Monday, March 16, 2015

Statement on Integrity's Reduction of Force

TransEpiscopal is saddened by the news that Vivian Taylor and Samuel Peterson, the two full time employees of IntegrityUSA, have been let go due to a reduction of workforce. Taylor served as Integrity’s Executive Director from 2013-2015, and Peterson came on as Director of Development several months after Taylor began.

TransEpiscopal honors their pioneering ministries and contributions to furthering The Episcopal Church’s witness to God’s love for LGBTQ persons. Integrity announced Vivian Taylor on August 6, 2013 as “the first openly transgender woman to lead a major mainline protestant denominational organization in the US.” Taylor is a creative, charismatic leader who brought strong gifts in communications, entrepreneurialism and organization building. She recruited a powerful group of writers for Integrity’s blog and contributed her own moving posts. She also continued the spirit of collaboration that developed between Integrity and TransEpiscopal in the years after our founding in 2005.

In addition to his work as Development Director, Sam Peterson contributed to the Walking with Integrity blog, including two recent incisive pieces. One was about the Reverend Pauli Murray, a person of complex gender history who was the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. The other piece, on the Task Force’s Creating Change conference, emerged from the honor of Peterson’s membership in the Task Force’s “2015 Trans Leadership Exchange.”

As Taylor noted after one of her early visits to Integrity chapters across the United States, “the real power and energy of Integrity is in the people…Speaking with people about their own lives and experiences is an absolute treasure trove.”In that same spirit, we lift up and celebrate the power and energy of the unique humanity that Taylor and Peterson have brought to Integrity and far beyond. We recognize the significance of having had two openly trans people as the only full time employees in The Episcopal Church’s main LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. We are incredibly proud of them.

We are also disheartened at the financial strain that so often besets churches and other organizations that work for peace and justice. Unaware that Integrity’s own finances had reached such a critical juncture, we were surprised to learn of the decision to let these talented leaders go. We grieve that the financial hardship that Peterson and Taylor now personally face is one shared by trans people in staggering numbers across the United States.

Bringing to light the continued, multi-pronged broader pattern of vulnerability in trans communities is a key part of the witness that TransEpiscopal plans to bring to the 78th General Convention thisJune.

In light of our shared ministries as we head to into General Convention, we call upon the Integrity Board to recognize and respond to the deep pastoral impact this decision is having upon trans people in and beyond The Episcopal Church. We seek and invite a relationship of greater transparency and clearer communication. We look forward to reclaiming the trust that grounds our shared ministries to make explicit God’s love for LGBTQ persons.