A Gay Man Critiques Integrity

24 05 2007

Integrity, the advocacy group for us GLBT folks in the Episcopal Church, has unsurprisingly made a statement earlier this week, which may be read here.  Its President, the Reverend Susan Russell, has made her own opinion on Integrity’s blog, which may be read here.

 Some snippet’s from both:


“Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can’t happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst,” Russell said. “Our bishops must ask themselves this question: ‘Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'”


It is sad that the once proud-of-its-diversity Anglican Communion has allowed itself to be blackmailed into bigotry by those unwilling to accept into their midst a duly elected brother bishop solely because of his sexual orientation. And it is clear that Rowan Williams’ failure to exercise differentiated leadership has enabled the Communion he leads to continue to spin out of control.

<whew!  And I thought I was being visceral!>

First of all, I will say that I am very happy an organization like Integrity exists within the Episcopal Church.  I also realize that it is, in part, because of Integrity’s work over the past decades, I am able to be who I am as a gay man and live out my calling without fear of recrimination, shame, apology or explanation.  I desire and welcome and long for the full inclusion of everyone who calls themself Christian  within the Body of Christ. 

That being said, I do not believe that statements like these help our cause at all.  I do not see how they are any better than the screed that gets thrown our way on occasion by the loud voices on the right.  In fact, I would dare go so far as to say that we have forgotten where we have come from in our journey to liberation and inclusion.  It is a beautiful and wondrous gift that God has given us at this time to be his witnesses within the Church and to show that 2,000 years of church teaching should be amended, and if we are not careful we will blow it.  Until that teaching actually changes, the burden of proof will be upon us and our allies (those allies to whom Integrity has basically delivered a threat) to show that people need to rethink those 6 or 7 verses in Scripture people keep pointing to and quoting at us (Leviticus, Romans, etc.).

I still am very disappointed that as of this date, +Gene Robinson is not receiving and invitation to the Lambeth Confernece.  It is made all the more disappointing when +Cantuar acknowledges that +Gene is the legitimate Bishop of New Hampshire.  This struggle is painful. On further reflection from my intitial knee jerk reactions posted  below, however, the situation we find ourselves in could not possibly be better.  +Gene Robinson is most likely going to Lambeth (unless The Episcopal Church blows it) as the guest of the +Rowan Williams.  The other nine bishops who will not be receiving invitations will not even have a chance to go as a visitor or observer! 

We must continue to be patient with those who are troubled by our open presence in the Church.  The past few days have reminded me what the road to integrating your orientation with your faith is like:  a struggle.  If it was a struggle for me and for others to do so individually, how much more of a struggle will it be for the Church? 

The Communion is still struggling with the full inclusion of women, and we must recognize that our struggle will be just as difficult, if not more so. 

My own patience with our detractors (which grows thin quite often!) stems from the fact that I once thought as they did.  While I never bought into the idea of reparative therapy (if therapy is the right word for such a travesty), I, too, once believed that the only option to live as a gay man in faithful service to God was chastity.  It took the Grace of God and total trust in Christ’s work on the Cross to get past those verses and to accept the explanations of why they were not valid and did not apply. 

It will take that same work of Grace in the hearts and minds of our detractors. We currently are making very little room for that work to happen.

It is time that changed.




15 responses

25 05 2007

Sorry, Rev. Boy, but it will only be when we’re talked with, instead of talked about, that progress will be made. A true leader, which Rowan Williams certainly ain’t, would have invited Gene Robinson.
And let’s stop making an idol of the ‘Communion’. Sometimes the prophets must go it alone. This may be that time.

25 05 2007

I agree with some of what you’ve said and disagree with more. However, I want to point out that Integrity is a volunteer organization–one which is always looking for committed people to join and to assist. Note that I said “committed people”. So often, in any organization from a job to a parish to a social club to a political party, people (and I don’t mean you, as I don’t know you) want to just jump in an make some big changes and then–all too often–disappear. There’s room for you in the counsels of Integrity. And, having served on the board of that organization in the past, I can tell you that it has been criticized far more often for being too slow and too patient than the other way round.

25 05 2007

I’m always curious about why different folks choose to remain anonymous. In this case, I’m especially curious because of this statement that you made: “…I am able to be who I am as a gay man and live out my calling without fear of recrimination, shame, apology or explanation.”

This says to me that your experience in the church is quite limited up to now. Although I totally agree that sexuality is a personal issue and no one else’s business, the reality is that those who are non-heterosexual continue to deal with the church’s insistence that their sexuality is the business of other Christians.

Anyway, this is not a challenge at all but merely about my curiosity about your reason for maintaining your anonymity in what you consider a safe environment. (Cranmer49 is my blog identity but you do have my email address so I’m really not anonymous, am I….?)

25 05 2007
Reverend boy

some thoughts …

Again, I’m not saying I’m thrilled with the situation. Quite the contrary, I’m still disappointed and upset! But, I don’t think making schismatic comments is the way to go.

As far as Integrity itself goes, I admit I had thought about joining and even went to a social gathering once in the recent past. I think it’s an organization worth having, and I’m grateful for the efforts of the group. I would love to add my own energies and opinions to those efforts, but my current commitments will not allow it. Perhaps I will be able to be involved if I pass through the Discernment Process and enroll in seminary as planned in 2008.

Speaking of which, it is largely because of being in the Discernment Process that I wish to remain anonymous. As the internet is an open forum, there is the chance that someone from the COM (or the bishop!) in my diocese will stumble across it. If they knew who I was, it might color their decision. I do not want to be accepted as a Postulant because the bishop or a member of the COM strongly agrees or disagrees with my opinions.

Cranmer, you mentioned that it is my experience in the church has been limited up to now. I have been an active member in my parish since 2004 and was confirmed in 2005. This is not very long in the grand scheme of things, but I have been going to church almost all of my life, just not Episcopal ones! As far as the gay situation is concerned, I am actually very happy to say that in my parish, at least, it’s simply a non-issue.

25 05 2007

No shame, no recriminations? Yet you can’t be honest as an aspiring postulant?

So exactly when is it that you can be honest and open? When you are admitted to the process? When you graduate? When you are ordained a deacon? When you are ordained a priest? When you get your first job? When you finally become a rector?

How long do you have to be secretive? And do you really want to be a priest so bad that you will not only be dishonest and secretive yourself, you will support a Church that rewards dishonesty (like those gay bishops invited to Lambeth) and punishes honesty (like Gene)?

As Susan Russell has said many times, there is a vast moral difference between those who are willing to stay in with those who disagree, and those threatening to leave because others are included. There is no call nor threat of schism from Integrity or Susan Russell. The threat is all one sided.

The Church really had no need of timid priests. We need those who openly and honestly preach the good news of the Gospel.

If I were on your commission on ministry, I would definitely suggest you re-examine your call.

25 05 2007
Linda Diane McMillan

We must continue to be patient with those who are troubled by our open presence in the Church.

Of course you are correct in this… absolutely correct. And, I would go even further and say that we should also be patient with those who believe in the sacred institution of slavery as described in the words of The Holy Bible. We are clearly not all of one mind on this either and patience — as we all know is a virtue. You do want to be virtuous don’t you?

From your protected closet it is easy to be critical of an organization that you are not even a part of. Too easy. Your words ring hollow and you lack credibility.

Linda Diane McMillan
(My real name)
Lesbian – and OUT
Austin, Texas where life would be a damn sight easier if I were IN.

25 05 2007

Active in the Episcopal Church since way back in 2004???? My, my, my!

And does it occur to you, Rev Boy, that that wouldn’t even be an OPTION for a gay man if Integrity hadn’t been speaking truth to power long before Susan Russell or Gene Robinson? Re-read what Integrity leadership is calling for: [a] accountability from Canterbury and [b] creative decision making about our presence at Lambeth in collaboration WITH our bishops.

That, my dear, is not schismatic. It’s leadership. And if you’re going to presume to ordinatinon in this church you might benefit from studying it rather than taking potshots at it.

25 05 2007
Reverend boy

While brandishing his Corkscrew of Anglican Infallibility and humming St Patrick’s Breastplate, the Reverend boy wonders when his personal athiest will show up. He also wonders if anyone opposed to “settling” for +Gene’s presence at Lambeth as a guest is opposed to “settling” for civil unions as a step to full marriage rights.

25 05 2007

Note to Rev Boy: “Settling” is not the same as “a step toward” … to “settle” is to stop … and just as we’ll continue to celebrate the blessing of unions while we work toward marriage equality it’ll be up to +Gene to determine if his presence at Lambeth in a “diminished status” will be complicit with discrimination or a step forward. Time will tell.

26 05 2007
Reverend boy

My point is made 😀 😎 😉

29 05 2007
Personal Atheist

My apologies for not showing up to save the day. I had some personal matters to take care of (new relationships take up a lot of one’s time).

While I really have no standing to comment on this post (I’m not Episcopalian, nor even a theist), I guess I should weigh in (as the Reverend boy likes to say, I would definitely be Episcopalian if I were Christian).

It seems to me that some of the comments here are rather more vociferous than necessary. It is essentially an issue of the cup being half empty or half full. The Reverend boy prefers to see the situation as a half full cup. Integrity prefers to rail against the half empty part of the cup.

I do think that organizations like Integrity are extremely important to the inclusion of GLBT folks in religious institutions, and even in society in general (considering the importance of religion in the US). However, these organizations – like many organizations that rally for one cause – tend not to view the big picture. It’s good to have someone with sympathy for the cause put things into proportions once in a while. I think that’s what this post is all about.

As for the personal attacks on the Reverend boy, I think those are particularly unfair. I know the full reasons for his decision to remain anonymous on his blog, and that decision is totally justified. I can assure everyone he is not closeted in real life, nor will he be closeted when he takes up his ministry. He is also far from timid. I don’t even think this post suggests timidity – quite the opposite: it suggests he’s willing to disagree with people who are otherwise on his side.

30 05 2007

(((Rev Boy)))

The problems in our world is that most change is instigated by extremists.

The majority of people are moderates, and as a lump tend toward inertia.

The strident voices at either end of the spectrum are a pin in the ass of the moderate, in some instances even spurring them to DO something.

And Integrity folks, just because you are doing very necessary, very dirty work, doesn’t mean you are above criticism, nor that every one of us who basically agrees with your stance, will agree with all the tactics you use. If you open your mouth and have something to say, you equally need to be ready to have what you say reacted to – especially if you say it loudly. We often can’t agree on what do watch on t.v., never mind what should be done about a particular problem, especially one as serious as this one.

Rev expressed an opinion. He’s a homosexual person, and he’s not the only one with this opinion. I think this is a major frustration point for the Integrity folks – GLTB folks who aren’t in solidarity isn’t a good thing.

Getting all personal, and questioning Rev’s call, just because he doesn’t feel comfortable with internet exposure of his “real life” is just assanine. Grow up. He has an opinion – it was not stated in a personal, attacking way. Take out what you learned in kindergarten, and treat others as you’d like to be treated.


1 06 2007

I think you might be a little harsh on Integrity, just as some of the above comments are a little harsh on you.
I think your basic position on the +Robinson sorta-not-invite is sound. I think we may have initially over-reacted (including me). Yes, this is deeply insulting to +Gene Robinson, to New Hampshire Episcopalians, and to all the lgbt Christians he represents. However, as insults go, I’ve seen far worse things in my 49 years than a diplomatic snub at an arch-episcopal tea party. This snub could be a golden opportunity to seize the international stage and put on a real show of lgbt Christian witness. If and when +Robinson steps off the plane at Heathrow, he will be a star, “guest” or not.
I do agree with some of your critics, squeaky wheels get the grease. Sometimes you have to give folks a swift kick in the conscience to get their attention. However, you are also right; we must always be on our guard that we don’t turn into the very thing that we oppose.

3 06 2007
Reverend boy

I owe counterlight an apology because I am late in my response.

You make some good points. If you want to see a good example of overreacting, you can look at what I posted a few entries down when word first came out about the invitations.

My ultimate hope of course is that +Gene goes to Lambeth as a full participant. And regardless of his position at the conference, yes, he will be the center of attention. After having met him briefly and hearing him preach, I have no doubt that many if not everyone who spends a few minutes in his presence will witness the light and love of Christ coming from him.

I agree, squeaky wheels get the grease. However, making statements like the examples I cited are not exactly showing Christian charity. I think that we are better than that. When squeaks turn into screeches, it goes overboard.

5 06 2007

In general I agree, the problem is the way this plays out in the press as Fr. Jake pointed out at Marshall’s place. That’s where I’m having problems because it presents real stumbling blocks for the Good News to be shared in contexts like the one I find my parish in.

And wow! I’ve criticized Integrity before myself, and I can be quite a pain in the butt for the complacent, but I’m sorry that some folks thought it okay that your criticism would determine whether you are called to the presbyterate or not and make presumptions about your status “in or out”.

I wish there was more on-line support for we who are gay and Episcopalian in terms of being able to air frustrations, concerns and also pray for one another, seek pastoral counsel. Personally, and I live in one of the most liberal dioceses according to most, we talk a lot about “pastoral care” for lgbt persons and our relationships, but beyond words, I’ve yet to have this fleshed out.

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