my gay brothers concerning the twin poisons of sexism and racism in our society. This is deeply troubling, especially since homophobia is the result, not the cause, of a much deeper confluence of male privilege and white supremacy in our history in our world today. If we fail to link male privilege with white supremacy, we do so at our own grave peril.
It is no mere coincidence that the latest battle in the war on women is transpiring with an African American in the White House. It is also no more coincidence that so much white panic over immigration transpires in the same state where women's access to birth control is at serious risk. (Read about the latest legislation proposed in Arizona and think about it the next time you buy condoms.)

I also want to make a confession. (This is Lent, after all, and I'm also an Episcopal priest.) I confess my own failures to connect the dots among sexism, racism, and homophobia and my failure to act on those vital connections. I make this confession not for the sake of indulging in the luxury of guilt; we don't have time for that. Guilt is utterly wasted energy. I make my confession instead for the sake of re energizing my commitment to building a better world, and for the sake of being held accountable to that commitment by others -- especially by women and people of color.

The struggle for control over women's bodies is a struggle for the liberation of all bodies: women's bodies, men's bodies, children's bodies, the bodies of all other animals, and the body of this planet itself, "Mother Earth." There is a direct link between the kind of male privilege that lays claim to women's bodies and the male privilege that rapes this planet for resources. Just consider what Rick Santorum had to say recently about the environment.

Accountability for a better world would be a great Lenten discipline. After all, as the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah once declared: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" (58:6). Now that would certainly be a spiritual discipline all of us could, quite literally, live with.

Making the world a better place often begins in one's own backyard and indeed with one's self. I'm taking that to heart this Lent and spending time thinking carefully and writing about my own white male privilege and how it functions in our society and in our religious institutions. I'm also seeking ways to put my white male privilege to use for the sake of women's thriving and the flourishing of communities of color.
Religious or not, here's a great way to begin: get some of your gay male friends together and read Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. Then talk to the women in your life. Let them know that you're committed to their freedom, their dignity, and their autonomy. Ask them what you can do to be supportive -- then do it.

The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D. is an Episcopal priest and a member of the core doctoral faculty at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, Calif. He chaired the Theology Task Force for the SCLM Blessings Project. He also serves as Senior Director of Academic Research and Resources at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion, a member school of the GTU. His first book was published in 2005, Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope, and he is the co-editor of a forthcoming, two-volume anthology, Queer Religion. He blogs at

For the record,, Integrity's Interim Executive Director Harry Knox recently took a stand on behalf of women's rights and freedom. Read his blog here. Do you have a similar story you'd like share? Send it to

Saturday, March 17, 2012

ST PATRICK: Patron Saint of Ireland, Evangelism & Inclusion

by the Reverend Canon Susan Russell, Integrity past-President (2003-2009)

From Lesser Feasts and Fasts: Patrick was born into a Christian family somewhere on the northeast coast of Britain in about 390. When Patrick was about sixteen, he was captured by a band of Irish slave-raiders. He was carried off to Ireland and forced to serve as a shepherd. When he was about twenty-one, he escaped and returned to Britain, where he took holy orders both as a presbyter and bishop. A vision then called him to return to Ireland…

In my day school chaplain days, every time I told this story to the kids gathered for morning chapel I would pause at this point and ask them if they could imagine that … IMAGINE what kind of vision it must have been to convince Patrick to go BACK to the place – to the people – who had held him captive in order to bring them the good news of God in Christ Jesus. For of course we remember Patrick as the great evangelist whose missionary journeys spread Christianity all over Ireland – and today we celebrate his life and ministry AND the vision that sent him back to Ireland -- which is why we wear green to school today and eat corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight. (And one of the mysteries of life I've yet to figure out is how corned beef got to be an icon for evangelism but there it is!)

In 2003 I was in New York City on my way out to meetings on Long Island along with a train full of revelers returning from the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. One of those revelers was a NYPD officer who had sprained his ankle marching in the parade and was heading home for an icepack and some Advil.

I must have been traveling in my collar because the conversation turned to church stuff and I found myself telling him about my ministry – at the time I was the Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing – and about the work we were doing in the Episcopal Church. He had been raised an Irish Catholic – and his partner was Puerto Rican – and it had never occurred to either of them that there might be a church where they would be welcome.

We talked some more and exchanged cards and I promised to email some folks to connect with and he said, sprained ankle notwithstanding, that he felt like running into me on the train was a St. Patrick's Day dose of the luck of the Irish. And when we came to his stop and he stood up to limp off the train, he took the big, green plastic shamrock from around his neck and gave it to me. And he told me to remember there were plenty of other people like him out there who needed to hear what we had to say about a church that welcomed everybody and that I should take some of his Irish luck with me for the work in front of me.

And I still have it. And it reminds me every time I see it of the New York cop who is part of the mission field out there longing for the good news we have to offer – yearning to know that the "Episcopal Church Welcomes You" signs really means him. And here we are in 2012 -- a church continuing to wrestle with whether or not it is going to fulfill its commitment to the "full and equal claim" promised the gay and lesbian baptized since 1976.

On this particular St. Patrick's Day I believe asking gay and lesbian Episcopalians to hang in there and continue to take the vision of a Body of Christ that fully includes all the baptized BACK to the church that still questions their vocations and relationships is like unto asking Patrick to go evangelize the Irish who enslaved him.

And yet that's the vision we've been given – that's the call we have received. Our witness of God's inclusive love is not just a witness to the presence of the holy in our lives and our relationships and our vocations -- but a witness to the power of God's love to transcend ANYTHING that holds us captive or enslaves us.

So let's remember on this St. Patrick's Day that the same God who inspired a former captive named Patrick to return to his captors and evangelize them in the 4th century is working in us as we work to call this church and this communion to wholeness in the 21st. And let's remember that it is that power working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine. And then let's get on with the work we have been given to do. (After we have a little corned beef and cabbage!)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Integrity Responds to +Rowan Williams Resignation

In response to the announcement this morning that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be stepping down at the end of the year in order to take on a new position as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Integrity President Caroline Hall released the following statement:

"This decade has arguably been the most tumultuous time for Anglicans since the end of the English Civil War. It has been an incredibly difficult time to be Archbishop of Canterbury, officially the "Instrument of Unity" in an Anglican Communion struggling with disunity and at times outright hostility."

"When he was elected we had high hopes that Rowan Williams would be willing to take a bold stand on LGBT inclusion. Those hopes were dashed almost immediately when he bowed to conservative pressure and forced Jeffrey John, an English gay man in a celibate relationship, to step down from his nominations as Bishop of Reading. We were also disappointed by his failure to respect Episcopal Church polity and his failure to invite and welcome the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops. In his attempts to keep everyone at the table, Williams has proved more willing to listen to conservative than to liberal voices, even though his own theological position is more progressive."

"I certainly admire his ability to stay in this position for a decade. To be called to leadership in the middle of rapid and contentious change is never easy and Williams has been the target for acrimonious letters and emails since he was first elected."

"Integrity wishes him well in his new position and prays that when God calls the next Archbishop he will be a forward-looking person of great courage who understands that to be the Instrument of Unity may not mean keeping everyone together in a unholy alliance. We hope that the members of the Crown Appointments Commission and the British Prime Minster will not bow to the forces who seek to keep the Church of England, and by example, the rest of the Anglican Communion, in the dark ages where women, gays, lesbians and trans-people are not welcome in the House of Bishops and thus are not welcome at all."

For further information, contact:
Louise Brooks, Director of Communication 626.993.4605

Making "all" mean "all" in the Diocese of San Joaquin

A Reflection
Louise Brooks

Carolyn Louise Woodall got ordained last Saturday to the Sacred Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin -- smack dab in the middle of California's conservative Central Valley. There was no fanfare, there were no media and there were no protesters. I was there with a film crew to document the event for Integrity’s VOICES OF WITNESS project entitled "Out Of The Box" -- celebrating the lives and witness of transgender Episcopalians.

 As the service began we had our cameras ready when the Bishop asked "... if any of you know any impediment or crime because of which we should not proceed, come forward now, and make it known." We were readybut no one came forward. It was the people's will that Carolyn be ordained and it was their will to uphold her in her ministry – and they said so, loud and clear. On the surface this was your typical ordinary ordination … but truth be told it was anything but.

As I sat in the tiny church watching this ordinary/extraordinary ordination unfold, I remembered my last trip to the Diocese of San Joaquin. It was five years ago – just after the then-sitting Bishop Schofield tried to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church and become the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin: a schismatic response to the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson and the blessing of same sex unions.

 Bishop Schofield – arguably one of the most reactionary bishops in the Episcopal Church – would not ordain women to the priesthood and would not give communion to gay persons. People joked that he was more catholic than the Catholics – and when he became a bishop he added the name John to his birth-name David becoming Bishop John-David.

Four of us, LGBT leaders from the Diocese of Los Angeles, traveled the long Central Valley highway lined with citrus trees, table grapes, raisins, almond groves and other visually interesting crops, to meet with the Remain Episcopal team. They were the folks who stayed. And that day this faithful remnant of Episcopalians described to us the goals they had set for San Joaquin: to rebuild the diocese, to ordain women, to welcome and include all the strangers at the gate. And as I sat there in the pew in St. Anne’s, Stockton at the ordination of Carolyn Louise Woodall, I was aware that they have come a long way in those five years. A very long way.

Carolyn Louise Woodall was born Clifford Lawson Woodall. She was born out of the box. "I had known I was different since I was four or five years old, I just didn’t figure out the extent of my differences until much later in life. It isn’t as if there weren’t clues, it was just that I had gotten very good at denial. I never even heard the word “transsexual” until college, and then I had a passing thought that it might apply to me, but quickly buried that thought. As time went on, however, the thought that I might be transsexual kept resurfacing and I continued to bury it as best I could."

But she couldn't bury it forever. "I could learn to live with it, start living as a woman, and move on with life or, I could kill myself. I decided on suicide that night. I sat there convinced of a couple of things. One was that I was an abomination before God. God made me male at birth and I would be unfaithful to God by changing that. Additionally, this was wrong. So was suicide, but that night I prayed that God would consider suicide the lesser sin and forgive me for what I was about to do. I had a gun in the dresser right behind me and it would be quick and easy.

Fate intervened and Carolyn was relieved." I quickly realized that I had been looking for a reason not to go through with it and was very glad I had found one."

Carolyn Woodall always loved the church. She sang in choirs from a young age and felt a call to ministry as early as she can remember. She entered the discernment process as a transgendered woman and the Church received her call last Saturday.

She was ordained by one of the great champions of inclusion and giants of justice in the Episcopal Church: Bishop Chet Talton. Bishop Talton – who previously served as Bishop Suffragan in my diocese of Los Angeles so I can brag on him a bit -- has thrown down a gauntlet of welcome in the Diocese of San Joaquin: “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself, you are welcome here." And they are.

Carolyn's ordination service was hosted by the Reverend Lyn Morlan, Rector of St. Anne's Church in Stockton. Five years ago she wouldn't have been licensed to serve in the Diocese of San Joaquin, let alone called to be the rector of a parish. And tears came to my eyes as I watched a gay couple come forward to the communion rail as I remembered the horror story of a another gay couple being turned away at the altar a few short years ago.

So here’s my message to those who are discouraged and think the church is not moving fast enough: take heart, it is happening. Giants of justice like Bishop Chet Talton are making it happen. Integrity USA is making it happen. Each and every one of you is making it happen. We set audacious goals and we achieve incremental victories every day. Saturday’s ordination of Carolyn Louise Woodall was surely an audacious victory in the Diocese of San Joaquin. And if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

In Texas and Tallahassee; South Florida and South Carolina – and in all the other places where the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments is still a goal and not a reality. It's just a matter of time. We are at the tipping point. And we are in it to win it.

Many thanks to those brave leaders who didn't give up. To the Remain Episcopal folks who rebuilt a diocese. To Bishop Chet Talton for being the right shepherd in the right place at the right time. And especially to Deacon Carolyn Louise Woodall for modeling for us God's mission: to be your true and authentic self so you can have a true and authentic relationship with Him in order to call others into the circle of God’s inclusive love.

Louise Brooks serves on Integrity's Board of Directors and is their Director of Communications.  She is currently the Executive Producer of VOICES OF WITNESS: Out Of The Box....a video that celebrates the lives and witness of transgender Episcopalians. The DVD, complete with a study guide, will be released in May, 2012 as a gift to the church from Integrity.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Caro Hall Comments on NH Bishop Nominees


Today the Bishop Search and Nomination Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire joyfully announced their nominees for a Bishop Coadjutor to succeed the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Ninth Bishop of New Hampshire:

The Rev. Penelope Maud Bridges, Rector, St. Francis Episcopal Church, Great Falls, Virginia;
The Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Amherst, Massachusetts;  The Rev. Dr. William Warwick Rich, Senior Associate Rector for Christian Formation, Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

Integrity USA congratulates all the nominees and applauds a search process that is open to all candidates.

In 2003 the people of New Hampshire searched for and elected the person they felt could best lead them as their Bishop. We were,of course, delighted that they elected our friend Gene Robinson and that his election was confirmed by the wider church. Now they are once again engaged in the process of selecting a new bishop. Integrity has every confidence that they will choose the best person whom God is calling to lead them into the future, regardless of his or her gender or sexual orientation.

Our prayers are with all the candidates who have courageously offered themselves to participate in the vital but arduous process of Bishop selection.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Call To Action: Help Gay Adoption Legislation Pass

Write Your US Senators and Urge Passage of Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Today, Harry Knox, Interim Executive Director of Integrity USA, sent the letter below to every US Senator asking her or him to support the Every Child Deserves A Family Act (ECDF). We are sending out this Call To Action asking you to join Harry and do the same.

The Family Equality Council, a sponsor of ECDF, has seen immediate results by letter-writing campaigns such as this which educate lawmakers as to why this bill needs to pass.

Lend your voice to advocate for this important legislation. Copy this letter, sign your own name and send it to your two state senators today. Show that we can make a difference by taking action on this very important piece of legislation. To contact your US Senators, click here.

838 East High Street #291
Lexington, KY 40502

March 14, 2012
United States Senate
Washington, DC

Dear Senator,
On behalf of Integrity USA, a non-profit organization working to proclaim God’s inclusive love in and through the Episcopal Church since 1975, I write to express our support for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S.1770). Many of Integrity’s members and supporters are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents, and children of those fine parents. We urge you to support and co-sponsor this important legislation, which would help ensure that every child can have a loving, stable home.

Of the 408,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, 107,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted, 27,000 children will leave the system without ever finding a home because of a lack of adoptive parents, according to the  Department of Health and Human Services. This represents a colossal system failure, since there are two million potential LGBT parents who would consider adopting from the public system if they were not obstructed by state policies, practices, and procedures.

While a few states have laws or policies prohibiting discrimination, most do not. Several states have
specifically excluded LGBT people from acting as foster parents or adopting. The law in many states remains silent on these issues, leaving children and potential parents open to decisions based on bias rather than the interests of children. LGBT people and their partners, whether in opposite-gender or same-gender relationships and whether married or unmarried, frequently face this kind of discrimination. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would prohibit discrimination in public adoption and foster care placements on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Scientists and child welfare experts have agreed for decades that children raised by LGBT parents fare just as well as others when it comes to healthy development and psychosocial adjustment. It is clear today that public agencies should focus on placing all children in permanent, loving homes, and not on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of parents.

For all those thousands of children who today are awaiting a forever home, I hope you will consider lending your support and becoming a co-sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Integrity stands ready to work with you to build a country where every child has a loving family and a place to call home.


Rev. Harry F. Knox
Interim Executive Director

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Integrity stands with women in struggle for justice and freedom.

Why We Marched

Rev. Harry Knox
Interim Executive Director
Integrity USA

Women and men from all over Georgia gathered yesterday at the Georgia State Capitol for “Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice”: a march for women’s health and reproductive freedom.  My husband Mike and I were proud to march with other activists from around the state for several reasons.

1.    For Mike, advocating for women’s legal empowerment has been a lifelong work.  He was motivated to become a lawyer by his great-grandmother’s experience of gender-based discrimination in courtrooms in South Georgia.  She fought against a male-dominated system to keep her family’s property intact – and lost.  Mike has worked for decades to see that women, working folks, and LGBT people receive true justice.

2.     I “went down to the demonstration”, as the old Simon and Garfunkel tune says, because my nieces and sisters and friends are under attack and I’m determined to stand with them as they have stood with me through many a struggle.  The leadership of the Georgia General Assembly is seeking to pass legislation that will limit the health care options the women I love need desperately – and to curtail their freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their health.  I’ve noticed many who say they are for “limited government” really mean “maximum government control” when it comes to women’s bodies.  I trust the women of Georgia and would not presume to make health decisions for them.  I will join them in the struggle to preserve freedoms their mothers and grandmothers fought for.

3.     I went down to Atlanta from our home in rural Northeast Georgia because there needed to be a clerical collar in the crowd.  I was heartbroken at how many times women thanked me especially for being present in my Christian pastor’s garb.  They acted as if it were a surprise that a faith leader would be marching for women’s freedom and health.  It was wonderful to see signs provided by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice that read “Pro-faith, Pro-family, Pro-choice!”  It was a message welcomed by all in attendance – and it’s newsworthy, folks.  I pray we clergy-types will be willing, as Jesus was, to make (good) news.

Integrity USA is the advocacy voice of LGBT Episcopalians and their allies.  Make no mistake: the attack on women currently underway in this country reflects a larger mission on the part of some to enshrine straight, white, male dominance once again as the law and practice of the land.   Integrity stands with women in this struggle for justice and freedom.

Integrity To Hold Elections, Seeks Nominations

An Announcement from Integrity President Caroline Hall
It is time for us to start the process of electing the  Board of Directors and the Provincial Coordinators to lead Integrity into the new 2012- 2015  triennium. This leadership team will have the joy of building on the successes of General Convention and as well as the challenge of retooling Integrity for the evolving mission of making All Mean ALL.

We have named a Nominations Committee whose task is to to gather nominations from the membership for the Board (President, National Vice-President, Vice President for Local Affairs, Treasurer, Secretary, and Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council) and for Provincial Coordinators for each of the eight domestic Provinces.

The members of the Nominations Committee are:
Marie Alford-Harkey (Province 1)
Mary O'Shaughnessy (Province 2)
Ann Turner (Province 3)
Nancy Mott (Province 4)
Bill Oliver (Province 6)
Br Thomas Squiers (Province 7)
Susan Russell+ (Province 8)
together with Harry Knox and Caro Hall+.

If you think that God might be calling you to run for one of these elected positions, please take a look at the task outlines (available here) and then send an email to with the following information:
  • Name, Address, Phone, Email
  • The position you want to run for.
  • 2-3 paragraphs about yourself
                 -         your diocese and your experience with Integrity
                 -         the skills/experience you will bring to this position
                 -         why you think God may be calling you to this position

We need to receive your nomination by Wednesday March 28. The only requirement to run is that  you are a member of Integrity. So please make sure your membership is up to date!

You are welcome to contact Caro Hall ( or other current Board members if you want to know more about what’s involved, or contact Matt Haines, Vice-President for Local Affairs, to talk about the role of the Provincial Coordinators.

Please join us in praying that God will raise up leaders among us who can joyfully take on the responsibilities of this organization so that we may further God's kingdom together.