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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.

  • Fear of Defilement??

    February 15, 2019 - 5:16 am

    The reading from the Gospels for today’s Daily Office is the passage from Mark where Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes over how they practice some of the rituals of their faith.  The Pharisees have asked Jesus why his disciples don’t always wash their hands in the ritual fashion before meals. He uses their misinterpretation of the law to catch them in their hypocrisy. First it is their way of getting around the commandment to honor father and mother by giving money to the temple.  They can then claim they don’t have the resources needed to honor their father and their mother. Jesus then goes on to note that it is not what goes into a person that defiles that person. Instead it is what comes out of that person...whether from the mouth or their heart. What goes into a person enters the mouth, goes through the digestive system and out into the sewer.  Defilement is not from what you eat or touch. Defilement comes from the heart.

    My thoughts turned to the eight bishops who have tried to refuse to allow same sex couples to be married in their dioceses.  The question came to mind wondering what the source of their fear might be. I think they are afraid of being “defiled” by allowing same sex marriages!  How on earth allowing a marriage can defile someone falls into the category of what Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes. How could ANY marriage defile the officiant or her/his bishop?  It can’t.

    Those who have made arrangements for another bishop to oversee parishes that wish to allow same sex marriages are not off the hook with that maneuver either.  They have just found another route to avoid being “defiled” themselves.

    Regardless of the arrangements or lack thereof, all eight of these bishops are playing the same game.  In that process, they are failing to meet the pastoral needs of people for whom they have vowed to provide pastoral care.  

    Look at the ministry of Jesus.  He dismissed defilement as ludicrous in the sense that was being played out in His day.  He touched those deemed ritually unclean such as dead bodies and lepers. He upended the “rules” used to avoid caring for those who needed care.  It did not matter to Jesus.

    It seems to me that the attitude of these eight bishops is as ludicrous as the issues of ritual purity were in Jesus’ day.  Do they honestly think that allowing same sex marriages in their dioceses can defile them in any way? If that is how they think, I question both their theology and the seminaries that taught them to believe such nonsense.  

    Gentle bishops:  Your vocation is to be a pastor to ALL within your diocesan flock.  You do not get to “hand off” those with whom you do not want to engage, however much you disagree with them.  Our canon law provides for certain rites to be available to all. It is not your discretion to create exceptions.  Open your hearts. Defilement comes FROM the heart not from touching another either figuratively or literally. What, gentlemen, do you fear?  Could your fear be of yourselves? Only you can answer that.

    Bruce Garner, Past President
    Integrity USA:  The Episcopal Rainbow  

  • Presiding Bishop Seeks To Enforce Resolution B012

    January 12, 2019 - 5:29 am

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

    This is the link to the entire document containing the restrictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bruce Garner, Past President
    Integrity USA:  The Episcopal Rainbow  

  • What Are You Planning To Do This Year?

    January 9, 2019 - 8:16 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bruce Garner, Past President
    Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow

  • Transitioning never is easy

    January 4, 2019 - 7:22 am

    Dear Integrity members and friends:

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

  • Seasons of Love

    September 24, 2018 - 5:44 pm

    Seasons of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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