Next month, I'm taking part in a panel discussion on quaker homophobia. Yes, my monthly meeting and yearly meeting embraces LGBT folks and same-sex marriages, and I'm very grateful for this, but there are quakers in the world, including not far away, who are very anti-gay. What can/should we do about this? What if we don't do anything?
Here is my statement for the panel:
I have been carrying a concern.
I have been carrying this concern since hearing an epistle read a P.Y.M a couple years ago. The epistle was dated August 30, 2006, and stated, "Gay is contrary to scriptures and nature. Even the tiniest crawling creatures observe strictly God’s command...." and that "[We] shall not team up with any group that proclaims this immoral conduct."
The epistle was from East Africa Yearly Meeting. It was from Friends "to Friends everywhere."
This concern grew when I read reports of a man standing in a regional Quaker gathering in Africa and saying that homosexuals and their allies should be put to death. It was reported that no one, including Friends from the U.S who were present, stood to challenge the man.
When I heard last Fall that George Fox University, a Quaker school in Oregon, prohibits "homosexual behavior" in its students, faculty and staff, the concern only grew.
I am very well aware that Africa is on the other side of the world and that there are very different branches of Quakers/ism. I am also happy that Claremont Meeting and Pacific Yearly Meeting are on record supporting same-sex relationships and marriage.
But these feel like rationalizations - it is nice to say we are not like that and to feel good - and ones that are too easy. The fact still is that there are those among the "Friends Everywhere," including those not that far away, who condemn me as a gay man, saying that I am immoral and should be banned or even killed. (I find the distinction between "the sin" and "the sinner," as in "love the sinner, hate the sin," to be disingenuous, to say the least. I resent being called a "sinner," with its implication that I sin.)
What am I to think?
More importantly perhaps, what would my gay friend think if he saw the East Africa Yearly Meeting epistle (it is easily found on the Internet)? What do I tell him?
What do we tell the gay man who shows up at a Quaker Quest session with this question? Or would he show up?