Saturday, August 08, 2009

New England Yearly Meeting Affirms Same-Sex Marriages

This was a sort of a breakthrough year for me at New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers).

I want to write about that, but I feel that, this year, I need to allow NEYM to scoop me. Because it was a breakthrough year for Friends in New England, too; we minuted our clear sense of the right order of same-sex marriages performed among us.

It is probably worth mentioning that same-sex marriages have been performed by monthly meetings for a number of years now, and that many of our quarterly meetings have affirmed this practice. We have, however, been laboring with this issue, and with our relationship with Friends United Meeting (which continues to be a tender spot) for a long time now.

I mention the issue of Friends United Meeting, which has a personnel policy many of our members find discriminatory and painful, because it was grappling with our discomfort over FUM that kept pushing the matter of same-sex marriage, and of glbtq rights in general, into the limelight for us. Try as we would to separate them, the two issues persisted in rising together.

Ultimately, while recognizing the sincere and possibly prophetic witness of our members who feel that they cannot make financial contributions to FUM, we came to strong and clear unity on two things:
  1. We are clear that we wish to remain in loving relationship with Friends United Meeting.
  2. We are clear that we have been blessed and honored by the ministry of many glbtq Friends in our meeting, and that every marriage taken under the care of our meetings, without regard to the sexual identities or orientations of the couple, is a blessing and a joy to our meetings.
We love our relationships and work in Friends United Meeting.

We love our glbtq Friends, and recognize the love of Spirit working through them in their relationships with one another and with us.

The minute does not mention Friends United Meeting at all. Though our concerns with the wider body remain, and some Friends are in a place of deep pain and have great demands of conscience weighing on them over how to carry our concerns within other branches of that body, this minute addresses our own meetings, urging each to examine what they can say on the subject of holding up the equality of glbtq members. Each meeting is asked to "discern how they can best offer to all couples the same care and affirmations of their leadings to walk together in love."

Though directed at our own meetings, it is probably relevant that NEYM is a founding member of FUM, and quite active in that body. I believe this represents either the first or second such minute from a yearly meeting within the larger, and worldwide, body of Friends United Meeting.

Spirit labored a long time with us to bring us to this point, and my heart is grateful for the grace we found to arrive at this point today.


Liz Opp said...

In the midst of your busy life and household transition, thanks for taking the time to write this piece. Turns out I won't be going to any yearly meeting sessions this year. Quite a change of pace from previous years...

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Yewtree said...

Great news, Cat.

Jan Hoffman said...

Thanks for posting this, Cat. I wish we had the full approved minute. . . However, I do believe "intersex" was added to the glbtq list that had been in the minute Connecticut Valley brought to NEYM which served as a seed for the NEYM minute. The NEYM minute reads: "Being mindful of the oppression gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Friends face, we feel a special commitment to offer loving support to these Friends." I recall the gratitude expressed by an intersex Friend to see that term included.

Michael said...


I'm glad NYEM took the approach it did of addressing the question for its own meetings, without speaking to the concern with FUM.

Many Friends in SEYM (Southeastern Yearly Meeting) struggle over our dual affiliation with FGC and FUM, and some insist very strongly that we should disaffiliate.

As a nearly 49-year-old gay man who has been partnered to Hubby Jim since 1985 and married under the care of Columbia (SC)Meeting since 1994, I have kept speaking my own witness to SEYM Friends.

We must not allow this issue to cause formal schism within RSOF. Just the opposite. We must insist that all of the disagreeing parties remain together, worshipping together, waiting together, listening together, until way is open for unity.

Blessed Be,

Karen said...


Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Jan--yes! Thank you for pointing that out. It was a very important revision.

Michael--as we labored together over the minute and over our relationship with FUM, the faces of many, many glbtq Friends who strongly feel as you do, and who have offered so much of themselves in this struggle, were constantly before my inward eye.

When the pain of remaining open and listening got too great, I would find myself thinking (odd but true, Pagan or not): "So-and-so has been up on this cross for five years now. I can stand it for another five minutes!" And after that, another five. And then another five. Until, joyfully, we had Unity.

I am longing for renewed Web access soon, so I can hopefully write more about the process. Feeling Spirit moving so powerfully was quite the experience.

Blessings, all.

Liz Opp said...


Thanks for being such an ally to the GLBTQ community (assuming you yourself don't identify as lesbian, bi, trans, or queer...).

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

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