North Carolina Friends grapple with integrity regarding sexuality

We would like to inform the wider Quaker community of some difficult issues that Friends in North Carolina have been concerned with at present. Recently, the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC) requested the use of the Quaker Lake facility of North Carolina Yearly Friends United Meeting (NCYM) for a retreat. The request was denied, and FLGBTQC was told that "this was not an appropriate use of the facilities." The primary reason for denial is a "1990 Minute" that reads in part as follows: "We reaffirm Friends’ historic testimony for integrity . . . in morality and the Christian Family: Complete abstinence before marriage, complete fidelity in marriage, one man and one woman for life."

Charlotte (N.C.) Friends Meeting approved and sent this minute to express its concern:

As concerned members of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), Charlotte Friends Meeting (CFM) requests that the NCYM Executive Committee reexamine its decision to deny the use of Quaker Lake to the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. The bases for our position are as follows: We take it to be a central conviction of Friends that there is that of God in everyone, and we take this statement inclusively, embracing differences in racial and ethnic background, religious conviction, gender, and sexual orientation. We also believe in the teaching of continuing revelation, that God has spoken not just in the days of Jesus and George Fox, but continues to speak in our own day to Friends gathered in worship. And finally we believe that Friends are best understood as a family, and all should be treated on that basis. We are therefore led to oppose the above-mentioned decision by the superintendent and Executive Committee of NCYM (FUM) as contrary to these beliefs and to the Quaker testimonies as we understand them.

Our understanding of the Quaker community implies a concern for all members of the group as part of a family, and requires that we make reasonable attempts to resolve differences in a loving way. One of the options that could be pursued in responding to this request would be to enter into a process of discernment and dialogue to explore a mutually satisfactory resolution, especially since FLGBTQC is a Friends group.

Charlotte Friends Meeting respects both the right and the responsibility of NCYM to administer Quaker Lake in a way that is consistent with its understanding of Quaker principles and testimonies. Unfortunately, in this instance we can see no attempt to base the decision-making process on such principles and testimonies. We can understand the rejection of the request based on reserving the camp only one year in advance, but cannot agree with the statement, as given in the minutes of the Executive Committee, that "this was not an appropriate use of the facilities for the Yearly Meeting." We request that NCYM Executive Committee reexamine its position as it seeks to "establish a policy to deal with these issues."

The response from NCYM was a restatement of the minute quoted previously and reaffirmation of the decision made to deny the use of Quaker Lake to FLGBTQC.

Now a further decision needed to be made: Piedmont Friends Fellowship (FGC) had reserved Quaker Lake for its retreat in May. They were asked to reconsider the use of Quaker Lake, considering that FLGBQTC had been denied its use. Following a meeting to discuss this, this statement was issued:

In light of the decision of NCYM to deny FLGBTQC the use of Quaker Lake for their 2007 mid-year gathering the PFF representative body felt led to reconsider holding its annual retreat at Quaker Lake—the site of PFF’s annual gathering since its founding over 30 years ago. During a time of deep worship and sharing, the representative body came to unity on holding the spring 2006 annual retreat at Quaker Lake on the theme "Facing Discrimination: Living Our Lives with Integrity." This unity was the result of careful and loving consideration of the issues involving our local meetings’ relationships with the wider body of the Religious Society of Friends, with Quaker Lake, and with our own meetings’ members and attendees, some of whom are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Friends. Relationships are especially complex and deeply felt for those dually affiliated with North Carolina Yearly Meeting and Piedmont Friends Fellowship.

A message from a PFF representative body around this decision was shared with meetings in PFF and with North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) and all Friends were invited to participate in the retreat.

The complete minutes for the retreat will be reported to Friends publications. The theme of "Facing Discrimination" was evident in all the weekend activities. Cheryl Bridges, recording clerk of the FLGBTQC Midwinter 2007 Planning Committee, led a discussion on the Quaker Testimony of Integrity and what it means to Friends and specifically how it relates to issues affecting gays and lesbians. A panel of three gay and lesbian Friends, affiliated with FGC, FUM, and NCYM Conservative, spoke honestly and deeply about the journey of their lives and their struggle to be whole in a world that denies their human condition. Bible study was an important part of the weekend. Gary Briggs represented FLGBTQC at the First-day meeting for business. He reported on FLGBTQC’s history and discussed the midyear gathering next February. The weekend was spirit-filled and full of love. Please hold us all in the Light as we continue to work together to create a world with equity, love, and justice for all.

Lynn Newsom and Shelia Bumgarner
Charlotte, N.C.