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.)


Lindy said...

...I've been documenting.
Yes, that's what I call it too, and I love you so much right now for putting it in just those words. The difference between you and me is that you really have been documenting. I appreciate you laying it all out like this. You're a faithful friend to Louie and to Integrity too.

My own experience with Integrity has mainly been as an outsider, albeit one who took comfort in its being there. I remember when I was just thinking about becoming an Episcopalian. I lived across the street from the Library of Congress and I'd tromp across the snowy street on many Saturday mornings to request articles from obscure journals about the homosexuals in the Episcopal Church. I have often said Ellen Barrett was the first Episcopalian I knew, but it is also true that Integrity is the first Episcopal organization I knew of. There was an Integrity chapter on DuPont Circle, if I'm remembering right, but for some reason I couldn't get to meetings very often. In fact, I think I went more often after I moved to California. But, it was there. I was watching and learning. Hoping that there really was a place in the church for me. After I'd moved out to California I heard about a thing called All Saints. Yes, THAT All Saints. They had Integrity too. But, it was a long drive from Laguna Beach up to Pasadena. I became active in a different group of gay Episcopalians. That group didn't have a name but it was closer to home. But Integrity was still there, in the background, giving reassurances and constancy. After we got the internet I joined Lightspeed. Remember that? And I learned so much from all of you there. That's probably where I met Ann, come to think of it. I am so grateful for Integrity being there, grateful to have listened in on so many discussions, learned so much about how to be gracious, forgiving, and even fierce. What to do when you've been wrong. I learned so much about the church. I learned all that by listening in on you guys. I hate to see Integrity in such shape because I guess that over the years I came to love it a little bit too. I remember one time Louie was speaking in Houston and when I read that he was coming to Texas I felt so overcome with gratitude that I drove over there to thank him for starting Integrity. I guess I was living in Austin at the time. I hate to see Integrity in this sorry state. I suspect that you are right about its time being over, though. At least this version of it. There is still a need, though. I think it needs to be there. It's a beacon, a hope. It was for me. And there is a need outside the USA. TEC likes to say that it's a global church, which is not really true, but what ever. But, there is a need for hope in a lot of places. I see the need. But, organizationally, when trust is lost and the vision is not clear... It's probably time. You are doing the right thing by helping to outwit down with dignity and, well, integrity.

And keep "documenting."

All love and respect,


Anonymous said...

My church wants to take off references to BelieveOutLoud and Integrity on the webpage because of the dysfunction.