Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Flash June 23

June 23, 2017 Friday Flash ________________________________________ Support our Mission This week brought us the US Senate’s version of the revised health care plan that is supposed to replace the the Affordable Healthcare Act with something “better.” I’ve come to the conclusion that “better” actually means more beneficial to the profits of the health insurance industry. I see nothing in the Senate proposal that is helpful to those most in need of healthcare insurance: The poor and marginalized, including LGBTQ+ citizens of this nation. The group that will benefit most from the Senate proposal is the so-called “1 percent” of our population. Why would I bring this up here? Well so many members of Congress are very clear and concerned that people see them as having solid Judeo-Christian values. It baffles me how they could support either the House or Senate version of healthcare reform bills. Both versions are about as far from Judeo-Christian values as one could get. This is where I urge you to write to your elected representatives and express your opinion on this matter as the Senate prepares to vote next week. I wrote to both Senators from Georgia, even with the full realization that neither really cares. Both are rich and have little contact with any constituents who live at or below the poverty line. If you want to see what I said to them, please go to my Face Book page…..I posted the body of the letter there. The question continues to come up about whether or not the work and ministry of Integrity is still needed. The above is one example. Politicians need to hear something other than the religious right on issues of substance that reflect how we treat members of our society. Another reason for the ongoing need for Integrity is in the article below repeated from last week. Who would have thought that a conference on so-called “conversion therapy” would be taking place in California….in the Diocese of San Diego. The voice of Integrity needs to be heard in both faith and secular settings to debunk the myth that someone can change their sexual orientation and provide pastoral care to those who have been victimized by the practitioners of this obscene process According to a report noted in an article below, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that it is permissible for people in Mississippi to discriminate against others because of their religious beliefs. People who profess to be Christian can refuse services to LGBTQ+ folks, Muslims, people of color….essentially anyone at odds with the narrow beliefs of the service provider. The voice of Integrity is still needed in Mississippi. Presuming this case gets appealed to a higher court, the justices need to hear a voice other than the religious right. In Province IV at least two dioceses continue to refuse to marry same sex couple and will not allow LGBTQ+ members of our church to hold some positions of violation of several articles of canon law. Even in the state of New York there is a diocese that will not marry same-sex couples and has refused to allow legally married same sex clergy to carry out their ministries in that diocese. Is there a doubt that the voice of Integrity and the voices of LGBTQ+ Episcopalians needs to be heard in the church and in secular society? Are you a member of Integrity? If so, make your voice heard and contribute to our operations. If you are not a member, we invite you to join….regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. No matter your relationship to Integrity and/or the church, the voice of more moderate people of faith needs to be heard in the deliberative processes at the national and local level in our nation. Our silence really could mean our death. So, who have you written, called, texted, emailed, or contacted to express your views? If the answer is “none” then look at yourself and ask why you are so complacent. Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ________________________________________ Integrity Houston Pride Parade Integrity Houston is hosting a Pride Street Eucharist and Pride Parade, Saturday June 24th from 6 pm- Midnight. Click here to see the Facebook event for more details. ________________________________________ Integrity San Diego Protests Conversion Therapy Conference Integrity San Diego was present to protest the Restored Hope Network national conference. There was a vigil on June 15 at 5:30pm. Demonstrations of love and acceptance organized by a group of San Diego LGBTQ organizations will follow on June 16 and 17 at the sites of the hotel and conference. All are welcome to join! You are also invited to participate with St. Paul’s at San Diego Pride on July 15. And read the Integrity blog post regarding this protest, written by The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk . ________________________________________ Appeals Court Upholds MS Religious Freedom Law A federal appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that protects merchants and government employees from being forced to participate in activities that run contrary to their religious beliefs about sexuality. ________________________________________ 12 Year Old Girl Comes Out to Her Mormon Congregation Savannah, 12, made a decision this January; she was going to come out as lesbian at her Mormon Church. Nothing was going to stop her….Official church policy welcomes members of the Mormon faith that have same-sex attractions. Church teaching, however, mandates that members with same-sex attractions cannot act on those feelings. They must remain celibate and they cannot get married to members of the same sex. ________________________________________ Celebrating Pride? If your organization is celebrating pride this month or this summer, post it on our Facebook Group page or share it with ________________________________________ Once in a Lifetime Conference Prophets young and old will tell the stories of our history and explore our future at Rolling The Stone Away conference, this October 31-November 2, 2017 in St. Louis. Rolling The Stone Away will honor elders, saints and prophets from all generations, from many Christian denominations, and mark the ground-breaking achievements, relentless commitments, and often painful sacrifices these leaders have made in religious organizations over the past five decades. Moreover, the next generation will be in the house and will shine a light on what comes next. Integrity USA has been on the planning team for this event and look forward to being with as many of you as possible who can join this gathering. We are considering a small “reunion” during the time of the conference for our family and friends. ________________________________________ We Are Orlando ________________________________________ 800-462-9498

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Conversion Therapy

I last wrote for Integrity USA nearly a decade ago when I was on the Board. We were coming out of a church-wide conversation about how we were going to treat LGBT people, and those of us in Integrity were both excited and curious - excited about the Church growing more fully into the love of Christ as and curious what the future of Integrity would be. Ten years later, as a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego (a Proud Parish Partner of Integrity), my experience is that we still question what direction Integrity is going. Here in San Diego, we often ask whether we still need Integrity, given the rapid change and acceptance of LGBTQ people in the life of the Church.

Recently, though, I have been reminded how shortsighted we are being when we ask if Integrity still has a role. Later this month, a Christian church in San Diego will host a national conference on conversion or reparative therapy. The “Restored Hope Network” will bring people from all over the country to offer "hope for those struggling with sexual and relational brokenness." They claim to offer a "cure" for homosexuality.

I must admit I was shocked when I learned that this conference was happening. For one, I thought reparative therapy died a few years ago with the dissolution of Exodus International, which closed in 2013 after its president apologized, acknowledged that conversion therapy does not work, and that changing sexual orientation is not possible. My understanding is that his ex-wife and a few other remnants of Exodus formed the “Restored Hope Network.”

I was even more surprised that such a conference would be held here in San Diego because in California and seven other states, so-called “conversion” therapy is illegal for minors, an acknowledgement of its dangers and lack of efficacy.

I have never been a victim of conversion therapy, but after seminary I spent several years working in a mental health inpatient hospital as a chaplain. I heard firsthand the awful stories of people who had their identities stripped away from them at the most tender moments of their lives. I met too many people who had attempted suicide because they had become deeply convinced by religious authorities that they were flawed and had no hope for a meaningful future.

When I was on the Board of Integrity, I toured churches as a representative of Integrity. Again, I heard stories of rejection and pain caused by conversion therapy. I listened to stories of struggle with self-acceptance and acceptance by God after religious abuse.

The damage caused by religious abuse, which includes conversion or reparative therapy, is real, is tragic, and pains the heart of God. Conversion therapy simply does not work and, in fact, causes damage. LGBTQ young people who experience rejection because of their identity are more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide as those who are accepted.

What is the future of Integrity? I do not know what it will be, given that the Church now has canons on the books to welcome and affirm our unique and God-given gifts - thanks be to God! Still, it is easy to become complacent once we have gotten for ourselves what we have sought, even when we know there are parts of the Church where those canons have yet to be fully realized.

Still, for me, Integrity has never been about only you and me.  It has always been about all of us; everybody; the whole human family. So I can tell you this: Integrity San Diego will be present to protest the Restored Hope Network national conference, and if you are in Southern California I hope you will join us. Because no child of God deserves to hear that they are anything less than fully loved by their Creator, that their gifts are a treasure to be cherished, and that they are themselves a part of this wondrous creation.

We will follow that up a month later with a fabulous pride celebration, where the Cathedral is an official stop for Pride week festivities when we will host an Interfaith prayer service featuring MCC founder Troy Perry. We will also take the lead on an interfaith “Pride with Prayer, Pride with Purpose” sub-theme in the official parade delegation. We will participate because Integrity, the Church, and all of us need to remind the whole world that LGBTQ gifts are meant to shine, and shine brightly!  We, all of us, are a part of this multi-colored rainbow body, straight and gay and genderqueer and trans. All of us, with our different functions and gifts and skills, are necessary to make this Body of Christ work together in harmony for love.

Wherever you are this pride season, I pray that you will live it fabulously in the unceasing love of God, and mindful of the justice that seems to be more and more needful every day.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk
St. Paul’s Cathedral San Diego

All are welcome to join us in this protest.  There will be a vigil on June 15 at 5:30pm, followed by demonstrations of love and acceptance organized by a group of San Diego LGBTQ organizations on June 16 and 17 at the sites of the hotel and conference. You are also invited to participate with St. Paul’s at San Diego Pride on July 15.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Where is the Fire?

Pentecost took place: Where is the fire? Where is the Spirit that should be igniting us?

The latest issue of Time magazine to land in my mailbox is dated June 12, 2017. Exactly one year prior to that date, June 12, 2016, we learned of the massacre of 49 children of God in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I remember the date of course, but for additional reasons: I was handed the information about the tragedy just minutes before I stepped into the pulpit to deliver the sermon for the 25th and final Province IV Network of AIDS Ministries Annual Retreat at the Kanuga Conference Center. I changed the beginning of what I had planned to preach… we prayed and observed a moment of silence for those murdered in a place where they went to celebrate, not die. The meaning of that horrendous event would continue to sink in as the day progressed.

I scanned that Time magazine to see if there was any mention of the largest mass killing of its kind on the first anniversary of that killing. I found nothing. A year after the murder of 49 innocent people and Time makes no note of it. My most cynical self says that it was because most of those killed were queer and/or people of color. My heart tries not to have such feelings. My brain looks for other explanations. None come to mind.

The bottom of page 9 of the June 12 Time has an article under the heading of “Human Rights” about the purge of gay men in Chechnya. My spine shivers when reading about what has been going on there. I find myself a bit lifted by the offers of asylum to gay men, many of whom are Muslim. The last sentence is the response of the United States government to the issue of asylum here: “The U.S., however, said no visa exists for this kind of ‘humanitarian relief’.”

The response by my own government just plain pisses me off! If it doesn’t invoke the same reaction among all of us, then we clearly are not paying attention. Our government’s response essentially says that queers do not matter enough to be considered for asylum from nations that torture and kill them. What else could “this kind” imply?

I have been beating the same drum for weeks now: Who have you written, called, emailed, texted, tweeted, written to about the things that impact your or someone else’s life in a negative way? As long as we remain silent and complacent and complicit, we risk death… if not of the body, then the spirit and perhaps the soul. Silence equals death. Complacency equals death. Complicity equals death.

If you have taken no action then I invite you to go and stand before a mirror and ask yourself this: Why am I not worth having myself or others strive for justice and peace for me? Why am I not worth having my dignity respected? I would love to be wrong, but taking no action implies to me that we don’t consider ourselves worthy enough even to expect the basic premises of our Baptismal Covenant vows to be applied to us.

My beloved kindred: The Day of Pentecost brought us the flaming fire of the Holy Spirit to build a fire under us and prod us into action. Will we use that gift as a way of proclaiming justice and equality for all? Or will we just hide away somewhere and wring our hands in fear? The 49 who died a year ago deserve better. Can we offer it?

May the Orlando 49 continue to rest in peace. May the memory of their deaths move us to action.

Bruce Garner, President

Integrity USA