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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.

  • 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

  • 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


    • “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:

  • 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

  • Transgender Discrimination at the Highest Levels of Government

    July 27, 2017 - 12:40 pm

    Transgender Discrimination at the Highest Levels of Government

    I find myself baffled at the just plain old meanness and nastiness of the Trump Administration. Trump himself seems to delight in being mean to others. He has clearly shown himself to be what he has been all along: a bully, an insecure man who demands loyalty and cannot cope with those who do not hand over their loyalty to him. Perhaps someone should remind him that loyalty per his own oath of office and that of every federal employee is to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It is not to pledge loyalty to any single individual or group….just to the Constitution.

    His stance against transgender men and women serving in the United States military is not justifiable by any logical measure. But then again, we are not dealing with logic here. Any person who wants to serve or is serving in the military should be judged by only one standard: Does she or he meet the mental and physical requirements to serve. Those are essentially the same for cisgender men and women. Why should there be a different standard for transgender men and women? There should not be. Anything else is purely and blatantly discrimination based on gender expression and gender identity. Such discrimination is wrong and unjustifiable.

    Trump’s position, regardless of what his military “experts” tell him is at odds with the policies of our major allies. Canada, Australia and Israel, to name only three, all allow transgender women and men to serve in their military units. Are we really so arrogant that we think they are wrong and we are right here?

    Integrity USA stands in support of transgender women and men serving in our military.

    We do so with the full backing of The Episcopal Church. Canon law in The Episcopal Church prohibits discrimination against transgender women and men (as well as a host of other variations in the human expression of sexuality, ability, etc.). “The law,” so to speak is on the books and has been for several years now.

    I urge everyone who reads this to do exactly what I have been imploring all to do for months now: call, email, write, visit your elected representatives in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Make your opinions known. Cite the canon law that governs our church. Cite basic human dignity and decency. Cite the decisions rendered by a number of courts that prohibits such discrimination.

    It is time to raise some hell, my kindred in Christ. It’s time we flipped the tables of the money changers in the Temple. Our transgender kinfolk need us now more than ever.

    Remember that when the civil and human rights of any begin to be chipped away by prejudice, bigotry, meanness and nastiness, there is nothing to prevent those same bigots from going after the other civil and human rights we have. Speak out. Silence will still equal death.

    Bruce Garner
    President, Integrity USA

  • June 30 Friday Flash (reposted again)

    July 4, 2017 - 2:54 pm

    Tuesday, July 4, 2017 Friday Flash June 30 (Reposting second attempt)

    This is the URL to what appears below. I'm experimenting to see if what ultimately gets posted is the same as what appears on Walking With Integrity. Being mostly a luddite with this stuff, please bear with me as I learn the processes. Thanks, Bruce

    Today is the last day of June. This brings what is traditionally known as “Gay Pride Month” to a close. The “title” has been changed through the years so that it is actually “LGBTQ+ Pride Month now to reflect our intentional recognition that it includes others than those who identify as lesbian or gay. Celebrations, parades, demonstrations have been happening all around the country with most last weekend, the traditional anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that began the civil rights movement aimed at LGBTQ+ people.

    Do we have a reason to celebrate? To be proud of who we are as LGBTQ+ people, and in our case LGBTQ+ people of faith?

    The answer is complex and can be answered as yes and no. Yes, because we should be justifiably proud of the enormous accomplishments that have been made in the 48 years since Stonewall. Some would say that our movement has been on the “fast track” for what has been accomplished.

    No because there remains much TO accomplish for us and for women, people of color, people of differing ethnicities, different faith expressions, and basically anyone who does not identify as essentially straight white and male in this country. The political climate right now and the continued actions of both Congress and the current administration are glowing illustrations of what is still to be done….for so many.

    On a positive note, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NLGTF) announced yesterday that pressure on the Administration for Community Living (an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services) had worked and they were restoring the questions directly related to LGBTQ senior citizens that they had planned to eliminate. See, calling, writing, contacting does work!

    To reverse-paraphrase an Easter hymn: The strife is NOT over, the battles are NOT won, victory is not yet in hand.

    On a more somber note, the Anglican Communion News Service reported that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, resigned from his last formal church role for his part in ignoring reports of sexual abuse by now disgraced and former bishop Peter Ball. It was, once again, a problem many knew about but did not address.

    Peter Ball had a history of engaging in sexual abuse. Reports were ignored. While I certainly have no credentials related to psychotherapy, it has long been my personal contention that when we force someone into a box they were not intended to fit, there will eventually be an “explosion” and inappropriate actions and behavior will result.

    How long have we, as a church and a society, forced women and men into the large box called the closet because of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression? Did no one ever contemplate the consequences of forcing people to appear and act differently than their authentic selves? Did no one ever consider that the pressure of the box, the closet, would eventually result in an explosion?

    Human beings are human beings. We can only cope with so much pressure for so long. Hopefully we are beginning to see less and less sexual abuse as we are being allowed to be our authentic selves. The remaining question is whether we will actually be our authentic selves. As you have read and heard from me countless times now, who have you written, called, texted, emailed, or contacted to express your views? If the answer is “none” then look at yourself and ask why you are so complacent. Ask why the work and sacrifices of so many to create a Pride Month has not moved you to act. At a recent exhibit and conversation about HIV/AIDS I was once again reminded that our silence really could mean our death.

    Bruce Garner, President
    Integrity USA

    ________________________________________ Celebrating Pride? If your organization is celebrating pride this month or this summer, post it on our Facebook Group page or share it with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

    ________________________________________ Once in a Lifetime Conference A first-ever major conference on LGBTQ Christian history is happening on October 31-November 2 in St. Louis. Rolling the Stone Away will bring together dozens of elders, saints and prophets of the past five decades to honor their deep impact on U.S. social and religious institutions and to reflect on how this history informs our movements for justice today. "This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to interact in-person with most of the movers and shakers of LGBT Christian movements," notes Conference Coordinator Mark Bowman. "This is the kind of unique gathering that you will want to be able to say 'I was there!'" Click here to see the amazing diversity of early activists that you will see there. Watch the website for updates. Reserve your place there by registering now. Integrity USA has been on the planning team for this event and look forward to being with as many of you as possible who can join this gathering. We are considering a small “reunion” during the time of the conference for our family and friends.

    ________________________________________ We Are Orlando ________________________________________


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