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We’d Better Get Clear

I spent most of this past weekend with young adult Friends from Baltimore Yearly Meeting and also had the privilege to attend a Quarterly Meeting within Baltimore YM, where Silvia Graves, the General Secretary of Friends United Meeting, spoke. The conversations with young adult Friends before that meeting, the conversations with older Friends at the QM and more conversations with young adult Friends later on today often returned to the question of FUM, and, implicitly, its current institutional stance on homosexuality. Saturday evening, other young adult Friends and I attended a gay pride parade near my home in Washington, DC, and I experienced what I felt was an opening from the Lord.

Watching the parade, I saw several local Christian groups – Episcopals, Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarian Universalists, and others – going along in the procession. Sitting there, I felt a movement of the Spirit, and as I bowed interiorly, I was struck – again and again and again – with a two-second soundbite from Deborah Saunder’s first sermon at the World Gathering of Young Friends. She had been mocking us young Friends for being so unfocused in our faith journey, and she suddenly became deathly serious: “You’d better get clear,” she warned us. This memory, this soundbite of Deborah Saunders saying, “you’d better get clear,” repeated in my mind as if fired by an automatic weapon.

You’d better get clear. Accompanying this message was a great sense of compassion for all of the people I saw before me at this parade, reveling in their sexuality and identity as legitimate human beings. I was struck with the sense that the Church was losing these people. At the recent FUM board meeting in Kenya, as Friends were engaged in debate as to whether or not to re-affirm the Richmond Declaration of Faith, a Kenyan Friend reportedly admonished the board members, saying, “my people are perishing while you squabble.” This is no less true in North America than it is in Africa.

While we, the Church, bicker about the very existence of homosexuality, we fail to address the terrible brokenness and unfaithfulness that so many of us find ourselves caught up in with regards to our own sexuality. While we squabble, many Friends deny homosexuals the covenant of marriage. While we scream back and forth about how right or wrong homosexuality is, we seem to be ignoring the lack of integrity with which we carry out our heterosexual liaisons. While we bicker about whether or not to “accept” homosexuality, we avoid doing the important work of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those whose sexual orientation is not our own, yet who want to live the fullness of the Christian life.

We’d better get clear. I am increasingly aware of how the question of homosexuality in the Church is allowing Friends to ignore so many other more substantive questions that face us as a community. It is a lot easier to focus on nailing down points of doctrine – be it liberal or orthodox doctrine – than it is to take a real look at whether we ourselves are glorifying God with our sexuality. Are we all, hetero- or homosexual, living out our God-given sexuality with integrity and submission to the yoke of Christ? Are we all, gay or straight, engaged in wholesome, committed, honest relationships with others? Do Friends respect the sanctity of the God-given bond of marriage? Perhaps once we get the log out of our own eye, we might see where the root of our struggles as a Church lies.

We’d better get clear.

  • good questions, and a nice post. This is a subject that has been waying heavily on my heart as well.

    Peace and Joy,

  • A fine essay, and a welcome message. I’ve recommended and provided a link to it in my earthwitness journal. Thanks, Micah!

  • Hi. nice to hear from you. Read your latest post. And yes agree worrying about what one loves rather then how ones love does rather miss the point.

    Also from a Quaker point of view Barclay argued for 17th century Friends that the Spirit or experience of God overrides reliance on Scripture alone. Hence why Wolman could in the 18th century argue for the abolition of slavery which the Bible condones and accepts as normal.

  • Interestingly, the Washington Blade (dc’s gay paper) chose to focus their article on the mainline churches at the Pride parade. They include a quote from the local Episcopal spokesman that “In a way, this is evangelism at its best,” he said. “You reach out to new audiences. Churches have to make themselves visible to the community.” The tone of the article, in general, is extraordinarily positive about the presence of the religious contingent.

  • Friend Micah,

    Thank you for this post. It is our responsibility, as Quakers, with our experiences of God working through us, to state injustices and to whole-heartedly try to change them. You are making steps many fear to make.

    May this all be behind us someday.


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  • Great post. It’s odd that for some reason, even progressive and radical people let sexual relationships be the only area of life in which it’s ok to exploit and take advantage of people, or at the very least discount people’s feelings of jealousy, hurt etc. Honesty & integrity in sexual relationships is something I value, but it’s probably a minority position.

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with Micah,
    Looking at the controversy over sexuality within the Church, I have to wonder why it’s such a big issue. If God has given us sexuality, does it really matter if people’s orientation is different? Why do some “friends deny the covenant of marriage” when two gay people have as much chance of a happy marriage as straight people? Even if people believe that homosexuality is a crime,it’s not like THEY’RE consenting to their own marriage with a gay person. Doesn’t everyone have the right to choose for themselves?

  • Great post! Have you heard of the magazine Geez? It’s sorta like a hip not hypocritical evangelist magazine.