A group called Integrity is perhaps the best-known political caucus in the Episcopal Church, and it presses for what it calls the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the church.
That's an ambitious goal, to be sure, but Integrity has been at this for roughly three decades. When the Episcopal Church meets in legislative session every three years, Integrity's Eucharist is one of the command performances for the moral and theological left wing. Though Integrity believes itself to speak on behalf of oppressed sexual minorities, somehow it's usually able to stage its convention Eucharist at the Episcopal cathedral — the seat of power for the host bishop.
This year the host bishop was so happy to welcome Integrity to St. Mark's Cathedral in Minneapolis that he processed with the long line of gay clergy. Two young children ringing bells preceded Bishop James Jelinek of Minnesota, as if they were heralding a new incarnation of the Lord Jesus (or, with slightly more humility, the prophet Elijah).
The Integrity Eucharist has become a triennial sort of mass pity party. Members and supporters of Integrity gather to hear readings from Scripture (almost invariably about the Pharisees), then to hear the evening's preacher connect the obvious dots. Today's Pharisees—need one even put this fine a point on it?—are those Christians who dare to suggest that God intends his followers to limit their sexual intercourse to heterosexual marriage.
Poor Clarence Thomas. He seems to embody everything the left loathes, so the mere mention of his name at the Integrity Eucharist elicits knowing whoops and raucous laughter. At Tuesday night's Eucharist, suffragan (assistant) bishop Gayle Harris of Massachusetts mentioned Thomas as she spoke about self-loathing gay folk who accept whatever the modern-day Pharisees say about them.
"I call it the C.T. Syndrome—the Clarence Thomas Syndrome," Harris said to whoops and vigorous applause.
The rest of her homily was the usual fare one hears from the pulpit at the Integrity Eucharist. Integrity's opponents, preachers tell the assembled choir, are driven by fear, hatred, intolerance, legalism, and general obtuseness. Other than that, the foot soldiers of Integrity can hope their opponents will somehow come to their moral senses and show up three years hence at the next cathedral service.
Douglas LeBlanc is Associate Editor of Christianity Today.
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See LeBlanc's earlier dispatch:
Dispatch: Gay Rites Would Not Bless Ecumenism | The Integrity Eucharist has become a triennial sort of mass pity party.
Dispatch: Gene and Me | My history with the openly gay man elected bishop of Rochester
In 2001, LeBlanc reflected on his friendship with Integrity founder Louie Crew.
More coverage of the General Convention is available from the ECUSA website, which has streaming video. Conservative and orthodox perspectives are available from Classical Anglican Net News, the American Anglican Council's A Place to Stand, and David Virtue's Virtuosity.