Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Integrity USA: "Time to let go"


I ran into a friend recently who teasingly said, "I can't wait to read your next rant."

Well, I don't think I've been ranting. I've been documenting.

Okay, passionately. That ought not to come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.

The "election" of the President of Integrity and the Chair and Vice-Chair of Integrity is scheduled for Monday, January 20th. The ballots are due back by 11:59 PM EST on Saturday, January 25th. The results will be announced on Monday, January 27th. The elected officers will take office on February 1, 2020, and serve through September 30, 2021.

We know that much to be true and factual.

What we don't know is the identity of those who will be voting. We don't know how many people will be voting. And, the board has steadfastly refused to provide this information.

Worse, they have offered absolutely no reason for this, leaving us with one of three possible reasons:
(1) They don't know but will work with what they do know, no matter how small.
(2) They do know but don't want it known because it's a very small number and they have already secured their votes (which would be obvious once their identities were made known).
(3) Their sense of privilege and entitlement is more important than the membership they are elected to serve.

I don't like conjecture and speculation, either, but when the board behaves like the boys in a smoke-filled back room, that's what we're reduced to.

I feel compelled to remind us that Integrity is a Christian justice organization for Episcopal LGBTQ people, families and friends. 

At any rate, all the positions, save one, are uncontested. All hand-picked by the present, non-elected (save one) board members. You can read about them here.

Bottom line: The "election" is a done deal.

So, nothing to see here. Move along. Right?

Umm . . . . wait. Not so fast.

What I want to document this time, going into the elections, are the responses from some of the former leaders and a few of the present members of Integrity. I think they are most instructive.

I want to note that there are no - zero, zip, zilch - voices that say, "Integrity is alive and well."

Neither have there been any voices that say, unequivocally, "We need to keep Integrity alive." The "supportive" voices - one surmises they are supportive, albeit a strange way to demonstrate it - are those who scold and admonish folks to "quit complaining and do something to help."

There have been a few - from one or two local chapters - who have reported the wonderful, supportive activities and community building going on there. They admit, however, that they are alive and well without any help or support from the national level - and often, in spite of it.

I am hoping that the voting members of the Stakeholder's Council, as well as the presumptive new leaders of Integrity, might read this. Since we don't know who they are, I'll just have to trust in the Spirit who moves in strange and mysterious ways.

What I know about the way the Spirit moves is that She doesn't wear a watch. She moves where She wills. You may hear a sound but you can not tell where it comes from or where it is going.  Or, when.

As Dr. King famously wrote, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." 

I believe that to be true. I have faith that justice will be done because a grave injustice has been done to this once noble justice organization.

Just listen to the voices of Integrity, speaking with integrity.

The first statement is from Sr. Helena Barrett, formerly Ellen Barrett, who was the founding co-President of Integrity (1974-75) and the first woman and first self-affirming lesbian to be ordained by Bishop Paul Moore, Diocese of New York.
In response to the upcoming so-called election Integrity is about to hold, let me say this as one of Integrity's original co-presidents: The last few years have been an increasingly shambolic travesty of the organization Louie founded and I was honoured to help grow from its infancy. It is no pun but a simple truth to say that its mission, it's heart, and especially its integrity has been utterly lost. I am convinced that it is time and past time to admit IntegrityUSA is dead and to stop pretending anything else. We can end the fiasco while the memory of Louie's vision and our good work is still alive, or allow it to decompose in dishonour. The work that still needs doing can only be accomplished by something born from these ashes. But that can only happen if we bury the corps
Her statement was followed by one by Fred Ellis, President of Integrity 1994-98:
To date I have observed, and reserved comment. As a former President, 1994-98, I can no longer do that. It is time for us to sunset Integrity USA as we currently know it. Several of us proposed that prior to GC 2018, but were told the board had a plan. Didn't happen. We are now being asked to give it more time. Time has passed. It is time to move on, honoring our past. Hopefully a new group can continue the work that remains. Many of us care too much about Integrity to continue the current sham.
And, here is the link to an entire blog written by Susan Russell, President of Integrity 2003-2009. I will leave it to you to read the entire statement at your leisure but here's an important quote:
We are not "there yet" until there truly are no outcasts, until the full and equal claim promised by this church in 1976 is actually full and equal and until there's not a single stranger left at the gate.

And ... to every thing there is a season.

So in answer to all those emails, voice mails and social media posts asking for comment on the current "Integrity troubles" here are my two cents:

I think it's time to let it go.
Some comments were left on my blog. This from Frank Dowd, former board member and treasurer
Dear Elizabeth, thank you for shining a great big light on this whole wretched mess. As a long-time member of Integrity and a former board member and treasurer in the early 2000s, this breaks my heart, but truth must be told before healing can begin. Let us pray for the full truth to come out and that this much-loved organization may find healing and renewal of purpose in the new decade. Frank Dowd
Elisabeth Jacobs is an MBA who was a former treasurer. She had this to say.
Like Fred, to date I have observed and reserved comment. As former treasurer I was skewered right here on Facebook a few years ago, when the board fired the Executive Director. That aside, it past time for IntegrityUSA to sunset, I said it in SLC @ GC 2015 and still believe this. Work together to form a new group to move forward with the important work to be done. Perhaps a task force of members or past board members can be assembled to to assist in the planning stages of the new group.
This comment comes from Mac MacLeod, husband of Bishop Mary Adelia MacLeod
We, Mac and Mary Adelia McLeod, sent a check to Integrity and never received a response. Sadly, we now now why.
Thank you Elizabeth.

The Rev. Mac McLeod
The Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia Rosamond McLeod
Daphne, a former Convener in Tulsa, OK in the mid-80s, left this comment
Elizabeth, thank you for uour incredible service to Integrity USA. Many years ago (mid 1980s), Carol Burnside and I were the convenors of a joint Dignity/Integrity group in Tulsa Oklahoma. We participated in several national conventions of Integrity, and later attended Robert Williams installaion at Oasis. These organizations were life-giving and affirming to us at very important personal junctures. I am guilty of being someone who has "fallen away" from membership and involvement for many years now. I am nonetheless deeply saddened to read all that you have written in this and previous posts. Thank you for your commitment to Louie and to Integrity as we once knew it!
This comment was posted by an Integrity member on the Integrity USA Facebook
These past few weeks have been extremely frustrating. Since Gwen Fry has resigned, there have been hundreds of posts and comments about the election, and what does the future of Integrity look like.

There appear to be only 3 candidates responding and NO current members of the Stakeholders or board commenting. Integrity is in free fall with a severe lack of leadership especially in an acting capacity. One candidate has described his goals, but ron and Bruce only speak in platitudes, and generalities but they are missing the big picture. 

Integrity is still part of The Episcopal Church but we hear little about that with many posts from our leaders being about everything except the Episcopal Church. When leadership was shown that the shield violates TEC communication and media rules, Ron and Bruce scoffed at it and showed and absolute lack of openness and respect to members of Integrity and the Church. 

There are still dioceses in TEC where same sex marriage is not permitted and where Gay and Lesbian clergy are not allowed to transfer canonically. There is a tremendous amount of discrimination that still occurs in the Church today and no one is taking about that. I have been a member of several parishes where I was the diversity, where I was tolerated but not truly accepted ( at least at first) where over time I was able to change hearts and minds but each time it takes a little bit of me. I hear words like openness, transparency, and oh yes, process...… 

I was frustrated this week to see my parish advertising a seminar with Franklin Graham People are excited about that. Integrity is silent. In this day of such severe split in politics and cultures parishioners and clergy are suffering and don't care about process. There is a backlash against gays and lesbians in their communities and work places and the present leaders of Integrity appear to be rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. 

It's too late for process as Ron and Bruce and the present treasurer are in hiding.
Everyday matters. 

As elections are gearing up a strong voice in the Episcopal Church is required For all these reasons, I join the chorus of saying Integrity should be sundowned. With only 200 members, it a good time as it no longer represents the needs of the Episcopal Church.
And, finally, this comment was left on the IntegrityUSA Facebook page, in response to Ronnie Ward's statement of his uncontested candidacy for President of Integrity. I'm posting it here because it really does some up what many are expressing out loud and in print, all over social media:
Here’s the overwhelming truth, expressed in myriad ways by myriad folks, all of whom want Integrity to have a future:

We don’t trust you.


There are many reasons for this, most of them pretty darn valid. First, we don’t know you. You’re a newcomer to Integrity - unproven, untested. Second, you’re being appointed, not elected. That means you haven’t earned your position - it’s been handed to you. Third, you have given us no tangible evidence of your qualification to do the job of president. Fourth, every response you have given to questions has been either a weak platitude or an overt evasion.

That’s why we’re refusing to use the email address you’ve provided. While I understand your desire to address these questions out of the public eye, we can’t trust you enough to allow you that luxury. You have to earn the trust of the people you aim to serve, and you haven’t done that. Quite the opposite - your approach to communication thus far has been dubious at best.

Please change your approach, so that we can begin to trust you. Candor, vulnerability, and openness are absolutely mandatory qualities in a leader of a Christian organization of any kind. Your current approach is, very rightly, strengthening and reinforcing the distrust that your predecessors have caused.

We need you to be different.
Indeed. That is the hope.

It's thin. Very thin. But, as Emily Dickinson once wrote, "Hope is a thing with feathers."

There can be no progress without trust. There can be no trust without a leadership committed to transparency, willing to honestly and directly answer the questions asked by its dues-paying members, along with the acknowledgment that Ecclesiastes was right.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

This is the time to let go.

May it be so.

Here endth the "rant".  (But to riff on a saying from the 70s, "If you aren't ranting, you aren't paying attention." Which is why this probably won't be my last blog on the goings-on at Integrity.)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Epiphany of Baptism


The Baptism of Jesus in Epiphanytide - January 12, 2020
The Episcopal Church of St. Philip, Laurel, DE

Today we take our first steps into the wondrous season of the Epiphany. It is a wondrous time because the gospel stories after the story of the miracle of the very human birth of Jesus now very carefully emphasize the manifestations – the “showings” – of the divinity of Jesus.

Baptism for the Jew in ancient Israel is not what it is for the Christian today. Baptism was a form of ritual cleansing – a 'mikvah'. The Hebrew word ‘mikvah’ literally means ‘a gathering of water’. It is the word used in Genesis 1:10 when God gathers the waters together to make the seas and the oceans and the rivers.

A mikvah is also part of Jewish law which refers to any water or bath for ritual immersion required before various activities like reading or studying Torah, or for the forgiveness of sins. It is also required of a woman before her marriage. Essentially, a mikvah is a spiritual purification and cleansing.

While our Christian understanding of Baptism is rooted in the Hebrew mikvah, it is a bit different. Jesus has come to John for a mikvah, for spiritual purification and not for forgiveness of sins, much like a wedding mikvah. 

I believe it was a way to formally initiate his adult ministry. John had leaped in his mother’s womb when he met Jesus in Mary’s woman. Both were in placental waters; now they met again in baptismal waters.

Much like a wedding mikvah, Jesus is having this spiritual purification before he makes a commitment and dedication to his adult mission and ministry. Which is why, I think, he’s so insistent on having his cousin John baptize him. It’s not about forgiveness; it’s about an initiation.

As Christians, we have taken both essences of the mikvah as our Baptism. It is the ritual and rite of initiation into Christian community – our dedication to Christ’s mission and ministry. And, it is also about forgiveness of sins.

It is only done once and for one reason and purpose only. We believe that there is ‘one faith, one hope, one Baptism.’ Once you have been baptized, no matter where or how or even by whom, you need not ever be baptized again.

Baptism is an initiation – a beginning – of a new life in Christ. The mystery of our faith is that it is the beginning of our entry into a community of saints here on earth as well as our entry into a communion of saints who have gone on before us and those who are yet to come.

I don’t know how to explain a mystery. I suppose no one does, really. Which is part of why it is a mystery. 

I only know that I rely on that mystery every time I preside at a Eucharist – which we sometimes call “Holy Communion”. I also rely on that mystery every time I am privileged to officiate at a baptism. Or a funeral. Or any one of the sacramental rites.

I know I’m participating in something bigger than myself - something bigger than all of us. Something beyond what’s right here and right now. Something that connects me to this community as well as the one that surrounds me that I can not yet see.

I do know that children know it. They know about the mystery. They sense it when they come to the communion rail. I see it in their eyes. And, they know I know. It is our little secret about a mystery neither of us can explain.

I learned this as a young priest in my first church in Baltimore.

I received a phone call one Sunday afternoon from a young married father, with two small children. We had been talking about how Peter, their 4-year-old son, had been wanting to receive Communion. 

He and his wife were on the fence about it. Both parents grew up in the church when Eucharist was withheld until after confirmation. Would allowing their very young son to receive defy and deny all they had been taught and understood about Holy Eucharist?

Finally, one fine Sunday morning, Peter came to the altar rail and piously cupped his hands to receive the host, as he often did. I looked into his eager, pleading eyes and then at his parents, as I always did. 

Fully excepting them to shake their heads “no,” I was taken aback by their exchanged glances and uncertain smiles. 

Finally, they both looked at me and nodded “yes”.

I knelt at the altar rail to be at Peter’s level, looked into his eyes, and said, simply, “Peter, this is the body of Christ, the bread of Heaven.” Peter looked at the host for a long moment and then reverently took it in his hands, closed his eyes and carefully put it into his mouth. 

He kept his eyes closed for a long time and then whispered, “Amen.”

In that afternoon’s phone call, Peter’s father related that, on their way home in the car, their child suddenly called from the car seat, “Stop the car! Stop the car!” His mother turned to the back seat and asked, “Peter, what’s wrong?”

“Stop the car,” said Peter, “I have something ‘portant to say!”

Peter’s father dutifully pulled over to the side of the road and both parents turned to the back seat to listen to what their young son had to say. He remained silent for a while, seeming to weigh his words very carefully. 
“What is it, son?” asked the father. “What do you have to say to us that is so important?”

Peter sat up in his car seat and, at the top of his voice exclaimed, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven!”

His father, in reporting the experience said, “He got it,” Reverend Elizabeth. You were right! He understands!” 

Now, I am not telling you this story to suggest that children should or shouldn’t receive communion. That is a decision that is not mine to make. That is a personal decision families must make together for what best aligns with their beliefs and values and traditions.

What I’m saying is that baptism is the rite of initiation that opens the doors to the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist and the five sacramental rites of the church. You don’t have to understand baptism, but once you are baptized you take your first steps into the deep mystery of our faith.

Baptism doesn’t make you perfect, but it places you on the path to be perfected in the doing. I love the prayer we pray after someone is baptized. The last sentence of that prayer is:  

Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.

Perfect people don’t need to inquire about anything. Neither do they need courage. Baptized people are not perfect. Baptized people are people who are free to be fully human. A wise man named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Think about that for just a few minutes. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I can’t explain that mystery. I only know that it resonates deep in my soul as being true. And, because I believe it to be true,  I believe baptism frees us to take risks, to fail so we can get up again and learn something more, something deeper about the mystery of what it means to be more fully human.

I will leave you with this poem entitled “Anyway,” which I think beautifully sums up the risks and benefits of spiritual beings trying to be more fully human. Some attribute this poem to Mother Theresa; others say this was written by a young college student named Kent Keith. 

No matter. These words convey the Holy Spirit of God incarnate in Jesus, in whose name we were baptized. They are a manifestation, an epiphany, of God's Love that we are free to enjoy in baptism.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God
It was never between you and them anyway.        


 Amen.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Flatline: An exchange with the presumptive president of IntegrityUSA

He prefers to be called "Ronnie".

He doesn't pay attention to detail.

He cloaks his lack of transparency behind a thin veil of religiosity.

He never - EVER - directly answers questions. Instead, he quotes scripture.

That's what I've learned thus far about Ronnie Ward, the presumptive president of IntegrityUSA.

It doesn't bode well. That is, of course, if your hope is that Ronnie has come to resuscitate and revive the once noble but now moribund justice organization known as IntegrityUSA.

I'm going to document my letter to him and then my response to his response below. However, I understand that the total effect of all of this will be "the cry of one in the wilderness".

That's because the "election," such as it is without a contender, will be conducted by members of the Stakeholder's Council.

And, not only will the Treasurer of IntegrityUSA not release the number (not names, number) of actual members of Integrity and the number of active Integrity chapters, he also will not release the names of - much less how many - members there are of the Stakeholder's Council.

So, we have no idea who will be voting for Ronnie Ward.

Even so, it seems important to know something about this man, especially since, by his own admission, he's only known about and been a member of Integrity for the past several months.

It looks like he hasn't been an Episcopalian for very long, either. About 3-4 years ago, he was a Unitarian. Which is fine. It just doesn't give him much of a base of knowledge about the unique attributes and peculiarities of The Episcopal Church. Not if you're going to assume leadership in what was once a premiere justice organization of The Episcopal Church.

He - our boy Ronnie - has refused to answer any questions on Social Media. So, Ronnie has set up a private email in which he promises to answer our questions. (Here's his email: connect2iusa@gmail.com)  Except, that's pretty much a sham operation too, as you'll see below.

Before I let you get into the weeds of our exchange, I do want to bring to your attention a very important matter which recently surfaced. This needs to be documented somewhere that's easily accessible and not hidden in the comments of FaceBook.

I only pray that those of you who are members of the Stakeholder's Council will read this. Or if you know who they are, that you will share this information with them.

It seems that, in 2011, Ronnie Ward was living in Norwich, CT where, among other things, he was a member of the Democratic Town Committee.

The Registrar of Voters was a woman named  Joann Merolla-Martin. It appears Ronnie got into a bit of a public scuffle with her over his alleged repeated absenteeism and public attacks.

Those are very serious concerns, given that the previous President of Integrity was on an unannounced LOA for most of the first year of her tenure and a few - well, most notably one - of the board members has attacked those who disagree with him, using homophobic slurs such as "pissy old queens" and "bitter old dykes".

The news article is: "Norwich Registrar defends bid to oust Ward"

Please note that I was able to access the article the first time I clicked on it. After that, it was hidden behind the paywall. In essence, the article says:
"The decision by Norwich Democratic leaders to consider removing Ron Ward from the party was based on a pattern of behavior that included personal attacks and a history of absences from monthly committee meetings, Registrar of Voters JoAnn Merolla-Martin said Tuesday."
Here's a link to the article saved in Google. Fingers crossed that it works. 

One of the members of Integrity recently decided to follow up and contacted Ms. Joann Merolla-Martin to check into the veracity of the newspaper article.

There is a screenshot of her statement above, along with another screenshot below of her permission to share this information publically, but here's what her message says:
“Ron Ward was a member of our Democratic Town Committee, a political organization with elected members with the purpose of nominating, supporting and electing Democratic candidates. I was the Registrar of Voters at the time. Mr Ward was a very divisive individual who seemed to thrive on creating chaos amongst the members. Several members of the committee sought to have him removed from the party but the process was eventually dropped. Looking back we likely should not have begun the process, but given his combative nature it did seem to be the right course of action at the time. He made every issue into an argument, attacked everyone who sought to seek office and appeared to collect information so that he could use it as a wedge issue. After that year we didn't see him again. I hope this helps. Good luck to you”
" . .  a very divisive fellow."

" . . . seemed to thrive on creating chaos amongst the members."

" . . . given his combative nature . . ."

" . . . made every issue into an argument, attacked everyone who sought to seek office and appeared to collect information so that he could use it as a wedge issue."

"After that year we didn't see him again."

"Good luck to you."

I'm just going to leave that there for you to consider, especially after you check out his credentials which he himself has published on his LINKEDIN page.

In fairness, I'm also going to leave this rebuttal editorial "End Ward Witchhunt" which doesn't do much, in my opinion, to counter the claims. It merely complains about the process (Hmm . . . where have we heard THAT technique before?).

It's especially compelling to me that, 9 years later, Ms. Merolla-Martin continues to stick with her claims. This is especially so since Ronnie has not darkened the door of the Town Hall of Norwich, CT since.

I hope the board that embraces him knows what they're getting into. 

I should also note that the article about absenteeism and public attacks was posted by the Rev Robert "Bob" Solon. It should be duly noted that Ronnie's response to Rev Bob's posting was to immediately attack Rev Bob.

Yes, Ronnie attacked the person who posted a news article about him making public attacks.

He was pretty hysterical. 

Alas, if you click on the link to Ronnie's response, you'll find that his post has been deleted. Probably a smart thing. It was far from meeting the board's ironic standard of being "kind".

Oh, and I should also note that Rev Bob has been blocked on FB by Ronnie.

So, wait. You know what this means, right? It means that yes, Rev Bob can not see anything that Ronnie posts. But it also means that Ronnie can't see anything that Rev. Bob posts. 

I am not making any of this up.

So, that should be enough toxicity for anyone's gullet. However, I am going to publish my letter to him but not his response to me  - which, I notice in a second letter that just arrived, he's already changed his mind. Now, he says, he WILL respond, in written form, to my questions.

At least, I think that's what he's saying. 

Film at eleven (but don't hold your breath).

So, what I hoped to achieve with this letter to Ronnie is not only to secure some answers to questions I know I and others have but also to let him know the identity of at least one of the long-term members of Integrity, and to know WHAT he's walking into.

Ready? Got the popcorn? All settled on your sofa? Nice warm comforter and the beverage of your choice nearby. Here we go:
Hi, Ron (or is it Ronnie?)

I'm Elizabeth Kaeton. Not Liz. Not Betty. Elizabeth. With a 'z'. She/Her/Hers. In formal situations, you may address me as the Reverend Dr. Kaeton. (pronounced KAY-ton). In informal church settings - especially where children are present - you may call me Reverend Elizabeth. In places where male clergy are called "Father," although I detest it, you may call me "Mother". In a personal conversation, you may call me what God calls me: Elizabeth.

I understand you have read my blog post "Integrity is Dead" ( https://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2020/01/integrity-is-dead.html ) so you know how I feel about the current level of incompetence and moral corruption that is the state of the present leadership of Integrity. (It has been read by over 2,000 unique readers in 8 days.)

You may not know that I have been a member of Integrity since 1977. I have served in various capacities on the Board of Integrity for 15 years and was an active member before that.  I served five years as Canon Missioner to The Oasis (a ministry of the DioNwk with LGBTQ people) under Jack Spong (I presently serve on that board).  I was also President of the Episcopal Women's Caucus for 10 years. I have served on my diocesan Standing Committee, one term as President. I have attended the past two Lambeth Conferences. I have attended General Convention since 1985 and have been a deputy 4 times, where I served several times on the legislative teams for Integrity and the EWC. I have also served on the Urban and Social Justice Committee of General Convention. I have served as a reader for GOEs. Presently, I am serving on the national board of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) and volunteer as a Planned Parenthood crisis intervention counselor. I am a Hospice Chaplain and I am studying to become certified as a Hospice Doula.

I have been an Episcopal priest since 1986, which gives you a sense of how much of my ordained ministry has been dedicated to serving the LGBTQ community through The Episcopal Church in general and IntegrityUSA in particular.

This is all to say that I have a vested interest in Integrity's integrity which I believe is presently seriously compromised.

I promised Louie that I would do my best to make things right - to hold people accountable and responsible - even if that meant helping Integrity "sunset" as an organization as we have done to two major independent justice organizations in The Episcopal Church: ECPC (Episcopal Church Publishing Company - on whose board I served) and EWC (The Episcopal Women's Caucus).

I want you to know these things so you will know the place in me which gives rise to these questions.

Anyone who knows me (which includes your dean and the director of Anglican studies) knows that I do not entertain fools gladly. I have zero tolerance for BS and, after 30+ years in the church, I can smell mendacity a mile away; as Big Daddy says in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof": mendacity smells like death.

I want you to know these things before you answer so you will know that the effort put into your answers will not be in vain; rather, they will be carefully and respectfully read.

I have five questions for you which you no doubt asked yourself or worked out with your spiritual director as part of your discernment process before accepting the nomination. They are:

1. Knowing what you know - at least from a reliable source like myself and other vocal, disgruntled, deeply, painfully hurt members of Integrity - about the current state of this organization, why do you seek to be its President? Please, be specific.

a. What specific needs do you see Integrity has at this time?
b. What specific strengths do you feel Integrity has?
c. What specific skill sets and experience do you bring to the position which match/serve those needs and empower those strengths?
d. What one experience have you had in the past which you feel prepares you to lead Integrity at this moment in its history?
e. What is your vision for Integrity?
f. Given the fact that the last president spent almost the entirety of her first elected year on medical leave, how is your health? (I understand that you are not required to answer that question. A general answer will suffice but you may choose to decline to answer entirely. I simply feel compelled to ask, given our most recent experience.)
g. Who nominated you? What is your relationship to this person?
h. How long have you been a member of Integrity?

2. Tell me about your education and work experience (I am going from the information you have posted on LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/in/rondward/?fbclid=IwAR3-HidxzJ40a3nI8_Dmfad03LQgMe8Qsm9g9VjJbreprAXs7yq8wq9Gy3Q)

a. I see you have a JD. I see that you are not a member of the Bar in CT or NY. Are you an officer of the court? Which state holds your license? What kind of law have you practiced? If you are not licensed to practice law, I'm curious: why not? How have you applied what you learned from your JD?

b. I see you have a Master's Degree in Education (PK-12). What did you learn from teaching elementary school that prepared you for where you are now? Other than being an EFM mentor and diocesan EFM coordinator, how have you used this degree?

c. I see you have an MA in Religious Studies. What did you learn there that prepared you for where you are now? How have you used this degree? What are the direct applications?

d. I see you are enrolled in the M.Div program at EDS@Union. Are you also an aspirant/postulate for Holy Orders? In which diocese? What are your vocational goals? 

3. I have read of the 2011 saga of your experiences in Norwich, CT. While I am deeply distressed about the two issues of concern at that time - absenteeism and personal attacks, both of which apparently were not mere allegations but documented evidence - I am less concerned about that (everyone makes mistakes) and more concerned about what you learned from that experience. How have you applied those lessons to be a better person?

4. Yes or no: Do you have any direct experience with

a. Fundraising?
b. Membership campaigns?
c. Board development?
d. Conflict resolution?
e. Reconciliation of disaffected community members?
f. Coalition building?

If so, please give concrete examples of your direct experience.

5.. You must know that part of the moral corruption and incompetence of the board has led to

a. The Integrity membership not knowing the number or identity of the voting members of the Stakeholder's Council (We also have no idea of how many members or the number of active chapters in Integrity). So, we have absolutely no idea whether or not this will be a sham election. Indeed, we have no reason to feel confident that it will be a valid election.

b. The Treasurer of the Board of Integrity refused to certify the membership of one person who was nominated to run for President, which led to the board disqualifying him because he would not sign a required form. Thus, you are the presumptive next president of Integrity.

Given this and the fact that, save one member of the board, all the board members were NOT elected but appointed - one, in fact, illicitly in direct violation of the bylaws:

(a) How does it make you feel knowing that, forever in the history of Integrity, the validity of your election will always be clouded with doubt in a way that has never happened to any other previous President of Integrity?

(b) What will you do to provide members a sense of confidence in the validity of your election?

I have other questions but they can rest for now. I am anxious to hear your responses because I think they have the potential to ease the minds of many members of Integrity and begin the process of healing and reconciliation.

One last thing: I need you to know that I love this organization. I have gladly given most of the best years of my ordained ministry in its service and I remain forever a grateful debtor for all Integrity has done for me and other Queer Episcopalians.

I hope you can do a good job as President. I am praying that you can do a good job as President. You and I may have different ways to define "good job" but, that's not what's important.  Either way, this position is going to call on every single skill and talent and strength you have learned or developed or experienced in the full quota of your life.

I pray you feel called to do this work, because if God has given you the will to do these things, God will also provide you the gifts of grace to accomplish them. If you are doing this for some other reason, well, I suppose that will be its own reward and I will pray for you all the more intentionally.

God bless. Thank you for your time.

(the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton
Okay, so I've given it quite a lot of thought and prayer and I'm not going to compromise my integrity for the total lack of integrity of this man. I'm not going to publish his letter to me as he requested.

In an email that he solicited, I am under no obligation to respond to his request.

I think, if I publish my response to him, you'll learn all you need to know, anyway.

So, here goes:
Dear Ronnie,

First, it's KAEton. Not KEAton. It would appear that attention to detail is not exactly your forte.
Second, I will be publishing my letter to you on my blog so I do not feel compelled to honor your request not to "publish, quote or paraphrase this email I'm sending to you."  You have done nothing to earn my trust. (NOTE: As I indicated, I will abide by his request.)

Your response confuses me and makes me sad.

First, you have not said ANYTHING that anyone would consider "confidential".  You have simply refused to answer my questions - as you have everyone else - by hiding behind a cloak of religiosity. That lacks integrity, which should hold you in good stead with a board that is sorely lacking in any integrity. They have kept secret the absence of the president and near-dissolution of the last elected board as well as the number (not identity, number) of members and active chapters; they have ignored legal requests like the one for "books and records" and the petition to change the bylaws signed by more than 10% of the estimated membership, and they have made up bylaws to suit themselves through a misapplication of a portion of Robert's Rules.

The complaints being filed with the Attorney General and the IRS will no doubt keep you and them busy through most of 2020.

You are the presumptive next President of Integrity. You are being "elected" in an uncontested election where the electors are not known in a system which was rigged by the Treasurer who would not disclose to one of the prospective candidates the status of his membership so the candidate would not sign his silly form stating he was a member (which the Treasurer would not confirm) and giving permission for Integrity to release that information.

It is positively Kafkaesque, by which I mean that Franz Kafka's characters overcomplicate their own lives through their fanatical, singular devotion to absurd conditions. Indeed, Kafka's character, Poseidon, is a prisoner of his own ego.

The condition of your "election"/appointment will forever cloud the authenticity of your position. I can't imagine anyone with a shred of integrity accepting a position under those conditions.

Then again, you may be just the answer to the prayers of many people that the next leader of Integrity would announce that Integrity is, in fact, dead and move to "sunset" the corporate IRS standing. I now have no doubt that you while you don't yet understand this - and may not ever understand it - you have, nevertheless, been placed in this uncontested position of leadership as the uncontested vehicle of the burial of a once-great organization of justice.

This will not be easy for you, personally or professionally. It will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects, much more damaging to you in The Episcopal Church than the unfortunate incident in which you found yourself in Connecticut.

I will continue to work to keep my promise to Louie before he died. I will continue to work toward truth-telling and transparency and responsibility of an organization I love and to which I feel deeply indebted. 

I wish you well but expect the worst. The work of IntegrityUSA remains even more fervently in my prayers.
Now, his follow up letter to me does not contain the same request not to publish his letter so I'm going to. It would appear he's changed his mind. At least, I think that's what he's saying. I welcome any honesty, no matter how tardy a guest it may be.
I will be taking the questions you posed and writing a response to be posted.  Understandable that you would post your email written to me.  I was indicating that I would not be posting your email.  I hope you can extend the courtesy to not  post, quote or paraphrase the reply that I sent to you.
Well, and that's about as much drama as I can take for today. 
Indeed, I think I've borrowed some "points" from tomorrow's total allotment of drama. 

My prayer is that this poor soul who clearly doesn't know what he's getting into will rescind his candidacy. 
I don't know what he thinks he's getting himself into but clearly, he has no idea of the reality that awaits him. 

Or, perhaps he does and that's exactly what greases his wheels and helps him to roll the way he rolls.
And, as I said, perhaps Ronnie is the answer to our prayers to help IntegrityUSA finally be allowed to be put to rest with all the dignity and respect it so richly deserves. 
If there is a Triennial Integrity Eucharist at General Convention 2021, I intend to be there. (I understand the 2018 service was a very pale shadow of its former grand self, with about 1/2 the attendance it normally enjoys). I hope it is a celebration of the Life of Integrity so we can rejoice in what once was, morn what is no more, and support what is going on in the local parish level.

That's the only way I know that resurrection will happen. 
Death first. Then, resurrection.

Good Friday before Easter Day. 

We live in sure and certain hope.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

20 C.M.B.20


Second Sunday in Christmastide - January 5, 2020
Eve of the Epiphany
Christ Episcopal Church, Milford, DE


This is the second Sunday after Christmas. It is also the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany – the time when the three wise men came to pay homage to the newborn Jesus. It can also mean a manifestation of divine or supernatural being. In secular use, epiphany has come to mean having a moment of sudden revelation or insight. 

I’d like you to hold those three definitions in your mind for a moment before I go on.

When I was a child, this day was every bit as important as Christmas Day. In my Roman Catholic Portuguese American family, we kept Christ in Christmas and we kept the exchange of presents on the Feast of the Epiphany. And, what a feast it was! There were lots of special food and desserts.

The Feast of the Epiphany was ‘dia dos Reis’ (day of the kings) my grandmother would always bake us a Bolo Rei (‘King cake’) that had a large hole in the center, so that it resembled a crown, and was covered with crystallized and dried fruit and sugared nuts which made them look like gems in a crown. 

And, the best part – there was always either a bean (or, in more affluent times, a silver coin or toy) inside. Whoever found the bean or the hidden silver coin or toy was the Reigning Monarch for the Day and got to use the Blessed Chalk (more on this in a minute).

I have a very clear childhood memory of the priest in church, dressed in white vestments, blessing the Epiphany Water (which recalls the miracle of the Baptism of Jesus and the Miracle at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine), frankincense and gold (two of the gifts of the Magi) and chalk. 


Yes, chalk. 

Every family took home a piece of chalk so that the one who found the hidden silver in the King Cake got to write the first initial of each of the three wise men “Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar” over the doors of the church and our homes. 

The secret was that the initials “C.M.B.” also stood for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates “May Christ bless this house.”

I have a basket of chalk for you near the Nativity scene. Each family may each take one and then write on the lintel of your door the first two digits of the New Year, followed by C.M.B and then the last two digits of the new year. So, this year, you will write 20 C.M.B. 20.  You’ll notice that I wrote that on the top of the door of the church.

Oh, in my grandmother’s house, we would have exchanged some presents on December 25th but the Epiphany was when we got special presents. The tricycle or bicycle we thought Santa had forgotten. The special EZ Bake Oven which baked small cakes by the heat of a light bulb. A special party dress or black patent leather shoes that finally went on sale so my parents could actually afford it.

This ritual seemed quite odd to the rest of the neighborhood where I lived. They just didn’t understand. Most of them had already thrown out their Christmas tree and taken down all the holiday decorations. But, at my childhood home of 241 Renaud Street, Fall River, MA, there was
unbridled excitement and surprise and great joy.

They saw a very strange ritual that was extravagant and wasteful. Didn’t we know that this is America? We do things differently here. We saw it as another way to make manifest God’s generosity and celebrate all the surprising ways God is present in our lives. 

To tell the truth, we actually felt sorry for our neighbors. They could judge us and look down on us if they wanted. We didn’t care. We just thought that they had no idea what they were missing.

This morning’s gospel story from St. Matthew is the one appointed for The Feast of the Epiphany but it’s also an option for today. There are several different perspectives of the birth of Jesus contained right here in this one story.

First, there is Herod, who hears from some “wise men” who have come to Jerusalem from the East that they are following a star, hoping that it will lead them to the newborn King of the Jews. 

The very same thing that brought great anticipation and excitement to these wise men struck fear in Herod’s heart – and, we are told, in the hearts of all of Jerusalem as well.

We can only wonder what the new parents thought of all the commotion their infant child was causing. What might it mean that three men of wisdom from the East (where, apparently, all wise men come), traveled from afar to pay homage to their child? Why did they bring expensive gifts?

At some point, it must have ‘dawned on them’ – as we like to say when someone has an epiphany – that what the angel had said separately to both of them about the nature of this conception and birth was connected to this royal visit with lavish presents of gold (a symbol of royalty), frankincense (a natural gum or resin used as incense and symbol of deity) and myrrh (a natural gum or resin which was used as a medicine; it was also used as an embalming oil and symbol of death).

I love the Season of the Epiphany and I love Epiphany stories. I want to leave you with one of my favorites:

I was a newly ordained priest at my first call as Chaplain at University of Lowell, in Lowell, MA. One of the first mission projects I created was to establish a weekly Eucharist at the Solomon Carter Mental Health Center. I had carefully trained a handful of students in how to lead worship and, together, we had decided that two of them would come with me to the Center, on a rotating basis.

The third floor of the Center was a 'locked unit' - pretty much a human waste basket for all those people who had been released from psychiatric facilities - where they would stay for a few weeks, be released to the streets for a few weeks and then, readmitted again after a brief stopover at the Lowell Police Station and the City Jail for some obtuse, vague charge as 'disturbing the peace'.

I had secured permission to provide a service of Holy Communion, as it would be advertised, making sure the staff knew that I would be bringing in bread (or, hosts, if need be) and wine.

"Nope," they said, "can't bring in anything - not hosts, not bread - from the outside. Especially not wine."

"Okay," I said, "Can you provide me with a few slices of bread and some grape juice?"

"No bread," they said, "We had a 'suicide-by-stuffing-bread' last year. No bread on the ward. And, no peanut butter. That's even worse."

"Okay," I said, "No problem with the peanut butter. How about some saltine crackers and some grape juice?"

"Deal," they said, "We keep them in packages of two - no 'stuffing' - and you can just open up as many packages as you need."

Imagine my surprise when I appeared for that first service and found, waiting for me, some graham crackers and grapefruit juice.

"It's all we had," they said without apology, adding, "It's the end of the month. Supplies are low."

In I went, to the locked "Recreation Room". I heard the door lock behind me and realized that I was alone in the room with two terrified students and about 25 people who were in all sort and manner of 'altered states' of consciousness.

People were walking around nervously, pacing, smoking, muttering to themselves, occasionally shouting out obscenities.

I set the table, yelled out what was about to happen, and asked people to take their seats.

No one did.

I started anyway - said a few, abbreviated opening words, one of the students read the first lesson, the other led the psalm. I went right to the gospel and then said a few words about it.

To my amazement, some of the folks actually sat down and were listening to me. The room was not exactly quiet, but the din had certainly decreased a few decibels and was now a dull buzz.

As I started to say the Eucharistic Prayer, one woman in the front - Helen, I'll never forget her - spoke up.  Helen's eyes looked like the last 20 or 30 years of her life had witnessed some pretty rough roads. Makeup clung to the deep wrinkles and lines in her face, her eyelids were a bright blue with a crooked line of mascara outlining them, and her lips were a misshapen bright cherry red.

She looked like a tragic clown in a very painfully human circus in this "Recreational Room".

"Hey, are you allowed to do that? I mean, being a woman and all," she asked in a gravelly voice.

"Yes," I assured her, "I am an ordained Episcopal Priest."

"Yeah, sure you are" she said, taking a drag from her cigarette, "and I’m the Queen of Sheba. Well, I can't take communion. Divorced, you know."

"Sure you can," I said, "Everyone is welcome at the Lord's Table."

She looked at the oblong utility table where I had set out the starched, white corporal, and had the shiny silver paten and chalice, raised an eyebrow of suspicion, shrugged her shoulders, and lit another cigarette from the one she had almost finished.

I got through the Eucharistic Prayer and marveled as most of the people in the room seemed to be paying close attention to what I was doing. Perhaps a memory from childhood or an earlier day was awakened, and they recognized this as a holy moment.

Even after the words of institution, the mood in the room remained solemn. As I prepared to distribute communion, Helen called out, "Hey, shouldn't we be singing something?"

"Sure," I said, "Why don't you lead us in singing one of your favorite hymns?" Oh, do be careful what you ask for. I asked her to sing. And so, she did.

She leaned back her head, closed her eyes and started singing in the most reverent tones I've ever heard, "She'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes. She'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes. . . ."

By the third verse, about a dozen or so people joined her. "She'll be driving six white horses, she'll be drivin' six white horses (big finish) WHEN. SHE. COOOMMMES!!"

You know what? In that moment, when the absurd met reality, and the profane intersected with the sacred, I knew that Jesus was already there, in that locked Recreational Room, on the third floor of the locked ward of the Solomon Carter Mental Health Center, in Lowell, MA.

And, I had this epiphany. Jesus was fully present to us, but not just in the graham crackers and grapefruit juice. I had already figured that out. My epiphany was this: We hadn’t brought Jesus to church. We had only just brought the church to Jesus.

As we end Christmastide and celebrate 12th Night, we begin the Season of Epiphany. Keep your heart and your mind open to possibility. I know. These are very scary times. We seem perpetually perched on uncertainty. We’re psychically exhausted. More and more, the birds of war seem to be gathering and circling round. It has been a long time since this nation has been so divided. Our strength a nation has always been in our unity. These are anxious days and restless nights.

Surprise and anticipation are expensive commodities in the face of fear and anxiety. And yet, these are the lessons of the Nativity of Jesus. These are the gifts of the Season of the Epiphany.

An observation made by a clergy colleague in NJ brought back a memory of an episode of that classic ‘70s program, "All in the Family”. 

Edith and Archie were attending one of Edith's high school reunions. Edith meets an old classmate who over the years had become excessively obese. They have a delightful conversation, catching up and remembering old times.

Later on, she remarked to Archie about the classmate, "Ain't he a beautiful person?" Archie of course had a different opinion and in a disgusted way, says, "Edith, you're a pip! You and I look at the same guy, you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp."  

Edith responds, "Yeah, ain't that too bad."

It would be too bad – a real shame – if you went through the entire Epiphany Season without one surprise – without finding a bean or a coin in your Epiphany King Cake or met a Helen or found yourself in an unsuspecting secular place –  and didn’t see the possibility of Jesus. 

You just may miss seeing the beautiful person in the one others had dismissed as useless. And, on every level, that would be quite an epiphany.           

Amen.
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Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Integrity is dead.

Integrity is dead.

I’m talking about the organization, IntegrityUSA. I’m also talking about the value, the character, of integrity which animated the creation of this once noble and highly esteemed organization.

The compromise of one has led to the death of the other.

For those of you who may not know, IntegrityUSA is an independent justice organization of Episcopalians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and their parents, family, and friends, which is widely credited with the advocacy efforts that secured the most significant victories for LGBTQ Episcopalians, including official support for access to the sacramental rites of holy orders and marriage.

Many people believe that IntegrityUSA was founded by Louie Crew Clay. That is not exactly accurate. In 1974, while teaching in San Francisco, he and his husband Ernest Clay were excited to attend services at Grace Cathedral and become members.

Thinking that he and Ernest had moved through ‘The Cotton Curtain’ in their home in rural Georgia to arrive at the ‘gayest city in America,’ he called the cathedral to ask if they could help him connect with other gay Episcopalians. 

As Louie told the story, he was put on hold and transferred from person after person who asked him to repeat his question; he could then hear them laughing ‘derisively’.

Louie’s response was to envision the creation of a newsletter that would become a forum for gay and lesbian Episcopalians to connect, organize, express themselves and support each other. He called his publication Integrity because he felt that was what had been taken from LGBTQ people who were compelled to hide the fullness of their humanity from God in the church. The first Integrity newsletter was published in 1974.

Louie understood himself as a writer and his gifts as an evangelist. He never intended to found an organization. Indeed, he never worked in any official capacity with Integrity. 

His writing and evangelism did inspire others to do so and they organized into a handful of chapters and gathered, 200 strong, for a national convention in 1975. Ellen Barrett and Jim Wickliff served as founding co-Presidents.

By 2011, there were 58 chapters and about 2,000 members. At this writing, Integrity has refused to report (if it actually knows) the number of members and chapters currently in existence.  

Integrity has been an active presence at General Conventions since 1977, helping draft resolutions and gathering support for their resolutions as well as the other members of The Consultation, a consortium of justice organizations in The Episcopal Church. The Triennial Integrity Eucharist has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of General Convention, attracting several thousand people in attendance.

IntegrityUSA became a respected voice – in print media and then in social media, as well as in local, state, national and international churches, courts and legislative bodies – for equal civil rights, working collaboratively with other religious and secular organizations. 

There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that Integrity was a Christian justice organization in The Episcopal Church.

That is, until recently.

Over the past decade, organizational instability, incompetent leadership, and fiscal mismanagement have been growing concerns. Financial questions have remained unanswered for several years. According to IRS filings, the total income for 2011 was reported at $767,123. Income declined steadily after that: Income for 2012: $225,830; 2013: $153,591; 2014: $98,016. In 2015, Integrity reported $134,029 in net assets and just $54,574 in revenue, but $225,225 in expenses. 

As of October 17, 2019, the current (appointed, not elected) treasurer of Integrity reported that Integrity has "about $53,000 on hand," $30,000 of which was a bequest which is reportedly earmarked to assist local chapters after a census has been completed. (Treasurers Report October, 2019, can be found here.)

Members have repeatedly asked for an accounting of what happened to the almost $400,000 that was spent in two years. Presidents Caro Hall (2011-2014), Matt Haines (2014-2015), Bruce Garner (2015-2018) and Gwen Fry (2018- November, 2019) have never provided direct answers to those requests. 

It should also be noted that 2015 was the last year Integrity filed a full return to the IRS.

It should also be noted that one of Integrity's members discovered that the board neglected to file Integrity's report with the IRS of the State of Illinois in 2018 so the incorporated status was involuntarily dissolved. It has been reported by the current treasurer that the appropriate report has been filed and Integrity's status has been re-instated.

In June of 2018, Gwen Fry was elected President of Integrity and announced at General Convention that Integrity’s name had been changed to The Episcopal Rainbow. This was done without any input from the members or a process that involved the inclusion of various perspectives as one would expect from a justice organization. This would be the first but not the last manifestation of this ham-fisted style of leadership. 

It should also be noted that no legal action has ever been taken to officially change the incorporated name of Integrity.

Shortly after that election, all members of the board, save for the VP of local affairs, resigned.   
Sometime after that, the President went on medical leave. 

None of this was ever made known to the members until July of 2019 and that was only after repeated questions from members about the absence of the President or a statement from Integrity during PRIDE month (June).

The President announced her return to her position in September of 2019 as well as the appointment of replacement board members, none of whom were known by the membership. 
 
Amidst protests, complaints, and turmoil in the membership, Ms. Fry then resigned on November 25, 2019.

Instability, incompetence, lack of transparency, outright duplicity and mendacity and an autocratic, ham-fisted leadership style have been the hallmarks of the present board. An “internal audit” was ordered by the board and was completed by two (appointed, not elected) board members who did not provide so much as a balance sheet and pronounced – and I quote directly - “no discernible irregularities were discovered”. 

No answers were provided concerning previous financial irregularities. It should be noted that neither of these two board members is a CPA or have other discernible credentials to conduct a financial audit. However, it has been reported that a man named John Lennox, MBA, a contract diocesan auditor with the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina, had reviewed the 2019 internal audit and pronounced it "accurate and well-documented".

Comparing that 2019 internal audit with the independent audit filed in 2015 by Smith, Sullivan & Brown is very revealing in terms of what it does and does not document. 

Indeed, there is no comparison between the audit of 2015 and 2019. Perhaps this is why Integrity's bylaws call for an audit by a CPA and not MBA. While this board likes to talk about bylaws, they only adhere to their interpretation of the bylaws. Sometimes, they even make some up (more on this later.).

A member of Integrity, a corporate attorney, has filed a request for “books and records,” so that he might try to make some sense about the financial questions that have remained unanswered. This request is within the purview of organizational members. The board, specifically the treasurer, ignored that request. 

Several months later, that member was informed by the treasurer, that he was not, in fact, a member. He was thanked for his financial contribution to the organization but told that it was not considered payment for his membership dues.

I am not making this up.  

It needs to be asked: What are they afraid of?  
 
**Bylaws are interpreted according to the particular perspective of the board members, typically the treasurer, who, for example, has declined to make known the names of the members of the Stakeholder’s Council because, he says, the bylaws do not allow it.

That is not true. The **bylaws state that the names of members may not be shared with those who are not members. Which makes sense. There is no reason not to share the names of the members of the Stakeholder’s Council with other members of Integrity. 


But, the treasurer stuck to his interpretation, despite several challenges from several members and did what incompetence always does: He created a form. Incompetent bureaucracies LOVE forms. It's a pathetic power move, just to demonstrate who really has the power. Got a question? We got a form for you to fill out. If it's really insignificant, in triplicate. And, will need to be notarized. 
 
This particular form was to provide the board with permission to share a member’s name with other members. Which the bylaws already allowed. 

See also: I am not making this up.

The names of the members of the Stakeholder’s Council is important information for members to have because, according to the bylaws, in the absence of an elected President, it is the members of the Stakeholder’s Council who elect the new President. Without providing that information to members, the board can hold an election in the same way it conducted the internal audit and then report that there were “no discernible irregularities” in the election process. No one would know the difference.

Before I continue, I want to I remind you that IntegrityUSA is a Christian justice organization in The Episcopal Church.

There have been four members who have been silenced on Integrity’s FB page. Some have been blocked, others have been muted and/or their FB membership on that page rescinded. The reason? Their comments were deemed to be in violation of the FB rules. And those rules are to be ‘kind’. 

If comments are arbitrarily deemed to be ‘unkind’ they are removed and silenced. If a post is considered to be ‘unkind’ it dies in the moderation graveyard without reason, much less an apology. As near as anyone can figure, it is ‘unkind’ to speak the truth or to ask an uncomfortable question, or to say something with which the Moderator of the Day (who is anonymous) disagrees. 

So much for justice. 

Silencing dissenting voices is the behavior common to the oppressor. It is not the way the oppressed interact with each other.

Unless, of course, the oppressed have internalized their oppression and have become the oppressor.

Another example of this can be found in the exchanges between one member of Integrity and the illicitly appointed chair of the Stakeholder's Council who used homophobic slurs ("pissy old queens and bitter old dykes") to describe some of those Integrity members who have raised questions and concerns. 

His behavior and language were excused by the board as being "generational".(Note: At the very end of this blog post, I have provided the exchange and the letter written by President Fry to document this. It is a study in internalized oppression.)

Perhaps one of the most outlandish examples of privilege was seen when the illicitly appointed Interim Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council announced that, as a “parliamentarian with over 20 years of experience,” it was his position that Robert’sRules of Order allowed the board to create bylaws for special circumstances. 

Therefore, since the Stakeholder’s Council had been rendered essentially defunct and the election of members had been “postponed” (by this same person when he was President of Integrity, which was also not allowed in the bylaws), it was perfectly fine for the board to “appoint” him as interim Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council.*

This, of course, is fantasy. This has been confirmed by no less than three corporate lawyers and one corporate paralegal, all members of Integrity. That made no difference to the Board or the illicitly appointed interim chair of the Stakeholder’s Council. 

Facts don’t matter to the privileged who become arrogant and self-serving as they insulate themselves from the very people – the members of Integrity – they are supposed to serve. 

Indeed, a petition was circulated to amend the bylaws to make board meetings open to members. The bylaws state that amendments can be made by petition of 10% of the members. However, since the board refuses to reveal how many members there are on the books - and, apparently arbitrarily determines how to apply membership dues as "donations" or dues - it was thought but not known that the required threshold of signatories had been reached.

No matter. The board has ignored that petition.

If any of this style of leadership sounds even vaguely familiar, one need only look to the Oval Office in Washington, DC for comparison.

Puerto Rican activist Carlos Rodriguez is quoted as having said, “When we’re not hungry for justice it’s usually because we’re too full with privilege.”

There are many, many other examples of abuse of power and the priority of privilege over justice, each one more outrageous than the next. 

Documenting them all would only prove to be an exercise in overwhelming disbelief that that much incompetence, arrogance, duplicity, and mendacity could exist in the leadership of an organization named Integrity.

There are more important truths to tell, prime among them are these:  

Integrity is no longer hungry for justice. It is no longer a justice organization. 

Privilege has become more important than integrity. 

It is barely a shadow of its former self which is monstrously painful to those of us who have generously and joyfully given so much of our lives to an organization – a movement, a dream – which has accomplished so much for so many.

Integrity is dead. Of this, there is no doubt. 

As Christians, we are people who believe in resurrection. It is central to our faith. And yet, many of us are so afraid of death we live in denial, feeding our sense of privilege to numb the anxiety or shame or fear of admitting that Integrity is dead. The irony is that as long as we continue to deny death, we cannot participate in, much less celebrate, resurrection.

My fervent hope for Integrity is that there will be a fair, transparent election that will bring us competent and qualified leadership with a deep commitment to justice and inclusion, transparency and open process. 

I pray for leadership with a clear eye on the reality that the Integrity brand has been irreparably tarnished. 

I pray for leadership who will understand the desperate need for healing and reconciliation and pastoral care within the membership of Integrity.

I  pray for leadership who will understand his (and I have no doubt that the next President will be male – and, no doubt, Caucasian) role as a hospice chaplain to a national organization which has died while simultaneously working as a midwife to newly resurrected justice ministries at local levels.

I pray for leadership who understands that the best leadership style is to "get right in the middle and then get right out of the way" - gradually phasing out Integrity at a "national" level.


As long-time Episcopal leader and Civil Rights Activist, Ed Rodman, has so often said, leaders in justice movements know to "have their fingerprints on everything and their name on nothing."

I pray for leadership with enough integrity and strength of character to speak a hard word of truth: 

Integrity is dead.

Perhaps then, once truth is spoken, reality acknowledged, and healing and reconciliation begun, we may reclaim a sense of integrity and begin to continue Louie’s dream of new ways for LGBTQ people to return to wholeness and holiness of life in the church and in the world.

Integrity is dead.

Long live integrity! 

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Note: The following news outlets have published stories on the current crisis of leadership in Integrity.
 

Episcopal News ServiceIntegrity president resigns amid mounting criticism

NOTE:  

1.  Here are the results of the MEMBERSHIP SURVEY October 22, 2019.

2. Here is a copy of the Books and Records Demand

* Note that the last time Integrity financials were filed with the IRS was 2015. Note the term of the president who is presently the illicitly appointed chair of the Stakeholder's Council was 2015-2018.
**Link to the bylaws can be found at the bottom of this page.

*** There is a new Integrity Webpage: "Integrity Listens and Speaks" where one may kindly post questions or comments to a particular board member who will kindly respond.

**** Integrity's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/integrityusa/  

*****Integrity's old, sadly outdated Webpage can be found here:  https://www.integrityusa.org/


Note: The board of Integrity has announced that "an official list of candidates for President of Integrity and Chair and Vice-Chair of the Stakeholder's Council will be issued and released by Friday, January 3, 2020. Integrity USA will host a live Zoom town hall meeting "shortly after the list of candidates is issued."  It will be an opportunity for members to see and hear from candidates running for president."

"Official ballots will be issued on Monday, January 20, 2020, and due back by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, January 25, 2020. The ballots submitted will be certified by Integrity USA’s outside auditor and results announced by Monday, January 27, 2020. Integrity USA’s new president, Stakeholders’ Council chair and Stakeholders’ Council vice-chair will take office on February 1, 2020 and serve through September 30, 2021."

Note: I was with Louie the day before he died (on the eve of Thanksgiving, 11.27.19). We briefly talked about the state of Integrity which brought him deep distress and anger and tears. I promised him that I would try to make things right. Making sure the truth is told and documented in this blog is part of my effort to keep my promise.

:::ADDENDUM NOTE::: I am deeply grateful to the Integrity member who provided this FB post regarding the board's decision concerning the homophobic slurs ("Pissy old queens" and "bitter old dykes") he used to describe Integrity members who expressed their concerns and frustrations with board leadership:


Statement by Integrity USA’s President Regarding Bruce Garner’s Private Facebook Comments – November 15, 2019

Dear Integrity friends,

The board met with Bruce Garner today after receiving inquiries about language he used in a private Facebook chat. The concerns surfaced after an individual posted screenshots of that private conversation in our Facebook group in reaction to our announcement that Bruce was appointed Integrity USA’s Interim Stakeholders’ Council Chairperson.

Historically, the use of certain words describing members of the LGBTQ community have evoked a variety of reactions. The reactions often vary by, and sometimes within, generations.

This is something the LGBTQ community has debated for many years. You may have seen that Bruce posted a response this afternoon in that Facebook discussion clarifying that his comments were made as a private individual and do not reflect the thoughts of anyone else or any organization.

We appreciate his clarification. Bruce Garner was appointed Interim Stakeholders’ Council Chairperson because of his many years of service and institutional knowledge of Integrity USA. This includes two terms as president.

Integrity USA’s board of directors believes he is an asset to the organization and will play an important role in shaping its future. Let’s not allow our personal differences divide us during a time when there is still so much work to be done. (Italization added for emphasis.)


Integrity USA envisions a church where people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are welcomed and affirmed. Together, we can make that happen. 

Blessings, 
 Gwen Fry Integrity USA President