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Walking with Integrity

"Walking With Integrity" is the official blog of Integrity USA. We regularly offer news and insights into issues related to our mission and organization.

  • Presiding Bishop Seeks To Enforce Resolution B012

    January 12, 2019 - 5:29 am

    The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has issued a Partial Restriction on the ministry of The Right Reverend William Love, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany (New York).

    This is the link to the entire document containing the restrictions:    https://tinyurl.com/Bishop-Love-Restriction

    Here is the gist of the restrictions placed by Presiding Bishop Curry:

    “Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of the Church’s polity and disciplinary process and, thereby, the good order and welfare of the Church, and pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of Bishop Love’s ministry:

             During the period of this restriction, Bishop Love, acting individually, or as
             Bishop Diocesan, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from participating in any
             manner in the Church’s disciplinary process in the Diocese of Albany in any
             matter regarding any member of the clergy that involves the issue of same-sex
             marriage.

             Nor shall he participate in any other matter that has or may have the effect of
             penalizing in any way any member of the clergy or laity or worshipping
             congregation of his Diocese for their participation in the arrangements for or
             participation in a same-sex marriage in his Diocese or elsewhere.”

    The Diocese of Albany is one of eight dioceses that initially refused to abide by Resolution B012 regarding same sex marriages.  Said resolution was passed at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church during the summer of 2018.

    The responses to B012 by the bishops of those dioceses have ranged from the outright refusal to comply in Albany to the US Virgin Islands now allowing same sex marriages.  Most of the other bishops have responded with a variety of ways to discourage same sex marriages in their dioceses. Some are considering ways to permit such marriages in accord with the spirit of the resolution.

    The refusal of bishops to allow same sex marriages has been based on the same worn out justifications that have impeded the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in The Episcopal Church.  Scripture is cited as a justification but without the recognition that the alleged proscriptions in Scripture are taken out of the context of the time and culture of their writing and out of the context of the full narratives of which they are a part.  Tradition is also cited, yet fails to consider how much the institution of marriage has changed over the centuries. It remains a puzzle as to how these bishops can reach such conclusions even if they have had a minimal seminary education. It would seem reasonable that those who studied or should have studied ancient texts should understand the contextual nature of Scripture as well as the issues related to authorship.

    The situation created by these bishops has resulted in the failure of LGBTQ+ members of our church to be treated as full members of the church and due the same level of pastoral care so easily offered to non-LGBTQ+ members.  Our canon law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (along with a number of other criteria). It is sad that it seems to take filing legal actions to get bishops to simply comply with those canon laws.  Yet, if that is what it takes for our kindred in Christ to access all of the rites of our church, then that is what needs to be done. Perhaps this action by the Presiding Bishop will at least nudge the other non-compliant bishops to rethink their positions. All are due proper pastoral care from their bishops in all areas of their lives.  There are no exceptions that I have found.

    Let us continue to pray for a change of heart for the non-compliant bishops and let us hold our kindred who suffer discrimination in our thoughts and prayers.  Justice will eventually roll down like water…...

    Bruce Garner, Past President
    Integrity USA:  The Episcopal Rainbow  

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  • What Are You Planning To Do This Year?

    January 9, 2019 - 8:16 am

    A few days ago, the year 2019 arrived. Despite this being a brand new year, there is still work to be accomplished that is left over from 2018.  I’m wondering what you and I planning to do this year in light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves as queerfolk?

    There are still eight dioceses in The Episcopal Church where same sex couples cannot get married by a priest of or in property belonging to those dioceses.  Some of the eight bishops involved have moved about a quarter inch on the issue….others will still cite Scripture out of context to support their entrenched attitudes.  I wonder at times where these guys went to seminary. Did they not learn the origin of Scripture? Did they not learn the ancient languages of Scripture and see how some concepts do not translate into modern English and other concepts didn’t even exist?  At what points will these men start being pastors and stop being Pharisees? (Read the Gospels and see how Jesus regarded Pharisees.)

    The General Convention of 2018 made it abundantly clear by huge margins that this church, The Episcopal Church, allowed same sex couples to be married in and by the church.  There was some weak spined way for some to wiggle out of it…..bishops have problems holding each other accountable. That’s old news….same stunt they tried with the ordination of women.  

    Turning to the secular for a moment, we are living under a Presidential administration where one hardly knows which end is up at any given moment in time.  There are so many distractions and scandals that one wonders if some are not deliberate attempts to focus attention away from real problems and on to an issue or something just for the sake of diversion.  How many more days will a substantial part of the Federal Government remain shut down because of a temper tantrum about a wall…..of all things?

    Some will immediately say I have gotten political.  The reality is that I have not gotten political. I have gotten personal.  When the present administration literally tries to erase transgender folks, that isn’t political, it is personal.  We all have siblings who will/would be impacted by such a discriminatory action. Trying to ban HIV+ people from the military is equally personal.  Wanting to allow discrimination due to sexual orientation because of someone’s “religious beliefs” is equally personal. No, these are not political issues. They are personal issues that impact us directly or impact and harm people we know and love.  The majority population, i.e., straight folks, see issues such as these as merely political. They fail to see that the impact is personal and always has been.
    So I ask you what you are going to do this year?  Will you make your voice heard by the bishops who continue to discriminate against us?  Will you point out to them that they are both violating canon law AND violating the baptismal covenant vows they have taken to respect the dignity of every human being?  Will you stand with your siblings in Christ as they continue to strive for full inclusion in our church or will you just stand there?

    Will you write to those in Congress and/or your state legislatures expressing your thoughts about discrimination and how wrong it is?  Will you call or email or go meet with those who would treat us as less than full members of society, paying the same types of taxes as everyone else?  Will you remind them that all are to enjoy the full benefit of being a resident of this nation regardless of whether we agree with each other or not? Will you remind them that the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights apply to us all?  Will you remind them that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”should be enjoyed by all and not just those who fit a predefined mold or expression?

    What will you do?  As Weeza noted to one of her colleagues in “Steel Magnolias” these are NOT difficult questions!

    Bruce Garner, Past President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow

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  • Transitioning never is easy

    January 4, 2019 - 7:22 am

    Dear Integrity members and friends:

    In October 2018 Integrity started with a new Board, a group of people who decided to collaborate with our group. Any beginning could be hard and sometimes, the most experienced people need to give a hand. For this reason, we are delighted to welcome our former President Bruce Garner to help us writing for our Friday Flash. Thank you, Bruce, for this awesome contribution.

    Read more...
  • Seasons of Love

    September 24, 2018 - 5:44 pm

    Seasons of Love


    Our lives are full of seasons. I'm surprised that I've lived through a couple hundred of them. Like all seasons, one eventually gives way to the next one. Whether that next one is early or late, hot or cold, we usually know when it's time to yield to a new phase of life.

    Things look different. They smell different. They touch you differently. It's just as beautiful as before, but in an entirely new way. We sometimes welcome; we sometimes resist these changes. But the changes come any way. So what was it like for five rounds of 525,600 minutes as a board member of Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow?

    I'm glad I could contribute, in my own way, in my own time, to the body of work that bends the arc of history towards justice. I sometimes forget that I've done this sort of thing most of my life. It's just me being me, doing what I can, if I can, if I'm able. What matters to me is that I at least pitch in, lend my voice, offer my prayers, and most importantly help others to find their voice.

    It's obvious that there's still so much to be done. And there always will be. The OT prophets lived a pretty long time ago, and somehow their calls for justice still ring true today. There's no magic pill that society can swallow to make it all better. We've got to be in it for the long haul. We've got to help our youth, our transgender siblings, our friends and family in LGBTQ-resistant churches and dioceses. And, yes, we've got to address the racism and misogyny within our own family.

    And there's also a time for rest. For restoration. We need a Sabbath whether it's full retirement or simply finding space to breathe. And while doing so, we give other voices a chance to be heard, to inspire, to bring new ideas.

    So as my second term ends as the Director of Communications at Integrity, I look forward towards attending to some of the other ministries that also feed me. My heart is swayed by the Holy Spirit to spend even more time with lay pastoral visits and participation in diocesan Asian ministries. And I'm looking forward to doing more Camino de Santiago pilgrimages in Spain and Portugal, and blogging about my spiritual journeys on my Let All Who Are Thirsty Come site. And... I'm eager and curious to see where God leads me tomorrow.

    But most of all I'm grateful. Grateful that, even though so much needs to be done, I've been exposed to some amazing people who share some of my passions, who speak out as modern prophets, who feel the pain of those who struggle every day. I've grown much working with three Integrity Presidents: Caro Hall, Matt Haines, and Bruce Garner. I am thankful that my journey has allowed me to walk alongside these amazing people and to meet so many living saints. They've helped me measure my life in love, my seasons of love.

    I pray that Integrity USA, the Episcopal Rainbow, will continue to be the shelter as well as the light for LGBTQIA+ in the church. I'm excited by the vision that the Rev. Gwen Fry will bring to the organization as the incoming president; I have great trust in the new incoming Director of Communications, Letty Guevara-Cuence; and I'm confident that the new Board will speak for all of us. May God lift up our leaders - past, present, and future - giving them strength, granting us all wisdom, and blessing us with a place at the table.




    Mel Soriano
    Directory of Communications/Secretary
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



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  • Resisting Full Inclusion... Still An Issue

    September 21, 2018 - 12:43 pm

    Resisting Full Inclusion... Still An Issue Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow has begun to return its focus to the local level, and for good reason: There is still strong resistance to the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in a number of parishes and dioceses. Two clear examples came to my attention over the last couple of weeks and a third is most likely the result of non-inclusive attitudes.

    The first very obvious example of resistance to inclusion involves St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. Remember that this parish is located in one of the dioceses that thought they could leave The Episcopal Church and take church property with them. The court cases involved in this are still in progress to some degree.

    A long time friend, Wayne Helmly, wrote a letter to Ms. Penn Hagood, Senior Warden of St. Philip’s in response to a very unwelcoming letter she wrote to the parish and posted on its website. (It was soon taken down, but about 99% of it is in the two links below.) Wayne shared his letter and also some other resources. He has yet to get a response. I also wrote to Ms. Hagood in my capacity as Integrity’s President. I haven’t received a response either. My letter is below.

    It continues to be a source of sadness that so many in this part of the State of South Carolina remain so unwelcoming of queerfolk... which I suspect might just be the tip of the real issues that could take days to discuss.

    The second example has been the Bishop of Florida’s “response” to Resolution B012 passed at General Convention 2018, which p ut the decision about performing same sex marriages in the hands of the local rector rather than the diocesan bishop. This followed three years of eight bishops refusing to allow same sex marriages in their dioceses.

    The Right Rev. Samuel Howard has created a number of hoops for any same sex couple to jump through to be married...in direct contradiction to the intent of B012. He harps on the “Biblical standard of marriage being between one man and one woman” when he knows it is between one man and as many women as the man could afford. He further plans to have his clergy acknowledge that they will violate their ordination vows by performing a same sex marriage… because he is against such marriages. I’m sorry folks, but holding an opinion that is different from your bishop’s opinion is not violating ordination vows! The doctrine and discipline of the church now includes same sex marriage. So how could it be a violation if a priest marries a same sex couple? Bishop Howard is certainly not a standard for hospitality to the marginalized and outcast. Sadly, my own Godson lives in his diocese and I don’t want him attending an Episcopal Church at the moment. Blessedly his parents are handling his upbringing in the church themselves and have access to loving and caring clergy who don’t hold to the bishop’s biases.

    Another most likely example of not being inclusive is the closing of St. David’s parish in Lakeland, Florida. The story was included in the daily email of press items of interest from the Episcopal Church Center.

    The name rang a bell in the back of my mind when I read the story. My aunt and uncle and their children lived in Lakeland and I recalled them attending that parish. (This is the same aunt and uncle who introduced me to The Episcopal Church in the early 1960’s.) I checked with my cousins and indeed that had been their church and one of them had been confirmed there.

    Lakeland is in the Diocese of Central Florida, another of the eight dioceses where the bishop has not allowed same sex marriage. The diocese has a long history of not being welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks that goes back a couple of decades, including a literal purge of LGBTQ+ folks from serving in leadership roles at its cathedral at one point.

    Inhospitality does not bring people into our churches. Why we don’t seem to grasp that concept continues to baffle me. The state of Florida’s population continues to increase. Part of that increase is young people, many unchurched, often the result of them not finding churches to be welcoming places in general and more so for anyone who is queer. I can only imagine the growth we could achieve if there was a change of heart that overtook the dioceses of Florida and Central Florida that began to welcome the outcast… you know… the way Jesus did with the movement He began.

    It isn’t my intention to “pick on” on Florida, but two of the five dioceses in that state have a history of being unwelcoming to LGBTQ+ folks. That is an observation more than a condemnation.

    How much longer will we wring our hands over declining membership when part of the solution to reversing that trend stares us squarely in the face: welcome the outcast.




    September 13, 2018

    Dear Ms. Hagood,

    I have read your letter and related materials and I am trying to determine if you have been misled or given incorrect information or exactly what might lead you to the position you have taken with The Episcopal Church.

    By way of some background, I’ve been active for many years at the parish, diocesan, provincial and church-wide levels of The Episcopal Church.  I’ve served on vestries, on staff, chaired committees and commissions and served a term on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and attended ten General Conventions.  It is my service on Executive Council that causes me to question the basis for your position.

    During my tenure on Executive Council, we were dealing with the situations created when several bishops decided that they had the right to take Episcopal Church property and congregations out of The Episcopal Church.  Among those were the bishops of San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, Pittsburg and Quincy.

    There was a common theme among the things that those who remained part of The Episcopal Church told us:  They had been isolated by the bishop from the wider church. They had been provided inaccurate information by him.  A “silo effect” had been created where there was little communication between congregations and people.  One bishop even insisted on “silent retreats” with the clergy.  How can there be any communication in such situations?  Obviously there cannot be.  In other words, the bishop controlled as much as he could of information flowing into and within the diocese.

    Contrary to what you state, these actions were not really about issues of human sexuality, the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop, prayer book and Bible interpretation or even the ordination of women.  All of those issues were either diversions, smoke screens, scape goats, or secondary issues. The primary issue at work in all of these situations, later including the one in your diocese, was very simple:  power and control.  These male bishops all had serious problems with the idea that someone other than straight, white men were in control of anything including the church.  If they were honest, most also had issues with those of other races….at least if there were other races in their dioceses.  They could not be as blatant about that.  It would be unacceptable.  Sadly, all of their other biases didn’t bother them about being blatant.

    Has it not occurred to you that with the attitudes of these men, including Mark Lawrence, you would never have been Senior Warden, much less a vestry member of your parish?  It has not been all that long that women were not allowed to hold such positions.  It was only in the early 1970’s that women were allowed to be Deputies to General Conventions. 

    At one point in the not too distant past, you would not even been allowed to serve communion because of your gender.  My late mother was the first woman in our parish to be licensed as what was then called a Chalice Bearer.  There was an uproar over that…mostly by men of course.  There were threats to boycott the rail and not take communion from a woman.  In the end, that did not happen.  My mother had become a respected leader in the parish and her character and commitment to the church overcame the petty biases behind the uproar.  She would later become Senior Warden.  At the time of her death she was truly the matriarch of the parish.

    I have to wonder why you would support a stance that would denigrate you because of your gender.  That is the offshoot of all of this strutting and posturing by bishops and other male clergy.  They just cannot deal with the fact that they no longer “run the show” and that women (not to mention LGBTQ folks) are equal to them in their vocations.  If these folks are honest, they would also admit that they have a problem with you being in such a primary leadership role as Senior Warden.

    I served on a commission of the church with the Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon, your former bishop. We had an excellent relationship.  I would even say we had become friends.  We discussed such issues as a bishop trying to take a diocese out of the church.  Sadly, he could have put an end to such talk in South Carolina but he did not.  Had he exercised what I truly believe he thought was right, things would have turned out differently.

    It’s interesting that you support Mark Lawrence’s positions.  There was no concurrence with his election as bishop the first time.  He subsequently made promises that he would NOT try and take the Diocese of South Carolina out of The Episcopal Church. He then received concurrence on the second election. Obviously, he lied.  Can you in good conscience support someone who does not tell the truth and lies to the entire church?

    You may wonder why I would bother to write to you.  I have a number of friends in South Carolina who have experienced great pain at the hands of those you support.  As a gay man, I am angry that you choose to dump all of the problem on my tribe when we were never the problem at all.  I also serve as the national President of Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow.  There are members of Integrity and parishes that have publicly stated their support and affirmation of LGBTQ+ folks in South Carolina and all over the country.  I have an obligation to defend them against what are false accusations used to further ongoing biases and discrimination.

    In all of the myriad of discussions about these issues, which boil down to who is “in” and who is “out” there is little discussion about a very important conversation that conveyed Jesus’ position.  When asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded thusly:  You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and soul and mind and strength.  This is the first and great commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    There has never been as asterisk anywhere that listed exclusions of who we are to love as our neighbor.  That is because there are no such exclusions.    One need only turn to the story of the Good Samaritan to see how broadly Jesus intended love to be between and among us. There were no limits or exclusions.

    I sincerely hope that you might reconsider what you told your congregation and perhaps even apologize to them.  Consider this:  There was at least one or two young people who were coming to terms with the fact that they were LGBTQ when you trashed them as a group.  Consider the damage you inflicted upon them.  Could you truly be proud of doing that?  Are you aware that the attempted suicide and suicides among LGBTQ+ young people are considerably higher than their straight counterparts and that much of it is attributable to oppression by religious organizations?  Do you support that oppression?  If you do not, then an apology is certainly in order.

    Regardless of our differences, I do wish you the Peace of Christ.


















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



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