Friday, April 20, 2018

Pay it back and pay it forward!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (Pay it back and pay it forward!)

This week GLAAD held its Media Awards. One of the recipients was Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory. The award he received was named after someone who had made ripples in the 80’s to disturb the status quo when it came to LGBTQ folks being out about who they were.

Parsons noted that it was the ripples made by those in our history who ultimately created the waves on which we all now surf. What a wonderful way to look at what those who came before have done on our behalf. The marginalized always stand on the shoulders of those who came before.

General Convention is one of the ways we get to help insure the future for our kindred even as we honor those who got us this far along the way.

Every LGBTQ person, within the Episcopal Church or not, owes those who came before us for the openness available to most of us to live as our authentic selves. We have obligations to pay back the gift for which we are all beneficiaries in both the church and society.

General Convention is also how we help insure the future for those to come after us. It is a way we have to pay it forward. That is our obligation to those who come after us.

Even though most of us now benefit from the ripples and waves of the past, we know that in eight dioceses ( Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands ) there do not seem to have been many ripples, much less waves resulting in full inclusion of LGBTQ folks in the life of the church. That is clearly the case in the refusal of the bishops of those dioceses to allow same sex marriages.

Our General Convention in Austin provides another opportunity to help get the waters of justice rolling down everywhere, including places where dams of injustice have been built.

The work of Integrity USA at convention takes resources, both human and financial. Please consider making a donation to our efforts using the button below or by sending a check. Help us make ripples turn into waves and tiny streams turn into rolling waters.

So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all...regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus! Let us make some Holy Waves on behalf of all in the margins.




Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow



Friday, April 13, 2018

Alleluia! And we have work to do!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (And we have work to do!)

This is the second Friday of the Great 50 Days of Easter. It seems to me that it is also a good time for us to begin work on some of the issues that will face us at General Convention 2018 in July in Austin, Texas.  As we celebrate, so let us plan.

The Task Force on Marriage has issued its Blue Book Report with their recommended resolutions to be brought to General Convention for action.  The two links immediately below provide you with important information about their report and the resolutions.  I urge you to go to them and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them:

https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/21189

https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2018/04/04/general-convention-will-again-grapple-with-same-sex-marriage-questions/

The first link takes you to the report itself. The second is an Episcopal News Service article about the overall issue.  It is a longer link and you may need to copy and paste it into your browser for it to work correctly.

Among the resolutions are changes to the Book of Common Prayer and these require two “readings” and two votes at successive General Conventions.  The language must be identical for the actions to take place. Some will recall that we voted on some Prayer Book changes at the last General Convention. The work of the Task Force on Marriage resulted in some language changes so we are back at a “first reading” to incorporate those changes.

Each of the dioceses in which we live has 8 Deputies elected to serve at General Convention.  Four are ordained and four are lay folks. These are the people who will receive and review the hundreds of resolutions that will come before the General Convention.  Resolutions are assigned to committees composed of both bishops and deputies that review and study them in depth. Each resolution will receive an open hearing held by those committees at which anyone, even non-Episcopalians may speak.

The committees then discuss, deliberate and vote on the resolutions before them. Bishops and Deputies vote separately and send the results to the appropriate house of General Convention to be considered on the floor of each house. Each house must pass the identical resolution for it to become the mind of our church or a canonical change. The committees are free to amend and change the language as they see fit. Often information heard at the open hearing may influence such changes. People who are most directly impacted by the proposed actions frequently provide moving testimony that does influence how a committee will ultimately act on a resolution.  But all of this is actually AT the General Convention.

There is plenty of work to be done beforehand as well. Those who live in the following dioceses will have a chance to influence their deputations between now and General Convention.  The work of the Task Force on Marriage is very important to them because their respective bishops still refuse to allow same sex marriages to be performed in their dioceses: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. Some even prohibit their clergy from performing same sex weddings outside the diocese as well.

It is critical that deputations hear from lay folks on this issue, particular us queer lay folks. What happens at General Convention will have a direct impact on us. And while the vast majority of us already have access to marriage as same sex couples, our kindred in the above dioceses do not. As you have heard me say before: lay people are able to speak the truth to power in ways that clergy cannot. Not to put too fine a point on it, there is nothing the bishop can do to inhibit us from speaking our hearts and minds, even to them! Clergy may not be able to be as, shall we say, direct.

We cannot rest on past accomplishments. So it is incumbent on all of us, even those who do not live in the above referenced dioceses to know what resolutions to come before the General Convention can have a direct impact on our lives. We have an obligation to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what our deputies and bishops will be called upon to decide. We have an obligation to let them know how we feel about the topics that will come before them. AND we also have an obligation to support our kindred in those eight dioceses as they pray, work and strive toward being able to access all the sacraments of the church.

There is a group of folks from the Diocese of Tennessee who will gather on the 29th of April to celebrate the Eucharist and bear witness to their situation. They use the name All the Sacraments for All the People (ASAP).  The acronym is important. It also brings to mind the immediacy of the need.  There are those who may not live long enough to know that they are fully included in the life or our church.

So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.

Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus!








Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Days and Fifty Years Later

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Those words of hope and joy are etched into our memories.  Most, if not all, of us shouted them out this past Sunday at a vigil service or some other joyous celebration on Easter Day. That Christ is risen is an essential part of the faith we profess. That Christ is risen is what gives us hope and a promise that when we leave this plain of existence, we too, shall rise again from the dead. Alleluia indeed!

Yet only three short days later, Wednesday, April 4, that joy was challenged by an event that took place 50 years before: the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago on that date the life of a prophet of God was snuffed out by a racist bigot. The winner of a Nobel Peace Prize was taken from us by violence, the polar opposite of peace.

That day is etched in my memory along with the days that followed, including Dr. King’s funeral. I was eighteen years old and in the spring quarter of my freshman year at college. This was the second of what would be three assassinations during the first 18 years of my life. There is something so very wrong with what I just wrote. Yet it is true. Violence. Murder. Death. Three leaders in their prime of life, all murdered.

I was in my home parish the Sunday after the assassination. Atlanta was on tender hooks. I will never forget looking up at the altar while the priest was celebrating the Eucharist and seeing his National Guard uniform visible below the hem of his vestments. There was something so wrong with that image as well. (Those were the days when altars were against the wall and the priest presided with his back to the congregation. Priests were all “he’s” in those days.)

Much has changed in the last 50 years and much remains the same. The rights of Black people and
other  minorities have been secured in some ways and remain elusive in others. Sadly, the most recent presidential election seems to have empowered the bigots and purveyors of hate and prejudice to speak out. We would have been fools to think they had gone away. But I didn’t expect the vitriol and nastiness I have witnessed over the last 18 months... even in church.

I have to wonder how many of us queerfolk (of all races and colors) realize that we are also beneficiaries of the work of Dr. King? He fought for our rights even as he fought for the rights of Black Americans. One of the key organizers of the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was a gay man... a gay Black man. His sexual orientation was known by Dr. King and all around him. Of course that created problems for some. Nothing new there. No one could be free unless everyone was free, to paraphrase one of Dr. King’s statements. Did you even know that a queer Black man was so involved in the Civil Rights movement?

So the question I pose to all of us is a simple one:  What are we doing to carry on Dr. King’s legacy of the struggle for equal rights for all of God’s children? What are we doing in secular society to combat the wave of prejudice and bigotry that has arisen over the last year and a half? What are we doing in The Episcopal Church to help insure that no matter the diocese in which we live, we will all have equal access to all the sacraments of the church?

There are eight dioceses which still refuse to allow same sex marriage to take place in them. What are the people who live in those dioceses doing to address that discrimination? Remember, if you are a lay person your voice cannot be silenced unless you allow it to be silenced. Make your voice heard. And what are those of us who do not live in those eight dioceses doing to address this form of prejudice? We can speak up and speak out to the bishops and others who cling to ancient prejudices. We can show them that there is another way, a way that embraces all of God’s children, a way that respects the dignity of every human being.

What are we doing? Will we continue to be complacent and complicit with prejudice and bigotry? Or will we follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., whose very life was taken in the pursuit of justice and equality for all?  What is your answer?
Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God.





Where is your passion?



Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Friday, March 23, 2018

Passion

Representatives from Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment
group, meet with youth group members at All Saints Episcopal
Church in Pasadena, California, for a training in political
advocacy and lobbying. The youth group members will travel
to Washington, D.C., this week for the March of Our Lives
on March 24. Photo: Juliana Serrano/All Saints Pasadena
This coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion, also known as Palm Sunday. The Gospel reading for the day depicts the events from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion and death on the cross. It would seem that this might be a sequence of events that should be spread over a period of several days rather than 20 minutes. In our “hurry up world” getting folks to church during Holy Week has become a challenge. So we end up with the “Cliff Notes” version of an essential part of our faith story. We have to get Jesus killed off on one Sunday so God can resurrect him the next. I invite us all to spend more than a couple of hours over the next week reading, praying and meditating. There is much to the story and it deserves more than skimming the surface.

This coming Saturday could rightly be termed “Passion Saturday,” but for a very different set of reasons. It will be the day when the passion of millions of young people will be exhibited as they try to influence society and our lawmakers to take some common sense measures around assault weapons, who can get them and what safeguards we need to prevent more mass shootings. They face a daunting task and need our involvement and help.

I cannot speak for any of the other 800 or so marches around the country, but here in Atlanta, this is being organized and lead by young people, students, those who have been the targets of such shootings. They are clear that they will lead the march. They are also clear that they will and have decided who will speak. All of the speakers in Atlanta will be young people except one. The exception is The Honorable John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District... where the march will take place. Nothing could be more appropriate. Congressman Lewis knows about student led demonstrations in a way that few know about them.

Where is our passion? Where is our passion in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes, we step outside our little “field of protection” when we engage with others about our faith. Our faith is lived out in community. Where is our/your passion when it comes to this march? Do we behave like Peter and claim that we do not know “them” or Him? Or do we step forward relying on our faith to carry us through and do our part in respecting the dignity of every human being?

As we explore the future direction of Integrity USA - of our Episcopal Rainbow - where is our passion in that endeavor? Will that passion for reaching those who still have not heard the good news propel us forward into a leadership role in the organization? Are there those among us who have the strength of conviction to walk out of their comfort zones to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? The teens and youth who will march on Saturday are looking for role models even as they are being models for engaging in leadership at a different level. Where are we in that picture?

Where is your passion?



Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Friday, March 16, 2018

Faith for the Future



Seeing the thousands of young people walking out of their classrooms on Wednesday to honor the 17 killed at the high school in Parkland, Florida, gave me a little glimmer of hope for the future. It is sad that some continue to claim that these youth were manipulated into doing and saying what they did. It amazes me that so many adults will not give young people credit for thinking through issues and arriving at their own decisions. It’s not politics, it is morality. I looked back more than 50 years ago and recalled that I had formed positions on several moral issues that were at odds with both political parties in Georgia and at odds even with my family. I wasn’t coached or manipulated. I got there on my own. I learned how pushy the Gospel imperative can be.

I see the same strength of conviction displayed with the walkout that is needed for Integrity’s next national and provincial levels of leadership. We, as a board, have felt moved toward seeking out different models of leadership that work best at the local level, the “grass roots” level, the level where there is still so much to be accomplished. The national officers and board members will need to be facilitators, sources of guidance, resources for the work to be done. The next board will need to be gatherers of people under a common banner, a shared vision, a refocused purpose.

This is not to suggest that we toss out the old just to replace it with something new. On the contrary, our mission should be to retain a mixture of those seasoned by the struggles and victories of the past and add to them those with fresh ideas, different visions, and a clear strength of conviction. Our structures allow for such intermingling of resources, strengths and abilities. There was a method to having all officer positions, board positions and provincial positions “open” every three years with our election cycle. Some will have their names put forward again, others will not. New names will come forward. Our membership will decide the mixture of the next board. And it will be some of the seasoned past, some of the very new and what lies between.

So the question is: Do you have the strength of conviction to walk out of your own comfort zone to be a part of the future leadership of Integrity USA? Will the courage of those teens and youth be a model for engaging in leadership at a different level….where the work most needs to be done?

Watch for the request for nominees... then step up for an adventure with the Gospel.




Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow







Friday, March 9, 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Need for Leadership

The Good

A transgender Muslim woman came out in the media in Atlanta this week. She had been hiding and was no longer willing to keep up that charade.  She and her husband were married in a local mosque. Her full story is in the link below.  Let me just say that it took serious guts to do that in Georgia.  Politicians are not fond of Muslims to begin with and even less fond of queer Muslims.

The Bad

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has announced that there will no longer be any attempts to secure safe communities, reversing years of progress.  He states that he didn’t depend on the government when he was growing.  Yet with a straight face he also states that they had food stamps, welfare and Section 8 housing.  Did he read that after he wrote it? Who finances those programs except the government?

The Need for Leadership

I suspect you  thought I was referring to state and national leadership.  Of course there is indeed a need for leadership at those levels.  However, I was referring to Leadership within Integrity USA.  We have a strong need for people to lead at the Provincial and National Levels.

Elections will be held between now and General Convention to elect the following:  Provincial Coordinators for all eight Provinces; a Vice President for National Affairs; a Vice President for Local affairs; a Treasurer; a Secretary/Communications Director; a Chair for the Leadership Council; and a President. The three year term starts October 1 after General Convention; the election is in the spring and the results announced before General Convention. The time in between is used for transition between the current Board of Directors and the new Board.

I will not be putting my name forth for President. While it has been a rare privilege to serve Integrity USA as its President twice and 25 years apart, it is time for a change in leadership.  The next President needs more energy than I have these days and certainly more stamina.  So it is time for me to step aside and allow someone with these traits to take on this role.

I invite you to pray, meditate and ponder how you might serve this organization.  When calls for nominations come out, please submit your name. If you would like to serve on the nominating committee, we need representatives from Provinces I - III and V - VII.  Send me your name if you are willing to serve on this committee: Email bruce@integrityusa.org.

I will not say goodbye now, but know that this has been a sincere privilege to serve you.






Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Opinion or Bias?


Our nation and our churches are divided right now... including The Episcopal Church. We are all asked to “reach across the divide” and try and engage with those who hold differing positions than we do. We are being asked to engage in graceful dialogue with those with whom we have significant disagreements. We are all asked to try and understand the positions of those on the “other side” of the positions we hold.

I don’t have any problem with engaging with those who hold different positions than I do. I don’t have any problem reaching across a divide. I don’t have any problem with engaging in respectful dialogue for the sake of our faith, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all called to that as followers of Jesus.

I am growing increasingly disturbed at being asked to reach across a divide when the difference is identified as an opinion. Opinions relate to whether we prefer Rite I or Rite II. Opinions relate to such points as hymns or readings or Psalms. Opinions relate to concepts where we are simply choosing between options. We like A over B. Our opinion supports X over Y.

What seems to be overlooked is that some issues are not opinions. My sexual orientation as a gay man is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of who I am as a child of God. A person’s race is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact of an individual’s heredity and genetic make up and earliest origins. A person’s gender or gender identity is not a matter of opinion. Gender and gender identity are either a fact of birth, namely cis-gender or a fact of realization, namely transgender. I cannot and will not engage in an “across the divide” discussion with someone who claims a different opinion about my sexual orientation. Nor can I envision someone doing the same with regard to their race, gender or gender identity.

We are not engaging in differences of opinion when it comes to issues of race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Facts of existence are not opinions, regardless of who claims otherwise.

I will not engage with someone who is racist, sexist, gender or homophobic. They are not operating on opinions but on prejudices and biases. And hence, we have such a terrible divide in our society and to some degree in our church. Bias cannot be masked, hidden or excused under the guise of differences of opinion. Until we understand that truth, we cannot hold meaningful, redemptive, productive, and holy conversations.

Our current political climate is mired in non-productive and harmful discourses (not discussions) about biases being trotted out as opinions. We will remain at a stalemate, a harmful and potentially deadly stalemate as long as we cling to these fantasies.

As Episcopalians, we should also keep in mind that our canon laws forbid discrimination based on gender, gender expression/identity, race, sexual orientation, etc. Those are not opinions. Those are our canon laws. Continuing to debate as if they were opinions is both hypocritical and demeaning to both sides of the discussion. Let’s use a very simple example: If you have white skin or identify as Caucasian, is that an opinion or a fact? If you are honest you know it is not an opinion but a fact. So why would we treat someone who is Asian or Black or Latino/a as if that aspect of their identity was an opinion? Some will certainly attempt to cast sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as an opinion in their discussions. I see such as the last grasping at straws to support individual and/or corporate discrimination. Perhaps a good question to such folks is: “Is your sexual orientation as heterosexual your opinion or is it a fact of your existence?”

Who we are as children of God is not opinion. What we believe as children of God can be an opinion. Yet what about our baptismal covenant vows? We regularly renew our vows to respect the dignity of every human being, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Are those vows offering an opinion or expressing our commitment to the concepts? Do we really believe or do we simply give lip service? Or do we just plain lie?

Opinion or bias? We have work to do before we can have a meaningful conversation.

On a different but related note, I offer a recent item below from “Perspectives Journal” about how our society treats guns. We, as a group, have been among the victims of gun violence, the shootings in Orlando are permanently etched in our psyches. Dick’s Sporting Goods just took a very bold position in ending their sales of assault weapons. Ironically, gun violence and gun control are one area where we can engage in discussions involving opinions.

As we continue our journey through the wilderness of Lent, may we reflect on these issues that have such an impact on our lives and seek grace-filled ways to discuss and address them.




Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

Credit: 
Jonathan Drake/Reuters
While most who read this were going about our observances of Ash Wednesday, a disturbed young man killed 17 people with an assault rifle at a high school in Parkland, Florida. He injured many more. As the horror of yet another mass killing spread over the media, the usual reactions began to be expressed by those who proclaim to be leaders of our nation: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” It was stated various ways but that is the gist of it.
We seem to have gotten overly polite with our condolences at a broad level. Maybe we have become numb and complacent. Maybe we just have no words and blurt out what first comes to mind, which is that our thoughts and prayers are....not unexpected from people who profess a faith in God.
This time there was a very different response from those who witnessed this horror first hand, the survivors of the shooting. They were brutally blunt in making it clear they did not want our “thoughts and prayers”; they wanted action to end such acts of violence. They wanted those who allegedly represented their interests to do something to stop this. 
Those students, those kids, are organizing a response to put pressure on politicians to do something to stop gun violence. Some of the same politicians are dismissing the students and saying they are the pawns of “the left” or some such nonsense. Would they be as dismissive if they had been in that high school at the time of the shooting wondering if they were about to die? Would they be willing to ignore the calls for reasonable gun control legislation if one of their children had been shot? I leave it for them to decide. Maybe attending “Active Shooter” training at an elementary school would be beneficial to them? How do you teach a 6 year old child to survive an attack like this one? You should never have to be in that position, yet we are.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to do more than offer thoughts and prayers during times of intense pain and sorrow. We are called to be the face of Christ in working to find a true and effective response to gun violence and mental health issues as well as the rest of the ills that plague our society. We are called to act responsibly and proactively. In my opinion, the survivors of this latest shooting are doing just that. I support them and I join them in their work.
Thoughts and prayers are fine if they are followed closely by responsible actions.
A week after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, we learned of the death of the Rev. Billy Graham. Those of us of a certain age literally grew up knowing about his revivals, especially those of us from the Bible Belt. The Reverend Graham was indeed an evangelist. Thoughts and prayers for his family are absolutely appropriate.
But what about his views about us queerfolk, the place of women in the world, even racial issues. While I am not one to usually cut anyone much slack when it comes to such issues, I have to view the man in the context of his roots and the influences on his life. I am not going to “praise him to high heaven” but I am not going to excoriate him either. He was a flawed human being like the rest of us. He was a product of his environment, for whatever that may be worth.
Remember that he was brought up in a religiously conservative household. He attended the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace, Florida and was ordained a Baptist minister in Palatka, Florida, in 1939. Have you ever been to Palatka? I doubt it has changed much since 1939! Graham was a product of the Southern Baptist Church and that speaks volumes. It was from their theological tyranny that I fled as a teenager and found The Episcopal Church. Oddly, he would eventually be criticized by that denomination for his ecumenism and broad embrace of other faith expressions. He was also criticized for refusing to maintain racially segregated seating at his crusades. (It still baffles me how one can see and respond to one form of injustice and not to another form, but that is for another discussion. There is also speculation that his views on same-sex marriage were really those of his son Franklin. Who is to know now?)
Billy Graham did stick to what he felt was his calling and that was bringing people to Jesus Christ. That is our calling as well, whether we as Episcopalians want to own it or not! He spent most of his 99 years on this earth responding to that call. It is sad that he apparently never understood that “Just as I am” applied to all, us queerfolk included.
In looking at the broad picture, I can be critical but overall the view is positive. The same can be said of me, of each of us. It is my hope that, at the end of my life (and I hope it lasts 99 years!) what I have done will be viewed over the whole of my ministry and life and I will not be judged based on the times I’ve been a fool or a jackass. 
May you continue to have a holy and blessed Lent. May you also respond in a Christ-like manner to the call for action against gun violence in our society.
I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.




Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Great Equalizer: You are dust and to dust you shall return

Ash Wednesday was just two days ago and at every service there was the haunting phrase hanging in the background: You are dust and to dust you shall return, as ashes were smudged on the foreheads of the faithful.

The words were oddly out of place when the recipient was a child, even more so for a baby. The words were poignant when the recipient was mature in years. Yet no matter the age, the words are the great equalizer. And no matter the station in life, the wealth or poverty, gender, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation or other characteristic, we all return to the dust.

The words used when ashes are imposed are from Genesis 3:19, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin and eviction from the Garden of Eden: you are dust and to dust you shall return. No one escapes this fate. All of us eventually return to the dust. Obviously as “Easter people” we look to the resurrection, however and whenever that occurs. But that is on the “other end” of Lent.

I wonder how often (or even if) those in power, political power or otherwise, ever ponder those words that spell out their ultimate fate. I wonder the same of those who treat others so callously or badly. The great equalizer will be the fate of those who try to remove the safety nets from the poor - however meager those safety nets might be. The great equalizer will inflict itself on those who practice racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and yes even on those who perpetrate sexual assault - no matter how long or how hard they try to hide what they have done. The great equalizer will prevail.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned us that we must learn to live together as siblings or we would surely perish together as fools.

A former bishop of Alabama, whose name long ago escaped from my memory, was also brutally direct when he said: If we believe what we profess, we had better learn to get along because we will be with each other for eternity. Ponder that for a moment, both from your perspective and then from that of those who would treat us as second class members of the church and society. Eternity. Together.

The great equalizer: We are all subject to its declaration that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

If you have taken on my challenge to make your Lenten discipline contacting all who represent you in secular government and those who have been charged to be your pastor(s), you might, perhaps as an ice breaker, remind them that they, just like you, are from dust and they, like you, will return to dust.

Yes my kindred, there is indeed a great equalizer and all are subject to it.

Amid the somberness of Ash Wednesday, we endured yet another poignant example of our inhumanity to each other with the Parkland High School (Florida) mass shooting. Pray for the all the victims of that senseless tragedy: the dead, the wounded and even the perpetrator. And pray that we will come to our senses and stop allowing perversions of the intent of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution to cloud our judgement about controlling guns whose only purpose is to kill the children of God. I don’t think this was the time intended for the work of the great equalizer… it was far too soon, at least in my mind.

I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.



Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow





Friday, February 9, 2018

Lent Approaches

This is the last Friday before Lent begins on February 14. As we approach the Lenten season, I am reminded of how Lent was viewed decades ago in my youth and young adulthood: The question was always “What are you giving up for Lent?” I sometimes did give something up for Lent. On the occasion of several Lents I vowed to give up profanity. Well that generally lasted barely until the Second Sunday of Lent. The colorful language just managed to slip in despite my best efforts.

At some point I became aware of another nature of Lent, namely that of taking on some discipline or activity for those forty days. It could be daily prayer, self-improvement, reading specific literature or pretty much any activity that could be considered productive and helpful for the season. I got “hooked” on the value of the Daily Office after a Lent when I took on the discipline of praying Morning Prayer each morning. It stuck.My day begins with prayer following that model.

We seem to be living in a time of little discipline, at least on the part of our elected leaders. Accountability seems to be a “nice idea” rather than something that should be expected and demanded. The wind blows and the position changes. The wind blows and another change. Little thought is given to the impact of such “flexible” thinking on the lives of millions of people.

I urge you to take on some discipline(s) during the upcoming Lenten season. I urge you to make one of your disciplines to be contacting your elected representatives on a very regular basis sharing your thoughts and ideas and how you honestly feel about some of their positions on issues that have a direct impact on you as an LGBTQ+ follower of Jesus Christ. And I urge you to use that language. Make sure they know that you are a person of faith, part of the Jesus Movement.Be persistent. Lent has 40 days. Contact your elected representatives at least one fourth of those days. (Each of the 40 days would be great, but hey, I will take what I can get!)

Elected officials do not hear from nearly enough of their constituents. Often they only hear the harsh meanness of the religious right. Let them hear a more moderate expression of faith. It helps those who need reinforcement. It might convict others to change their thinking. So get out your personal devices, laptops, and desktops and email, tweet, text or whatever form of communication gets you going. Who knows, some might even write an actual letter and mail it!

Don’t forget to include your religious leaders as well. If you are in one of the infamous non-marriage eight, contact your bishop during Lent and point out the pain his position is causing for you and those close to you. Make it a part of your discipline for the season to be in regular contact with your bishop… maybe even your commission on ministry or standing committee… whoever it is who needs to hear from you. Make it a discipline.

I wish each of you a blessed, holy and productive Lent.



Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow