I remembered once reading this incredible essay by a chief homosexual activist, on how he and a small cadre of allies subverted and overthrew Episcopal Church in the 80s and 90s... It was posted here, http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/gayhist.htm but since then the whole website was taken down, and only the archive of it remains: https://web.archive.org/web/20170328055445/http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/gayhist.htm Lest this incredibly valuable piece of eyewitness subversion history be lost to time, I thought it needful to preserve it somewhere ======= https://web.archive.org/web/20170328055445/http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/gayhist.htm Changing the Church: Lessons Learned in the Struggle to Reduce Institutional Heterosexism in the Episcopal Church By Louie Crew Appeared in Combating Homophobia, edited by James Sears & Walter Williams, Columbia University Press, 1997: 341-353. Do not reproduce in any medium without written permission of the author. © 1996 by Louie Crew email@example.com, 377 S. Harrison Street, #12D, East Orange, NJ 07018 For the past two decades, the Episcopal Church has received widespread media attention as it has grappled with the ordination of women as priests and grappled with lesbian and gay issues. Just as in other Christian churches, where women and lesbigays have organized to promote a more egalitarian and inclusive spirituality, the Radical Right has mounted a regressive reaction. In some cases, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention and in more fundamentalist denominations, the Right seems to have gained a stranglehold, even controlling the denomination's seminaries and universities. The Episcopal Church, in contrast, has manifested substantial progress, both for women and for lesbians and gays. Issues of gender and sexual orientation are closely related in recent Episcopal history. This essay will suggest what lessons can be learned from this effort in institutional change. In the Episcopal Church, our theology reveres Scripture as but one of three sources of authority, co-equal with Reason and Tradition. We have always required clergy to be educated, and most of our seminaries have been open to historical and critical scholarship. Few priests believe that the bible is inspired literally word for word. As a result, few Episcopal parishes require you to hang up your mind when you enter; and few require doctrinal purity tests. Many Episcopalians look at faith analytically; we are not beholden to a confessional statement or to a majesterium's conclusions. Episcopal polity, therefore, allows much air in which lesbigays may breathe our living witness. Having the freedom to think does not ensure that thinkers will support lesbians and gays, nor does it do away with the struggle or stigma lesbians and gays must endure: but a church free to think is a church free to allow God to act in a new way. The Episcopal Church is at once more democratic than many church structures and more centralized than many. Episcopal means "overseen by bishops." Bishops and all others are accountable to the General Convention, a bicameral legislature which meets triennially. During the interim, the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council provide oversight at the national level. One principal bishop oversees each of the 100 domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church, with much choice left to each diocese in terms of its liturgical and theological preferences, including choice of candidates for ordination. General Convention governs the church through Constitution and Canons, and it advises the church through resolutions. Until the 1994 General Convention, when the canons were amended to ensure non-discrimination in access to ordination on the basis of sexual orientation, the church had never addressed lesbian and gay issues through its canons, and hence it may be said that the church has never officially proscribed lesbian and gay behavior on the part of priests or laity, though in fact, it has often manifested the prejudices of any age. I founded Integrity in October 1974, out of tiny Fort Valley, Georgia, as a newsletter, Integrity: Gay Episcopal Forum. Almost immediately two called from Chicago, one a priest named Tyndale the other a lay person named Wickliff (historic names in the British reformation). I introduced these two to each other and to others who had written from Chicago. About a dozen met in Wickliff's apartment in December and formed the first chapter. Chicago as the site was likely not an accident. A joke popular in the Episcopal Church at that time asked: "How many straight priests in the diocese of Chicago does it take to put in a light bulb? Answer: Both of them." Whatever the joke lacks in scientific accuracy it makes up by identifying a place known to have accumulated gay clergy, in this case, a critical mass ready to nurture a movement, a group with strategies for organizing. Also in 1974, three bishops ordained "The Philadelphia Eleven" first women priests in the Episcopal Church. These ordinations were declared "irregular" since the General Convention had frequently considered but not yet voted to approve the ordination of women. The ordinations were not declared "invalid," only "irregular." People inside and outside the Anglican Communion frequently describe how we "muddle through" with distinctions such as these. Almost never in our history have we had the luxury of expecting a high degree of conformity in doctrine or liturgical practice. To avoid extinction, frequently individual Anglicans and even groups of us have needed to back off from actions with which we disapprove and allow them still to happen, preferably "somewhere else." It was not new that lesbian and gay Episcopalians got together in 1974: for at least a century earlier, certain parishes and cathedrals were rumored to be relatively gay friendly. What was new in 1974 was our organizing and our announcing it to the world. That scared even many of the gay priests of the diocese of Chicago. Within only six months, Integrity held its first national convention at the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago--a product of good strategies by leaders well connected in the diocese. Many of the members of the Chicago chapter were close to the Suffragan Bishop Quintin Primo, one of the first African American bishops, who presided over the main Eucharist. The dean of the Cathedral was extremely supportive. Several clergy members were close to prominent theologian Norman Pittenger, and they persuaded him to be the principal speaker. Dr. Pittenger, after retirement as a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, had identified himself as gay in a statement widely published in England, where he lived in at Cambridge University. Dr. Pittenger's decision to take this risk led many of his former students to join us. Ellen Barrett and James Wickliff served as Integrity's first co-presidents. Before we had a national meeting, I drafted Integrity's first Constitution, to assure that we moved towards gender justice. Ellen was then a candidate for priesthood in New York City. More "irregular" ordinations of women took place in Washington, DC, in September 1975, after our convention. In Washington at the time, on a missionary journey to our new chapters in the east, Jim Wickliff and I yielded to the counsel of friends who advised that our visibility at the ordination might put in jeopardy lesbians among all early ordinands. In 1976, General Convention passed a resolution "Homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church." Integrity members had proposed this specific wording a year earlier when we met with The Standing Commission on Human Affairs. Bishop George Murray, chair of the Commission, was not known for liberalism: he was one of the clergy persons whom Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. scolded by name in his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail." Yet Bishop Murray had grown through that earlier confrontation. We got to meet with the Commission because I wrote to him as my former bishop, while I was a professor at the University of Alabama (1966-70). Others wrote to those whom they knew on the Commission. Constantly we knocked on doors, wrote letters, and made our presence known as lesbigay. That same 1976 General Convention changed the canons to permit the ordination of women. At the same time it declared homosexual persons "children of God," it "regularized" the earlier ordinations in Philadelphia and Washington. The 1976 Convention passed (and reaffirmed in 1979, 1983, and 1994) resolutions supporting the civil rights of lesbians and gays. In January of 1977, the first month women could be "legally" ordained, the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop of New York, ordained to the priesthood Ellen Marie Barrett, who had served as Integrity's first co-president. Other lesbians had been among the Philadelphia Eleven; thousands of gay men had been ordained over centuries, but they were not "out" to the world; most were not "out" to anyone. Ellen Barrett was ordained while already out to her bishop, out to her supporting congregation, out to other diocesan review bodies, and on the day of her ordination, out to anyone in the world who could read a newspaper. "Ordaining them" was no longer theoretical. Reaction was swift and volatile. For months, Episcopal newspapers and magazines fulminated. Meeting in Port St. Lucie nine months later, the House of Bishops said ordinations of lesbians and gays should not happen. They passed a strong resolution condemning homosexuality as unbiblical. They asserted the church "is right to confine its nuptial blessing exclusively to heterosexual marriage." No one sought dialogue with lesbigays this time. Yet at Port St. Lucie, the Bishops tabled a measure to censure Bishop Moore. With glorious irony, some of the bishops most annoyed by the ordination of Ellen Barrett still needed to protect dissent, namely their own. Since the canon law now made it legal to ordain women, bishops who felt women should not be priests did not want to be forced to ordain them. At Port St. Lucie, the House of Bishops adopted a "conscience clause" permitting bishops to refuse to ordain women. During the 1980's, at first a few, then a few more bishops began quietly to ordain lesbians and gays who were out to them, protected by that same notion of "conscience." At the 1979 General Convention, the Commission on Human Affairs, now chaired by the Rt. Rev. Robert Spears, Bishop of Rochester, presented an extremely positive report that called for the ordination of qualified lesbians and gays and was favorable to blessing same-sex unions. On Sunday at the beginning of the Convention in 1979, one of our strong local leaders in Denver, a priest named Ric Kerr, was host to the Presiding Bishop John Allin who came to see the marvelous work that Ric and his parish had done to reclaim a depressed neighborhood and create a multicultural congregation. Along with Bishop Allin came a large entourage to witness this "success story." In his sermon, Ric came out, gently claiming gays' place at God's table. At the reception, Bishop Allin, with whom I had met several times earlier, said, "I knew you'd be here for this. You're everywhere!" The Convention itself was affected by the Port St. Lucie statement (which as a statement by the bishops alone was not enforceable). Convention approved a negative resolution, but one which was milder than that of the House of Bishops. In a compromise, both houses of convention said it was "not appropriate" to ordain anyone sexually active outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage. Behind the scenes Integrity members helped to convey our anguish and to rally support. Over three dozen bishops plus scores of lay and clerical deputies signed a dissent document stating that as an act of "conscience" they could not abide by that resolution. One of the original dissenters was the Most Rev. Edmond Browning while he was still Bishop of Hawaii. He was elected Presiding Bishop in 1985. [My friend Ted Mollegen, deputy from Connecticut, notes that it was the intent of the 1979 resolution to establish local option to respond to the lesbigay issues. Indeed, one of the influences on that convention was Professor David Allen Scott, a colleague of Ted Mollegen's father at Virginia Seminary. Professor Scott said: "General Convention should not attempt to resolve this issue.... The ordination of ministers should be left to local diocesan bishops to decide." (as reported by David Virtue in "Debate Highlights Homosexual Issues." Virginia Churchman April 1979: 2.] Around 1980, the Rev. Carter Heyward, one of the Philadelphia Eleven, a theologian serving as professor at the Episcopal Divinity School, came out as lesbian, as have scores of others. Throughout the period from 1979 onward, many bishops have more actively ordained lesbians and gays who are open throughout the ordination process--to their sponsoring congregations, to diocesan commissions on ministry, to diocesan standing committees, and to their ordaining bishops. Few of these ordinations come to the attention of the press, nor do those in the process seek to publicize them as such. Integrity leaders now cite over 100 such ordinations, most of whom are members of Integrity. In another gesture of inclusion, The Diocese of California began the Parsonage, as a peer counseling center in the Castro, a lesbian and gay neighborhood of San Francisco. The Rt. Rev. William Swing, Bishop of California, passionately told a meeting of the House of Bishops in 1987 that their unlove sent far too many lesbigay clergy to San Francisco and New York, and reminded us that we as a church are interconnected and must grow into that realization. Integrity has grown unevenly. In 1984, after ten years, we had about 1,200 members, the same number we had by our second anniversary in 1976. However, in the second ten years we doubled our numbers. We began 1995 with seventy-five chapters and about 2,500 members. Each group must have at least 10 members to become a chapter; the NYC chapter sometimes has over 300 members. Chapters currently average 30 members, and meet at least once a month, some once a week, for a service (usually a Eucharist) and for educational/social time. Most chapters meet in local parishes. The goal has never been for Integrity to replace one's parish, but instead, for Integrity to refuel members to go back into their own parishes empowered to incarnate a loving lesbigay presence there. The secondary, but always present goal, is to affect the preaching and teaching of the Episcopal Church on the parish, diocesan, and national levels. In this, Integrity is probably unique among lesbigay ministries. For example, many members of Dignity, the organization of lesbigay Catholics, use the Dignity mass as their only church attendance. Dignity, too, has had little or no influence on the policies of the Roman Catholic Church; nor are they likely have much chance to do so in a non-democratic environment. On the other hand, most of the Protestant groups (Affirmation, Presbyterians for Lesbians and Gay Concerns, etc.), work as hard on the "political" front as the environment of their denominations permit, but they rarely have regular worship services outside a parish environment.