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.



Anonymous said...

The reason that my partner and I don't belong to Integrity Colorado is that we feel that it is far too complacent. And when we first moved here, we didn't feel that we could get a voice, thus we didn't join. We were very active in our former diocese.

Plenty of bishops are interpreting the "generous pastoral oversight" clause of A049 as allowing them to offer the Sacrament of Marriage in their dioceses. I've seen Integrity Colorado congratulate our bishop, without mentioning inclusive marriage, or the message of the church to gay teens (whose rate of homelessness, sexual abuse, bullying, and suicide are atrocious).

Advocacy means advocating, and especially for the more vulnerable. Comfortable, upper middle class white LGBTQ Episcopalians can afford to wait… I can't believe I need to explain…

Cynthia Katsarelis

Christian Paolino said...

Hi Cynthia:

I would like to talk with you further about your concern as voiced above. There is room for you and your partner in Integrity and your voices need to be heard. I have also brought your concerns to the rest of the Board of Directors.

Christian Paolino
Stakeholders' Council Chair