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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.

  • Friends

    January 12, 2018 - 10:03 am

    Friends

    The Integrity Window, or St. Aelred Window,
    was dedicated April 2 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church,
    Fargo, North Dakota.
    Today is the second Friday of a new year, the 12th day of January. By happenstance (or divine intervention?), January 12 is also a very important day for Integrity. It is the feast day of our patron saint, St Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx. I don’t know how much most who will read this know about Aelred, other than being our patron saint. The background information in the Episcopal Church's "Holy Women, Holy Men" (formerly known as "Lesser Feasts and Fasts") is very clear that Aelred placed great value on friendship. It also notes that the monks in his monastery were allowed to hold hands.


    Some information can be found at Forward Movement and a reading for services honoring Aelred in his “Treatise on Spiritual Friendship.” Some additional resources are listed on Integrity's web site at http://www.integrityusa.org/aelred. In the figure shown above, the Integrity Window, or St. Aelred Window, was dedicated April 2 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo, North Dakota.


    Obviously I would view the information about Aelred from a different mindset than someone who is not queer. Regardless of that, it is very difficult not to find at a very minimum a “gay friendly” aspect of Aelred’s teachings. Yet our society, and the church of course, has not really owned that possibility. How many do we know who just cannot find a thing supportive of anything “gay” in Scripture or the teachings of the church over the centuries? It’s not surprising. The queer folks had to hide in order to survive. And a straight guy is rarely going to see anything other than “straightness” when he looks at something.


    So as this new year begins, I urge us all to look for, nurture, and support the type of friendship Aelred describes and taught in his monastery. Who knows? That might be a way forward in a society that seems to keep us stuck in one way of viewing things.






















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow





    P. S. Thoughts for the upcoming week: think about how our lives as queer folks has changed in the last year. What gains have been pushed back, altered, or stalled? What have we done to make our feelings about that known to those whose job description is to serve the people.





    Read more...
  • A Return To Our Roots... Our Grass Roots

    January 5, 2018 - 9:13 am

    A Return To Our Roots... Our Grass Roots Integrity began as a grassroots organization founded by Dr. Louie Crew Clay over 40 years ago, essentially as a newsletter connecting lesbian and gay (LG) folks (the current language of LGBTQ+ had not yet come into existence). Initially there was little structure and no staff. Over the years a board of directors was formed and the organization grew. Even during my first tenure as Integrity’s National President, there was no paid staff and everything was done by volunteers. We even published a regular magazine entitled “Walking With Integrity.”  Yes, it was a “hard copy” publication! Over time with the growing complexity of the organization a staff person was hired as an administrator.  The face of Integrity, however, remained the face of its volunteer leadership.

    The need for an Executive Director was discerned for a season and that position as well as other positions became paid staff. Even with staff there was a need for volunteer leadership and volunteer involvement if the Integrity’s work was to be successful, particularly at the church-wide level.

    The General Convention of 2015 brought decades of work to a successful culmination with the passage of legislation that put into place the last pieces of protection and inclusion of LGBTQ+ members of our Episcopal Church. The remaining work in those areas is and will continue to be achieved at the grassroots level where individuals interact with each other to help all of us see the face of Christ in each other and without condition or exception. We are at the point where minds and hearts are changed at the one-to-one level. All ministry like that is volunteer ministry.

    The work of Integrity is far from done. The presence of 8 dioceses who refuse to allow same-sex marriages bears sad witness to the further needs. The current political climate continues to create more barriers to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in society... sometimes giving voice to similar actions within the church. Again, that witness is best made at the volunteer and local level.

    The Board of Directors of Integrity USA has recognized the need to shift the focus of the ongoing work away from paid staff and toward volunteers at all levels. Accordingly, December 31, 2017, marked the last day that Integrity USA had any paid staff.  Other than items of contract work, the work of Integrity will return to the hearts and hands of volunteers... and we will need all the hearts and hands we can find!

    It is bittersweet to say farewell to our Administrator, Laura Zeugner. She has given her time and talents to the work of Integrity far beyond what we have been able to compensate her for doing. She has stepped in and worked with our members at all levels and taken on the work needed to keep us operating, even during some less than the best of circumstances. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I extend our heartfelt thanks to her.

    As you will note elsewhere, the telephone number for Integrity USA will remain the same, just answered from a different location. The mailing address has also been changed to

    P.O. Box 70605
    Houston, TX 77270-0605 USA
    Rest assured that Houston is a huge blue”lake” in the middle of a red state!

    In closing, let me wish you a Happy 12th Day of Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a Blessed Feast of the Epiphany!












    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA


    Read more...
  • General Convention 2018: A Time to Celebrate

    September 15, 2017 - 7:07 am

    General Convention 2018: A Time to Celebrate


    Less than a year from now we will have finished General Convention (GC) 2018. This is the first opportunity Integrity USA has had to actually celebrate what happened during General Convention 2015.

    GC 2015 represented the accomplishment of a legislative mission that began in earnest about 26 years ago. At the Episcopal Church-wide level, canon law now exists that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity…among all of the other prohibited discriminations in the life of the church, access to the ordination process and a myriad of areas that impact the lives of all, but especially the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer-plus (LGBTQ+) members of the church.

    Similarly, we now have rites to celebrate same sex unions, including the first reading of changes to the language of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to make marriage rites gender neutral. These rites in conjunction with the Supreme Court ruling in July 2015, makes marriage between members of the same sex available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. We do note that the bishops of eight of the 101 domestic dioceses still do not permit same sex marriages in their dioceses, in clear violation of canon law.

    The overarching mission of Integrity USA has been accomplished at the church wide legislative/canonical level. What still remains to be accomplished needs to be done at the diocesan/parish level as grass roots missionary work.

    So yes it is time for celebration.

    Integrity USA wants to celebrate at GC 2018 in two ways: One is in staffing a booth in the exhibit hall. The other is in sponsoring a Celebratory General Convention Eucharist. The cost of both is outside our budget. So we turn to you.

    We need to raise approximately $42,500 to support our booth in the exhibit hall and to cover the expenses of a General Convention Eucharist (space rental, communion supplies, bulletins, etc., usual expenses for a large Eucharist outside our normal church setting.)          

    Those of us whose names appear below have served as national presidents of Integrity USA. We seek your prayerful support and your financial support to help us make GC 2018 a holy celebration for the accomplishments achieved over decades of work. Will you join us?



    Kim Byham
    Fred Ellis
    Bruce Garner
    Matt Haines
    Caro Hall
    Michael Hopkins
    David Norgard
    Susan Russell

    Read more...
  • The Millstone of the Nashville Statement

    September 1, 2017 - 6:27 am

    In Nashville in October of 2014, I joined about fifteen LGBTQ people who were invited to a closed-door, off-the-record conversation with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. I was disappointed, this week, to recognize the names of many from that meeting on the list of anti-LGBTQ evangelical leaders who drafted the “Nashville Statement,” a comprehensive fundamentalist Christian manifesto on sexuality and gender.

    That 2014 meeting went late into the night, and the discussion was intense. What I remember most clearly were the pleas and tears of some of these men in attendance (all of them were men) begging us to understand that they didn't hate LGBTQ people––saying how much it hurt them to have people call them “bigots” and “homophobes.”

    We ended the evening having all promised more kindness, more listening, more respect, and more dialogue, and I, perhaps naively, hoped both sides were sincerely committed to those goals moving forward.

    In the subsequent months and years that followed, and with growing intensity since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2015, they have abandoned all remaining pretense of tolerance for the LGBTQ community. Since then, they have demonized and pathologized transgender people, lobbied for bills that discriminate against LGBTQ people under the name of "religious freedom," and created a martyrdom complex for their own decreasing social relevance.

    A year after the meeting in Nashville, I traveled to Louisville, for a biblical counselor's conference on what they billed as "Transgender Confusion." At the conference, one of the Nashville Statement's signees said during his presentation that any parent with a transgender child should sever ties with the child completely––that they should abandon their child for being transgender. When asked about their responsibility to LGBTQ lives––particularly the alarming numbers of LGBTQ youth lost to suicide––the panel denied culpability, smirked at the notion of their theology being toxic or harmful, and suggested that while such deaths are tragic, the reality of eternal separation from God (damnation) was far sadder.

    Once again, there were tears because the issues of gender identity and sexuality supposedly represented a crisis at the very foundation of the Gospel and the social order itself (I've always believed that Jesus was the foundation of the Gospel, but I digress).

    And so I'm here a couple of years later, seeing and hearing the same things from these men, all crying the same crocodile tears of "loving conviction" for people they have fought so passionately to demonize and blame for their own diminishing power and influence.

    In the age and spirit of Trump, their bigotry is once again emboldened by their ties to political power. In fact, several of its prominent signatories make up the President’s faith advisory council. Much like white conservative evangelicals in the Reagan era, these desperate men feel like maybe, just maybe, they haven’t lost the culture war once and for all, and the Nashville Statement serves as proof that the old guard is still holding out.

    Their 2014 and 2015 tears, confessions, and prayers have amounted to nothing more but a revived lust for dominance, subjugation, and the placing of an unbearable burden around the necks of LGBTQ Christians. There was no love in their words and tears then, nor is there any love in their words now; and without love, God cannot be present in anything they profess.

    At the end of the day, I’m left to wonder what tears they’ll cry at the end of their time. Will they weep with remorse for lifetimes of cruelty when they find LGBTQ people in the Kingdom of Heaven? Or will they weep with disappointment and anger when they find that God is infinitely more loving and inclusive than they ever imagined?

    Justin Davis
    Queer Christian and LGBTQ Advocate



    Dates: 

    • “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” Conference 10/28-29/2014 (Start date may have been 10/27) Nashville, Tennessee, Gaylord Opry Hotel
    • “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” Pre-conference 10/5/2015, Louisville, Kentucky, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


    Homosexuality Conference: 



    Transgender Conference:







    Read more...
  • Update from Texas and the Transgender "Bathroom Bill"

    August 11, 2017 - 11:14 am

    Update from Texas and the Transgender "Bathroom Bill" As the special session of the Texas Legislature winds down, I would like to make a few observations on the life lessons I have learned as a Loud Mouthed Transgender Texan of Faith.

    With only a week to go (as of this writing) the chance of a “bathroom bill” getting passed by the Texas House of Representatives is getting smaller and smaller. We must stay vigilant during the remaining days of the special session and also be alert to the Governor’s next political move.

    First of all, I would like to say thanks to everyone who stood with and by me in so many ways that I can never fully express the love that I felt. Standing with so many other transgender/non-binary folks and our allies gave me a glimpse of what solidarity must look like. Testifying, lobbying, and sometimes even having to justify my right to exist was both daunting and lonely. For those who bought gas, put me up for the night, supplied coffee, shared a smile, sent me an encouraging Facebook post, and most especially those who reached out and gave me a hug when I was ready to give up on the world, I say "Thanks." I may have often gotten lonely but I knew that I was never truly alone. Most of you know that I can be very high strung and emotional but one of the things that always kept me grounded was the fact that on every trip to Austin, I was able to spot out fellow Episcopalians in the crowd.

    One of the sadder aspects of this battle has been both the loss of support and the lack of support that
    resulted from me making a public stand. Friends and family have either strengthened their connections or have further distanced themselves from me. I mourn for the losses. For me to be a Christ-like role model, I must be honest about myself and be very public about my support for the rights of the transgender community. God in all of Her glory will not let me rest until I have stood up for every young person who has not yet found their own identity and voice. Nor will I be able to rest until I have spoken out for every trans elder in our community who is just beginning to find their voice. I will raise my voice until we can all stand together with one voice.

    I have been disappointed in leaders, most especially certain religious leaders, who seem to lack the
    courage to publicly stand up for all of God’s children. Showing your support silently or in ways that are so safe that it renders your support to be invisible has been the toughest realization to bear. I and others like me will carry on with or without you. In the end, you are accountable to God for your own lack of courage. I have greater respect for folks who have the courage to voice opinions that are
    different than mine than I have in folks who hide in the shade and make no stand at all.

    While this battle may be winding down (at least temporarily) in my part of the world, the real battle is
    just beginning on two important fronts. First of all, we must reach out to those who have been damaged by the open hostility shown to so many trans folks of all ages. We must show love and real support to those who have lost faith in the decency of humankind. Secondly, we must find a way to educate those who did not stand with us and somehow find a way to work and walk together. After all, there will be further battles to fight. To make an ally out of a foe may be God’s toughest assignment yet, but imagine the things that we could accomplish together.

    There are so many folks that are fighting for social justice in our country at this time. I know that you are often weary and tired, but always keep in mind that YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
    Lastly, I ask that you pray that my own wounds will heal so that I may better see Christ in others.

    S Wayne Mathis
    Vice-President for Local Affairs, IntegrityUSA

    Read more...

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