Friday, September 25, 2015

Pride and Welcome in the Desert

Last weekend the parish of Christ Church, Las Vegas welcomed Integrity President Matt Haines to be a part of their weekend of LGBTQ Pride.  Activities began by  marching as a church through Downtown Las Vegas Friday September 17th.  Saturday Christ Church rector, The Rev. Dr. J. Barry Vaughn hosted a reception bringing together key parish leaders and LGBT members to discuss further intentional welcome.  Events culminated Sunday with a dynamic "Rector's Forum" focused on how to build radical welcome after marriage equality and of course Eucharist where Matt Haines preached on welcoming powerlessness.  To hear or read the sermon click here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

President Elect Bruce Garner Excited for Integrity's Future

I am honored to be Integrity USA’s President.  Yes, I realize my name was the only one on the ballot! But you did have the option of writing in other choices.  So, yes, I am honored and my goal is to serve you and our organization well.
The year 2015 has been an historic year in both the Episcopal Church and in the United States in the long journey for full inclusion and equal rights and rites for persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning…LGBTQ folks.  We can legally marry our same gender partners in both church and civil ceremonies.  Yes, that is remarkable, but it is only one step of many on a still long path to where we are entitled to be.
While we can marry, we can still be fired from employment in too many states.   We can still be conveniently overlooked in the clergy deployment process in too many dioceses.  We still face obstacles in adopting children, especially second parent adoptions.  We are still the objects of those who want to inflict bodily harm on us because of who we are.  The actions and attitudes of a County Clerk in Kentucky over the last few weeks’ stand witness to how much still needs to change for us to be fully included in both society and church.
Twenty five years ago I was in the same position I am in now:  President of Integrity, having been elected in 1990.  We had recently concluded the work of the General Convention of 1991.  That convention was a water shed convention born out of the pain of exclusion…..and that pain began to surface in Phoenix, Arizona, as the convention progressed.  The pain also began to be healed at that convention.  Two gay deputies came out on the floor of the House of Deputies and the building did not collapse.  The first serious debate about LGBTQ issues of inclusion took place before hundreds if not a thousand of deputies and bishops.  I will never forget the impromptu gathering outside an exhibit hall after that debate as we formed a circle and began to sing songs and hymns, many with tears streaming down our faces, particularly as we sang “We shall overcome.”
That was a beginning and much has changed.  Much has not changed.
At the 1991 General Convention, unpleasant events actually enabled me to meet with the Presiding Bishop, the Vice President and Secretary of the House of Bishops and my own bishop.  We began conversations that would continue after the convention.  I was able to negotiate the first meeting of an Integrity President with a Presiding Bishop, namely Ed Browning.  That led to a meeting between him and the Board of Directors of Integrity….another first time event.  These meetings came at a great price to Bishop Browning.   At times we seemed to be engaging in clandestine events!  Yet he was intent on being true to having said that there would be no outcasts in the Episcopal Church.
Neither I nor the board at the time could have achieved what we were able to do without the hard work of my predecessor as President of Integrity, Kim Byham.  He and I often took different approaches to issues, but we worked together and I count him as a dear friend as each of us has aged and allegedly mellowed over the years!  None of us works alone. 
We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  We walk on the bridges others have built as they have gone before us.  We are obligated to build bridges for those who come after us, even if we are not likely to ever have need of what we have built.
Over these past years I saw canonical changes, resolutions, etc. that were intended to bring equality to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers……or at least they did on paper.  Reality hasn’t always been the same as what was “on the paper.”  We have much work to do.
I have witnessed the election and consecration of a gay male and a lesbian female as bishops of the church even as we became more and more aware of hundreds of openly out and proud LGBTQ clergy in our church.  But such is not true everywhere.  Our sisters and brothers in some provinces of the church and in some diocese must continue to stand behind closet doors as they engage in their callings as priests, deacons and bishops of our church. We have much work to do.
The year 2015 will go down in the history books as another water shed year because we gained the right to marry the person we love in both our church and in secular society.  Again, that is not true in all places…..subtle and not so subtle barriers continue to exist.
Let me also be clear that being able to marry the person we love does not equate to having achieved equality as LGBTQ persons.  We can still be fired from jobs because of sexual orientation and gender expression/identity in too many places.  We have no protection of guarantees of housing or public accommodation in too many places.  Our children…all children and teens….do not have the protections they need against being bullied and harassed in schools and in society.  Our trans sisters and brothers who find themselves incarcerated face even more terrible discrimination from authorities that has the potential to undo what they have achieved in their lives simply trying to live as the person God created them to be.  Too many of our trans sisters and brothers are being murdered with law enforcement not apparently giving these cases the attention due them.  Those living with HIV/AIDS are often denied critical medications needed to treat them while they are in jails and prisons.  We have much work to do.
And, my sisters and brothers, the demon of racism continues to raise its ugly head within our LGBTQ community and within the broader community.  The insidiousness of racism further compounds the work we must be about in achieving equality in our church and in our world.  None of us are free until all of us are free.  We have much work to do.
I am very aware that there has been some turmoil and dysfunction within Integrity.  My goal is to address and resolve those issues as much as they can be resolved.  Part of that resolution will be the transparency of how I and the rest of the board of directors operate.  For a few examples:  minutes of each board meeting will be published on the Integrity website following their approval at the subsequent meeting.  Financial reports will also be published once approved and accepted at a board meeting.  Dates, times and locations of board meetings will be posted on Integrity’s website so that any who wish to attend may do so.  Board meetings are always open except when discussing personnel issues (and the acquisition of property, which is highly unlikely to be an issue for us!).
We all have work to do until that day when Integrity herself can retire because there is no question anywhere in our church about the full inclusion of ALL LGBTQ people and the motto that “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” is truly a reality.

I am indeed honored to be President of Integrity USA.  With the help of our Board of Directors, our Provincial Coordinators, our Chapter Convenors, and with the help and support of every member of Integrity, we can address and resolve the issues that remain before us.  Let us strive forward to what lies ahead with the wind of the Holy Spirit pushing us and the still small voice of God calling us.  We have much work to do.

New Board of Directors: Servant Leaders at the Ready

By:  Matt Haines, President

This past General Convention has called the Episcopal Church to lead and serve in even more inclusive ways.  Integrity USA is excited to answer that call.  We now have a full Board of Directors ready to serve the church and our movement through uncharted possibilities. 

Each of the people who volunteered to run for election and were chosen to serve bring unique gifts to their upcoming ministries. They are united, however, in their dedication and faith in the future of this organization.

The new Board has many things going for it which will prove to be valuable as our work continues to evolve.  Four of the six members live in Southern states (Provinces 4 and 7), which means that the needs of this region will be better represented than ever before.  Three members identify as either transgender or gender non-conforming.  There is no doubt that their voices and votes on this Board will help Integrity to be even more sensitive and equipped to serve this growing demographic in our church. We have laypeople, a deacon and a priest serving fully according to their callings. Each member has a long history of local activism, church involvement and servant leadership.  Your new Board of Directors are:

Bruce Garner, President (Diocese of Atlanta)
The Rev. Gwen Fry, V.P. of National Affairs (Diocese of Arkansas)
S Wayne Mathis, V.P. of Local Affairs (Diocese of Texas)
The Rev. Carolyn Woodall, Stakeholder's Chair (Diocese of San Joaquin)
Mel Soriano, Secretary/Communications (Diocese of Los Angeles)
Deanna Bosch, Treasurer (Diocese of Texas)

Integrity USA's mission is “to inspire and equip the Episcopal Church, its dioceses, congregations and members to proclaim and embody God's all-inclusive love for LGBTQ persons and those who love them”.  Your new Board of Directors are excited to work toward this holy goal.  Please love and support them as they honor you with their selfless service.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Election for President of Integrity Sep 7 - Sep 14

Every three years Integrity elects a Board of Directors to serve the mission of our organization. On the last day of General Convention we announced the results of that election. At that time no one had been nominated for the role of president; hence there was no one was elected to that position.

In order to fill the vacancy, nominations were announced and have been open since General Convention. The deadline to file as a candidate was August 28, 2015.

We are happy to announce that someone stepped up to lead in this special ministry. The membership now can finish the election process with a full slate.

While there is only one candidate on the ballot, write-in votes are permitted per the bylaws. All members in good standing are eligible to vote and will be emailed a secure ballot. If you do not receive an emailed ballot by Monday, September 7, 2015 please contact Laura Zeugner ( to verify membership status and to be issued a ballot.

The candidate statement is shown below.

The election will run from 8 am EDT Monday, September 7 to 8 pm EDT Monday, September 14. Results will be posted here on our blog, Walking With Integrity.

Please join other members in voting for president. The current and incoming Boards of Directors appreciate your support and prayers as we begin our transition in the new triennium October 1st.

Matt Haines,

Candidate for President Statement:  Bruce Garner

I live in the diocese of Atlanta and worship at All Saints’ parish in Atlanta where I have served as Head Verger for over 19 years. I am a delegate to our Annual Diocesan Council and a member of the Executive Board of the Diocese of Atlanta. I serve as chair of the Diocesan Commission on LGBTQ Ministry and the Diocesan Commission on AIDS.

I have been active in Integrity at various levels since the early 1980’s, having served as National President, National AIDS Coordinator, Provincial Coordinator, Chapter Convenor and currently Chapter Secretary/Treasurer.

At the church-wide level, I have served on the Executive Council and on several commissions, committees, etc. of the church. I am currently a Trustee for The General Theological Seminary located in New York.

I bring nearly 35 years of non-profit board experience to any work I set out to do, having served “startups” to mature agencies.  A more comprehensive list of my non-profit work is attached. (Ed. note: Document on file with the Secretary of Integrity.)

I think God is calling me to this ministry for two reasons. First there is that sometimes annoying tapping of the finger on the shoulder that tries to get my attention. Second, I think I have the skills from my previous work to help Integrity USA find a path to a different level of mission in The Episcopal Church in light of the changes that took place at our General Convention this year and in light of the changes taking place in the secular world. These events represent one level of change regarding the LGBTQ community. There remains an inadequately addressed level at the diocesan and parish level to bring further full inclusion of LGBTQ children of God into the rich life of The Episcopal Church at all levels. Integrity needs to find that path and clear away the debris and make it a highway toward full inclusion in our church.