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Integrity USA is a nonprofit organization working in the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) for the full inclusion of LGBT members and their allies. Integrity was founded by Louie Crew in rural Georgia, U.S., in 1974 and it has been a leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in The Episcopal Church and for equal access to its rites.
Founding and history
In 1974, Louie Crew who was on a teaching fellowship in San Francisco telephoned the reportedly progressive Grace Cathedral in that city, asking if they could help him and his partner meet other gay Episcopalians. The derisive laughter he heard in response prompted him to start a newsletter that November to help gay and lesbian members of the church support one another in what was then a fairly hostile environment.
A gifted writer, Dr. Crew penned the lead editorial himself:
"Integrity derives from integer, Latin for 'entire.' All Christian wholeness demands affirmation of God ordained sexuality; and gays and straights alike are Charged with the responsibility of using their sexuality in healthy human sharing rather than perversely trying to change or exchange the Gift of God."
Across the country, men and women saw the newsletter advertised in both church and gay publications. They organized into a handful of chapters and gathered, 200 strong, the following year for a national convention. The newsletter grew into a magazine, which was published until 2007, by which time the Internet was providing more immediate, interactive and cost-effective means of communication with Integrity's members.
Over the years, its ministry has expanded beyond the Episcopal Church. It has also become a respected voice for equal civil rights. Often working in coalitions with both secular and other faith-based groups, Integrity has been instrumental in advancing the claim LGBT persons are making for equal protection and opportunity. Through its many ministries Integrity stands at the forefront of LGBT acceptance within The Episcopal Church and continues to work for progress towards full inclusion of its people.
Current and past presidents
Since 1978, Integrity has elected officers every three years,to coincide with the triennial calendar of TEC's General Convention.
Here are the presidents of Integrity USA since its founding:
- 1974–1975: Ellen Barrett and Jim Wickliff (Co-Presidents)
- 1975–1976: Jim Wickliff
- 1976–1978: Ron Wesner
- 1978–1981: John Lawrence
- 1981–1982: John Fortunato
- 1982–1984: Marsha Langford
- 1984–1987: Robert Armstrong
- 1987–1990: Edgar K. "Kim" Byham
- 1990–1994: E. Bruce Garner
- 1994–1998: Fred Ellis III
- 1998–2003: Michael W. Hopkins
- 2003–2009: Susan Russell
- 2009–2011: David Norgard
- 2011–2014: Caro Hall
- 2014–2015: Matt Haines
- 2015–present: E. Bruce Garner
Gwen Fry has been elected to succeed Garner as president effective October 1, 2018.
Integrity is organized through over 60 chapters across the nation. Integrity's chapters are groups of 10 or more members in an area or diocese who gather monthly or quarterly to promote welcome and inclusion in their areas. They may work in just one parish, in a city, or in an entire diocese. Here are some things that Integrity's chapters provide.
- Fellowship for LGBT Episcopalians and their friends
- Freedom to worship openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, in communities or dioceses where it's still uncomfortable to be open
- Advocates for change in parishes and dioceses that aren't fully inclusive and incorporating
- Witnesses of God's inclusive love to communities around them, through events, service and presence
- Aids to parishes interested in becoming BelieveOut Loud congregations
Episcopal Congregations can affiliate with Integrity in several ways:
- Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations – parishes that adopt a public welcoming statements that explicitly mention their welcome for LGBT persons and make this statement available for visitors to read
- Proud Parish Partners – parishes that gain organizational membership through an annual donation.
Integrity organizes its advocacy through Provincial Coordinators, each of whom serves one of the eight domestic provinces of The Episcopal Church. Provincial Coordinators appoint and work with Diocesan Organizers, who serve as liaisons for information and resources in each of the church's 100 domestic dioceses. Integrity's key leaders, past and present, maintain connection to the organization through the Stakeholders' Council – a group that offers support and advice to the organization and to its members.
Programs and activities
Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations
Since 2010 Integrity has been the principal voice within the Episcopal Church of the ecumenical Believe Out Loud welcoming church movement. Episcopal parishes which have taken visible steps to be LGBT-inclusive are known as Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations. An Integrity Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation is a mission or parish that publicly welcomes and affirms LGBT people by completing a six step process. Integrity provides workshops and other learning opportunities for people and parishes to take this step.
The steps are as follows:
- Step One: Assess – Determine if the congregation has a history of welcoming LGBT members.
- Step Two: Engage – Parishes that are not 100% sure that they're "welcoming" will need to engage the congregation in discussion and educational events.
- Step Three: Adopt – The parish will adopt a Welcoming Statement that explicitly welcomes LGBT people and/or mentions sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Step Four: Register – A leader will register the church and its welcome statement on the Integrity website.
- Step Five: Publish – The church will publish the welcoming statement in a place where visitors and potential visitors can find and read it easily.
- Step Six: Continue – The parish will continue to find ways to make the parish more welcoming.
Integrity has had official representation at every triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church since 1977. The organization's members have helped draft and gather support for the legislative resolutions by which the church's official stance has evolved from denial to tolerance to welcome. The Integrity Eucharist at General Convention, once held on the margins, now is an official event that draws nearly 2,000 worshipers, many of them straight allies for whom the celebration has become a highlight of their Convention experience. Some resolutions towards equality that Integrity has helped to achieve include:
- Official prohibition of discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1976.
- Ordination of the first openly gay priest in TEC in 1977.
- Passage of a resolution apologizing for past "sins" against gay and lesbian people in 1977.
- The General Convention spoke out against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and encouraged federal officials to take action against such violence in 1985.
- Public denouncement of the then-popular belief that AIDS was "the punishment of God upon homosexual persons" in 1985.
- A resolution explicitly affirming that gay, lesbian and bisexual people could not be refused ordination in the Episcopal Church for that reason alone in 1994.
- The election, confirmation and consecration of the first openly gay bishop, The Rev. V. Gene Robinson in 2003.
- Passage of a resolution supporting the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), inclusive of gender identity in 2008.
- Adoption of four resolutions addressing gender identity and transgender individuals in 2009. Two of them supported enactment of civil sector anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation protecting transgender people at local, state, and federal levels.
The General Convention of 2012
At the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, nearly every resolution which Integrity supported was affirmed by the church leadership:
- A provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships, developed over the prior triennium as an act of the last Convention, was adopted for use beginning on the first Sunday in Advent of that year. At press time, nearly half the church's 90 domestic dioceses have begun using it in their churches.
- Gender identity is no longer a barrier to fulfilling a call to ministry, either ordained or in the Laity.
- A churchwide study of the nature and theology of marriage will be undertaken.
- The church will be called to speak out against Bullying.
- The church will be called to speak out on behalf of same-sex couples mired in the immigration process
- The church will be called to speak out for the end of the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex married couples.
Integrity USA is the fiscal sponsor of TransEpiscopal, an organization founded in 2004. TransEpiscopal is a group of transgender Episcopalians and their significant others, families, friends and allies dedicated to enriching their spiritual lives and to making the Episcopal Church a welcoming and empowering place that all truly can call their spiritual home. In 2012 the two groups collaborated on a video, Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, featuring transgender people of faith telling their own stories.
Several Integrity chapters are joint chapters with Dignity, the pro-LGBT group working with Roman Catholics. Unlike Dignity in the Roman Catholic Church, Integrity does not act as an alternative to a parish (primarily because gay and lesbian Anglicans are not normally refused the Eucharist in parishes like their Roman Catholic counterparts). Most Integrity members are active in TEC parishes in addition to their Integrity activities.
Integrity USA has members in The Episcopal Church outside of the USA, wherever TEC has congregations. Other organizations work in churches that are part of the Anglican Communion, but they are not part of Integrity USA's official structure. Many of them are loosely affiliated with Integrity USA, as they share similar missions. For instance, LGBT members of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) have formed local Integrity groups, beginning with Integrity Toronto, which are loosely connected. There is no national Integrity organization in Canada. Integrity also has independent chapters in Australia.
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