Skip this entry, please, if you've heard all you care to for the next hundred years on the FUM personnel policy. Or read it if you'd like a somewhat simplified and subjective primer on the issue. It is intended as a companion piece, a sidebar and footnote to my first set of reflections on NEYM.
Here's a mini briefer for Pagan readers and Quakers who may not be familiar with this controversy: Friends United Meeting, or FUM, is a large assembly of Quakers. It includes meetings like mine, which historically united both liberal Quakers who might or might not describe themselves as Christians and more traditional, Christ-centered Quakers. FUM also includes meetings that are wholly Christ-centered, and its mission is explicitly Evangelical. Inquiring minds might want to know why I am myself quite passionately dedicated to remaining in relationship with FUM. If you do, stay tuned: the question of "what's a nice Pagan girl like you doing in a hotbed of Christianity like this?" deserves attention I'll give it later. Suffice it to say, though, FUM is a very large tent, and it is doing some exciting and humanizing work in the world, especially in Africa, where the majority of the world's Quakers live.
And practice, typically, a very enthusiastic and not especially liberal Christianity.
The FUM personnel policy includes a proviso which refuses to hire gays or lesbians who are not celibate (or heterosexuals who engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage). It breaks the hearts of willing, loving and sincerley Christian gay and lesbian Quakers on a regular basis.
It also reflects a step forward for a worldwide organization that--at least in theory--practices unity, not mere majority rule in policy setting, in that it does explicitly recognize the rights of gays and lesbians to live free from violence and discrimination (assuming they are celibate).
It is a terribly flawed document, but it is what we have currently, and it will only be possible to change it by changing the culture of hundreds of thousands of people around the world--a worthy goal, it seems to me, when we are speaking of human rights. We cannot change the policy without changing hearts--and changing hearts will take a very, very long time.
So many Quakers who are strong advocates of equality for gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and queer people are very, very uncomfortable with contributing to this organization. I consider myself a strong--or at least passionate and committed--advocate also, but I do not share this view; I see many reasons to remain a supporter of Friends United Meeting, not the least of which is that, unlike many liberal Quaker bodies, FUM seems to me to promote realistic, practical, and human-sized interventions in troubled parts of the world. I see their work as the best kind of "good news"--what Eden Grace calls FUM's ministry of"cross-cultural exchange," combined with real respect for the spiritual autonomy of the people it serves.
In my view, despite its Evangelist mission, FUM is not imperialistic or colonial. It also seems to me to be practical and real in ways that I am convinced more liberal Friends' often symbolic actions may not be. Not that we can't have both, or support both! We can.
I happen to be very glad that, in NEYM, dually-affiliated as we are, we do.
Hope that's not clear as mud... Wiser Quakers, feel free to clarify what I have left murky or made mistakes in reporting.