A Glimpse of FLGC in Transition

A hundred people wait in worship while the FLGC co-clerks confer in whispers at a table in the front of the room. It is towards the end of our last full meeting for worship with attention to business, summer 2002, at the Normal, Illinois, FGC Gathering. We have dropped into deep worship. We are sitting on chairs, lying, leaning, settled cross-legged on the floor. A few care for infants or toddlers. There is a small symphony of snuffles and coughs from a week of high heat and powerful air conditioning.
The co-clerks bend over on either side of the recording clerk, who shows them something on his computer screen.

In front of me a young woman who has come to us from a yearly meeting that condemns homosexuality bows her head, her short hair standing up bravely. Eyes closed, a capacious woman who has just completed three years on FLGC’s Ministry and Counsel settles her skirts about her in a matronly fashion; it is her first summer Gathering since the sex reassignment surgery that freed her body to unite with her spirit.

Stretched out in his full gorgeous length on the carpeted floor is a lanky bisexual whom I’ve known in this community since he was barely 20; this summer he beamed as he announced, "I am engaged!" I had to ask: To a woman? To a man? Next to me, my partner of 22 years folds and unfolds the hands that have touched me in love. Like many of the same-sex couples in this faith community, Polly and I were married a few years ago under the care of our meeting; the signatures of some of the FLGCers around us now grace the marriage certificate that hangs above our bed. In this meeting for business we are surrounded by the singles, couples, triples, long-time heterosexual allies, and brand-new seekers who have, with us, found solace and strength in the shared understanding that sex and spirit are divinely intertwined. For many of us, this is a spiritual home.

Wonderful things are going on elsewhere this afternoon at the Gathering. Naps exert a powerful call. But we’re here. The clerks have discerned a particular question to be before us this year: What are we led to call our community?

Changing our name over the years has never been easy. From the Committee of Concern (when the word "gay" felt too dangerous), to Friends for Gay Concerns, to Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, to simply the initials "FLGC" attached to a paragraph about our community: each change has required threshing and struggle—wrestling with the Spirit and ourselves. Each change has reflected an expanded sense of who God calls us to be. Are we on the brink of another?

About a decade ago, in response to the beloved presence, witness, and service of bisexual members of our community, we began to explore whether it was time to change our name again. Soon transgendered and transsexual Friends opened their Light in our midst as well. For ten years we have threshed, prayed, brainstormed, and labored with each other. We have sought unity on a name change and haven’t reached it.

Some have pulled away. I feel their empty chairs in this meeting for business. While in Normal (what a great town for queer Quakers to gather in!), our clerks and Ministry and Counsel have invited us into worshipful discussion about many aspects of this decision. We have asked each other: What about younger Friends? How to reflect their energy and perspective? How to keep open to change in the "we" who are us? Is there one gloriously, elegantly simple name that we could use as an umbrella, and avoid all these tongue-tangling initials? Are we awkward about the name itself, or more truly about the changes it may represent? Names have come forward, and we have done our best to listen, to be faithful.

There is movement at the clerks’ table. Co-clerk Charlie Layman sits back down in his chair and closes his eyes. Co-clerk Carolyn Lejuste stands before us, clears her throat. Rex Sprouse, the recording clerk, looks up at her. An intake of breath travels through the room. Some bow our heads. Some straighten our backs. Polly’s and my hands find each other. Why is change so deeply searching? Is this the moment? What is Spirit asking of us?

Minute #20 from FLGC Summer Gathering 2002: "Gathering the sense of the meeting, co-clerk Carolyn Lejuste asked whether Friends were ready to consider the name ‘Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns’ for a first reading at this point, to be considered for a second reading at Midwinter Gathering 2003. Friends approved."

At the rise of meeting for worship with attention to business, Friends of many genders and sexual orientations cry, laugh, hug, sigh, and wonder. We head downstairs to join the many non-FLGC Friends who attend our daily 4:30 p.m. worship. That evening in our variety show three of our toddlers and their parents will lead us in a song to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The initials of our provisional new name, approved for a first reading, fit perfectly.

—Wendy Sanford