Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Times, They Are a Changin'

Just one week after the Scottish Parliament took the first step to allow same-gender couples to marry, the Church of England has published a report which recommends that "clergy, with the agreement of their Church Council, should be able to offer appropriate services to mark a faithful same sex relationship."

In other words, it should be considered okay for clergy to offer the kind of private, pastoral response that we Episcopalians have enjoyed in some congregations and dioceses since the 1960s. Of course there have been quiet (and not so quiet) blessings in English churches too – the change here is that they would no longer have a cloak of secrecy. Unlike the plan in Scotland, parishes in the Church of England and the Church of Wales are not legally allowed to offer marriage to gay couples, so that is completely off the agenda, but the suggestion that blessings might be legitimate is a significant change.

The Church of England has made it very clear that the Pilling report is just for discussion and debate; the Church leadership has been falling over its feet to make sure we all understand that this is not a change in policy, just a good idea for more study. Once again, we LGBT Christians are the subject of endless meetings, reports and recommendations as though we are a strange phenomenon to be studied and analyzed.

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
The Pilling report calls for yet more talking and listening, stating that "The subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations or a similar process to which the Church of England needs to commit itself at national and diocesan level. This should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation of scripture." It adds that consultation should be conducted "without undue haste, but with a sense of urgency, perhaps over a period of two years." For how many years have we been promised that gay and lesbian Christians will be listened to?

Gay Episcopalians will be forgiven a sense of déjà vu – been there and done that. This report echoes so many that we have read over the past forty years. Change here has been slow in coming, but now it seems to be coming faster every day. Our deepest sympathy goes to our friends who are living and working in the trenches of the Church of England where it seems that acceptance comes at snail’s pace and every failure to fully accept is another slap in the face.

But change does creep in. Although the Pilling report is still looking over its shoulder to the rest of the Anglican Communion, it is not afraid to say that, "We do not differ from each other in our desire to welcome the presence and ministry of gay and lesbian people within the Church." (para.73)

The other team has already declared that the "Pilling Report recommends breach of Lambeth Resolution 1:10, and Windsor Report recommendations, and Scripture; [and thus] places position of Archbishop of Canterbury and Church of England in Anglican Communion in doubt." No longer is the Episcopal Church alone out on a limb: the Church of England has officially joined us.

Yes there is a long way to go. As Rev. Dr. Jessica Martin says in the Prologue, "Culturally the whole issue is being made to bear more freight than it can or should possibly carry." Gay, lesbian and transgender equity carries the weight of a global cultural debate and we can unfortunately expect it to take quite a while longer. But the Pilling report takes us a step closer to the tipping point. And for that we thank God.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall is the President of Integrity and author of A Thorn in the Flesh: How Gay Sexuality is Changing the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Requiescat in Pace: The Rev. David A. Dingwall

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
   and its people as a delight.
 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
   or the cry of distress. 
 ISAIAH 65: 17-19

On November 24th, the Rev. David A. Dingwall sat down at his computer and posted in his blog the schedule for the week at St. Paul's-by-the-Sea in Ocean City, Md., where he was the Rector.

"On Tuesday from 10am-12pm, the Shepherd's Crook food bank & clothing store is open on the ground floor of the Parish House...."

Fr. David was assisting with this ministry on Tuesday, the day some in the church remember hymn-writer Isaac Watts, when the fire began.  Various news sources are reporting that a man named John Sterner, a client of the ministry, ran into the basement of the facility with his clothes on fire.  According to witnesses, he embraced a volunteer, causing the flames to spread to her.  She remains in a burn unit at a Baltimore hospital. Another volunteer tried to "stop, drop and roll" Sterner to extinguish the flames, but was unsuccessful. Sterner died at the scene, and Fr. David, who had gone upstairs and was overcome by smoke, was taken to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Md., where he later also succumbed.

St. Paul's is not, to my knowledge, affiliated with Integrity or a Believe Out Loud congregation.  Neither I nor any member of the Integrity Board of Directors ever met him, or knew of him before this week. But Fr. David was a friend of ours. 

He was our friend because of the kind of work that happens at St. Paul's.  Hungry people who need food could find it there.  There was clothing to be had if you needed it.  And the Internet and phone were available to help you stay connected to the world if a computer or an iPhone or even a permanent address were more than you could swing right now.  LGBT youth are twice as likely as their straight or cisgender friends to be homeless, so when folks help them, we are grateful.

He was our friend because St. Paul's has a welcoming statement that reaches out towards everybody, and mentions gay people specifically.  Something tells me if we talked with him a bit about it, he'd see to it to expand that statement even wider, or at least hear us out.  This is at the core of our work: in the wake of sweeping statements about fairness and inclusion, we are striving to make them reality, one congregation at a time.  St. Pauls is -- it would appear -- a congregation that gets it.

He was our friend because he read the story about a New Jersey waitress, a lesbian and a former Marine, who reportedly received a condemnation about her "lifestyle" instead of a tip*, and was so bothered by that idea that on November 17th, he preached about it, saying in part:
"When it comes to the connection between religion and sex…what we hear most often from the Christian community is rule based. What behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. Who can do what with whom in the eyes of God…or at least what someone has decided is acceptable in God’s eyes. No less a figure than Pope Francis has pointed out that Christians need to get over our obsession with sexual orientation saying that 'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?'"
He was our friend because, when the State of Maryland made marriage equality the law of the land and the Right Rev. James J. Shand authorized clergy in the Diocese of Easton to offer the authorized blessing rite to same-sex couples along with witnessing their civil marriage if they wished, Fr. David said yes, he would.

Later in the same sermon, Fr. David paraphrased a Gospel story thusly:
"When the disciples reported that the crowds of people who had come to hear him were hungry, and hoped that Jesus would send them away, instead said to the disciples 'You feed them.' Not … 'find out if they deserve it…and only then feed them;' but 'You feed them.'"
This was a lesson Fr. David and the people of St. Paul's clearly took to heart, and it was what he was doing when he died. We in the church mourn his loss, but we must celebrate his example, and go now and do likewise.

The Rev. David A. Dingwall was born in British Columbia. He received his M. Div. at the College of Emmanuel and Saint Chad in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was ordained a deacon of the Anglican Church of Canada in May of 1988, and as priest in December of that same year.  His first parish was Christ Church: Alert Bay where he was serving as Rector and also Priest-In-Charge of Saint George’s: Kingcome Inlet, on Cormorant Island off the British Columbia coast.

Fr. David moved to Maryland with his wife, Brenda, their three sons, and their dogs in 2003.  He served in a non-stipendiary capacity at a number of congregations until completing the naturalization process.  He served as rector at St. Paul's-by-the-Sea since 2005.

Plans for a memorial service to be held next week are in formation.  We will share them when they are known.

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
To fairer worlds on high,
To fairer worlds on high.

NOTE: There is some uncertainty about the waitress's story Fr. David cites.  Its value may be purely apocryphal.

Christian Paolino is Chair of the Integrity Stakeholders' Council 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bishop of Pittsburgh Authorizes Use of Blessings Rite

The Right Rev. Dorsey McConnell, Bishop of Pittsburgh, issused a pastoral letter on November 25th which authorized clergy in the diocese to use the provisional rite for blessing same-gender relationships authorized by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012.
"As I have listened to you, I have heard many passionate, and sometimes contradictory, hopes and fears," he wrote in a pastoral letter released Monday. "Some have insisted they will not tolerate any permitted use of a blessing liturgy in this diocese, while others have insisted they will accept nothing less than sacramental marriage for same-sex couples. Between these poles I have heard a host of nuanced positions, usually accompanied by the sincere desire for the unity of the Church."

McConnell, who told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he will not perform the services himself, cited a need to be "the Bishop of the whole diocese" in extending the option to those priests who wish to provide pastoral care to same-sex couples.

"I think this is a fabulous step forward, and I look forward to the day when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers equality to all," said Susan Pederson, Integrity's Province III Coordinator.

Integrity Pittsburgh issued a measured response on its web site, which read in part:
"We appreciate this announcement as a first step. We’ve patiently waited for this first step, and we thank the bishop for it. We feel this is only the beginning of full inclusion of LBGTQA people into the life and ministry of the church."
Chapter Co-Convener Dianne Watson told the Post-Gazette: "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual persons should have access to all of the rites of the Episcopal Church, no matter which local church they go to."

From across the Commonwealth, Integrity's Vice President for National Affairs, the Rev. Jon M. Richardson, responded joyfully to the news.  He is rector of the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia.
"I echo the praise of the leaders of Integrity Pittsburgh in celebrating this step on the journey to real equality being offered by Bishop McConnell. The General Convention in 2012 made space for bishops to offer blessing rites to Episcopalians in loving, same-sex relationships as a part of a 'generous pastoral response' to the needs of gay and lesbian people, and it is encouraging to see that pastoral need being met for faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. While it's true that there are miles to go before we achieve real equality, Bishop McConnell's generosity is a very welcome development. I share in the joy of Integrity Pittsburgh and offer my gratitude to their bishop. I pray that their diocese and our whole church will shine as a beacon of welcome to all people on the margins of society."
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Integrity's President, sums up the situation:
"The Diocese of Pittsburgh has been through a careful process to discern its way forward, and Bishop McConnell's decision to allow each parish to make its own choice shows a respect and pastoral concern for the diversity of opinion which exists. However, in his comments on the rite of blessing he seems be condemning it as an inadequate rite for the sacrament of marriage. He is -- of course -- correct, because General Convention did not authorize a rite of marriage. Integrity is committed to working for the day when a rite of marriage will be available for same-gender couples in every church, and gives thanks for each small step along the way."
The Diocese of Pittsburgh split in 2008, in part over differences of opinion on human sexuality issues.  About 40 parishes and 10,000 people make up the continuing Episcopal diocese.

Christian Paolino is Chair of the Stakeholders' Council of IntegrityUSA

Reflections at the Dawn of Advent: World AIDS Day 2013

by Sean R. Glenn, Integrity blogger

Sean R. Glenn
I make it a point to try to avoid focusing or writing too heavily on my status as an HIV positive individual, lest it come to define me. There are two times throughout the year, however, where I make it a practice to reflect on the virus. One occurs around the early weeks of Epiphany, the season when I received my diagnosis in January of 2011. The other is around December 1, or World AIDS Day. This year, in an odd peculiarity of the liturgical cycle, World AIDS Day happens to fall on the first Sunday in Advent: the beginning of a new liturgical year, and a season that awaits the embodied, incarnate love of God. Needless to say, I’m not going to allow this unique opportunity for reflection to slip past me. 

But, there is a host of challenges here, not least of which is the reality that, as the anniversary of my diagnosis looms on the yearly horizon, I am routinely thrust back into a place of almost unbearable vulnerability. It’s a place to which I would rather not venture. The day-in and day-out matter of living with the virus is, in some ways, easily escapable these days; unlike other wounds that mark our lives, this one is invisible, inscribed inside of me, rather than etched into my flesh. (The only tangible reminder I have of it comes to me every evening at 10:30 when I take my antiretroviral medication.)

We read that resurrection does not undo those wounds we acquire in life — the signs of Jesus’s execution were not erased in his risen form. Yet, they were changed, at least conceptually. Signs of shame — warnings about the consequences of resisting the imperial imagination — became signs of love, triumph in humility. I have to wonder what my own wound, a stigma shared with many across three decades, will look like in the age to come. Surely it is impossible to erase something invisible? But does that also mean the nature of its transformation will be equally undetectable?

That is the word we throw around these days, isn’t it? “It’s okay, I’m undetectable.” This is the parlance we use to describe a state of treatment when the HIV virus reaches such low levels in the blood stream that it becomes almost impossible to detect, and, therefore, exponentially more difficult to transmit — it indicates that antiretroviral treatments are doing their job, sending the virus into a form of retreat, though not permanent elimination. This is, in my own estimation, a real point of progress in HIV treatment and prevention. I have been at an undetectable status for just over two years now, and this gives me solace, knowing that the chances of transmitting the virus are now infinitesimally small, and that my life will be greatly extended to near “normal” expectancy.

Being undetectable, however, has not erased the other ways the virus is present in my life, and in the lives of others living with it. Despite treatments, education, and highly effective prevention methods (when used correctly), a looming specter of stigmatization hangs over those living with the virus. I had been, for the most part, rather immune to this reality until, that is, my long-term relationship took on a new shape. Suddenly, I find myself having to disclose to potential partners, and the results have been revealing. The physical wound is now giving way to the spiritual wounds of rejection and devaluation. Words like “clean” and “dirty” begin to confront me in a way that I imagine has been the daily reality for most positive individuals; “dirty,” “unclean,” “tainted,” “poisonous.” Suddenly, I’m dangerous, and while I am objectively aware that these value-judgments bear no scientific validity, the judgments still subjectively inflict and incise. Will this new dimension of the wound be as equally undetectable? What will be the manner of its transformation?

The frightening reality is that Advent peers into the complexity of this condition. While the liturgical narrative waits expectantly on the Incarnation of Jesus, you and I already know the rest of the story. Advent invariably points to Good Friday and, thereafter, Easter. The miracle of the Word made flesh realizes its own destiny: the incarnate Word is poised to share our wounds with us, and in so doing alters their nature. There is hope in Advent, to be sure. This hope, however, is also aware of its own struggles.

It is, therefore, not unfitting that at the beginning of Advent we should pause to consider how we are wounded, how we wound others, and how our daily resurrection — our daily participation in the wounded Body of Christ — has the potential to transform what might be an otherwise bleak narrative. Each year I spend with the virus is a continued gift. I do not say this to make light of the continued loss and pain suffered by those who have come before me and those with whom I am now marked; rather, I say it to celebrate the meanings that go beyond an otherwise one dimensional reading of life with HIV. There is hope in our woundedness, just as there was hope on both Christmas and Easter morning: this hope is transformation, not erasure. It signals to us that, in the midst of our deepest theodicy, we cannot ask why God would seemingly allow the fractures which distress and distort our vision of ourselves. God, instead, is best seen in these fractures and how we continually transform them into those sites at which we are visited by the divine. Erasure is too simple, perhaps too human and answer.

God, however, is seldom this simple, and seldom this clear cut. Perhaps this is one of the authentic lessons of the Advent season of God’s own fleshy manifestation in a backwater Roman province, amid the wounds and fractures inflicted by those worldly powers that so often cause us to peer up, rather than down amid our own endless transformative possibilities.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Eyebrows, Up! EDS Courts African Bishop Spurned by Dartmouth

In July of this year, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi, was offered an appointment as Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College. A month later, the offer was rescinded. On November 15, Episcopal Divinity School, with the support of the Episcopal Dioceses of Connecticut and Massachusetts, announced that Bishop Tengatenga had been offered a six-month presidential fellowship. It’s enough to give LGBTQ activists whiplash, since the withdrawal of Dartmouth’s offer was due to protests by campus LGBTQ activists, and Episcopal Divinity School is the most progressive, pro-LGBTQ seminary of the Episcopal Church.

On August 15, the Boston Globe reported on the rescinding of the offer from Dartmouth:
"His [Bishop Tengatenga’s] appointment had sparked a campus controversy as word spread that he had sharply criticized the election of the Right Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, and that he had asserted in 2011 that the Anglican dioceses in Malawi remained 'totally against homosexuality.'" 
These two statements are technically true, and are surrounded by some very complicated context.

The withdrawal of the offer to Bishop Tengatenga sparked a letter of support with 14 signatories, including the Most. Rev. Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa; the Right Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut; and the Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School. The letter, which was published in The Living Church, reads, in part:
"The President’s decision brought applause from some in the Dartmouth community. Others were appalled, as are we. The action represents a gross injustice to an individual who would have made an ideal person to provide moral and ethical leadership at the College. It casts serious doubts on what is being learned in American universities when members of those communities fail to distinguish between public positions of institutions and the views of individuals who participate in those institutions. It reflects badly on western human rights advocates who consciously or unconsciously engage in forms of cultural imperialism that undermine their own success and credibility by demanding proofs identical to their own kind and, in this instance, by also ignoring the voices of Africans and church leaders who have known and worked with Tengatenga in some cases for decades."
Andrew Longhi, a junior at Dartmouth, is among those who were not convinced of Bishop Tengatenga’s support of LGBTQ rights. In an article in the Huffington Post, he states, "Tengatenga's appointment is deeply disrespectful to the Dartmouth LGBT community and its allies, who need leaders whom they can trust and learn from."

The withdrawal of Bishop Tengatenga’s appointment as Dean of the Tucker Foundation left the bishop without a job (he had already resigned his episcopate in Southern Malawi) and his public statements in favor of LGBT rights (after his appointment but before the controversy surfaced) left him in a difficult position should he try to return to Malawi.

Episcopal Divinity School stepped into the breach by offering Bishop Tengatenga a six-month Presidential Fellowship. EDS’ press release gives examples of the Bishop’s support of LGBTQ rights in his context:
"Bishop Tengatenga’s long record of support for LGBTQ rights in his native Malawi and across Africa was a decisive factor in inviting him to EDS as a Presidential Fellow. In 2007, Bishop Tengatenga opposed a move by church leaders in Africa to cut ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church because of its support of LGBTQ clergy, and in 2010, together with bishops from Central and Southern Africa, wrote a strong counter-statement to an anti-LGBTQ communique from church leaders at the All-African Anglican Bishops' Conference."
So, what are we to conclude about Bishop Tengatenga’s support for LGBTQ rights? Personally, I am persuaded by the testimony of those who know him; people whom I know personally and whose LGBTQ activist credentials I trust. Thanks to EDS, we will have opportunities to hear more from Bishop Tengatenga himself. I look forward to learning more.

Marie Alford-Harkey is Province I Coordinator of Integrity and Deputy Director of the Religious Institute. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

IntegrityUSA Appoints Mel Soriano as Secretary and Communications Director

At its November meeting in Salt Lake City, the Integrity USA Board of Directors on November 23rd appointed Melvin Soriano as Secretary and Director of Communications, filling a vacancy created by the untimely death of Louise Emerson Brooks last year.

An Illinois native, Mel is a resident of southern California. He holds a MBA from the University of Southern California and also spent a year at Oxford University in England.  He is the principal at Eagle Rock Information Systems, an information technology consulting firm.

Mel Soriano
Mel is a parishioner at All Saints: Pasadena in the Diocese of Los Angeles, where he serves on the vestry, sings in the Coventry Choir, leads Taizé Worship, and serves as Labyrinth Ministry Leader, Lay Eucharistic Minister, Greeting Ministry Co-Facilitator, and New Members Group Leader.  Curing the issue of homelessness is a particular passion of Mel's; he is also a planning volunteer for Union Station Homeless Services.

Mel supported Integrity's communications efforts at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, in July of 2012.  He is an active participant in social media and maintains several personal web sites.

Part of Mel's responsibility will be to help strengthen the channels of communication at all levels of our growing local and national structure.  Another facet is to work with the Executive Director to manage our relationship with the media.
Find Mel on Facebook at
or scan the code above!

"As more and more of our interaction with the LGBT community and the wider church takes place online, Mel's gifts will be essential to keep us relevant and connected to ever-evolving technology," said the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Integrity's president.

"Having gotten to know Mel primarily through cyberspace, I am extremely impressed with his capabilities and look forward to working with him to modernize and enhance our communications strategy," said Christian Paolino, Chair of the Stakeholders' Council. 

Please join us in congratulating and thanking Mel for agreeing to assume this responsibility.  We look forward to interacting with you in new and exciting ways in the days ahead.  You may reach him at or @melsoriano on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trans Day of Remembrance: A Message from Our Executive Director

It's Trans Day of Remembrance. As I've said before, this is a day that I find very difficult. There are two temptations here: One is to use TDoR as an opportunity to talk about how trans women have been, are now, and will always be poor, pathetic, pitiful victims. That's horrifyingly wrong. Trans people are strong, complete human beings. I recently had someone come up to be at an event I was speaking and say, "I'm so sorry this happened to you," about my being trans, as if it were a disease or a terrible accident that had befallen me. It is wrong to treat transness like a curse.  If we treat transness like something that will always be inseparable from violence and discrimination, it suggests that it is normal and natural for trans people (especially trans women of color) to face violence and discrimination, that it's just how things are.

The other temptation is to shift the focus to trans folks (usually white, middle-class trans folks) who are doing okay. It's wonderful that some trans people are thriving; it's beautiful and good. Still, the success of some people in a community doesn't make up for the violence against the rest of it.

So, how do we find the middle place between treating being trans like having cancer and ignoring the challenges that trans people face?

It will require a lot of work, but I believe that one of the first steps is to accept the simple fact that trans and gender non-conforming people are a normal, natural, and healthy part of the human species, that we always have been and always will be. It is simply nonsensical that people would be mistreated over being trans or gender non-conforming. We need to recognize that no one is an acceptable victim, that violence against trans people is nothing more than an ugly abnormality which we need to end.

Vivian Taylor is the Executive Director of Integrity USA

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Witch Trials Continue

It’s a searing reminder that even though we have nearly achieved full inclusion in the life and all the rites of the Episcopal Church, there are still many Christians who have to keep quiet about their identity and their loved ones or lose their faith community. Frank Shaefer, a Methodist minister, today stands trial in Pennsylvania for marrying his gay son.

Seventeen years ago, my sister, a lay reader in the Church of England, preached not at our wedding but at an MCC church the day after our holy union and returned to England to find she was no longer welcome in the parish she served. So many allies like Shaefer and my sister Sue have had their lives devastated because of their acts of courage on our behalf. I am reminded of Jesus’ words, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

We are grateful for the nearly forty years of prayer and activism that has made the Episcopal Church a (relatively) safe place and in many places an openly welcoming one. It has not been an easy journey, as I discuss in my book A Thorn in the Flesh, and this trial will make many of us remember the Trial of Bishop Righter in 1996. At that point the court decided that there was no "core" doctrine that prevented the ordination of gay or lesbian individuals.

But the Methodist Church does have specific rules, and "Conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies" are still chargeable offences. Any optimism that things might be changing seems to have been demolished by Friday’s statement from the Methodist Council of Bishops actually urging two of their members to take action against Bishop Melvin Talbert for celebrating the wedding of two gay men. 
There are many more within the Methodist Church who are taking the risk, who are engaging in civil disobedience in order to create a church where all people are welcome. You can read some of their stories here. Last Saturday, November 9, Bill Gatewood, and Rich Taylor had their union blessed by 36 Methodist ministers in Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love. Will their bishop take action against all of them?
We salute the courage of our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church and hope that our journey will be a source of hope for them. Please pray for Pastor Frank Shaefer, on trial today, that his witness and the witness of so many more may bear great fruit.
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall is the President of Board of Directors, Integrity USA

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

... And Hawai Makes it Sweet Sixteen!

The Hawaii state legislature today placed a marriage equality bill on the desk of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has pledged he will sign it, making Hawaii the sixteenth state to legalize same-gender marriage.

However, the question of which state will actually be the next to offer such licenses is in flux. Illinois, which passed a marriage equality bill last week, was originally going to start recognizing the nuptials in June of next year, while Hawaii's weddings are expected to start in December.  Sen. Don Harmon has introduced a bill which may make it happen sooner, however.

The Bishop of Hawaii, the Right Rev. Robert L. Fitzpatrick, is squarely in favor of the ruling.  On September 2nd (the birthday of Queen Liliuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch), he sent Gov. Abercrombie and all members of the legislature a letter endorsing the bill as it was being debated.  When the Diocese met in convention on September 27th, delegates passed a resolution endorsing marriage equality, making the Episcopal Church the largest denomination in Hawaii to do so.

"We have been moving toward full inclusion as a diocese and a church for a very long time. So for us, once civil unions were allowed in the state, we allowed the blessing of civil unions as one of the realities of our diocese," Bishop Fitzpatrick told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "So the next move toward civil marriage is just the natural consequence."

Mohalo to Integrity Hawaii, Bishop Fitzpatrick, and all who work for justice and equality!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Requiescat in Pace: The Right Rev. Douglas Edwin Theuner

The Integrity board and staff are saddened to share news of the death of the Right Rev. Douglas Edwin Theuner, eighth Bishop of New Hampshire, on November 8th, 2013.  He was 74. Bishop Theuner was receiving hospice care in Concord, N.H., when he died peacefully in his sleep.

Bishop Theuner's death was announced on the diocesan pages of the current bishop, the Right Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld. He recalled for the Concord Monitor a voice mail which Theuner left him shortly after his consecration. "He said, 'Number 10, this is Number 8. I’m not going to give you any advice, but don’t be timid. If there’s one thing I regret from my time as bishop, it was that I was too timid.' Of course, everyone will say the words 'timid' and 'Theuner' don’t belong in the same sentence. He was never afraid. He embodied this kind of fearlessness that can only come when you’ve become soaked in the love of God."  Theuner was instrumental in getting the Episcopal Church and his peers in the African church to face the AIDS crisis.

The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, who came out as a gay man while serving as Theuner's Canon to the Ordinary and succeeded him as Bishop in 2003, told the Monitor, "Doug Theuner is the reason I have a life in ministry. He was one of the boldest defenders of justice I’ve ever known."

Born in New York, Bishop Theuner graduated from Bexley Hall and served congregations in Ohio and Connecticut before being consecrated bishop in 1986.  He continued to work after retirement, despite facing a number of physical ailments.

Despite his passion for his work, he had an irreverent side. "He was always poking fun at the pretentiousness at the church in general, and at the bishops specifically," Robinson told the Monitor. "When people asked what they should call him, he would always say, 'Why don’t you call me Doug, because that’s what God will call me when I go to heaven.'"

God called, and Doug answered.

The Burial Office was read this morning at St. Paul's: Concord, and a requiem Eucharist was held this afternoon at the Church of the Epiphany in Newport.

Bishop Theuner is survived by his wife Jane "Sue"; his two children Elizabeth Susan DiTommaso (Frank), Nicholas Frederick Kipp Theuner and his wife Charlotte Driver; his grandchildren Amy Carmela DiTommaso and her husband Jarrod Manzer, Alexandra Marie and Mariana Teresa DiTommaso, Dakota Jean and Megan Nicole Theuner; and great-granddaughter Ophelia Manzer DiTommaso. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Living Honestly In All Of Lives

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
   and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
   and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
   will not make your voice heard on high.
But this is 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.
                                    -Isaiah 58: 3b-4, 6-7

I understand the concept of a professional persona. When I work for a company there are expectations about how I carry myself because when I am on the job I am a representative of the company. If my job is high profile then I might rarely get a chance to place aside this persona. The expectations can be beyond taxing for anyone.

In some cases, however, the professional persona is not simply a more professional rendition of the person’s self but a set of half-truths, misdirections, and outright lies. In such cases the professional persona is no longer at points taxing but inherently caustic. This caustic reality is the day to day on the job reality for many members of the LGBTQ community throughout the United States.

To be clear I do not want coffee break conversations to be about the sex lives of my coworkers… I simply want to have the same freedom to talk about friends and loved ones that every one else has. I do not want to be able to come to work in the most scandalous outfit ever… I simply want to be able to dress professionally as the gender my doctor references on my health forms. I do not want my personal life to be the center of all workplace concerns… I simply want my professional persona to be a truthful expression of my personal life.

The sad reality is that so often myself and many of the LGBTQ community do not have this ability to be truthful if we want to be employed. The base reason for this is that many people cannot respond professionally to a man saying “my husband took me out to a wonderful anniversary dinner last night” or a female coworker with a baritone vocal register and so they have decided that “professional” involves neither of those realities. The personal sacrifices individuals must make to become professional, the fasting we take up from our personal lives when we enter the workplace, are not equal and are, in fact, oppressive for many.

The Senate, in passing ENDA, has decided that they will no longer allow some to feast while others fast. There is understandable concern that it will not move in the House. The question now before the House is whether they will continue to fast in a way that makes them morally comfortable by perpetuating oppression on others or will they choose a true fast, a true professionalism, that requires all members of a company to respond to each other in a professional way. The vote of each Representative will, in the end, define how professional they truly are.

If you have not already, please contact your representative in Congress and ask her or him to support support ENDA. This is a useful tool to find their contact information:
For all of us who seek for our professional personas to be a truthful expression of our personal lives it is still a time to rejoice. It is no longer just the oppressed crying for justice but those who arbitrate justice calling for an end to oppression. Now we must pray that our work together can truly make justice ring out across the land.

-Benjamin Garren, Integrity Contributor 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Illinois Becomes 15th US State with Marriage Equality

On November 5th, the Illinois General Assembly voted to join the Senate in passing a marriage bill, making Illinois the 15th state where same-gender couples may marry, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a statement published on the diocesan web site, the Right Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, said "The scriptures tell us to testify to what we have seen, and in communities and congregations across our diocese, we have seen that extending legal protection and respect to same-sex couples has created stronger, happier households and contributed to the common good. Now in Illinois, the respect afforded by civil unions has been extended to the dignity of true equality. I rejoice that it is now easier for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers to order their lives together, to care for one another and to raise children in a stable home. Justice has been done."

Bishop Lee continued by outlining his expectations for clergy in light of the new law, which included authorizing -- but not requiring -- clergy to witness civil marriages if they chose to, and the use of the provisional blessing rite for same-gender relationships adopted by General Convention 2012.  The Diocese of Chicago encompasses the northern part of Illinois, including the former Diocese of Quincy.

Rev. Dr. Roger A. Ferlo, President of the Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation, said, "I am delighted that Illinois has joined 14 other states in endorsing marriage equality. Years ago, as a parish priest in Greenwich Village, I was inspired by the example of gay and lesbian couples who kept their relationships alive despite intense social disapproval. They were an example to me and to others in the congregation that what matters to God is not the sexual orientation of the partners, but their honesty, integrity and lifelong fidelity. Now something is right in the eyes of the state that has always been right in the eyes of God." Dr. Ferlo's comments were shared by the Episcopal News Service.

The news doubtlessly was not as happily received in the Diocese of Springfield, which includes the central and southern parts of the state.  The Right Rev. Daniel Martins and the entire deputation to General Convention voted against the adoption of the blessings rite, and its use is not permitted in the Diocese.  In a letter to his flock published shortly after Convention, Bishop Martins wrote, "I am not unaware that there are some in this diocese, clergy and laity, who find my position disheartening. It gives me no joy to be the source of disappointment or pain to anyone. I honor the witness of faithful lesbian and gay Episcopalians in the diocese. They enrich our life together, and it is my desire to be a pastor to all, especially those who are hurt by decisions I must make. I pledge a special effort to stay connected and in dialogue with those who feel marginalized by my words or actions. I wish there were an easier way through this."

Bishop Martins is recovering from heart surgery and no statement on the ruling had been issued  at press time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Church Task Force on Study of Marriage Releases Initial Report of its Work

The Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage, enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, today issued a report on its work so far.

"We’re making enormous progress on the broad charge we’ve been given, thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of our members and those with whom we are already in conversation. This is a conversation and study whose time has obviously come, and we are grateful to be part of it," said the Rev. Brian C. Taylor, chair of the task force.  "We are hopeful that the broad circle of input we are gathering will help empower the Episcopal Church in its ongoing mission to be Christ’s light to the world in our day."

The resolution, which calls for a comprehensive look at the church's understanding of what marriage is, was born out of questions uncovered by the the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships, as charged by the previous General Convention in 2009, approved at Indianapolis and placed into use on the first Sunday of Advent.  Approximately 2/3 of the dioceses in the church have adopted it for use in some fashion.

Read the full report here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coming Out In Maine

But even the hairs on your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. -Luke 12:7

At the Maine Diocesan Convention there were many points of discussion. One side conversation had nothing to do with diocesan business but concern over the Gubernatorial race. In the past few years Maine has fought two hard campaigns around marriage equality and finally has secured legal safety for all Maine families. For myself, and many others who put literal sweat and blood into that striving for justice, the pain caused by the vitriol brought against us by opponents to equality is still quite fresh. We talked about the upcoming Gubernatorial race and wondered if it would be another campaign year filled with vitriol against the LGBTQ community.

We worried because we knew that the front runner, Mike Michaud, is gay. We worried because we know that many in politics are not concerned with what a person does with who they are but instead on manipulating the fears people have of those who are different from them. We worried for the fragile members of the LGBTQ community throughout Maine who might have to endure another electoral season where an aspect of their personhood was verbally abused while key issues about the health and safety of the state were ignored. We worried about when and how this issue, which should not be an issue, would break.

Earlier today Mike Michaud breached the issue and dispelled the mounting worries. He also marked himself as a model for leadership in the LGBTQ community above and beyond partisanship. His words and actions mark a new space we are entering into as a community. Our politics are no longer about Gay Men, or other members of our community, becoming elected officials but about people up for election being members of our community. His campaign will continue this shift in the entire nature of our political conversation.

We needed Harvey Milk to be the first out Gay Man to be elected to a position. His call to come out of our closets and make people aware that members of the LGBTQ are our neighbors, our coworkers, our family members was pivotal. Our genders and sexualities are essential aspects of our being that can neither be repressed nor be objects of societal shame. Naming our created selves and recognizing we are beloved is an essential aspect of becoming a whole and healthy individual. Front runners like Harvey Milk called all of society into this naming. This is, however, only the first step.

The next step is integrating what we have named into our whole story and expect society to recognize us for the entirety of who we are, not just our gender and sexuality. Many of our elected officials have been calling us to this for decades. The leadership of Tammy Baldwin, US Senator from Wisconsin, has been an essential part of this narrative. Mike Michaud now brings this narrative to Maine.

Mike Michaud is many things. He is a Mainer, a Franko-American, a mill worker from a mill working family, a democrat, a gay man, a brother, a son. There are tons of stereotypes and societal projections around each of these things... but there is only one individual, Mike Michaud, who is all these things in the specific way that Mike Michaud is. He is calling the electorate of Maine to consider what he has done with all that he is and not limit him to one projected stereotype or another. In so doing he calls each of us, LGBTQ or not, to consider the same about ourselves and all those around us.

Jesus tells us that God has counted all the hairs on our head. Mainer hairs, mill worker hairs, gay hairs, Franko-American hairs, whatever our hairiness might be it is a God counted hairiness. It is a hairiness that is more valuable than many sparrows. It is a hairiness for which God entered into all the oppression, hate, brokenness, and pain that the world can give out so that we may all find wholeness and integration for ourselves and our neighbors.

Mike Michaud is a leader modeling this integration and wholeness of self in his campaign. Let us pray that all our leaders, regardless of political affiliation, will come to lead us likewise.

-Benjamin Garren, Integrity Contributor

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Autumn Request For Your Support

It is has been an incredible sixteen months for LGBTQ people since The Episcopal Church's last General Convention. We have a same-sexmarriage rite, canon law protecting the inclusion of transgender and non-binary people in the Church, and a strong position against bullying in our schools. In the secular world we have not only seen states like California and New Jersey get the freedom to marry; we have actually seen DOMA struck down and some of our brothers and sisters enjoy full federal marriage benefits. With all of these victories it can sometimes feel like our work is over.

The fact is, though, it isn't.

Nearly 70% of Americans still live in states without the freedom to marry, with more than half of states having constitutional amendments banning same gender marriage. LGBTQ people are still used by many politicians as a wedge issue, vilifying us to shore up their own political power. At the so-called Values Voter Summit, former Governor Mike Huckabee was perfectly happy to attack queer children simply to advance his political goals.

Gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people still face poverty at significantly higher rates than heterosexual people. Violence against LGBTQ people is still a constant threat for many. In the New York area alone there have been five anti-gay and trans* murders in past few months.

Within the Church, despite the amazing steps forward that we have taken, there are still diocese and parishes where gay and trans* people do not feel fully understood or welcomed. There are still people within our Church who feel that they may not be allowed to follow God's call to ministry in their lives for the simply reason of who they love or their gender identity.

Outside the Church there are many people, both LGBTQ and straight allies, who can't imagine finding a home in Christianity because of their fear of homophobia and transphobia from the Church.

Integrity is continuing to do the work of the Gospel to stand up against that, to continue helping the Church move forward towards a Christ-like love and inclusion of all people. Through our Believe Out Loud workshops we are helping Episcopalians not only to love LGBTQ people and to welcome them into their congregational home, but to give Episcopalians the language to tell their own stories of celebrations and acceptance.

Our Believe Out Loud program gives parishes the opportunity to announce their love for LGBTQ people to the world, to invite the people in their neighborhoods to a loving, welcoming community

Our chapters are doing the work of addressing local challenges, working on freedom to marry campaigns, working on LGBTQ nondiscrimination campaigns, working to end anti-LGBTQ violence in their communities.

And national leaders continue to work to change Episcopal policy and practice to make the Episcopal Church a sanctuary for all the people of God.

We are in a time where we see incredible change. More than that, we see the potential for even greater change. It is up to us as followers of Christ to see how far towards the kingdom of God we can push our world. If you agree that we still have work to do, please consider supporting the Integrity as we open the Episcopal Church to all of God's beloved. You can simply visit our donation site at:

We are deeply greatful for anything you can spare to further our work.

Thank you for your support,

Vivian Taylor
Executive Director, Integrity USA