The LGBT+ advocacy group Integrity has announced that they will eliminate all paid staff and rely wholly on volunteers moving forward. In a blog post on their website, Integrity President Bruce Garner writes;
“The Board of Directors of Integrity USA has recognized the need to shift the focus of the ongoing work away from paid staff and toward volunteers at all levels. Accordingly, December 31, 2017, marked the last day that Integrity USA had any paid staff. Other than items of contract work, the work of Integrity will return to the hearts and hands of volunteers… and we will need all the hearts and hands we can find!”
Integrity was founded by Rutgers University professor, Dr. Louie Crew Clay more than 40 years ago to advocate for LGBT+ inclusion within the Episcopal Church. That goal was largely (though not completely) accomplished at the General Convention in 2015. Garner acknowledged that the goals of Integrity have changed as a result and that the kind of work needed going forward will be primarily grass-roots, person-to-person ministry which likely won’t need a paid staff.
“The remaining work in those areas is and will continue to be achieved at the grassroots level where individuals interact with each other to help all of us see the face of Christ in each other and without condition or exception. We are at the point where minds and hearts are changed at the one-to-one level. All ministry like that is volunteer ministry.
The work of Integrity is far from done. The presence of 8 dioceses who refuse to allow same-sex marriages bears sad witness to the further needs. The current political climate continues to create more barriers to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in society… sometimes giving voice to similar actions within the church. Again, that witness is best made at the volunteer and local level.”
This represents a shift from their stance of just two years ago when Integrity suggested they would continue an agenda of legislative lobbying to expand LGBT+ acceptance and inclusion.
“Integrity is committed to encouraging the Episcopal Church to stand up against so called “religious freedom” legislation, discrimination against transgender people, the continuing disproportionate number of LGBT youth who are impoverished or driven to suicide, and the dismaying lack of support offered to LGBT women and people of color.”
In that same statement, Integrity also acknowledged that their financial resources had become constrained owing to the widespread belief that mission had largely been met. At that time, they had downsized their staff while also launching an appeal to fund their presence at 2015’s General Convention.
“Despite some sentiments in the Episcopal Church that the battle over marriage equality is done, Integrity recognizes that much of its work remains and that the mission remains as important as ever. The Board continues its support of the faithful resolutions proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which was created in 2012. The upcoming General Convention in Salt Lake City this June 23-July 3 will require resources for legislative and communication support, as well planning and offering a Church-wide Eucharist.”
There have also been leadership problems in recent years with former director Vivian Taylor leaving under a cloud. A lack of a new generation of leaders was evidenced by their being only one one candidate for President in the last election; one who had previously been President in the early 1990’s. Like many justice movements, Integrity appears to be struggling with how or whether to institutionalize. Whatever their current struggles, the church owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Integrity and their unflinching embrace of full inclusion for all people in the Episcopal Church.