Join

Integrity USA

Walking with Integrity
Email List

Enter your e-mail address to receive blog posts by e-mail!

Click here to unsubscribe from the e-mail list, change your e-mail address, or modify your subscription options.

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.

  • What a difference 25 years makes!

    September 28, 2018 - 8:35 pm

    What a difference 25 years makes! My second opportunity to serve Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow draws to a close in a couple of days, which gives me an opportunity to reflect on a few things. Yes it is a long reflection but I hope you will bear with me.

    My first term as President began in 1990, almost exactly 25 years before this current term began.  We had gotten our foot in the door on issues of inclusion and begun to tell our stories, to evangelize if you will, The Episcopal Church about what it was like as queer persons.  The General Convention of 1991 resulted in some progress in our ministry, including two openly queer Deputies coming out on the floor of the House of Deputies: one a lesbian priest, the other a gay layman. A few jaws dropped, but a new era had begun.  We could now speak for ourselves in the councils of the church rather than rely on our much beloved straight allies.

    Over the course of those 25 years we managed, with the help of non-LGBTQ+ allies and other organizations similar to us, to attain goals we had only dreamed of achieving: appointments to Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards (CCAB’s); passage of revisions to the canons and constitution of our church to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression/identity; election of two openly LGBTQ+ bishops; and, in 2015, marriage equality. Those were just the highlights of how our ministry managed to help in changing the heart and mind of our church.  As eight bishops have demonstrated to the entire church, there is much left to be done for full inclusion of queerfolk at the provincial, diocesan and parish levels. Our ministry needs to return to its roots if we are all to benefit from being truly full members of our church.

    The board was larger in my first term as President.  Gay white males were in the majority. There was no one on the board of color and I don’t recall anyone not being LGBTQ+.  We frequently used the term lesbigay to describe ourselves. If memory is correct, our beloved founder coined that term. The concept of transgender had not actually jelled at that point in history. We were all volunteers and there was no paid staff.  To make us all feel our ages, internet communications and social media platforms such as we have now were in their infancies if they existed at all.   Paper ruled when it came to publications!

    The board whose term began with my being recycled as President was very different.  There are only six of us:  Three are transgender women; one is a cisgender straight white woman; one is a gay Asian male.  I’m the sole gay white male on the current board.  It has been an absolute delight to work with these talented and dedicated folks for the last three years.  We have generally faced the challenges given us with as much grace as we could muster, appropriate humor, little if any rancor among us, and what I have found to be a deeply moving faith in God and respect for each other.  Under the circumstances, I don’t think I could have wanted a more appropriate board for the mission we have been given.

    Our mission ran into challenges pretty early in our terms.  The largest then and continuing now is money.  It takes financial resources for a national non-profit organization to carry out its mission, no matter what that mission might be.  We continue to struggle to meet expectations we place on ourselves and that members of our organization place on us.  That has been more difficult with the move from even minimal paid staff to all volunteer “staff” in the form of the board itself.  We continue to find things that need to be fixed and/or things that are not working as planned or sometimes even working at all.  I think it would be an understatement to say that we did not know exactly what we were getting into when we offered ourselves in service to Integrity. Yet, we have persisted and we have made progress….even if not as much as we or our constituents might have wanted. The board is well aware that much work remains to be done, particularly in updating records of various sorts.

    I personally had no clue about what I was stepping into when I ran for Integrity’s President.  Let’s just say that I was in for some surprises.  I do not want to impute guilt, fault or blame.  I do want to make some observations as my term ends.  I hope those observations might assist my successor(s) and might offer insight to our membership.

    I put my name forward for President comfortable, so I thought, in the knowledge that I had almost 35 years of experience in non-profit boards and management. That experience taught me some valuable lessons:

    • Any type of paid staff requires a reliable and ongoing source of funding.  Office space, even minimal square footage, also requires a reliable and ongoing source of funding. Integrity didn’t and still doesn’t have those reliable and ongoing funding resources.  Grants alone do not achieve that aspect of financial success.  It takes a fairly complex source of funding to insure what is needed for a physical presence and paid staff to occupy that space.
    • The staff, especially the executive level staff, of a non-profit organization must have experience in managing a non-profit, particularly one that has a national scope.  Similarly, staff who are charged with unique aspects of the mission, fundraising for example, must also have experience in their areas of responsibility.   To be successful, a non-profit must have experienced staff in key positions who understand both the operation of nonprofits and development of resources.  Success is not a likely outcome when the experience is not there.  That isn’t necessarily a reflection on individuals as much as it is recognition of some of the facts of life for a non-profit.
    • Accountability is an absolute necessity.  Questions, including the difficult questions, must be asked and answered.  This is particularly true around issues of finances. Where is the money being spent?  Who is bringing in money?  Who is responsible for controlling how spending follows the budget?  Both board members and staff are obligated to ask and respond to  the questions needed to insure that the institution is a sound one from a myriad of aspects.
    • Transitions between administrations and key staff positions require detailed planning and interaction between those leaving positions and those coming into positions.  Someone new to an organization must know what is expected and where they can find the information/resources they need to accomplish their jobs. 
    The above are the major issues that faced us as a board when we took office in 2015.  As a result of the fact that these issues had not been addressed, we found ourselves looking at a bleak picture.  Even though upper level paid staff had already been laid off due to lack of funds to pay their salaries, we had to proceed to gradually eliminate the rest of the paid staff for the same reason.  That was done first by reducing hours until ultimately it became clear that we could not afford any paid staff at all, even on a part time basis. Sadly, during that process we also learned of how little transition planning had taken place.

    My profound praise and gratitude is due my colleagues on this board for staying the course as we became more fully aware of our situation.  To say that this was a learning experience would be to make a ridiculous understatement.  We did our best at fund raising by appealing to those who had elected us.  Development experience wasn’t really a skill any of us brought to the table, but we tried... and we managed to keep the boat floating on the water and will hand the tiller to new leadership with money in the bank and few financial obligations other than bank fees and post office box rent and what is needed to maintain our web presence.

    So what is next?  A lot of that will be up to the membership of our organization.  Are we willing to continue to pledge our financial support?  Will we encourage others to join the organization?  Will we engage at the local level to help insure that those who are LGBTQ+ will indeed occupy a place that is equal to all others in our church? Will we commit ourselves to working for full equality in those dioceses where bias, prejudice and inequality continue to hold sway?

    Perhaps most importantly, we support the incoming board with our prayers and support.  We support our new President, the Rev. Gwen Fry in her work and her own personal journey to be her authentic self. We support the right for all of God’s children to be exactly who they were created to be and live their authentic selves in our church and our society.

    The future of Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow is in our collective hands.  I pray we will rise to the tasks before us and continue to build the bridges needed for those who come after us.  Farewell and Godspeed, my friends!


















    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow



    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



    Read more...
  • 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



    Read more...
  • 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





    Read more...
  • 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


    Read more...

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