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Start a New Chapter!

Table of Contents Forms & Tools

 


God bless you as you begin forming an Integrity chapter!  Below are some guidelines to help you.

Overview

  1. Join Integrity. Chapters of Integrity are formed by members of Integrity and are chartered in recognition of the collective ministry those members choose to pursue in furtherance of the goals of Integrity, to which they subscribe. Although ten members will be needed to certify the chapter, don't wait to get any other members--let alone ten--before you join. This is probably the most frequent error people make in forming chapters.
  2. Contact your provincial coordinator and the national office.  Use your provincial coordinator as a frequent advisor. Feel free to call her/him often and ask lots of questions. If s/he doesn't know an answer, request s/he find out and get back to you. Chapter development is his/her primary responsibility. Vice Presidents have funds available in their Regional treasuries to help chapters-in-formation. Be sure to ask!
  3. Find other persons who are members or are interested in joining Integrity. The more, the better. Get your group together and go over the purposes and objectives of Integrity, so everyone understands and is committed to the organization. Discuss the kinds of things you would want to accomplish as a chapter. Ask them to join Integrity. Send in their memberships as you receive them; don't wait until you have ten.
  4. Establish an address. Integrity requires that chapters have either a post office box or a church or other institutional address. Home addresses are not acceptable as they change so frequently.
  5. Fill out the "Request for Chapter in-Formation Status" form. Your provincial coordinator can grant you permission to form and the right to use the name "Integrity.".
  6. Ask people to become members of Integrity.  Click here to order membership brochuresClick here to download a membership form that you can use while you are waiting for the brochures to arrive. 
  7. Secure a regular place and time for meeting. Corporate worship, e.g., the Eucharist or Evening Prayer, should be part of each meeting. An Episcopal parish or other Episcopal institution is best. Members homes are often good for social occasions, but some persons, especially newcomers, feel uncomfortable in intimate surroundings and prefer the more impersonal aspects of a church or institution for regular meetings. Send in the memberships quickly; never hold on to one for more than a month.
  8. Review with the members and potential members the tasks that need to be done. Some of them are:
  9. Keeping financial records.
  10. Maintaining an up-to-date membership list and mailing list. (Not necessarily the same.)
  11. Developing membership.
  12. Publicizing your existence and activities.
  13. Coordinating and arranging for the Eucharist or other worship that is part of your regular meeting. This task includes securing the celebrant and/or preacher.
  14. Setting up programs and/or activities as they are desired. Utilize speakers from among community organizations, mental health programs, AIDS care givers, and churches.
  15. Planning and carrying out social events just to have fun together.
  16. Writing the chapter bylaws. Click here for model bylaws.
  17. Designing a chapter logo and/or banner. (Optional, but fun.)
  18. Secure volunteers or make appointments. Note: If there is no interest in helping, that is a clear message to consider. No chapter succeeds as a one-person show.

To Become a Chapter-in-Formation, you need:

  1. One member of Integrity;
  2. A name and address for the chapter (not a home address); and
  3. To submit the form: "Request for Chapter-in-Formation Status."

Upon completion of these requirements, you will receive a letter from the Secretary stating that you are a Chapter-in-Formation.

Please note: You may not publicly identify yourself as an Integrity chapter until you receive your Chapter-in-Formation letter.

A Common Misimpression: You don't need 10 members to become a chapter-in-formation; you only need one. However, the sooner people join Integrity the more likely your chapter is to succeed.


 To Become a Certified Chapter you need:

  1. To be a Chapter-in-Formation;
  2. Ten members of Integrity;
  3. To have held at least one public meetings within the last 60 days;
  4. To have filled out the annual chapter report while your chapter was in-formation;
  5. To adopt Chapter bylaws and submit a copy to national Integrity; and
  6. To submit a petition requesting to be certified by the national board.

To Remain an Active Chapter, you must:

  1. Submit an annual report on your chapter to the National Office;
  2. Remain in frequent contact with your provincial coordinator;
  3. Maintain a minimum of ten members;
  4. Maintain an active address;
  5. Meet at least three times a year; and
  6. Actively pursue the goals and purposes of Integrity

Tips for Healthy Chapters:

  1. Have representatives at Regional and National Integrity conventions;
  2. Meet at least annually with their bishop(s);
  3. Have a booth at annual diocesan convention;
  4. Undertake at least one service project each year; and
  5. Aid Integrity's efforts at the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church by pledging money and/or other assistance.

Click here for a chapter wellness self-assessment instrument.


Other Ideas and Information

Getting the Word Out

Consider the following:

  • Brochures (obtainable from National) to be left at parishes
  • Business cards to be left at area bars and community centers.
  • A permanent telephone number with an answering machine.
  • A speakers' bureau to dialogue with local parishes.
  • Notices in local lesbian/gay press. Most will print all notices sent them. A generic press release is attached.
  • Ads in local lesbian/gay press. Your Region will pick up part of this cost.
  • Listing in "Gayellow Pages" and similar guide books. These are free.
  • Listing in local newspaper's section on community organizations.
  • Articles and notices in Diocesan publications.
  • Worship

    Worship is central to the concept of Integrity as an organization and should be part of every Integrity meeting. Worship empowers us to do God's work in the community and the Church, to appreciate God's love and learn how to share it with others.

    As worship is planned, consider the wide variety of personal preferences, and try to reach everyone at some time. Simplicity is best. Be festive for special occasions to the extent it fits your group and its capabilities. You might, for instance, plan a special service on or near Integrity's patronal festival, St. Aelred's Day, January 12.

    Make the worship lively. Integrity strongly recommends use of inclusive language liturgies. As you may know, these liturgies are still in a trial stage and permission to use them must be obtained from your bishop. Since your's will not be a Sunday morning service, there should be no objection from your bishop. A courtesy letter to him/her saying, "We're sure we have your permission to use inclusive language liturgies," should suffice. Inclusive language both makes women more welcome and it makes all of us conscious of the prejudice our society has imposed on us --that one sex is inferior to another.

    Fund Raising

    Be creative fund raisers. Plan a yard sale, bake sale or car wash. Unfortunately, the lack of money can be the barrier you encounter most often in carrying out your plans. Some chapters ask the membership for a regular pledge as a sign of their commitment. Most take a collection. Let your members know what the chapter's plans are and why their financial involvement is important. Keep them informed about how their money is being managed through frequent reports. Remember, in addition to local projects, National needs very large amounts of money each three years to pay for Integrity's presence at General Convention.

    Your Region

    Your provincial coordinator is your friend, your advisor, and your representative on the National Board of Directors. Use him/her frequently.

    Take part in your annual regional convention. They are tremendous sources of revitalization, information and friends. No one can carry out the ministry of Integrity in a vacuum; we all rely on each other. Try to visit other chapters whenever possible. Arrange inter-chapter meetings in your area.

    Membership and Dues

    There are no categories of "local" and "national" members in chapters, because chapters of Integrity are formed by dues-paying members of Integrity who choose to associate with one another for greater effectiveness in their pursuit of Integrity's objectives. Individuals may join Integrity and choose not to affiliate with an active chapter locally, but no one may belong to a chapter of Integrity, without paying the established national dues.

    Chapters receive 30% from each membership (new or renewing) when a member says they're affiliated with a particular active chapter.  The local portion of dues are distributed quarterly by the national treasurer.

    Chapters may, of course, include non-members in their fellowships and on their mailing lists. There should be continuing efforts to encourage such persons to become members. Chapters may wish to establish "scholarship funds" to assist those who are financially unable to afford national dues.

    A list of your chapter membership as it appears on the national computer record will be sent to your chapter quarterly. Please make an effort to review this list and promptly send corrections.

    Dialog with the Episcopal Church

    Meet with your bishop at least once a year in person and communicate regularly with her/him by phone and mail. Unless s/he is openly hostile, invite her/him to celebrate the Eucharist frequently.

    Have a booth at your diocesan convention. This is the easiest way to reach virtually all of the clergy and opinion leaders in your diocese. You just need to have a display and be prepared to engage in dialogue. National will provide materials if you ask sufficiently in advance. Here is a built-in opportunity to offer the services of the chapter's membership in promoting dialogue on human sexuality within the Episcopal Church. Make other opportunities, but don't overlook this one.

    Offer the services of your membership, hopefully with an organized speakers' bureau, in promoting dialogue on human sexuality within the Episcopal Church.

    Newsletter

    Newsletters are essential even if they are a single page. It is an excellent way of establishing and maintaining the network so important to a chapter's success.

    One chapter recently revived its newsletter after a four-year hiatus. Membership tripled in six months! Newsletters also help maintain contact with members who no longer feel the need for frequent fellowship but who still support Integrity's purposes and goals.

    Taxpayer ID Number and Tax Exemption

    This is an issue which can easily become confused, but it is actually rather simple. Actually, it's three simple issues.

    Integrity has a tax-payer ID number. It has the same number of digits as a social security number and is issued by the Social Security Department. We do not publish this number because it would allow anyone to open an account in our name without our knowledge. If your chapter in formation wants to open an account using the national ID number, simply contact the Treasurer and s/he will give it to you. This is not necessary, however, since you can simply get your own number from the Social Security office in your city. They are used to giving them to unincorporated charitable bodies.

    The second issue is federal income tax exemption.   Integrity received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service in 1981 stating that Integrity is included in the 501(c)(3) exemption of the Episcopal Church. The group ruling number is 2304. We have long taken the position that Integrity chapters are included under the church's umbrella, just as are individual Episcopal parishes throughout the country. We have been successful in persuading the post office of this when chapters have sought tax-exempt rates for bulk mailings.

    Thirdly are exemptions from sales taxes. Integrity chapters are entitled to such exemptions in most states. Integrity successfully sought such status for General Convention in Michigan in 1988. Usually the federal exemption will suffice, but you must fill out the appropriate state forms.

    Becoming a Certified Chapter

    To become a certified chapter you must submit a "Petition for Certification as a Chapter of Integrity" form.  Certifications of new chapters usually occur at the semi-annual Board meetings. Please check with your provincial coordinator so that your materials may be timely submitted. The bylaws will require careful examination and must be submitted to the Secretary not less than one month prior to the Board meeting incorporating the Chapter

    Only about six chapters around the country are incorporated in the state in which they are located. While this provides some legal protection to the board members, it is difficult to imagine that it is necessary for a chapter with less than $5000 in annual income and which owns no real property. If you are interested in incorporating, please contact a lawyer in your area as the laws vary by state.


    Tasks to be Shared

    Membership Development

    Ask someone to be in charge of membership development. A membership program includes gaining new members as well as maintaining current members. Keep in mind that there is nothing preventing you from soliciting non-gay members. Ask the supportive clergy in your area to join.

    Worship

    Appoint a worship coordinator or chaplain. It is no small task to arrange celebrants and preachers for your regular worship services. If there are a number of willing clergy volunteers, consider having two at a time -- a celebrant and a preacher. Don't ask the same person more than 25% of the time unless it is unavoidable. If you have a willing and able clergy member who would like to serve as Chaplain, you are quite fortunate. Please note, an Integrity chaplaincy is primarily pastoral and only secondarily liturgical. In other words, your chaplain will make a great back-up if the celebrant doesn't show up, but s/he should not be expected to act as the group's principal preacher or celebrant.

    Program

    Appoint a program coordinator. Ask those who attend what they want and then find ways of satisfying them. Bring in speakers from community organizations. It's amazing how many resources exist in any community, reading for the tapping. Check with mental health organizations for speakers on stress, relationships or counseling. Establish rap groups if someone is skilled in that area. Clergy can provide exciting programs on Biblical themes and current church issues. The National Integrity Office currently has two Integrity videotapes which make excellent programs; one is Professor John Boswell speaking on "1500 Years of the Church Blessing Same-Sex Relationships: It's Nothing New" and "Integrity's Presence at General Convention." Your provincial coordinator would also be happy to visit you and discuss Integrity. And don't hesitate to invite other National Officers as well.

    Mail

    Someone should check the mail box at least every other week. Don't worry, there will be lots of mail.

    Special Events/Socials

    Appoint a social coordinator. Remember to have fun! Plan potluck suppers, one-day outings to amusement parks, joint picnics or worship services with other lesbian/gay organizations (e.g., MCC, Dignity, PFLAG, student groups, political coalitions). Remember, the two most unfriendly places for newcomers are Episcopal coffee hours and gay bars. Don't let your chapter emulate them. Make sure that you plan events that include everyone -- or are frequent enough that people don't feel excluded by being unable to partake in a certain event. Find a project or two where the membership is asked to reach out to others. This could mean getting involved in a soup kitchen, clothes closet or playing Santa Claus to the residents of a home for older adults.

    Treasurer

    Even before you have formal bylaws, you need to appoint a highly responsible person to be in charge of handling the chapter's money.  Next to convener, this is the most important post and the failure to properly fill it has caused considerable problems.


    Generic Press Release

    CONTACT: Name 
    PHONE: Number
    EMAIL: E-mail

    Date
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Integrity--a national organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender [GLBT] Episcopalians--is forming a new chapter in the area area. The next meeting will be on date, time, at location. For more, information, contact name, e-mail, phone

     Integrity was founded in 1974 and has grown to some 60 chapters in the United States. There are, in addition, chapters in Canada, Australia, Africa, and members in various parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The organization is open to all who support GLBT in the Episcopal Church. Members include several bishops and many supportive clergy. Most Integrity chapters meet in Episcopal churches. Integrity's goal is to share God's inclusive love with the Episcopal Church and the GLBT community. To do this, Integrity chapters sponsor worship services, educational programs, social events, and outreach activities.

    For more information about Integrity, visit www.integrityusa.org.

    -30-

    Proclaiming God's inclusive love in and through the Episcopal Church since 1975.


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