Thursday, July 25, 2013

Young Adult & Campus Ministers Gather With Ecumenical Partners in Chicago

At the end of June, Young Adult and Campus Ministers of the Episcopal Church joined with others of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the Disciples of Christ for the first ever Shared Space conference in Chicago.

This year these denominations, which had each previously, hosted their own Young Adult and Campus Ministry conferences, decided to pool their resources to provide one cross-denominational event.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson
The conference began at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church with keynote speaker Diana Butler Bass. Dr. Bass led us through a study of changing demographics in the church and our wider American culture to the conclusion that while an unprecedented number of young people are unaffiliated with any religion, the progressive church is uniquely poised to reach them with a message of love and radical welcome - a message that will come as something of a surprise to many “native unaffiliated” young people who grew up outside the church, and whose image of the Christian tradition has largely been molded by Christian conservatives.

I was there to represent Integrity USA at the conference and to serve as a resource for Episcopal Young Adult and Campus Ministers. Students and leaders from across the country expressed their gratitude to Integrity for the work we’ve been doing, and called on us to continue developing resources for their use in campus ministry settings. They reiterated the conclusions that Dr. Bass spoke about in her presentations, and expressed the need for Integrity to continue its work leading the church to a more inclusive reality - the kind of church that young people today demand.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson is Integrity’s Vice President for National Affairs and serves as Rector of the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia, PA.  He has worked with Integrity in Legislative Strategy at the last three General Conventions and serves as our liaison to allied organizations and the Episcopal Church.  He blogs at  Follow him on Twitter @jonmrichardson

Friday, July 12, 2013

Steve Kimball: This is My Story, This is My Song

This personal narrative came out of the Believe Out Loud Congregational Workshop that Integrity held at Christ Church: Norwich in the Diocese of Connecticut in June, led by Province I Coordinator Marie Alford-Harkey and Neil Houghton.  Effective storytelling is a powerful evangelism tool, and one of the modules of the workshop.

I have had a conscious and personal relationship with God through Jesus since 1975. This relationship has been a life changing experience. Most of the influence of the transformation was from those whom I met during the charismatic movement of the 70’s from various protestant evangelical churches. I was enthusiastic about sharing the love of Jesus and His salvation with anyone I might encounter along the way.

Steve Kimball
There was however, one segment of the population that I didn’t witness to. That was the gay population. I didn’t give it much thought since I had read various passages that seemed to denounce the gay lifestyle. I migrated to Christ Episcopal Church from the Church of the Resurrection. My wife was still at the Church of the Resurrection. She told me about a lesbian couple that had started to attend there. I still didn’t think much about it, since they were at the Church of the Resurrection, and I was at Christ Episcopal Church. After all, wasn’t the gay lifestyle frowned upon by Christianity?

That very night, I had one the most vivid visions of my entire life. Jesus stood at the foot of my bed, and told me that there were two women that he would like me to meet. I didn’t have to ask who, but I did ask “What about scripture?"

Jesus answered, “I know what I authored. You must learn to love as I have taught.”

I knew what I must do. I went to speak to each of the women separately, and then together. I had to be honest with where I was and how Jesus told me to “get with it.” Both women were very gracious and loving. Not only did they teach me what love really is, they showed me what had been missing from my witness for these many years; a total and complete acceptance of ALL people, regardless of their sexual preference, ethnicity, etc. I was now free to love without any hindrance.

Welcome Sign outside Christ Church: Norwich
My desire to share Christ’s love has increased lately. To help me prepare for that sharing, I attended a Believe Out Loud workshop recently. This workshop is designed to aid us in welcoming and incorporating all people into the church community, being specific about including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk into that incorporation. It was informative, and spiritually nourishing. I now consider myself an evangelical Christian much more prepared to share Christ’s love with ALL people.

Steve Kimball is a school bus driver and a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich, CT, where he is a youth advisor and evangelism coordinator.  This article originally appeared in the July edition of the parish newsletter, Thameside Thinking, as does a recap of the Believe Out Loud Congregational Workshop the parish hosted recently.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Two of 'Our' Young People Heading Abroad for Study, Missionary Work

Two young adults who have served as Integrity interns will be heading overseas in the months ahead.  Alan Yarborough, who graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Economics last month, is off to Haiti with the Young Adult Service Corps.  Jonathan York, a religion student at Duke University, is heading to Scotland in September to spend a semester at St. Andrew's University.

Alan Yarborough
Yarborough, who worked as an intern with us on various projects, also represented Integrity at this year's Creating Change conference in Atlanta.  He will be doing economic and leadership development work in the area around Cange, which has a special relationship with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  While at Clemson, Yarborough attended and worked as a campus ministry peer at Holy Trinity Church, which has been doing missionary work in Haiti for over four decades.

"Alan is a very bright, energetic and motivated young man who understands both prophetic ministry and servant ministry. He sees the world and the issues facing LGBT folks with new eyes that look for a vision of full equality in both our church and society," said  Province IV Coordinator Bruce Garner, with whom Yarborough worked at Creating Change. "He is very clear about who he is in the eyes of God and where he is being called to participate in God’s ministry on earth. Giving of himself and his talents is second nature to him. I see him in leadership positions in the church in the near future and hopefully the church will have the good sense to listen to his voice."

Jonathan York
York attended General Convention 2012 as part of the Young Adult Festival (about which he wrote here), and his eloquent testimony on several resolutions gained him national attention.  One woman, representing the opposing view on a particular issue, began her rebuttal by calling York "a credit to your school." He also served as an Integrity intern at Convention.  He hopes to study under the Right Rev. N. T. Wright, Ph.D., the former Bishop of Durham who is now Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Andrew's.

"I was so impressed by Jonathan's courage and confidence as he spoke at General Convention hearings," said Integrity's President, the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall. "He always spoke from his heart, and with passion. Jonathan is a great leader and I look forward to seeing how God uses and blesses him in the future."

In September of 2012, Yarborough and York both were among a leadership retreat in Pasadena, where we laid the plans for what became Integrity's new mission, vision and strategic plan for the future.

Both men will be blogging about their experiences.  You can follow Jonathan and Alan at their blogs. Integrity is very proud of them and hopes you will join us in praying for their endeavors.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Episcopalians Cheer SCOTUS Actions on DOMA, Prop 8

From coast to coast, Integrity members and other Episcopalians took part in celebrating the actions of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, which struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act denying Federal benefits to married same-gender couples and let stand a lower court ruling that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, paving the way for marriage equality to return to the nation's most populous state.

In Washington D.C. the bells of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter & Saint Paul (popularly called the National Cathedral) pealed for a full hour from noon to celebrate the ruling.  The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, told the Huffington Post, "We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants. Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."  A special worship service was held at the Cathedral that evening.

In New York, a crowd had gathered at the iconic Stonewall Inn in the morning, and the celebration continued all day, spilling out into the street.  By nightfall, Christopher Street was closed to traffic as hundreds of people paid respect to the place where the gay-rights movement is widely regarded to have begun with several days of riots in June 1969.  Diocesan Organizer Paul Lane and NYC-Metro Chapter Convener Mary O'Shaughnessy were there.
The crowd outside the Stonewall Inn following SCOTUS ruling

"Christopher Street was again full of LGBT people with signs, placards and flags. This time however, the NYPD was there to keep order and prevent any harm, and the LGBT community, their friends and families, were there to celebrate. How things have changed!" Among the politicians and others who gathered, Lane said " the undisputed star of the evening had to be Ms. Edie Windsor, along with her attorney, Ms Roberta Kaplan, whose courage and determination to fight an injustice through the courts led to the Defense of Marriage Act (sic) being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States."

The crowd (many Episcopalians among them) cheered, some weeping, as the 84-year-old Ms Windsor told her story. Bi-national couples, who the day before had to fear the deportation of one, could now look forward to the day that they could apply for a US Green Card for the non-American spouse, just like any other married couple. "Everyone was there: gay, straight, bi, lesbian, trans, drag-queens, even Rollerena, although without the roller-skates," Lane recalled. The party went on long into the night.  

Footage from the street in New York featuring footage of Chapter Convener
Mary O'Shaughnessy, courtesy of

"I can't wait to celebrate this historic moment at NYC Pride on Sunday. I am still stunned, and grateful to all the activists who made this day possible. I know that the 40-year history of Integrity's Christian witness is part of what made yesterday possible, and I am grateful to Louie Crew, Susan Russell, Louise Brooks, Elizabeth Kaeton, and all those whose names I don't know," said Marie Alford-Harkey, Integrity's Province I Coordinator, whose "day job" is at the Religious Institute for Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

"I wrote and we at the Religious Institute held a Twitter worship service (which you can see by searching  #SCOTUSworship). My own reaction was one of great joy - I immediately texted and emailed April when the DOMA ruling came down. It's tempered of course, by the gutting of the voting rights act the day before. My African American lesbian wife says it's hard to know how to feel at this point, and I agree."
 In Atlanta, LGBT organizers were invited in advance to be present at a popular intersection in the city's "gayborhood" to be together whatever the outcome.  When Province IV Coordinator Bruce Garner arrived, hundreds were already gathered.  "People honked their horns as they arrived at the intersection – except for one woman in a Lexus who would not even dare look toward the sidewalk! We noticed another parishioner driving past and waved…..he was headed home and his year old son was in the car too. He and baby soon joined us. Then his partner, the baby’s other Dad drove by and saw them, so we yelled for him to join us. So we ended up with a little All Saints’ contingent with baby Harrison in the middle stealing the show with his HRC flag." There, too, the celebration kept bars and restaurants busy late into the night.

Garner knows Integrity's work goes on. The ruling has no impact in states that do not recognize same-gender marriages, which includes all of the Southeast, where Province IV is located.  "God is good….ALL the time. In Georgia, some of God’s children don’t quite yet understand that God’s goodness applies to ALL of God’s children. With the help of our bishop, we continue to try and educate them."
Integrity members in Oregon gather for a rally.
In Portland, Oregon, Integrity members and supporters including Vice President for Local Affairs Matt Haines, gathered at St Stephen's downtown for a brief prayer and then processed through the streets to join hundreds of fellow Oregonians across the from Portland's City Hall for a rally to celebrate the Supreme Court victories and to look forward to winning the freedom to marry in 2014. The mayor of Portland and the state's former governor were among the speakers. Along the way the Integrity team, which included a number of local clergy, was greeted with honks, waves and shouts of support.  A photo gallery was placed on the chapter's Facebook page.
Northern California clergy gather
on the State House steps in Sacramento.
Clergy and others including the Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker (in cowboy hat at left), Dean of Trinity Cathedral, and Diocesan Organizer Shireen Miles also gathered at the State House in Sacramento, where the Supreme Court's decision not to overturn a lower court ruling means that Proposition 8, which suspended same-gender marriages in California, will soon be repealed.

Integrity's founder, Dr. Louie Crew said, "We marry ourselves. God is always present when any two persons say, even with no others present, 'I thee wed.' No court or church can change our marriages. A court or a church may only recognize or refuse to recognize them."

Dr. Crew called the court's bold action on Wednesday a union between justice and liberty. "Their swoon brings with it more than 1,000 benefits too long denied to LGBTQ persons. 'Sweet Land of Liberty' indeed. 'God bless America.'"

These are just some of many celebrations that took place across the country.  In many places, much work remains before safety and equal treatment are a reality in both religious and civil life. For today, please celebrate this incremental step with us, and give thanks to God.