Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection Always Comes, but at a Cost

Dear Friends:

Everywhere we look there are signs of Easter hope - the positive signs coming from the Supreme Court discussions; polls showing that increasing numbers of people support gay marriage;  more and more Believe Out Loud parishes and Proud Parish Partners; two openly gay candidates in Bishop selection processes; and news of the ministry of LGBT Anglicans in San Salvador.

The Rev. Dr. Caro Hall
Jesus’ ministry was to preach and demonstrate the reign of God where prisoners are set free, the blind see, and the lame leap for joy. I am quite convinced that if his earthly ministry were taking place today he would include LGBTQ people coming out and finding their right relationship with God and humanity. Jesus would include us because the reign of God is about becoming who we are truly made to be – as Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” I give thanks this Easter that all over the world LGBTQ people are becoming more fully alive.

Yet Jesus’ ministry resulted in his death in shame and agony. Resurrection comes at a cost. There are many people who bear the marks of the struggle in their bodies and their psyches – including in our movement. I give thanks for those people.

Holy Week serves as a reminder that resurrection is not cheaply won. Jesus did not sail through his last mortal days always confident that he would be able to respond to degradation without retaliating, or that he would be able to bear the betrayal and pain with equanimity. Even as we celebrate the signs of new life and resurrection, we remember that it is only part of the story. Many have died in the struggle.

Even now, only nine states allow us to marry. Forty-one do not. Most Episcopal dioceses allow some form of blessing for same-gender relationships. Many do not. Although our church canons may not allow for discrimination against LGBTQ people, subtle and insidious discrimination still exists. In our society it is often not so subtle and sometimes filled with hate. In ninety-three countries it is still illegal to be gay. In seven of these it is punishable by death.There is much to be done before God’s reign is experienced by LGBTQ people the world over. Our calling is to continue to do the work, despite discouragement and set-backs. Our calling is to follow Jesus in his quest to bring all people regardless of color or sexuality or bank balance or physical ability into the reign of God. Holy Week reminds us that the work is not always easy or fun.

Easter reminds us that resurrection is the gift of God which always comes, because God is faithful. I thank you for your faithful witness to the incredible and unconditional love of God, and wish you and your beloveds a peaceful and joy-filled Easter.

With love in God’s service,

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

Friday, March 29, 2013

Familial Exchange: a Good Friday Meditation

Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus 
Marsh Chapel, Boston University
Good Friday, March 29, 2013

1) Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34)
2) Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me i
n paradise (Luke 23:43)
3) Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27)
4) My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)
5) I thirst (John 19:28)
6) It is finished (John 19:30)
7) Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46)

John 19: 23-27

23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.’

25And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

In the midst of community we are estranged. In the midst of alienation, community is formed afresh.

The scene before us is unimaginably bleak.  An innocent man hangs before us, being stripped of life.  His loved ones look on from near and afar, nearly crushed by pain.  Yet in the midst of utter desolation, Jesus inaugurates a new creation.  A new community, a transformed family.  To his mother he says, “Woman, here is your son.”  To the beloved disciple, “here is your mother.”  “From that hour,” the gospel reports, “the disciple took her into his own home.” 

Strange as it may seem, this passage echoes the first miracle story in the Gospel of John.  Seeing a connection between this story and our passage, the sixth century Byzantine Hymnist Romanos imagined a grieving Mary querying her son, “Is there once again another wedding at Cana?”[1]   In the second chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus had declared to his mother, who was concerned about the depleted wine supply, “Woman… my hour has not yet come” (John 2:3-4).  He had gone on to transform the contents of six water jars into the finest of wines.  Now, standing in “the hour” of his death, the formation of family has become once more an occasion of transformation.  To and for his beloveds, Jesus performs a relational exchange: I now pronounce you mother and son.

In this week in which the Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition Eight and DOMA have saturated the airwaves, the transformation of community, of family, of marriage, are much on our minds and hearts.  In a poignant column this week, a fellow Episcopal priest, the Reverend Canon Susan Russell, evoked how painful – and for LGBT people and our families, how triggering – it can be to hear these arguments.
If you find yourself hurting, angry, anxious, scared or snarky reach out and let someone you love remind you that you're loved… And if you know someone who may not reach out, find them where they are and remind them that they're loved.[2]

In this week of “heightened scrutiny,” Jesus’ words reach across the chasms of fear.  For we are family, all of us.  We are made for one another.  However fraught our communion, however intense our disagreement, however frayed our fabric, we are constantly being knit afresh. 

Like Jesus’ garment for which the soldiers cast lots, we are called to be one, mysteriously,seamlessly woven from above.  In this light, the fourth century theologian Ephrem the Syrian challenges us, “Share then, for love of [Christ], the body of him who, for the love of you, shared his garment between those who were crucifying him.”[3] This body of which we all are members: share it.  This is the message we receive at the foot of the cross, that ultimate symbol of stigma and alienation that turns death and division on its head.  This is my body.  This is your family.  Take, absorb, share it in its entirety.  Fling wide the doors of your heart.  Be transformed.

photo from
Cameron Partridge is the Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University and a Lecturer at Harvard Divinity School

[1] Romanos the Melodist, “On the Lament of the Mother of God,” stanza 1. 
[2] Susan Russell, “The Marriage Equality Debates: The Pastoral in the Political” 
[3] Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on the Diatessaron 20.27

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Focusing on Marriage Equality This Holy Week

Integrity is partnering with Believe Out Loud and United for Marriage in sponsoring a national effort called "Light the Way to Justice" to gain focus on marriage equality as the Supreme Court considers two cases which could dramatically affect policy and discourse in the days ahead.

The Rev. Vicki Flippin, Pastor of the Church of the Village (UMC) in New York, tells the story of Edith and Thea, a lesbian couple of over 40 years who were married in Canada. A short time later, Thea died.  Edith was saddled with an inheritance tax bill of over $300,000, which she would not owe if their marriage was legally recognized. Her case will be heard by the Supreme Court this week, and the outcome could have a dramatic outcome for the Defense of Marriage Act.  

The epicenter of this movement is, appropriately, in Washington DC.  On March 26th and 27th, a rally will take place on the steps of the Supreme Court building.  There will be opportunities to dialogue with elected officials, an interfaith prayer service on Tuesday morning and a seder on Tuesday night. More details are here.

For those unable to travel, United for Marriage has an interactive map where you can find or plan your own event across the country. 

Mary Button's LGBT Stations of the Cross
Believe Out Loud has brought the artwork series Stations of the Cross: The Struggle for LGBT Equality by Mary Button to Washington, which will be on display at the Church of the Reformation (ELCA), 212 East Capitol St.

Mary Button has given her permission for individuals or groups to use her work as a reflective or worship tool; please attribute her work if you use it.  A traditional or LGBT-perspective service of stations may be used.

Pastor Flippin, who will an interfaith rally in New York on Tuesday,  makes the case that this Holy Week, communities of faith should take a look at how we have contributed to the laws that affected Edith and Thea's life so profoundly.  She writes, "I pray that we will follow in Christ's footsteps to overturn what is wrong in our temples and work for the true and historic meaning of the Passover festival, which is LIBERATION!"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Requiescat in Pace: The Right Rev. Coleman McGehee, Jr.

The Right Rev. H. Coleman McGehee, Jr.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Michigan
Integrity regrets to share news of the death of the Right Rev. H. Coleman McGehee,Jr., Eighth Bishop of Michigan, on March 14th. He was 89. Bishop McGehee was a very staunch supporter of Integrity's work beginning at a time when it was not politically expedient, but this was very much in keeping with a lifetime commitment to human rights.

"In 1973, when I with trepidation and hope approached the newly-installed Bishop McGehee about supporting the entire spectrum of sexual orientations, he immediately put me at ease by saying, 'Absolutely!' He spoke out passionately for all of us for 40 years, as a fearless advocate for justice and peace," said Jim Toy, Secretary of Integrity's Proud Partner OASIS TBLG Outreach Ministry of the Diocese of Michigan.

Bishop McGehee served in the U.S. Army in World War II and then in the Army Corps of Engineers, achieving the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1947 and then obtained a law degree from the University of Richmond, serving for a time as the Deputy Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ministry called, however. In 1957, he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary and took the rectorship of Immanuel-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, ministering to the late President & Betty Ford.

In May of 1973, McGehee was elected bishop in Michigan, assuming -- after two years as coadjuter -- the seat occupied by Rt. Rev. Richard S. Emrich since 1948. His ministry was marked by a strong commitment to human rights. He ordained the diocese's first female priest in 1977 and lived up to his promise to the LGBT community.

"He was a man of great courage and faith. He was among the first to ordain women as deacons and priests and he bravely ordained gay people to the priesthood when it was a highly controversial thing to do," the Rev. Rod Reinhart told PrideSource. "Bishop McGehee ordained me in 1984 and I was one of the very first openly gay people to be ordained in the Episcopal Church."

In 1980, Bishop McGehee, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and the late Rabbi Richard Hertz founded the Michigan Human Rights Coalition, a grassroots organization which brought a religious context to numerous social issues including apartheid. He also was an advid supporter of organized labor and held peace liturgies on Good Friday outside the gates of the Williams missile factory.

Jim Toy, who feels blessed to have served as crucifer at one of those services, points out that Bishop McGehee was not without humor:

"At Bishop McGehee's last diocesan convention before his retirement, he fervently and often exhorted the tellers to finish their ballot-counting speedily.

Finally one of the clergy requested 'a point of privilege.'

'You may speak, Canon Chau!'

'Bishop, is this really your last Convention as bishop?'

'Yes, I have said so!'

'Then I would respectfully urge that at next year's Convention you serve as a teller!'

The ensuing merriment was general and vociferous--a wild gale of laughter. . . ."

Bishop McGehee participated in the life of church and social justice, long into his retirement.  Two years ago, he began experiencing symptoms of dementia and withdrew from public life, but remained physically active until he fell ill several months ago.  He was remembered at a Requiem Eucharist on Saturday, March 23rd at St. Paul's Cathedral in Detroit, and a memorial is available on the diocesan web site.

May our Brother Coleman's memory be blessed and may his family be supported in their grief with our prayers of thanksgiving for his life.

"Lead him onward, upward to the holy place,
where thy saints made perfect gaze upon thy face."

 - With special thanks to Jim Toy for contributing to this article. Jim is a stalwart in the LGBT movement in Michigan, having been instrumental in the founding and life of numerous social action, political advocacy and educational groups.  The Jim Toy Community Center in Ann Arbor is named for him.

Karen Stevens: Out Loud At Last!

Church of the Good Samaritan: Corvallis, OR
The Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan sits on a corner in Corvallis, a college town in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The big night is finally here. We have just finished a potluck that ended with lemon bars to die for. The room is pleasingly full. Tonight’s program features a panel discussion focusing on LGBT issues of inclusion and exclusion with an emphasis on how to be more welcoming.

At a long table up front, the panel members are ready. Our moderator, Andy McQuery, a gifted communicator and the Integrity USA Diocesan Organizer for Oregon, looks forward to hosting the evening’s talk show. Our youngest panel member is a twenty-three year old lesbian college student and judo champion who works with our youth group. Having come out only three years ago, she regales us with anecdotes, some humorous, some heart-wrenching of what it’s like to live out her authentic identity amidst tensions at home and on campus. Another parishioner sits next to her, a shy but articulate gay man of middle age, a psychotherapist. Finally we have a sister-brother team who serve as co-leaders of PFLAG Corvallis/Albany and are the mother and uncle of a young lesbian woman.

Diocesan Organizer Andy McQuery and
VP for Local Affairs Matt Haines
This panel discussion culminates a lengthy but rewarding process that began when Integrity offered a Believe Out Loud workshop led by (Integrity VP for Local Affairs) Matt Haines and Andy McQuery at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland during the summer of 2010. These two put together an inspirational and motivating program that equipped participants to be agents of change in their own parishes. With my spiral bound BOL Toolkit in the seat beside me, I drove back to Corvallis thinking that within six months we would work through the necessary steps. Before long, the BOL icon, the cross nestled in a rainbow, would grace our web page. It was not to be, at least not so soon.

Generally speaking, Good Samaritan parishioners show kindness and compassion. A few, even then, were already LGBT allies. Many, though well meaning and vaguely supportive, were unfamiliar with the need to be specifically welcoming, so we held forums, assembled a Task Force, and wrote a welcoming statement, as the Toolkit advised. The Vestry encouraged our efforts, and they wanted the Task Force to include the congregation in all the steps. Andy and Matt generously came when needed. Our bishop, the Right Rev. Michael Joseph Hanley, found time in his busy schedule to give the Vestry a pep talk. Our priest, the Rev. Simon Justice, made clear in sermons, newsletters, and comments the importance of LGBT inclusion. In November 2012, the Vestry voted to become a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation. We shouted 'Hooray!' but it wasn’t real until the night of the panel discussion.

Karen Stevens
Members of the Good Samaritan parish family listened intently for more than an hour to challenges LGBT Christians face in the 21st century. They heard real life stories of men and women they sit next to in church. When Andy presented our BOL certificate to Fr. Simon, the audience applauded with enthusiasm! Now our BOL certificate hangs proudly outside the office door in the foyer where everyone can see it. On the web page, we prominently display our specific welcoming statement and the BOL logo. There’s still more do, but now we intentionally believe OUT LOUD!


Karen Stevens is a parishioner at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Corvallis, Diocese of Oregon.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Susan Russell: An Unexpected Blessing

When Integrity's Treasurer, Elisabeth Jacobs, asked me last week if I would "write something about marriage equality for the Integrity blog" of course I said I’d be happy to. And I thought I’d jump right in and write a quick piece about how encouraging it was to see the dozens of bishops stepping up and signing the amici ("friends of the court") briefs that went to the Supreme Court on the pending marriage equality cases.

I thought I’d reflect back on what an extraordinary shift there has been in the Episcopal Church – in what is arguably an astoundingly short period of time.

I planned to begin by recalling the day in June of 2003 when the House of Bishops' Theology Committee was literally shamed into inviting then-Integrity President Michael Hopkins and me to come meet with them. I say "shamed" because they were on the verge of finishing their presentation on Human Sexuality for the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church  and they had not included the voices, perspective or input of a single, out gay or lesbian person. Not. One.

And so they invited us to come. To Chicago. At Seabury-Western. Where we were ushered into a large conference room with a big circle of bishops and theologians and two empty chairs near the door … one for Michael and one for me. And we had an entire hour of their time. And they were scrupulously polite as we told our stories and talked about our vision – Integrity’s vision – of a church where all the baptized were fully included in all the sacraments. And they thanked us. And we were ushered out. And it felt like nothing so much as a trip to the zoo – only rather than going to the zoo, the zoo had come to them – and we were the "live in captivity: actually gay and lesbian people!" they had arranged to come so they could say they did.

What a difference a decade makes.

I don’t flatter myself that anything Michael or I did or said that day moved any heart or changed any mind. Not in and of themselves. What we did that day was what we had done many, many times in the past … and would do many, many, MANY times moving forward: we showed up. We did what those who’d gone before us – on whose shoulders we stood in that conference room full of bishops in Chicago – had done in order to even get us in that room: we told our story. And we did what our spiritual ancestor – the persistent widow in Luke's Gospel – did when confronted with the unjust judge: we kept coming back … again and again.

So that’s the blog I was going to write. To celebrate the power of story and persistence to work with the Holy Spirit to move the Episcopal Church from a time when our bishops had to be shamed into even talking to us to a time when every-bishop-save-one (Albany) in a jurisdiction with civil marriage equality signed a friend of the court brief calling for the repeal of DOMA (the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act") and an end to federal discrimination against married couples of the same sex.

And then today I woke up to the "breaking news" that Rob Portman – a conservative, Republican congressman from Ohio – had "come out" for marriage equality. In his op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch, Rep. Portman wrote:

"Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God."

Ultimately, he made the decision for equality not in spite of his faith but because of it – but it was "knowing that my son is gay" that prompted him to open his heart and change his mind.

And so I’m glad I waited until today to sit down and write the blog on marriage equality Elisabeth Jacobs asked me to write last week. I’m delighted that there is yet-another-example of the power of speaking up, stepping out and showing up to bend that arc of history toward justice.

Yes, it would be nice if everybody figured out that "liberty and justice for all" really means ALL whether or not they have a gay kid. AND ... when they do figure it out ... we say thank you. Not only because our mothers brought us up right... but because [a] it's the right thing to do and [b] because we know they're getting slammed from the other side. So do the right thing. Make your mother proud. Do what I did and call Rob Portman's office and leave a message and thank him. Seriously. Go. Do it. Now: 202-224-3353

And then invite others to go and do likewise. Because this is yet another way of standing up, showing up and speaking out with that great cloud of witnesses – including our Patron Saint "The Persistent Widow" – determined to come back again and again until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.


The Rev. Canon Susan Russell has served as Integrity's President and is currently the convener of Claiming the Blessing, a national collaborative ministry focused on the full inclusion of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender baptized into the Episcopal Church. She is also a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post's religion forum. Her personal blog may be found at An Inch at a Time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blessings, Bustin' Out All Over

In the wake of the Episcopal Church's adoption of an official rite for blessing of same-sex relationships, dioceses across the country have begun offering this ministry to the gay and lesbian couples in their communities.

Integrity has surveyed the domestic dioceses of the church and published an interactive map on our website that shows where such blessing services are permitted.  There are some real surprises in the data: the bishops of some fairly conservative dioceses have authorized the use of the rite, or are considering it.

In places where there is no civil recognition of same-sex relationships, couples often have to obtain their legal status as a couple in other states before their church can witness their vows.  In places where marriage equality has been achieved, most dioceses have authorized their clergy to perform the same civil function as they do for heterosexual couples, although the church still maintains a distinction between the blessing rite and the sacrament of marriage.

The first blessing service in Texas took place February 23 at St. David's: AustinAnthony Dale Chapple and Dennis Glenn Driskell, a couple for 23 years who were legally married in New York City, repeated their vows in front of family in friends and then served as chalice bearers at a Eucharist at which the rector of St. David's, the Rev. David Boyd, presided.

"The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant (Same Gender Blessing) in Austin,Texas this week was a historic and joyous occasion. Our best wishes, thoughts and prayers go out to Anthony Chapple and Dennis Driskell," said S. Wayne Mathis, Integrity's Province VII Coordinator. "While this marks the first official same gender blessing in the state of Texas, my prayer is that someday the blessing will become commonplace in each and every parish. Let us remain vigilant and be a voice for equality."

Photographs and more background about Anthony and Dennis's service may be found here.

Not too far away, St. Stephen's: Houston celebrated its own first blessing rite as Integrity members Jeff Meadows and Gary Patterson, a couple for over 15 years, exchanged vows on March 17th.  "What this has meant to us is now the church has said, 'Yes. You are a couple. You are living together. You love each other. You are taking care of each other. But you need the same kind of care and understanding we give to our mixed-gender couples that are married,' " Patterson said.

Read their story in the Houston Chronicle here.

Meanwhile, on March 2nd, the Diocese of Southern Virginia also witnessed its first blessing of a same-sex couple as St. Andrew's: NorfolkIn an interview with the Hampton Roads Vicginian-Pilot, the Rev. John Rohrs, Rector of St. Andrew's, was careful in his description of the blessing rite, at which he officiated.
"It's not a wedding. It's not a marriage," he explained. "It's a unique liturgy designed to ask God to bless the relationship of a same-gender couple and their lifelong commitment."

St. Andrew's has a lengthy history of LGBT inclusion, beginning with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.  After a retreat this winter, Integrity's Provincial Coordinators were welcomed to Sunday worship, at which the congregation was invited to witness in the upcoming blessing service.

Under the direction of its bishop, the Right Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, the Diocese had undergone a long and careful process leading up the decision to conduct blessings to occur on a trial basis.  In the months leading up to General Convention, a task force called Leading a Holy Life was established for conversation about the issue, and a blog was set up with thoughtful essays by people across the spectrum of opinion.

After General Convention, the Diocese published a policy governing when and how the blessing rite would be used, beginning in January.  Province III Coordinator Susan Pederson described how the process worked at St. Andrews:

“Last fall, Rev. John Rohrs and the Vestry of St. Andrew’s began the discernment process to determine whether or not there was ‘a reasonable consensus’ of support within the parish. They began with an Adult Forum on the subject during the Sunday School hour, and a variety of people came. Rohrs began to educate the congregation on the process and the guidelines. After the initial meeting, a couple approached Rohrs and asked if he would conduct the service for them. Later that month the Vestry voted and approved unanimously to seek authorization.”  Bishop Hollerith approved the application, and the rest was, as they say, history.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Aelred's Day Sermon Contest Winner Announced

Integrity is pleased to announce a winner in our St. Aelred’s Day Sermon Contest.  The Rev. Heather O'Brien (pictured) from the Diocese of Ft. Worth was recognized for her sermon, “The Heartbeat of God” which was preached at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in the city of Ft. Worth Texas on January 12th.

The jury, which consisted of Integrity's founder, Dr. Louie Crew; our treasurer, Elisabeth Jacobs; and VP for National Affairs, the Rev. Jon Richardson; selected O’Brien's sermon due to not only its powerful personal narrative (which ties closely to Integrity’s ongoing work of first-person engagement), but its ability to relate our mission to both the Gospel and St. Aelred’s teachings about “particular friends” which led Integrity to adopt him as the patron of our organization.

In the sermon, O’Brien -- who was ordained in October of 2012 -- shares a childhood story of encountering homophobia among family members as a spiritual awakening which led her on a quest for “the God I knew had to exist... who loved as much as I was told God would love.” She cites Aelred’s writings about the trusting, physically intimate expression of friendship between Jesus and the apostle John as a celebration of how we, yes even people of the same gender, can find the love of God in one another.

Integrity offers its profound gratitude to each participant in the contest.  We encourage all of our chapters and congregational partners to use the feast day as an opportunity to offer witness in your community about the work of inclusion.

Read “The Heartbeat of God” by clicking here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bishops Petition Supreme Court for Marriage Equality

Twenty-nine bishops in the ten states (plus Washington DC) where same-sex marriage is legal signed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States which challenges the constitutionality of the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), a 1996 law which mandates that the Federal government cannot recognize same-sex marriages. The leaders of all but one of the 24 dioceses where civil marriage is legal signed the brief addressing the case of Windsor v. United States, which is being heard by the Court this month.

The case refers specifically to an inheritance tax burden of over $360,000 owed by a New York woman after her wife died. The couple of 40 years was legally married in Canada in 2007, but DOMA stipulates that the inheritance benefits of marriage do not apply to even those same-sex marriages recognized by some states.

A second brief, signed by the bishops of all six dioceses in California, speaks to the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry and the overturn of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative which took away marriage equality in California after thousands of couples were legally married. The Supreme Court of California has already found the law unconstitutional, but its overturn was appealed by the initiative's sponsors.

Dozens of groups -- including one by the CEO's over many of the country's largest corporations -- recently filed briefs in favor of marriage equality.  The bishops' campaign was launched by the Right Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California, which includes San Francisco.  Bishop Andrus explained his motives in a Washington Post column published February 28th.

“We overturned nearly two millennia of set tradition when we began ordaining women 34 years ago. We repudiated the traditional tolerance of slavery and racial prejudice in the mid-20th century. We traded our cultural privilege and hegemony as a largely Anglo denomination for the wealthy and have deliberately become more and more consciously a church for all,” Andrus wrote. “In all these things we have prayed and thought and been in earnest conversation in and out of the church, and believed that in the end we have discerned better the mind of Christ than we had in the past.”

“Integrity is delighted that the Bishops have signed on to these two amici briefs. Last year General Convention passed resolution D018 urging members of Congress to repeal federal laws that discriminate against civilly married same-gender couples. Signing the amicus brief in Windsor v. United States is a logical step as it supports the repeal of the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” said the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Integrity's President. “However it is a step that might not have been taken had it not been for the courage of the bishops involved and the leadership of the Diocese of California. Once again, The Episcopal Church joins with the leaders in this important witness and commitment to social justice.”

Please join us in thanking all the bishops for speaking out on marriage equality. For a complete list of the signers and more background, please visit this article on the Diocese of California website.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Rev. Deacon Carolyn Woodall Elected Vice-Chair of Stakeholders' Council

On Thursday, February 21st, the Stakeholders' Council of Integrity elected The Rev. Deacon Carolyn Woodall as its Vice-Chair.

Carolyn is the Parish Representative for St. Mary-in-the-Mountains in Jamestown, Calif., in the Diocese of San Joaquin. She wrestled with both a call to the diaconate and a struggle with her gender identity for many years, and left the church for a time while transitioning from living as a man to her true identity, as female.   After many conservative people, including the bishop at the time, elected to leave the Episcopal Church in her area, Carolyn returned and took an active role in the formation of the Continuing Diocese of San Joaquin. She was ordained a deacon in March of 2012, and is among the transgender clergy who tell their stories in Integrity's film Voices of Witness: Out of the Box.

The Rev. Deacon Carolyn Woodall
Carolyn continues to bring new ideas and leadership to the church, both locally and nationally.  She served on Integrity's Legislative Team at the 2012 General Convention.  In her diocese, she is co-chair of the Commission on Equality and was among the leaders of the first LGBT retreat in the area. She helped write the diocese's own liturgy for blessing of same-sex unions, adopted on Pentecost 2011, and more recently conceived of Spirit Sunday, a tie-in to a grassroots anti-bullying campaign which Integrity and her bishop, the Right Rev. Chet Talton, are encouraging the church to adopt nationally.

“Carolyn has been a steady and insightful presence on the Council, and I am grateful for her willingness to assist us in this capacity,” said Stakeholders' Chair Christian Paolino. “It was a privilege to serve with her at General Convention and to be present with her and other transgender clergy when the church voted in recognition of the value of their ministry.”

The Stakeholders' Council is a body of approximately 400 past and present Integrity leaders and key partners which performs several important functions: In the event that the President of Integrity was to leave office in mid-term for any reason, the Stakeholders would be responsible for electing someone to fill this role for the remainder of his or her three-year tour.

In calmer times, the Council acts as a conduit between Integrity's national leadership and the regional network of chapters, partner congregations and individual members.  It has recently undertaken several projects to identify and highlight some of our chapters' and partners' best work as resources to encourage further ministry to the field.

The Chair of the Council has a seat on the national board and brings news, concerns, and partnership opportunities to the board's attention.  The Chair and Vice-Chair (who would fill in with the board in the Chair's extended absence) are elected to three-year terms by the Council membership.

The Stakeholders with vote include: Life Members, Chapter Conveners, Diocesan Organizers , and designated representatives from our Proud Partners.  We also welcome the day-to-day participation of Provincial Coordinators, Past Presidents, current members of the Board of Directors, representatives of organizations designated by the Board as "allied organizations," and the Executive Director, when one is in place.