A Brief History of Integrity

A Brief History of Integrity

By Louie Crew

First appeared in Integrity Forum 4.2 (December, 1977-January 1978)

© 1978 by Integrity Forum; © 2004 by Louie Crew.

For more current information, see Integrity's own website and Crew's Changing the Church (1997)

[Originally unsigned, but written by Louie Crew at the request of Integrity's president at the time, The Rev. Ron Wesner]

From its beginning as a newsletter first published in November 1974, Integrity has been a ministry of gay Christians and their friends reaching out to one another, to the gay community, and to the Church. As the founding editor, Dr. Louie Crew of Fort Valley, Georgia, put it in the lead editorial:

The Christian Gospel is for all persons....

The word Integrity derives from integer, Latin for 'entire.' All Christian wholeness demands affirmation of God-ordained sexuality; and gays and straights alike are charged with the responsibility of using their sexuality in healthy human sharing rather than perversely trying to change or exchange the Gift of God.

That first issue of Integrity also published encouraging initial reactions to the Gay Episcopal Forum from Presiding Bishop John M. Allin; Bishop David Richards of the Episcopal Church's Office of Pastoral Development; the Rev. Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church; and other concerned clergy and laity.

Within a month, the first chapter of Integrity had been convened by Jim Wickliff in Chicago, and after only ten months that chapter hosted the first national convention at the Cathedral Church of St. James. The Rt. Rev. Quintin E. Primo, Suffragan Bishop of Chicago was the chief celebrant at the main Mass and the Rev. Dr. Norman Pittenger, Cambridge theologian, long-time faculty member at General Theological Seminary, and author of almost countless books on theology and on sexuality, was the principal speaker. The Editor of The Living Church, the Rev. Dr. Carroll Simcox, headlined his report of that occasion: "WE WELCOME A 'COMING OUT." He noted further:

"These 'Gay Episcopalians' who have 'come out' in this way have taken a step that needed to be taken before that togetherness could even begin, and for many of them it has been a personally dangerous or difficult or costly step. They should be welcomed in love by all other members of Christ."

Dr. Pittenger and Dr. Crew won the first annual Integrity award "for outstanding contributions to Christian understanding of human sexuality." In Celebration, a 92-page record of the entire first Integrity convention, edited by Jim Wickliff, is still available from the Integrity office (address below) for $3.

Immediately after the convention in Chicago, new chapters of Integrity sprang up and began to flourish all over the United States. Co-President Jim Wickliff and Editor Louie Crew called the first meetings of chapters in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City on their way to meet in September 1975 with the Presiding Bishop. Shortly thereafter, the House of Bishops, meeting in Maine, charged the Joint Commission on the Church and Human Affairs, chaired by Bishop Murray of the Central Gulf Coast, to study the gay issue and make recommendations to the General Convention in Minneapolis. In January 1976, Canon Clinton Jones of the Hartford Cathedral and the Rev. Robert Herrick, now on the staff of the National Gay Task Force, joined Crew and Wickliff as Integrity witnesses before that Commission and encouraged the drafting of supportive resolutions to be submitted to General Convention.

Meanwhile, in December 1975, with no fanfare, Ellen Marie Barrett, a woman who had acknowledged her lesbian orientation, was duly ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop of New York. Ms. Barrett had served with Wickliff as one of the first co-presidents of Integrity until she was asked by Bishop Moore to resign in preparation for her ordination.

In March 1976, Jim Wickliff appointed the co-convenor of Integrity/Philadelphia, the Rev. Ron Wesner, to prepare Integrity's witness at the 1976 General Convention in Minneapolis. Richard York, a graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School and a member of Integrity/Boston worked closely with Wesner on this project. In August 1976, the Rev. Richard Younge, co-convenor of Integrity/San Francisco, chaired the second annual convention at Trinity Parish and Grace Cathedral. Ron Wesner was elected the second national president at that time. The keynoter for the convention was activist priest Malcolm Boyd, who used that occasion to come out as a gay brother to the convention; as he did a month later to the entire world through a newspaper interview with reporter Roy Larsen in Chicago. Bishop C. Kilmer Myers of California was in attendance at the main mass and Barbara Gittings, pioneer gay activist and distinguished bibliographer, won the second annual Integrity award.

In September 1976 in Minneapolis at the General Convention, the Integrity presence was much publicized in a positive and educative way through the fair coverage of the official Convention Daily, and the delegates passed most of the supportive resolutions submitted by Bishop Murray's Joint Commission, perhaps most notably Resolution A-69:

"Homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and care of the Church."

Resolutions were also passed calling for a Church-wide study of human sexuality issues during the next triennium. This was the same General Convention which historically passed a major Prayer Book revision and amended the canons to specifically permit the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Church.

In January 1977, Bishop Moore of New York ordained the Rev. Ellen Marie Barrett to the priesthood. Although her ordination to the diaconate had been little commented upon, her priesthood, evoked a violent storm of controversy throughout the Church and the secular press which has continued almost unabated.

In May 1977, William A. Doubleday, a graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School and then a Jonathan Daniels Fellow at that seminary, became editor of Integrity. Dr. Crew has, however, continued to contribute has energy and his scholarship to the ministry of Integrity and to other efforts in the gay movement. At the same time, David Williams, the publisher of Integrity, was instrumental in bringing a new look and format to the materials generated by the editor.

In August 1977, Integrity held its third annual convention at St. Mary's Parish on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. Bishop Lyman Ogilby welcomed those who attended the main mass at which the Rev. John Scott, the rector of the parish was chief celebrant. At one mass, over twenty Integrity member-priests were con-celebrants. The keynoters were the Rev. Neale Secor of New York City and Ms. Noreen Carter, a feminist lay theologian from Massachusetts. Canon Clinton Jones of Hartford was the recipient of the third annual Integrity award.

As at the beginning, Integrity's ministry remains two-fold, one dimension being education, healing, and community-building within the gay community and the other being a ministry of education and outreach in shared community with the Church as a whole. As of January 1978, Integrity listed 37 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Germany, with others anticipated in the very near future. In some cities these chapters operate in close cooperation with other gay religious groups such as Dignity (Gay Roman Catholics) or Lutherans Concerned for Gay People. The majority of chapters meet almost weekly for Eucharist, community, and educational programs. Several chapters publish fine newsletters of their own, are actively involved in parish visitation programs, or are engaged in dialogue with various diocesan officials or sexuality commissions. Combined membership of all chapters is well over 2,000; and many, many, more persons participate without risking membership in a gay identified organization. Where possible, chapters normally meet in a parish setting.

Integrity's national newsletter, Integrity Forum, is published in Oak Park, Illinois. Membership in Integrity, which includes a subscription to Integrity Forum is $10.00. Dues may be remitted to: Integrity, P.0. Box 3681, Central Station, Hartford, CT 06103.

Most chapters of Integrity also have local dues to help support programs on the local and diocesan levels. President Ron Wesner heads up the international office (3601 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104; Telephone 215/386-5430), organizing the witness to various Church and secular forums in the gay and non-gay communities, providing staff support to ministry efforts throughout the nation and beyond, and overseeing the development and growth of the chapter system.

Integrity is an Episcopal society legally incorporated as a not-for-profit religious, educational, literary, and charitable organization. Integrity operates under its own independent official constitution and by-laws; but Integrity is listed in The Episcopal Church Annual, and most members are either Episcopalians or persons happily committed to a primary organizational mission within the Episcopal Church. As has always been the case, some members of Integrity are non-gay Christians who are seeking to be in dialogue or fellowship with gay Christians. Integrity welcomes the participation of all who would rejoice with us in Christ's indiscriminate love.--


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