Integrity USA (1974-2019) 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 had been a leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in The Episcopal Church and for equal access to its rites.

Following a series of board resignations and controversy over allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency, [1] the organization and its future is presently a focus of scrutiny within the Christian press and members of the LGBT community. [2]

Founding and historyEdit

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:[3]

"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 expanded beyond the Episcopal Church.

Until Integrity USA’s decline in 2019, it had also been a respected voice for equal civil rights. Often working in coalitions[4] with both secular and other faith-based groups, Integrity had been instrumental in advancing the claim LGBT persons are making for equal protection and opportunity. Through its many ministries Integrity stood at the forefront of LGBT acceptance[5] within The Episcopal Church and continued to work for progress towards full inclusion of its people.

PresidentsEdit

From 1978 until its decline in 2019, Integrity had elected officers every three years to coincide with the triennial calendar of TEC's General Convention:[6]

  • 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
  • 2015–2018: E. Bruce Garner
  • 2018—November 25, 2019: Rev. Gwen Fry
  • November 25-present: vacant

[7]

There is currently no President of Integrity USA.

OrganizationEdit

Despite the collapse of the national body in Autumn 2019 [see note below], local chapters of Integrity may still be organized through independent chapters[8] 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. NOTE: The "national body" of Integrity USA has not "collapsed." Board positions have been filled by appointment as provided for in the bylaws. As of January 2020 Integrity USA is also conducting elections to fill the positions of President, Chair and Vice Chair of the Stakeholders Council. The organization continues to operate.

Programs and activitiesEdit

General ConventionEdit

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.[9] 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.[10]
  • 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.[11]
  • 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 2012Edit

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.

Affiliated organizationsEdit

Integrity USA was the fiscal sponsor of TransEpiscopal,[12] 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,[13] featuring transgender people of faith telling their own stories.

Several Integrity chapters were 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 were active in Episcopal parishes in addition to their Integrity activities.

International affiliationsEdit

Integrity USA has members in The Episcopal Church outside of the US, 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 and still function after the nationak body’s 2019 decline. 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.

2018-2019: Board member resignationsEdit

Between March and June 2018, three Integrity USA board members resigned, leaving only one elected board member.

By Autumn 2019, Integrity USA was described by the Episcopal News Service as “a shadow of its former self, beset by struggles with leadership, finances, and communication.”[14]

2019: president’s resignation, and death of founderEdit

Integrity USA’s president Rev. Gwen Fry's leadership of the organization had been described in the press as marked by "instability and uncertainty".[15] In late November 2019, Fry resigned as President of Integrity USA, citing the need to spend more time with her family.[16]

Integrity USA Founder Louie Crew Clay died two days later on November 27, 2019.[17]

As Garner’s appointment to Stakeholder Council Chair was made in contravention of the organization’s bylaws, the legitimacy of Integrity USA’s leadership and future elections have been placed in doubt by some remaining membership.[18]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Episcopal LGBT Advocacy Group Head Resigns amid Allegations of Mismanagement". www.christianpost.com. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  2. ^ "Facing financial struggles and board resignations, Integrity apologises for lack of transparency". www.episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  3. ^ "November 1974 [HTML]". Integrityusa.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Meredith Bischoff (June 12, 2012). "Organizational Partners of the Institute for Welcoming Resources". Welcomingresources.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  5. ^ "LGBT in the Church". Episcopal Church. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  6. ^ "Current and Past Presidents of Integrity USA". Integrityusa.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  7. ^ "2018-2021 Board of Directors Elected". Walking With Integrity. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  8. ^ "Integrity Chapters | Membership". Integrityusa.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  9. ^ "Where The Episcopal Church Stands on LGBT Issues". Integrityusa.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "Acts of Convention: Resolution # 1976-A069". Episcopalarchives.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  11. ^ "Acts of Convention: Resolution # 2003-C045". Episcopalarchives.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "TransEpiscopal". Blog.transepiscopal.com. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "Voices of Witness: Out of the Box". Integrityusa.org. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "Facing financial struggles and board resignations, Integrity apologises for lack of transparency". www.episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "Facing financial struggles and board resignations, Integrity apologises for lack of transparency". www.episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  16. ^ "Episcopal LGBT Advocacy Group Head Resigns amid Allegations of Mismanagement". www.christianpost.com. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  17. ^ "RIP Louis Crew Clay, Integrity Founder and Champion of Inclusion, dies at 82". www.episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  18. ^ "Integrity President Resigns amid Mounting Criticism". www.episcopalnewsservice.org. Retrieved November 26, 2019.

External linksEdit