Friday, May 11, 2007

Quakerism and the issue of Queerness

For the first time I am addressing the question of Quakerism and homosexuality. In some ways I find this post has been a long time in coming. On one hand I feel it would only have been natural for me to write on this subject. After all the topic of Quakerism and homosexual community is one of great concern for many young and young adult Friends. On the other hand I have never seen it as making it on to the list of issues in Quakerism that I feel called to address. However I am addressing it now because it has only continued to be an escalating and divisive issue for Friends. That said, it is important to understand that I usually identify as lesbian although sometime prefer to use the term queer, and therefore I have a very personal stake in this particular issue. I find it interesting that the divide between FGC and FUM was brought up as much as it was, at the young adult conference in New Jersey I attended earlier this year. As FUM met, reviewed and reaffirmed their hiring guidelines which states that an unmarried employee of FUM must be celibate until marriage, which effectively and at this point intentionally discriminates against the gay and lesbian community as well as unmarried couples, the controversy between the two Quaker communities has only grown. It is commonly held that all FGC Friends feel FUM Friend are conservative, Bible thumpers, blatantly discriminating against minority groups. While many FUM Friends have stereotyped FGC Quakers as liberal hippies, trying to tell everyone what to do, and too quick to pass judgment. I myself am from New York Yearly meeting, which holds double memberships with FUM and FGC, but leans much closer to FGC’s general beliefs and policies. Although I agree with the decision to open up more dialogue between FUM and FGC Friends, which the New Jersey conference came to, I have serious problems with FUM’s continued adherence to discriminatory policies. I personally feel my anger at being discriminated against by my own religious group is justified. Further more I do not address this issue as just one more topic in my politically liberal agenda but as a legitimate theological problem for all Friends to deal with. At this point the question of equality for the queer community is not just the difference between liberals and conservatives, as everyone seems to assume. I wonder if I have to remind Friends that equality is the eyes of God and community is one of the core theological tenants of our faith. I would ask FUM Friends whether they seriously feel that a person's ability to give spoken ministry depends on their sexual orientation? I am well aware that not all FUM members by far, support such policies, however I would prefer that instead of becoming defensive about it, some Friends would understand and respect my problems with a Quaker organization that openly, knowingly and blatantly discriminates against me. FUM is not the only Quaker organization that falls victim to homophobia since NY Yearly Meeting has no over arching policy on marriage for homosexual Friends. Because there is that of God within me and because I strive to live my life within the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I sincerely hope
that I will be able to be married within the Quaker community and my ability to speak God’s truth will not be denied based on my sexual orientation.

27 comments:

A tenative Quaker said...

Surprises and saddens me that Friends are part of the Christian culture that seeks to exclude. But then I have not experienced the complexity of USA Quaker life. You don't mention the classic Friends essay Towards a Quaker view of Sex. In essence its the quality of love, not the mechanics of sex that matters!
http://worldpolicy.org/globalrights/sexorient/1964-quaker.html

A tenative Quaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A tenative Quaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It is sad to see parts of the Quaker movement veer towards obviously discriminating practices, specially considering their crucial role during slavery times.

I guess the FUM should be adressed like any other conservative religious body: respect and listening to their opinions, but also active argumentation on the reasons why there should be no discrimination in the first place.

I guess the bottom line is to know wether the FUM is still "Quaker", and not just another religious organisation. I suppose anyone who so wishes can claim himself Quaker, but a quick historical overview will tell which groups have kept up with the Quaker tradition of openness and respect for humanity.

Liz Opp said...

Anna,

Thanks for this post. Like you, while I am part of the GLBTQ community of Friends*, I have not felt called to write about "the issue of queerness."

Since I have personal friends who are engaged in the FUM-FGC-sexual orientation concern, I do what I can to support them: they are closer to "where the action is" around these issues.

I wish to address, though, something said by the Anonymous commenter:

It's clear to me that FUM and EFI Friends (most but not all) would likely look at North American Liberal Friends (often but not always connected to FGC) and think THOSE Friends aren't Quaker, since many do not place Jesus/Christ/God at the center of Quakerism.

These issues are complex; they were not born overnight and they will not heal or be reconciled overnight either.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

*In Canada and the U.S., this group is comprised primarily of Liberal and Conservative Friends.

piotr said...

Hi,

difficult to understand that american Friends have problem with sexuality. Our problem is not sexuality but peace in the world,poor poeple, hunger, .... the message of Christ ...US intervention in Irak is for us a big problem. Read the evangelists John, Luk, Mattieu .... no where they speak about sexuality, no where Christ say about sexuality ....no where Christ exclude .... we don't understand our american Friends

Piotr

European french speaking community of reformed quakers

http://www.cyberquevec.ca/quakers/

reflect06 said...

"I wonder if I have to remind Friends that equality is the eyes of God and community is one of the core theological tenants of our faith."

this is what shocks me, again and again. that a group or individual can cling more closely to their own aversions than to the possibility of equality. you are right and righteous in being outraged- please let me know how i can be a help to you, dear.

Francis Drake said...

(An entry from my personal journal):

Still hassling with the FUM gay/unmarried policy issue (a bit of background: My home meeting is affiliated with SEYM [Southeastern], which, until its just past yearly meeting, was jointly FGC-FUM affiliated, during which it was decided to separate for two years from affiliation with FUM. Absent any way forward in that time period, disaffiliation from FUM will be permanent).

Best analogy I can come up with (and it's not perfect) is slavery. Far as I know *nowhere* in New Testament does *anyone* — Jesus, Paul, you name it — say slavery is wrong/bad/evil. They (mostly Paul or pseudo-Paul[s]) talk about treating slaves well, or in Christ there's no slave or free, but nowhere is the institution of slavery outright condemned. From this one could well imagine certain earlier Friends saying to John Woolman, "Well, Friend John, thee knows there be naught in Scripture against the institution of slavery; wherefore I should say thy leading is misguided or at best unrealistically idealistic, at worst contrary to the clear teaching of God's Word. I assure thee my slaves are well treated, fed and housed. Godspeed now..."

And how does Friend John respond?

In the Light.

quakerboy said...

Thanks for this post. It is important that FUM be engaged around issues of discrimination. I think it most effective if those of us who self-identify as Christian hold FUM accountable.

We must dialogue with FUM in language that is respectful of their spiritual Path. So, it is important for us to be informed of what scipture says and does not say about homosexuality.

My hope is that those in FUM who advocate discrimination will see that we have not been "given over to a reprobate mind" but are followers of Jesus just as they are. Our common "ground" is our faith in Christ.

Many FUM folks have never met an "out" gay person, much less an "out" Christian gay person. It's hard to hate someone who you come to know and love as a brother or sister.

Keep up the wonderful posts and let's all pray for the day when FUM welcomes people of all orientations and gender identities.

In peace,
Craig

Anonymous said...

Hello Anna, You are accepted and loved by the one that matters. Trust in the God that loves you and try to look at your relationship with your Loving Savior. Just work on being what God wants you to be. Forgive those that tresspass against you, love your neighbor as yourself. And God will take care of the rest. Enjoy your time with God and do not let the working of division within a group distract you from knowing who you are in Christ. Seek first the kingdom of God. All this written to you with love. Please do not get caught up in this. Seek wisdom in God's word. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save He will take great delight in you He will quiet you with his love He will rejoice over you with singing.

The Almighty God is with you.

Bill Samuel said...

"I would ask FUM Friends whether they seriously feel that a person's ability to give spoken ministry depends on their sexual orientation?" That's never been an FUM position as far as I'm aware, and I have served on FUM's Board. I've never heard of FUM trying to restrict spoken ministry to people of one sexual orientation.

Laurie Kruczek said...

Anna,

Stand tall in Christ's love. You know and understand what is Truthful. Thank you for speaking out. Your blog always provides great insight.

May all voices be heard,

Laurie

Anonymous said...

I think maybe Bill is missing the point Anna was trying to make. I read it to mean that the Spirit can work through us all, therefore all should be equally valuable and their work equally welcome. No tests at all of acceptability needed.

Anna said...

Bill,
I would agree with the last poster's interpretation of my article. I was not saying there is a FUM policy that states this directly, I know there's not, but I was merely showing how if you follow the logic of the Richmond declaration, you end up discriminating against people at a much deeper level. If we say that a gay or lesbian person can not be hired by FUM then one must assume that FUM finds something spiritually wrong with such a Friend, since they are "unfit" to serve their religious community. I am pointing out the logical and theological consequences of such policies as FUM as chosen to uphold. Also please remember I come from a FUM affiliated meeting and now live in Richmond IN. I am not an outsider in this matter.

Thanks to everyone who's posted, I appreciate it.

Peace and Joy,
Anna.

Carol Holmes said...

. . . a gay or lesbian person can not be hired by FUM . . .

The conversation is proceeding in an interesting way, and many good points are being made but no one has yet spoken to the above, so I better wade in.

A gay or lesbian person can, indeed, be hired by FUM--so long as they are willing to affirm that they will be celibate for the length of their employment. Single non-gays and non-lesbians must make this same affirmation in order to work for FUM.

FUM is now in the curious position of facing the possibility of a gay couple whose union has been legally and religiously recognized applying for employment. It is my understanding (open to correction)that some monthly meetings in New York and New England Yearly Meeting (depending on what state they're in)can not only celebrate gay unions but also legally register them, and every monthly meeting in Canadian Yearly Meeting can do so.

The personnel policy does state that marriage is to be defined as the union of one man and one woman, which was inserted to apply not only to gays and lesbians but also to polygamous Quakers in Kenya. I have wondered what the effect of the legalization of gay unions will have on the situation.

I'll close by saying that I'm one of New York Yearly Meeting's representatives to the FUM board, but I am speaking only for myself. I do not unite with the personnel policy, but I feel the need to provide information about FUM as best I can.

Laurie Kruczek said...

Why does FUM need to know if you are celibate or not, staight or gay? That is the most intrusive and annoying thing I can imagine from a Quaker organization. It really makes me cringe.

Nancy said...

I am just wondering why one would continue to follow in the church of George Fox. There are many other places to go to worship God with other believers in the body of Christ. Can Christians hate sin and love one another? Can you and I and the body of Christ forgive each other for what we do not agree is fair or right. Can we just live in forgiveness and love and acceptance. Maybe we can let God judge what is fair and right. We are all sinners we are all wrong about so many things, and we are all learning. Can we look to God as our teacher, the Holy Spirit as our guide. Should this division of all these opinions be more important than love for one another? What does God want for us?

Chris said...

Something you might want to check out – Quaker radio programs! They are produced by Northern Spirit Radio and there are 2 varieties, so far – Spirit In Action and Song of the Soul. Of particular interest to you could be Bonnie Tinker's Song of the Soul interview, in which she discusses her work for the rights of gay and lesbian families. You can find the interview at [url]http://www.northernspiritradio.org/northernspiritradio/radioweb.exe/showinfo?showid=393254243185[/url].

Also, Northern Spirit Radio is connected with an effort to gather Quaker-related audio and visual media. The group calls itself Friends World Media and they will be launching their web site, [url]http://speakingtruth.org[/url] soon and are looking for Quakers with media (podcasts, videos, whatever) to contribute. How about you?

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, This is Nancy...I have to say that I do not know all there is to know about the Quaker denomination and never will. I have attended a Quaker chruch for over a year and have been accepted there as someone that believes in Jesus. However, I know that I do not belong to the Quaker membership. I am starting to find that all denominations are the same, in that, they are tightly knit and exclusive and defensive at heart, and have to be to survive being a denomination. There has to be a line that outsiders can not cross unless they are a part of the denomination. I have taken part in different churches in this area and I am finding this to be so everywhere. Although, I think that the Quaker denomination has done its best at welcoming me to take part to a very large degree before I am excluded. Their arms reach far out into the community, at least, in this group at this paritcular church. I know that I am blessed to have known these people and their love of God and to experience how the Love of God has been used through them. God bless you on your journey. Love, Nancy ( a follower of Christ Jesus )

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