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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.

  • Looking Back - Moving Forward

    September 14, 2018 - 8:19 am

    Looking Back - Moving Forward I recently learned about a church that had connections to Integrity and the LGBTQ+ community.

    The church is the old Grace Church on Canal Street in New Orleans.  Grace had weathered changing demographics and times over the years since its founding in the late 1800’s,  but was ultimately one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It was closed a number of years ago and the property returned to secular use, i.e. deconsecrated.  (As somewhat of an aside, when churches are no longer going to be used as churches, they are deconsecrated.  So if you ever danced at the Limelight Nightclub in New York City, you were not dancing in a church!  You were dancing in a building that had been a church during its lifetime.)

    The link to a story about old Grace Church is: https://realestate.nola.com/realestate-news/2018/08/grace_church_sale_canal_street.html

    While the real estate story is interesting the picture gallery that you will see if you click on the “14” in the center of the page is fascinating.  This was a parish very involved in social justice issues over its lifetime.  You will see pictures of and read about well known names such as Joe Doss, Leo Frade, and Gene Robinson, all bishops in our church.  As I recall, our Founder, Dr. Louie Crew Clay also visited this parish. The parish even bought a salvage boat from the military to help get refugees into this country! Their ministries were quite remarkable. Clergy got arrested for their work.  Read the story to find out who they were.

    How many of the churches we attend maintain any form of archives?  Have any of us looked to see if our history as LGBTQ+ folks, our history as Integrity, are included?  If we are included, I would think it to be very interesting reading and quite an education for the younger queerfolk among us (and a reminder for the older).  If our story is not there, perhaps we can contribute stories, memorabilia and items from our personal collections, writings and recollections to fill in the blanks in some places and to create the awareness in others.

    The Archives of The Episcopal Church contains a wealth of information about both the church and our story in it.  We almost got “wiped out” during my first tenure as your President in the early 1990’s.  The archivist at the time had, shall we say an “issue” with who we are, and was about to destroy the materials that had been sent for safekeeping.  Luckily we were able to have someone intervene and preserve our legacy.

    If any of us have items about Integrity, especially from the early years I think the Archives might like to have them.  Our story needs to be maintained and told over and over again, no matter how fully included we find ourselves.  As generations come and go, the story must be shared for others to appreciate the struggles and to help prevent us from losing what we have gained.

    As we move forward both as the church and as LGBTQ+ people of faith we must always keep glancing backwards as well.  What we have accomplished, the gains for inclusion we have made, have not been ours alone.  They have been the work of many people over the years who often suffered for their beliefs and the actions they took.

    We do not stand on our own. We do stand on the shoulders of every person, every child of God, who has come before us in the quest for full inclusion and participation in The Episcopal Church.  If we ever forget that, we are doomed.  Someone has paid a price for where we are.  Let us always be grateful for the people and the places that have been our mainstay.



















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow





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  • Duped? Misled? Lied to?

    September 7, 2018 - 5:33 pm

    Duped? Misled? Lied to? I have been in the process of reading a book entitled "No One Is Illegal." It was written by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis about twelve years ago.  It remains relevant and much more so than I expected.

    The book simply tells part of the story of systemic racism in our nation. "Part" is also an understatement.  While the book focuses mostly on the issue in the western/southwestern part of our country, it also connects with the same issue throughout our nation, an issue that has been a national sin for more than a couple of hundred years.

    What ignites my anger and sends my blood pressure up is the fact that essentially all of the data in the book was somehow omitted from American History classes in high school and college.  What was included was glossed over very well.  Since it began in the 1800’s, it isn’t like it had not taken place by the time I was in school!

    The early sections deal with discrimination against Asians, especially in California, referred to as the "yellow peril."  It moves on from there.  I wonder how many of us are aware that the treaty that ended the Mexican American War, ceded over half of Mexico’s land to the United States which included three fourths of her natural resources?  The land included California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and parts of Wyoming and Oklahoma. It also ended any further claim Mexico might have on Texas.  That treaty was signed in 1848.

    After the signing of the treaty, upwards of 125,000 Mexican people found themselves on the other side of a new border that made them foreigners in their ancestral homeland.  In 1848 that represented a very large number of people.  Their new nation continued to discriminate against them and mistreat them. State and Federal legislation at various time decreed that they were inferior as a race of people and deprived them of their rights. They were considered almost exclusively in the terms of their value as cheap labor.  Sound familiar?  Where would construction and the harvesting of crops be even now were it not for that distinction?  The role played by management to subjugate them was deplorable. Parts of the labor movement were complicit as well. The bottom line was keeping cheap labor as cheap as possible. Ironic for this Labor Day week, isn’t it?

    All of this specter of racism fed into that already in existence with other people whose skin color was not white.  The systemic, deliberate and planned discrimination is frightening.  Even more frightening is the role state and federal laws played into the entire process. According to the "nativist" movement, there was a need to keep the nation’s make up in line with the founders of our country: white and Anglo.

    This book is an eye opener for anyone who cannot conceive of racism as an ongoing systemic problem that goes way beyond individuals and their respective biases.  Unearned privilege also makes itself known.  We have been taught racism and discrimination, period.

    Think about how us queer folks fit into this and similar scenarios.  We are just another category that so many deem to be less than the "ideal" of being white and straight.  The difference?  Our sexual orientation is not always known and certainly not always visible.  Skin color is generally obvious.  Those who would treat others less than worthy of their full dignity as children of God can’t always "see" us, particularly when we hide in plain sight.

    I urge you to read this book as we continue to struggle through some very difficult days in our nation.  We need to know ALL of our history as a country, not just the "pretty and patriotic" parts. Who might we have devalued lately just because they don’t look quite enough like us?


















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow


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  • The Bible Says...

    August 31, 2018 - 2:42 pm

    The Bible Says... "The Bible Says..."
    Oh, Really?  What else does it say?

    Growing up in and continuing to live in "Southern Baptist-Land" the phrase "the Bible says" is one I have endured my entire life.  The vast majority of the times I heard those words spoken, they were followed with some justification for denigrating, disenfranchising or just denouncing another child of God invariably because of race, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation. (There were also more subtle denunciations due to class, economic standing and the like but it was not considered polite to note such.) Rarely did I hear anything loving and caring after I heard "the Bible says."

    One of my heros, John Pavlovitz, has penned one of the best articles about the misuse of what the Bible says that I have ever read.  I urge you to go to Christian, Stop Blaming God for Your LGBTQ-Hatred and read it.

    The Bible was used to justify racial segregation... still is, I suspect, if we are honest about it. The proponents of such a position often noted that the Bible did not forbid slavery, for example and was filled with stories about people who were enslaved.  Little if anything negative was associated with being enslaved.  There was little noted in modern usage of the cultural context of slavery in ancient days. The few times I ventured into the alleged Biblical justifications, I could only shake my head and note: “That’s not what that says!”

    We finally came to our senses, at least in appearances, when we ended the practice of slavery in the United States.  Yet reality has shown that overt slavery was replaced with a more covert version of the entity in the form of Jim Crow Laws, voter suppression, disenfranchisement and discrimination whether de facto or de jure.  We have not yet redeemed our collective soul over how we continue to treat all racial minorities  in this country.  (If you want your eyes pried wide open, read the book “No One Is Illegal.”  Some salient points seemed to have been left out of the history books when I was taught American History a few decades ago.)

    The Bible was also used to justify the subjugation, disenfranchisement and denigration of women.  Vestiges of that remain in some faith communities, namely those that do not allow women to teach males older than a certain age or participate in ordained ministry. I can’t find anything Jesus said or taught that would justify a woman being treated any less in the eyes of God (or humankind) than a man would be treated.  It is clear that Jesus did involve women in His ministry and that much of his financial support came from women.

    The closest I could find to Biblical references about the place of women were in writings attributed to Paul.  Yet again, we might want to consider the cultural context of when those "references" were written.  Women were property... the property of men.  Ponder that for a moment.  Ponder the notion that a woman was property not much differently than a slave was property.  It is helpful to also note that these narratives were initially from men who most likely treated women as property.

    It has been a very long time since I heard anything in a marriage ceremony about a father "giving" his daughter to her future husband.  I hope we have finally understood that a man's daughter (or son) is not his property to give to anyone, including a future spouse.

    Now comes the most recent group to continue to be subjected by some to "what the Bible says" thinking.  It is, sadly, not unusual to hear “the Bible says” to justify discrimination, disenfranchisement, and degradation of LGBTQ+ folks, both in the church and in secular society.  (Ironic that secular society might embrace a bad idea in support of discrimination based on the writings of a particular religious faith.)

    I would certainly hope by now that those reading this would know that the "clobber" passages from the Bible are meaningless from having been separated from the culture in which they were written and the full narrative in which they are found.  Knowing intellectually and embracing that within are two different concepts.  Many of us have been so abused by the incorrect use of Scripture that we still, deep, deep down inside still believe some of the garbage to which we have been subjected. I pray for the day when we all truly understand that the God who created us loves us exactly the way we were created.

    Isn’t it time that we recaptured the concept of what the Bible says?  The next time someone tries to subject us to "the Bible says..." how about we smile and inquire:  Have you forgotten that Jesus reminded us that the first and great commandment was to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength?  Have you forgotten that Jesus then reminded us that the second commandment was like it, that we were to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?  He followed that with a statement that on these two commandments hung all the law and the prophets.  The Bible really says to us to love... not to hate.  So you were about to tell me what the Bible says?



















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



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  • The Virus of Privilege

    August 24, 2018 - 11:21 am

    The Virus of Privilege The initial audience for this posting will be pretty close to “all white” in composition, obviously including me. We share what can be termed a virus. It’s called privilege, white privilege. The majority are probably male. We share a variant of that virus. It’s called white male privilege. Most of the initial readers are also queer. That diminishes the aspects of privilege to some degree, but only when someone knows our sexual orientation. Those among us who are female, whether cisgender or transgender, enjoy a degree of privilege ... if white, of course. More on that later.

    As a nation and perhaps somewhat less as a church, we are suffering from the infection by this virus of privilege. The symptoms include the great divisions we are experiencing. Other symptoms include the use of language and terminology that demeans and denigrates those who do not happen to be white. Our immigration policies reflect this virus. We would not have nearly the hand wringing and angst (or nasty language) if those seeking refuge among us had lighter skin tones. We, of course, do not talk much about these issues, but it doesn’t take much to discern that from the words that get used.

    Privilege makes us think we are entitled to more than we are based on our skin color and our gender. We have been conditioned (brainwashed?) into thinking that there is some inherent superiority in being white and male. It makes me wonder how much of that type of thinking went into the pictorial depictions of Jesus as having blond hair and blue eyes. Did some folks have a problem relating to a Savior who had the olive skin, brown eyes and black hair of an ethnic Jew from the Middle East? I suspect so. Why else would be create such fantasies?

    Is our notion of white privilege what prompts so many to say with some bitterness “ALL lives matter” when brought face to face with the necessity of someone else simply stating that “Black Lives Matter?” Why would we jump to such an impulsive and poorly thought out response if we didn’t somehow believe in such privilege? When a Black woman comes to tears when considering bringing a child into this world, we should open our eyes and take notice. I do not think I have ever heard a white parent speak about having to warn a son about what to wear, how to drive, how to speak, how to carry themselves for fear of being arrested, shot at or even killed because they came across as some racist stereotype of people of color. Dirt poor white parents do not feel a need to have those conversations. Very wealthy Black parents know how necessary such conversations are to survival.

    I am painfully aware of how the color of my skin has benefited me in my life. I know that God has indeed blessed my life. At the same time I am keenly aware that some of what I might mistakenly call a blessing are more evidence of the ingrained nature of white (male) privilege.

    I am trying to learn how to respond in a Christ like manner when a straight white male tells me how I should or should not feel or react or handle something. The stark reality is that however well intentioned such “advice” might be, it comes from those who have absolutely no clue what being queer is all about AND who have absolutely no authority to tell a queer person anything at all about responding to prejudice, bias, homophobia or the like. At times the best response is to just walk away. Then I have to remind myself that walking away does nothing to correct the ignorance that warranted such “advice” in the first place.

    Even though most of my comments have been about males, females are not immune to the virus of white privilege or straight white privilege. My suspicion is that the observations I have made about women is that they are more prone to think before creating a situation where they might find their foot in their mouth up to the knee. However, I’ve also had more than ample evidence to the contrary as well. I have been sorely disappointed when straight white women exhibit the same or similar infection with the virus of white privilege.

    We are called to responsibilities in helping insure the creation of the beloved community. We are also called to try and bring some bridges to place across the divides among us. That is the Gospel message. The unfortunate, dare I say tragic, circumstances in our nation make this a more difficult task than it has been in many decades in our nation. Bubbling below the surface has always been the spectre of slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK and all sorts of incarnations of hatred and racism. We find ourselves facing a daunting task, a task for which we are equipped by our faith if we will only speak out. In my part of the country the standard response to these issues has often been: “We don’t talk about such things.” Well it is now time to talk about “such things.” How much further must our moral compass drift before we do engage in such discussions?

    What has our privilege done for us today? Hopefully we used it to benefit someone else.


















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow





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  • A Voice That Gave Hope - Now a Heavenly Voice

    August 17, 2018 - 9:09 pm

    A Voice That Gave Hope - Now a Heavenly Voice Amazing Grace; Chain, Chain, Chain; Natural Woman; R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - songs associated with one voice: That of Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul. Her death this week brought an end to several eras. Her voice uplifted the downtrodden during the civil rights era. Her voice helped us understand the dignity and worth of women. Her voice was part of my years of coming of age in the sixties and early seventies. Her voice was that of the very first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her voice now enhances the heavenly chorus... and everyone is trying hard to just keep up!

    Like so many, especially in the south, her voice came out of singing in a church choir. Her father recognized talent and cultivated it. News stories spoke of the insistent but apparently gentle power she wielded over other musicians and artists during recording sessions and concerts. Invariably, they admitted that whatever she suggested was better than what they had planned. Her musical talents were extraordinary.

    Some didn’t actually “get” the significance of what was lost when she died. Some had long ago missed the messages in her songs about freedom, respect and dignity. Some couldn’t grasp her healing voice and the work it had played during the years to revive those who had been knocked down and who some hoped would not stand back up.

    The last 22 or so months have been so difficult for so many of us. We struggle to find ways to express ourselves and interact with others who have not felt any negative impact on who they are, their source of income, how they express their gender/identity, the color of their skin or their nation of origin. People have apparently been given some "permission" to say things they would not have said two years ago.

    The Attorney General of the United States remarks that the number of foreign born in this country is getting to be too high. It doesn’t take much thought and little imagination to interpret that to mean that there are too many people here with black or brown skin, i.e., not white... like him (and me). Add that to the string of statements made about ridding the military of trans folks, homosexuals, and those living with HIV. Even while a diversion is created in one area, underhanded actions against so many take place in relative secrecy.

    Yet... so many still do nothing. It is only necessary for good people to do nothing for evil to triumph. We live in times of evil actions. Dare I say we live in evil times?

    I wonder how much money do some folks feel they absolutely have to have? 40 million dollars? A billion dollars? Do I hear a trillion? Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and join Jesus’ ministry. The young man walked away. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t sell all he had.

    How "white" do we need to remain as a nation to satisfy some folks concerns? Jesus was an ethnic Jew from the Middle East most likely with dark brown eyes and black hair. It just isn’t accurate to depict Jesus as a blue-eyed blond haired dude to meet the comfort level of some who still have issues with skin that isn’t white.

    What level of abuse of women is considered "acceptable"? Are suggestive jokes to be tolerated? Is unequal pay for the same work simply the way it has to be? Must a woman be expected to just "deal" with gropes and leers in order to keep her job? The list is much longer of what some expect others to tolerate regardless of the consequences.

    What limits do some want to place on the human and civil rights of queer folk? Where can we live? Where can we serve our nation? To what professions are we restricted? What are grounds for putting us in detention camps?

    Where are those who truly follow Jesus Christ? Sure, we can hold rallies and marches that attract hundreds of thousands all across the country. Where are the others, the other millions who either do not care or do not have the guts to speak out.

    I’ve grown weary of others telling me that I have to suck it up if they want to allow their religious beliefs and practices to discriminate against me due to my sexual orientation. It’s not religion. It’s bigotry and prejudice.

    We still have a voice my kindred in Christ. We STILL have a voice. Elections are going on right now, leading up to November. So tell me, when did you last challenge the bigoted stance of a candidate running in your area? When did you stand up at a town hall meeting and ask a direct and pointed question? When did you last pick up the telephone, type a text or email or write a plain ordinary letter expressing your views?

    If we do nothing we deserve what happens to us. We follow one who sought justice for all. It cost him his life. Is the cost of a call, a text, an email or a postage stamp too great for our freedom? Time will tell. Time will indeed tell.

    The Queen sang “Amazing Grace.” What will our song be? One of triumph or a pitiful whine?

    Please continue to offer prayers for healing and recovery for our Presiding Bishop as he rests and recuperates from prostate cancer surgery.



















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



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Older posts from Walking with Integrity can be found at http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com