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Christian denominations and homosexuality

Statements by the Society of Friends (Quakers)

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Quaker congregations are almost completely autonomous. There exists no central general assembly or main authority within the Society of Friends which can make definitive statements of policy for the entire denomination. Instead, Quakers have regional "meetings" at which a group of congregations gather.

Most Christians and Christian groups can be sorted into three categories: conservative, mainline and liberal. Quakers cover the full range. This is displayed in their beliefs about homosexuality and bisexuality. The following are excerpts taken from their statements on the topic, sorted in chronological order:

bulletBritish Quakers:
In 1963, British Quakers published a book "Towards a Quaker View of Sex". 10 It put forth the argument that it was not the gender and sexual orientation of a person that mattered; it was the depth of feeling they have for each other.

"Where there is a genuine tenderness, an openness to responsibility, and the seed of commitment, God is surely not shut out. Can we not say that God can enter any relationship in which there is a measure of selfless love?"2

Subsequently, the Quakers of Westminster Meeting in the UK published a statement:

"We affirm the love of God for all people, whatever their sexual orientation, and our conviction that sexuality is an important part of human beings as created by God, so that to reject people on the grounds of their sexual behaviour is a denial of God's creation."

Quaker Life published an essay on "Quaker Views - Close Relationships," which commented:

"This tolerant attitude probably reflects the view of most British Quakers. No discrimination is found among Quakers in terms of employment policies. However, there are some Quakers who are very unhappy about the subject of homosexuality."

"What would Quakers say to people who point to teachings in the Bible against homosexuality? Most British Quakers, while finding much inspiration in the Bible, would not use it as the final or only authority. We believe in obedience to the same spirit of God that inspired the writers of the Bible and that we feel can speak directly to people today. We remember that the writers of the New Testament accepted the institution of slavery but Christians no longer keep slaves. Parts of the New Testament seem to support the argument against the ordination of women but several churches now ordain women. How the Christian Church decides which of the teachings in the Bible are eternal and which were 'of their time' is an important issue. Within Quakerism we feel it is very important for ideas to be treated by careful and prayerful consideration by the larger Quaker community - which may take a long time." 9

bulletHartford, CT:
The meeting issued the following statement on 1986-MAR: 4

"The Meeting affirms the goodness of committed, loving relationships and offers recognition and support to those who share this ideal and desire to enter into a permanent relationship based upon it. By tradition, the Meeting recognizes committed union in a celebration of marriage under the care of the Meeting. The same loving care and consideration should be given to both same-sex and heterosexual applicants as outlined in Faith and Practice."

bulletBeacon Hill, MA:
The meeting issued the following statement on 1988-MAR: 4

"We, the members and attenders of Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting, affirm our belief in that of God in every person. Furthermore, we attest that this belief embraces all persons regardless of sexual orientation."

"Beacon Hill affirms that all couples, including those of the same sex, have equal opportunity to be married within the framework of the meeting process. The love between these couples, as it grows, will enrich their relationship, the Meeting, and the world at large. The Meeting is committed to supporting these couples according to their needs."

"Beacon Hill acknowledges the Certificate of Marriage signed by the couple and those present at the ceremony as the witness of Friends to the couples' spiritual union. Mindful that only the heterosexual couples among us currently have the right to legally sanctioned marriage and its privileges, the Meeting asks Friends, and particularly couples preparing for marriage, to examine how best to respond and bear witness to the inequalities still present in the system."

bullet Friends Church Southwest Yearly Meeting [This is a Meeting in the southwest of the U.S., and is not the Yearly Meeting in the Southwest of England:
They issued a statement on 1992-JAN-24 which says in part:

"We declare that our sexuality is God's gift, and that sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed, as the Scriptures teach, only within the marriage of one man and one woman. We reject and utterly oppose homosexual activity, especially the "blessing" of same sex unions, as sinful and displeasing to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Right reason, Holy Scripture and the Spirit of Christ within us unitedly testify that homosexual practice is contrary to God's will. We also observe that homosexual practice is portrayed in the Scriptures as one of the awful consequences of humanity's pursuit of idolatry. (Romans 1:18-32)"

"We want to be clear that we welcome those who struggle with homosexual temptation. The gospel of Jesus welcomes all who turn to Him in the hope of a new and remade life. Our Lord Jesus offers that power for real change. We must also be equally clear, however, that we cannot welcome or tolerate the teaching that homosexual or extramarital sexual activity is acceptable to Friends. Without hate or fear we must reject these behaviors because they are both sinful and displeasing to our Lord, and because they are ultimately hurtful and destructive to those who participate in them." 1

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bulletEvangelical Friends Church - Mid America Yearly Meeting:
They approved a statement on homosexuality on 1992-AUG-02:

"The Scriptures declare that God creates us male and female. Furthermore, the biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of a male-female relationship (Genesis 2:24), and formalized in the institution of marriage. The partner for man was woman. Together they were to be one flesh. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-23). Everywhere in Scripture the sexual relationship between man and woman within the bonds of marriage is viewed as something natural and beautiful. We believe that homosexuality is not an expression of the Creator’s plan for human sexuality."

"Homosexual activity, like an adulterous relationship, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures. In Leviticus 18:22, God declares the practice of homosexuality an abomination in His sight. In Romans 1:26-27, the practice of homosexuality is described as a degrading and unnatural passion. I Corinthians 6:9-10 identifies the practice of homosexuality as sin that, if persisted in, brings gave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God."

"We as evangelical Friends believe that sexuality has moral implications unlike race, gender, or national origin. The Apostle Paul, strong in his condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, also testifies that those once engaged in homosexuality were among those who were forgiven and changed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 6:11). Individual Christians, pastors and congregations need to maintain the believe that all human beings have sinned, and that all Christians have received God’s mercy while helpless, ungodly and hostile to God. In the name of Christ we proclaim forgiveness, cleansing, restoration and power for godly living for all who repent and believe the gospel (I Corthinthians 10:13)." 8

bullet Quakers in Madison WI:
Quakers were one of the denominations from the Madison WI area, which issued a statement in 1997, titled: "Madison Affirmation On Homosexuality and Christian Faith". 3 It states:

"Jesus Christ calls us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. As Christian clergy we embrace gay and lesbian persons as our neighbors. From our reading of scripture and from our pastoral experiences, we believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that homosexuality is neither sickness nor sin. For too long, homosexual persons have been condemned and mistreated by the followers of Jesus Christ. Sadly, the Bible has been misused in support of this condemnation. This abuse of scripture must end. Heterosexual and homosexual persons are children of God, created in God's image. ...

We believe it is time to eliminate all policies and practices which create barriers and restrictions to the full participation of gay and lesbian Christians in all of the privileges and responsibilities of church membership. Recognizing that our churches still speak and act out of our long-standing prejudices:

bulletWe hope and pray that we will acknowledge our sin and be forgiven for our ignorance, fear, arrogance and self-righteousness; ...
bulletWe rejoice in the refusal of many gay and lesbian Christians to abandon or be forced out of their church homes;...
bulletWe consider these sisters and brothers to be a unique, holy and precious gift to all of us who struggle to become the family of God."
bulletNew Zealand: The Quaker meeting in Aotearoa is called "Te Hahi Tuhauwiri." This was the name gifted to them by the Maori Language Commission in 1994. It means "The people who are moved by the winds of the Spirit." In 1999, they published their Statement of Affirmation and Reconciliation about the inclusiveness of sexualities, especially gays and lesbians. It had been adopted in 1995. Portions read:

"The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Aotearoa New Zealand commits itself to be a community of reconciliation, responding to the love of God in equality of participation and service, and recognizing the gifts of God in one another. A cornerstone of Quaker belief is 'that of God' in everyone which makes each person precious, and of value to God, to the planet, and to her or his community.

Each individual's journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone, others in loving relationships - maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has many shapes and colors and is not finite. It can not be measured or defined in terms of sexual orientation.

We are now called:

bulletto welcome publicly and explicitly the participation and service of lesbian and gay Friends;
bulletto help one another develop loving and equal adult relationships and friendships;
bulletto explore ways in which we can, through worship and cherishing, mark the joys and sorrows of one another's relationships and life circumstances;
bulletto seek formal ways of recognizing a variety of commitments, including gay and lesbian partnerships.

We realize in making this present affirmation we oblige ourselves to face and deal with our own homophobia and unconscious prejudices, together with society's limitations and denials of human rights and justice. We acknowledge that as individuals we are as fallible as anyone else. When put to the test, we may each fall short."

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These statements probably reflect the range of beliefs of most Quakers.

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References

  1. Minute of Declaration by Southwest Yearly Meeting is at: http://www.clark.net/
  2. QUAKERS in Britain: The Religious Society of Friends Britain Yearly Meeting has an essay on sexual morality. See: http://www.quaker.org/ (This link could not be raised on 1998-OCT-24, and may be dead.)
  3. "Pastors say Homosexuality Not a Sin", at: http://wayoflife.org/
  4. "Minutes on Same-Gender Marriage...", at: http://world.std.com/
  5. Many additional texts are listed at Q-LIGHT HOME PAGE at: http://world.std.com/
  6. A presentation to the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany on 1997-JUN-29 is at: http://quakers.agoranet.be/
  7. "Aotearoa New Zealand Yearly Meeting:  Statement of Affirmation and Reconciliation," at: http://www.mind.net/
  8. "Position papers," Evangelical Friends Church - Mid America Yearly Meeting, at: http://www.maym.org/
  9. "Quaker Views - Close Relationships," undated, at: http://www.quaker.org.uk/
  10. "Towards a Quaker View of Sex," Quaker Home Service (1998). Out of print. Order a used copy of this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
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