Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For Just Such a Time as This

 "Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."

A question that seems to be in people's minds, if not verbalized, is "Why do we need Integrity around here?" Our bishops ride on Pride floats and speak out for the rights of LGBT people. We have numerous congregations who are welcoming and LGBT people are involved in all levels of ministry. We perform same-sex marriages and blessings in our churches.  And today, the sitting President of the United States announced in an election year that he personally supports same-sex marriage.

Amid all this progress, there's a temptation to sit back and be satisfied.  After all, for LGBT people in our area, finding a church where you can participate fully without your orientation presenting a barrier is easy.  We're past all that, aren't we?

And yet, we're not.

Yesterday, the people of North Carolina, egged on in large part by religious leaders, voted to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples into their constitution.  Last week, a video circulated in which a pastor in that state advocated physical abuse of effeminate boys.  Our local pride events are frequently protested by "ex-gay ministries" and NYC's new cardinal has warned Catholic churches who dare minister to LGBT people without reminding them of their "disordered" state.

Despite efforts by many progressive Christian leaders to the contrary, the overwhelmingly dominant message on the American airwaves remains that if you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, there's no place in church for you.  As rapidly as America seems to be evolving in its acceptance of LGBT issues, the perception is that the institutional church is stubbornly staying behind, and the fact that a recent Pew study showed that over a quarter of young people claim no religious affiliation at all is a telling indicator of what this means for our relevance, leaving young people like this one wondering if the church will be around for them when they're our age.   Also, although in the same poll 70% of Episcopalians support LGBT inclusion, we still have dioceses -- including one nearby -- where people with a same-sex partner are not able to pursue ordination or have their relationships acknowledged by the church.

It will take witness from every single one of us to turn this tide. Some of this work happens at the congregational and even individual level, and our chapter continues to partner with The OASIS and the LGBT Concerns Committee of the Diocese of New York to make that happen here.  But a national voice is also needed.  Integrity is the largest advocate for the LGBT community within the church, and traditionally represents our interests at General Convention.  Our work is entirely supported by our members and partners, with no funding from the national church.  We've set an ambitious goal of $100,000 to mobilize a team of volunteers, of which nearly half has already been contributed, thanks be to God..

Integrity's platform for GC12 includes:

  • Advocate for liturgical blessings for same gender couples throughout the Church.
  • Support the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music's call for a church wide conversation on marriage.
  • Fervently advocate for full inclusion of our transgender sisters and brothers, by supporting a resolution which adds "Gender Identity" and "Gender Expression" to the church's non-discrimination canons and
  • Release Voices of Witness 3: OUT OF THE BOX. A video and study guide on transgender issues, and provide a copy to all bishops and deputies
  • Call for strong church wide response to all aspects of bullying, especially that which is based on sexual orientation or gender expression.
If you are able to support Integrity in this work, please consider a donation of any size to our General Convention fund. We also seek to forge or re-establish ongoing partner relationships with congregations in the Dioceses of Long Island, New Jersey, Newark and New York. Our partners work with us to plan programming in the area, receive a voting seat on our national Stakeholders' Council, and we actively promote them as welcoming places of worship to our members. If you are not an official member of Integrity, please consider joining us.

Please contact us if you have any questions or ideas about Integrity's presence at GC12 or are willing to work with us to make these goals a reality. Our NYC-Metro Chapter is already helping with a fund-raiser next month, and we'd love to see you there (details soon). We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you!

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