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An Important Article on Same-Sex Relationships and Religion

I don't normally make blog posts that are merely links to other people's articles. But , in reading Jason Pitzl-Waters' end-of-year roundup on the most important Pagan news stories of the year, I followed a link to The Revealer's nominations for the best overall religious news stories of 2008. Among them was an incredibly lucid, well-reasoned article on the struggle within the Anglican Communion. Garret Keizer's article, "Turning Away from Jesus: Gay Rights and the War for the Episcopal Church" is one that many Quakers will not yet have read. And though not everything on the plate of the Episcopal Church is relevant to Quakers as we struggle with our own understandings around same-sex relationships in the context of the FUM personnel policy, a good deal is.

I suspect that we Friends are going to be a lot closer to hearing what Spirit intends for us on this matter when we are able to set aside our certainties and convictions that we and we alone truly understand what is right, and learn to hear the many voices and experiences that are part of this discussion.

I'm not saying that homophobia is acceptable, and I'm not saying that acceptance of same-sex marriages is not ultimately going to be what is required of us all. I'm pretty clear on those things, actually.

But it's what I'm not clear on that ought to be my concern, especially when I speak with Friends whose understandings are radically different from my own. What are we each hearing that the other is not saying? What are we not hearing that the other is?

I want us to keep listening to one another, to keep sitting down at the table together, and to trust God to lead, and the people to follow. (I do not want us to simplify our lives by walking away from one another. I think that would be a tragic mistake.)

I do want us to be open to what we don't already know. I think this article does a nice job of cultivating that, at least within me. I recommend it.

Comments

Silver Heron said…
Pray very hard for the Episcopal Church. There are some wonderful people there who are really struggling hard with doing what they perceive to be the right thing according to their understanding of what God asks of them, and many people have faced a unbelievable amounts of pain in this whole thing.

I was there a couple of years ago. I'd thought of going back. Somewhere under all the quibbling is a real spiritual center, and if only the could find a way - !!
Anonymous said…
It's a bit odd to be gay and watch the Episcopal Church, for which I have a great deal of affection, split over this issue. Makes me feel a little guilt.

Once I would've eagerly joined the discussion and worked to find a solution, but now it all just makes my head (and spirit) ache.

I hope for the best.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting this. I've only had a moment to skim the article, and will read it in depth at home. I haven't made up my own mind about possible disaffiliation with FUM; I've heard persuasive arguments from weighty Friendsw on both sides.

What I DO know is that I felt saddest about it when I happened upon a pro-gay-marriage YouTube video put out by the Unitarian Universalists. It's a lovely song ("Standing on the side of love") accompanied by a slideshow of many happy gay unions. I watched this and thought, Dammit, why can't Quakers get their act together around this issue? I envied the UUs for knowing who they are and what they stand for (in this case, anyway).
~Flaneuse
There is so much more at stake than a position statement or an ad campaign, at least among Friends. Quakers in FUM live in all parts of the world, including in cultures at once far more conservative than mine and far more challenged than mine.

And remember, Quakers do not make our decisions by majority rule. Instead, we make decisions in a process of worship, of laboring together lovingly to hear the voice of Spirit. What is the Light guiding us all toward? is the question, not, how do I get my brother to agree with me?

When (not if) Quakers find unity on the question of same gender relationships, it will be a matter of more than an ad campaign that results. Just as Friends in Kenya literally stood between armed mobs and their neighbors in the aftermath of the elections last year, Friends in Africa may be risking the disincorporation of their churches, violence, and jail time in advocating for same-gender couples. That is something that is not well understood in the U.S., where homophobia costs jobs and personal pain... but not the kind of institutionalized opression that is found in other parts of the world.

I also find myself wondering what I, a privileged North American Friend, have to learn from Quakers in other parts of the world. What messages about poverty, about community, about striving for just societies in other ways, am I deaf to at present, which my counterparts in other places in the world could teach me?

A vote or a lobbying campaign could make liberal North American Friends feel pretty good about our positions, perhaps. But seeking unity, seeking to understand one another, with the help of Spirit, in openness and love... that may offer blessings I can't even imagine, including for glbtq folks in places that otherwise might never be changed, including (perhaps) for poor or vulnerable people I am not even aware of oppressing from my safe, comfortable position in First World privilege.

Real community is messier than voting--but also weightier and stronger. I am actually encouraged by this, and I feel that for all of us, the chance to engage with one another in kindness and trust is itself a very good thing, though it may be rising out of an injustice.
Anonymous said…
I'm particularly struck by the shrewd observation that we're more scared of love than violence. It's all around us.
Erik said…
I find it so sad to see what my former church is doing to itself...
Kody Gabriel said…
I stumbled on that article this summer, in a ridiculously unlikely manner (thanks, God!) and promptly showed it to everyone who I thought might care even remotely. Glad it has made it online, and glad it is being shared. I think it's a tremendously important piece.

I was struck by his insight on many points, but just as much by the modeling of intellectual passion and depth carried with tenderness of spirit.

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