An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns
Midwinter Gathering 2009
Dear Friends General Conference and Friends Everywhere,
We send loving greetings to you with this letter, as well as an invitation.
We are gathered at Camp Adams near Molalla, OR for the 2009 annual Midwinter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. During our time together, we have been exploring this year’s theme “Faith Calls for Justice on the Same Terms.” On our first evening together, we heard stories from and about our spiritual pioneers (both in modern and biblical times). We spent time in worship and worship sharing. We tended to the business of our beloved community. We participated in interest groups on a variety of offerings including trans and other queer concerns, Walt Whitman, Love Makes a Family, singing and others. On Saturday evening, we were blessed with a one-person play by a member of our community who has written about trans folk in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. During all of these times, as well as in fellowship around meals, during walks in the woods surrounding the grounds, and in private conversations we found a blessed time to renew our spirits and support each other.
During our meeting for worship with attention to business a letter from the clerks of the 2009 FGC Gathering was read. While we were glad to learn of the work being done to help ensure the safety of our families who are planning to attend this year’s gathering in Virginia, we were also saddened that once again the Gathering is being held in a place where state laws and constitutions have been re-written to take away our civil rights, including freedom of religion and equality. It is with great sadness of heart that we realize how difficult it is becoming for FGC to find a site for the Gathering where this is not the case. More and more, our families fear that they will not be allowed to make medical decisions about their loved ones or they fear that authorities may not recognize their adoptions, civil unions, and legal marriages. We continue to face the nightmare that loved ones may find themselves alone, while we are prevented from being with them at the times they most need us!
We remembered with gratitude that FGC joined with us in creating opportunities for witnessing to the power of God’s Love in our lives and in our marriages the last time the Gathering was in Blacksburg, and that they stood with us and spoke out for us at that time. We also remember with gratitude the loving minute approved by the FGC Central Committee a few years ago affirming “Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our experience has been that our gatherings and Central Committee work have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts. Our experience confirms that we are all equal before God, as God made us, and we feel blessed to be engaged in the work of FGC together."
We acknowledge and appreciate the many times FGC and our meetings have stood for us and with us by approving minutes of support and acknowledging and celebrating our unions and families. We still have work to do. We are now led to invite you to explore ways you, our meetings and faith communities can walk with us in witnessing to the World what we know experientially; that God’s love is indivisible and is not withheld from anyone or any couple seeking to live faithfully in holy union. Our silence and the silence of supportive faith communities make it easier for those claiming to speak with the authority of faith to insert their religious doctrine into the laws that govern our lives, as witnessed recently with the passing of Proposition 8 in California.
Today we are called to:
- Invite FGC and our meetings to join us in bringing Quakers together to help us all understand what is meant by “that which God joins together.” Many meetings struggle with the issues marriage raises. What are the differences between marriage as a civil institution and as a “God anointed” union? How can Friends help in the struggle for full marriage equality for same sex couples?
- Invite FGC to join with FLGBTQC to consider together how and when to bear witness to our experience as a faith community concerning queer marriage and civil rights in part because many sites (like in Virginia) will give us Opportunities to witness to the power of God’s love in our lives and in our families.
- Invite FGC to convene a Gathering or small conference whose theme would be “Who so ever God has joined together” which would address issues of marriage, family and relationships of all orientations and gender. We would suggest that Friends from all “sides” of the marriage question be invited to participate.
- Invite our meetings to provide support committees for LGBTQ members and their families when meetings are discerning whether they can or cannot take their marriages under the meeting’s care or when those Friends are made vulnerable because of faith-based witness around civil and constitutional rights in the wider community.
- Invite meetings to participate fully in civil discussions and legislative activism to help speak Truth of our experience of God’s Love for all. Our work can minister to others as we share our own ongoing process as models for other faith communities. We see this as an Opportunity for our meetings to speak publicly to our deeply rooted experience that God calls us to lives of Love and that Love takes many forms.
- We ask FGC, monthly meetings and yearly meetings to raise up the issues of equality and the ways in which our LGBTQ families are most in danger when they travel or seek help, whatever those meetings’ views on LGBTQ marriage.
We want to affirm to you all the power of the witness that our straight allies bring to our own lives and in the wider community. We do not experience this issue as simply a matter of marriage rights, but as a need to affirm and recognize that it is the richness of diversity that has strengthened and nurtured this country and our faith communities through the ages. Friends have long witnessed to a testimony of equality and we ask Friends to join with us in asking our government for equal protection and equal rights for all people.
God has been joining members of our LGBTQ community in loving marriages and relationships for long before these modern times. We are certain that some day civil laws will be enacted that legalize and recognize LGBTQ marriages and other civil rights. We have faith that God will continue to bless our lives. We have hope that civil rights will be in our life times. We know that Love, radical Love, will prevail.
With love and on behalf of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns,
Karen Lightner and Neil Fullagar, co-clerks
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC)