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Friday, February 28, 2020

Humpty Dumpty Integrity

In a lovely recent note from Louie's widow, Ernest, wrote to me, "The torch of information has been passed to you. Louie is rejoicing. You are the right woman for the task."

I hope always to be worthy of the task.

It's been about six weeks since I've written about Integrity USA. 

I’d love to say that things have gotten better. They have not. Decidedly. Not.

The last time I reported, it was just four days before the Stakeholder’s “election”. Those who were “elected” began serving just 27 days ago, on February 1st.

Let’s just say that it has been an “eventful” time. I’m going to give you some detail on the election as a good context for all the other . . . “events”.

In order to understand what has happened, it is helpful to have read “Through the Looking Glass” – especially the conversation Alice has with Humpty Dumpty.
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
It’s pretty clear that the newly declared president of Integrity, and especially its Treasurer, have determined themselves Master of Words. 
Let's begin with the so-called “election”. There was only one contested position – that of Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council. There had been a sole candidate for Vice-Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council but that person dropped out without explanation from him or the board.

Usually, an election means that someone’s name is on a ballot. It also means that there is usually more than one name on the ballot for a particular office. And Integrity’s bylaws, like many other organizations (including civic elections), provide a mandate for ‘write-in candidates’.

Well, to begin with, there was no name on the ballot for president of Integrity. Neither was there an opportunity for (a) write-in candidate(s). ("Any member may write in the names of candidates, ranked by order of preference, other than those named on the official ballot." (Article 4, Section 4, A).

However, one person had made it known that he had tossed his hat into the ring, but his name did not appear on the ballot. Put on your Humpty Dumpty hat because here’s where it gets curiouser and curiouser. 

The person who was nominated is a member of Integrity, of course. At least, by every definition, he was a member. As in, his dues are current, as in up to date.  The Treasurer, however, has been known to enjoy being “Lucy” in the well-known Charlie Brown football scene. 

You remember it: Lucy is holding the football, and, as Charlie Brown gets ready to punt the ball, at the very last moment, Lucy removes the ball and poor Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back. 

You may recall that the Treasurer has done this before. One member, a lawyer, had made a “Books and Records Demand”. This is standard corporate law. That member wanted to look over the corporate documents so that he might be able to discern:
(1) How many people are members of Integrity and 
(2) Get a handle on what might have happened to the almost $400 thousand dollars that remain unaccounted for in the budget.
After six weeks, the Treasurer wrote to the member to tell him that his “records show” that his $50 was a “donation” and not for “membership”. The Treasurer didn’t say it but that meant, effectively, that his “Books and Records Demand” could not be met because, well . . . See? . . . He was not a member. 

The member sent an email with a copy of the email he received from Integrity with the subject line which read: “Designation: New Membership Individual”. 

It mattered not. 

See also: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.” 

Apparently, “new membership individual” can also mean “donation.” It simply depends on who is the master of the word.

The member then asked for a refund. The Treasurer was happy to oblige but first, the member had to sign a form that acknowledged that he was not a member but a donor and provide his social security number. 

Yes, you read that correctly. The Treasurer asked for his social security number before he would refund his membership dues which had been deemed by Humpty Dumpty logic to have been a donation. Oh, and sign onto a lie about the intention of his membership dues.

Because of all of this, the nominee for president of Integrity, being no Charlie Brown and exercising an ounce of precaution, wrote to the Treasurer to confirm his membership. As expected, it took at least four requests to receive an answer.  Finally, the nominee sent a copy of his receipt which was clearly marked “membership individual”. 

That seemed to inspire the Treasurer to set up a new barrier to his nomination. No, he wrote, dues are not actually dues. See? Giving money to an organization is a donation, and, as anyone with half a brain and the ability to speak English can tell you, making a donation makes one a DONOR, not necessarily a member. 

So, the nominee was deemed ineligible to run for office, being a donor and not a member. Note: He most certainly did NOT "withdraw" his nomination. (See ENS article here.) Neither did he "decline the nomination." He was told he was not a member and thus ineligible to run for election.

If you are wondering about this and why the name of the one nominee for the office of president did not appear on the ballot, I encourage you to send your question to:
IntegrityUSA c/o Humpty Dumpty.
5678 Great Wall
King's Horses and Men Landing, TX.
Oh, you might also ask about the newest distinction in determining your membership status. Oh, you hadn't heard? Let me tell you about that. See also: curiouser and curiouser.

Apparently, it’s not just whether or not you have paid dues vs. made a donation. You must also state that you meet the required definition in the by-laws, (Article 1, section 1); to wit: “Membership in Integrity shall be open to all persons who support the purposes of the organization as set forth in the Preamble and who pay the prescribed dues.”

If you agree that you meet the criteria then you are a member. Unless, of course, the Office of Humpty Dumpty determines that you are not. In that event, a communiqué is immediately dispatched to Lucy and she readies herself for her task of making the latest Charlie Brown stand-in embarrass him/herself again. 

Since there was not an actual election for president, can we assume that what we have is an ‘unPresident’? I suspect the Office of Humpty Dumpty might have an opinion or two on that. 

Oh, but wait! There’s more! I’ll not bore you with all the details but here are the highlights – or, more accurately, lowlights:

1. "POTENTIAL" MEMBERSHIP The Treasurer has reported that there are over 200 “potential” members and of those, 100 are “potential” life members (having ‘donated’ $1,000 or more). The “potential” apparently rests with the person themselves. 

The Treasurer explained that those who have paid membership dues “determine” for themselves if they meet the definition of the bylaws. 

Except, as we have seen, they don’t actually. Humpty Dumpty determines whether or not someone is a “donor” or a “member”.

So, if they don’t know how many actual life members there are who are eligible to vote in a special election, did we actually have an election? How do we accomplish changes to the bylaws which require 10% of the membership to concur? How will we know how many ballots to send out in the next general election? I guess we’ll have to ask the Queen.
No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'
'Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!'
'Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.
'I won't!' said Alice."
'Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice."
2. STAKEHOLDER'S CHAIR The new Chair of the Stakeholder’s Council (who, OBTW, won against the incumbent by ONE vote!!) has asked for a list of the membership because, in his new position of responsibility and in the spirit of rebuilding Integrity, he is the logical person to begin reaching out to the members – potential or actual.

That request has been repeatedly declined. It should be noted, however, that a person who is not a member of the board and whose membership has apparently been self-determined and approved by the board, was given the membership list along with everyone’s email so they could be sent a survey. 

Except, oopsie, not every member received an e-blast email with the survey. That may have to do with whether or not they are "potential" or "actual" members or donors. Apparently, the Office of Humpty Dumpty had to be consulted on a case-by-case basis.

That was over a month ago. No results yet. Which is probably a good thing because, in my estimation, the questions were written in such a way as to elicit the answers the board wants to hear. 

There was a very small space for comments. I’m betting solid money that, when and if we finally do get a report of the survey, we don’t hear anything about the comments.

However, if you've not heard from the Chair of the Stakeholder's Council, well, you know why.

3. LOUIE'S REQUIEM was an amazing service. The highest compliment I heard - several times - was: "That was sooOOoo Louie. I was privileged to be part of the Liturgy Team and I only had to raise my voice twice. (That's a joke. It's also true. If you know me, you know both are possible.)

UPDATE: Here's a copy of the service bulletin. It really is a glorious service.

I've asked for a copy of the brilliant eulogy provided by former Integrity President and one of Louie's best friends, Kim Byham. I'll post it as soon as I receive it because not only is it heartwarming and wonderful but it tells so much of our history I don't want us to lose.

UPDATE: Here's a copy of Kim's Eulogy

People came from all over the country. It was an incredible collection of cognoscenti and illuminati of The Episcopal Church in general and the General Convention in particular. There were also representatives from Claiming the Blessing, the Chicago Consultation, and Beyond Inclusion - the organizations which were created specifically to bring "all the sacraments to all the baptized" to The Episcopal Church. (No, it wasn't just Integrity. More on this in another blog).

Folks from UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians), The Urban Caucus, The Episcopal Peace Fellowship, The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice and other members of The Consultation were also present and well represented.

The faithful remnant of Claiming the Blessing
I counted three former National Integrity Presidents and several former chapter Presidents and convenors and former board members in attendance. 

There were zero - zip, zilch, none, nada, bupkus - current Integrity board members present. 

The date, time and place of the service were announced in early December. 

The current leader of Integrity attends school in NYC. It is a $4.90 round trip ride on the PATH train from NYC to Newark and a 25-minute walk from Penn Station to the church. 

I'll just leave that right there. 

I did see a young member of Integrity introduce himself to a former Integrity board president who was sitting at table with two other people.  In response, this person rolled his eyes and looked away. To which the young man gracefully said, "I see there are a lot of people in this room." And walked away.

I'll just leave that right there, too, but you know St. Louie of Newark was beaming at that young man.

4.. FACEBOOK So, I'm no longer a member of Integrity's FB page. Here's how it went down: 

Someone on the board posted something under the name "IntegrityUSA". No identity. Just "IntegrityUSA". It appeared to be another attempt at "censorship by noise" - posting things that had nothing to do with anything LGBTQ or Episcopalian or Christian but meant to push down other posts that were disturbing to those in power.

I asked about the nature of the post. The mother of one of the board members asked me (and I quote directly) "please explain what you mean. It sounds racist, but I don't want to make assumptions." 

It's racist to question if the nature of the post was appropriate to post on an Integrity Facebook page? 

Well, ultimately, it didn't matter. Apparently, whoever was "IntegrityUSA" for the day felt free to make assumptions and promptly removed me as a member of that FB page even before I could respond.  (I'm thinking it had to be the son of the mother who raised the issue of racism. I understand she does that all the time on her FB page. Some say it's part of her understanding of her vocation.)

I'm sure they meant to silence me. I'm even more certain they never meant it to happen, but I've been able to use my voice on this blog to much greater effect than that Facebook page.  My blogs on the Integrity mess (there have been two, this is the third) have each been read over 3,000 times. That's way, way, way more than the readers on the Integrity FB page.
Which, OBTW, is now "offline". Thanks, board member's mom!

If you haven’t already noticed, the Integrity USA Facebook page has been suspended. Or, something. Here’s the 24 February announcement:
Integrity USA Facebook group will be going offline. The momentary pause creates an opportunity for building digital enhancements. To connect with Integrity visit the Facebook page:
Join Integrity, Inc. email list to receive updates:…/r5xvp…/integrityeblast
"Digital enhancements," eh? Well, alrighty then. 

The thing of it is that apparently, board members can (and do) post and they have allowed SOME selective comments, but mostly, it’s blatant censorship. 

Yes. Censorship. From the leadership of a Christian justice organization for LGBTQ+ people. 

To be honest, it was really the only choice they had. The President of Integrity has been caught lying - multiple times - publicly about that which is easily disputed and provable. (We have screenshots)

It was just so foolish.

When he wasn't flat out lying, he was behaving at the level of a 6th grader. 

Whenever someone would challenge him on one of his lies, he would post a YouTube sound of a  'gong'. 

You know, like the old Gong Show, where they 'gonged' someone off the stage.

He has also personally "blocked" certain other members who have challenged or publicly disagreed with something he has said or a position he has taken. 

That includes the new Chair of the Stakeholder's Council. But, not me. Yet.

Just take that in: He has personally blocked a member of the board which he leads. 

I am not making this up.  

Some of the dust-up had to do with his unfamiliarity with the culture and language of The Episcopal Church (Three years ago, he was an active member of a Unitarian Church.) 

When someone is invited to "speak" at a mainline denominational church, especially for a funeral, it usually means they are going to give a eulogy or pay tribute. It's a distinct honor. When someone is a "reader," it means they are going to read a lesson from Hebrew scripture or the Epistles. 

Also an honor, to be sure. Big difference, however. Very different expectations of the tasks and associated honor. 

It seems a silly thing, and on many levels, it is, but when told of the difference, he just dug his heels in further. The "gong" meme in response just told everyone exactly what we were dealing with here.

The thing that is most revealing about the ethos of this board is that, despite the expressed wishes of the family to memorialize Louie by contributing to two of Louie's Scholarships, one at EDS@Union and one at The Oasis, the leadership determined yet another way. 

God forbid they should give to any seminary except the one their former Stakeholder's Council Chair served as a trustee (Except, of course, that the President is presently a student at EDS@Union. I know, right? Go figure.). And, God forbid they should contribute anything to another LGBTQ+ organization like The Oasis. 

Instead, they have donated $1,000 to start a scholarship fund at a local college in Georgia. The President mentioned this in one of his comments. I haven't seen a formal announcement of it. There's been no mention of how to make a contribution. No invitation to do so.

I don't know how much more money they will see contributed to what I'm sure is meant to be a start-up fund, or what $1,000 will buy nowadays at college. It's just so small and petty and mean-spirited that it makes me embarrassed for what Integrity has become.

Oh, and I'll just say this one last thing. After Louie's funeral, there was a festive Southern repast in the Parish Hall: fried chicken, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet tay, etc. 

The buzz from every corner of the room was "Well, as far as I'm concerned That was the FINAL Integrity Eucharist." To which I could only respond. "Amen". 

Let's just hope that between now and July 2021, when General Convention gathers in Baltimore, those in power in Integrity will understand that, while there remains lots of work to do at the local level, the work of Integrity is done. 

Has been for a number of years. Had a chance to jump-start into new life but the then-president focused his energies on writing a weekly column in the Friday Flash e-newlsetter which just pontificated and then scolded us for not healing our prejudices as he had.

Call it something - anything - else, but the brand name of Integrity has been - and continues to be -so tarnished as to be an embarrassment. 

Call it what they announced it would be at General Convention 2018: The Episcopal Rainbow.

The then-president *Gwen Fry might have been onto something when she said that the newer generation of LGBTQ+ people (present behavior to the contrary) weren't connected to Integrity - the name or the organization and its history - and that it didn't hold the same significance for them.

Maybe that's true. If so, let's let Integrity go with our gratitude and thanksgiving. Let's celebrate past victories and progress. And, let's start something new. Let's have a fresh, clean start for a new chapter of activism and pastoral care for LGBTQ+ Episcopalians.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
Integrity has had a great fall. Let's save what we can of the good pieces and start something new, something that can shed the now cumbersome bylaws which were written for a national organization and be freed to assist people on the local level; something that can capture the vision and spirit of a new generation the way the original vocation Louie Crew Clay helped LGBTQ+ people connect with each other to work together to achieve what they couldn't as individuals.

All the king's horses and all the king's' men are not able to put Integrity together again. 

Time to grieve that loss. Time to move on.

PS: If you'd like to join an uncensored, transparent conversation about all things Integrity on Facebook, please join us at Integrity USA in Exile

NOTE: Michael Hopkins left this note on my FB page where I posted a link to this blog.

Well said, Elizabeth, and my name should be included on the list of former presidents who think it's time to close the door and move on. Michael Hopkins
Micahel joins former Integrity Presidents Ellen Barrett, Fred Ellis and Susan Russell in calling for Integrity to close and move on. 

To contribute to the Louie Crew Clay Scholarship at EDS@Union, click here and make a note about the scholarship in the comments. 

To contribute to the Louie Crew Clay Scholarship at The Oasis, click here

For a copy of the Service Bulletin for Louie's Requiem: chick here.  

For a copy of Kim Byham's Eulogy for Louie's Requiem: click here

Resources and Background Information:

ENS Article: Integrity’s new president elected unopposed as former presidents call for group’s dissolution

ENS Article: Integrity president resigns amid mounting criticism. 

ENS Article: Facing financial struggles and board resignation, Integrity apologies for lack of transparency.  

Juicy Ecumenism Article:  "Integrity renamed The Episcopal Rainbow"

Anglican Mainstream: "Integrity renamed The Episcopal Rainbow"

*The Consultation Interview with Gwen Fry.

*Q: Can you tell me about the process that led to the decision to change Integrity’s name to the Episcopal Rainbow?

A: Well, we did that in consultation with Louie Crew Clay. (NOTE: But, not with any of the membership of Integrity) And, he fully supported that. We thought that perhaps it was time to change our branding. Change our image a little bit because we were moving forward with a very new way to be the organization. So, we did that. We talked about it. We thought that, in changing back to the grassroots movement, our new logo and name would be more appealing to a wider demographic of people in the Episcopal Church. That’s what we’re looking for. We want everyone to feel like we are there for them and support them.


Anonymous said...

"Whenever someone would challenge him on one of his lies, he would post a YouTube sound of a 'gong'."

If this is the way we can expect a seminarian to behave, much less the self-declared president of a christian nonprofit, I have grave concerns for the future of the Episcopal Church beyond Integrity USA's fall.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You are not alone in your concerns. It's alarming.