Last night I walked with Integrity.  I was blessed to participate in the Integrity Eucharist at historic St Paul’s Episcopal Church on-the-Hill on Summit Avenue in St Paul, Mn.  This weekend, the Minnesota Diocese of the Episcopal Church will choose it’s ninth Bishop, and Integrity USA, the LGBT Episcopal advocacy group, celebrated Eucharist with the local LGBT community and allies on the convention’s eve.

St Paul’s dates back to 1854, four years before Minnesota was granted statehood.  It has a long and proud history that includes hosting the first electing convention when Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple became the first Bishop of the Minnesota Diocese.  More recently, St Paul’s has been the home to progressive Christians and Episcopalians.  The first woman on a Vestry from Minnesota was elected at St. Paul’s.  The Rev. Jeannette Piccard of Philadelphia Eleven fame was a longtime member.  Here is a link to her Wikipedia entry:

Jeannette Ridlon Piccard (January 5, 1895 – May 17, 1981) was an American teacher, scientist, priest, and aeronaut who was a pioneer of balloon flight. A member of the famed Piccard family of balloonists and of the International Space Hall of Fame, she was the first licensed female balloon pilot, the first woman to fly to the stratosphere, and a speaker for NASA. Her 1934 flight held the women’s altitude record for three decades. Called a woman of causes and irrepressible, Piccard is remembered as one of the Philadelphia Eleven, the first women to be ordained Episcopalian priests.

David Norgard The homilist last night was the Rev. David Norgard, recently elected to serve as the President of Integrity.  Rev. Norgard, who has served parishes in San Francisco and New York City, returned to his Minnesota roots for the occasion (born in Hibbing, home to Kevin McHale and Bob Dylan).  He told his story of truth telling and coming out to his bishop during his candidacy process, thus becoming the first openly gay Episcopal priest in Minnesota in 1979.  The full text of his homily has been posted on the Walking with Integrity blog.  Here is a portion:

Coming out does not make life easier…but it does unequivocally make life better.  Telling the truth and seeking justice, while painfully difficult at times, are inherently better options for living than their alternatives because they are the constellation that leads us on the path toward integrity.  And as the psalmist says, “No good thing will God withhold from those who walk with integrity.”

I met new friends, including Rev Norgard, and old ones as well, including Ross Murray, the interim Director of Lutherans Concerned / North America.  Ross was a leader of Goodsoil at the recent ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly, and I worked as a Goodsoil volunteer.

Our prayers are with the Minnesota Episcopalians as they meet in Convention this weekend.