Minutes and Decisions
Friends Church in Kenya
In December 2012, the Friends Church in Kenya released a press statement on their views of Quakers and homosexuality. The statement was printed in full in the Summer/Fall 2013 Issue #23 of Quaker Theology; the last two paragraphs read:
By re-branding sexual immorality to mean human rights and by confusing that of God in everyone to mean Spiritual liberty would mean departing from Quaker core values of truth and uprightness as Children of the Light into our own earthly wills. How can we abandon that which is pure and eternal and still consider ourselves to be the Light of the world and good salt of the earth? Then we are not worthy of our calling. Modernizing Christianity to meet our own selfish desires is immoral. The God of yesterday is the same today and tomorrow and His commandments have remained and will remain forever.
For this matter, Friends Church in Kenya condemns homosexuality in the strongest term possible without reservation.
In the same issue, the editors of Quaker Theology prepared and published a section titled “Homosexuality, Law, Religion & Violence In Africa Today” to provide further background and context on the subject. Following this research, responses to the FCK statement by six Friends were published; the Friends include Pablo Stanfield of University Meeting in Seattle, Wash.; Cindy Perry of Spring Meeting in Snow Camp, N.C.; Rich Liversidge of Sandy Spring (Md.) Meeting; Doug Bennett of First Friends Meeting in Richmond, Ind.; Mary Heathman of First Friends Church in Denver, Colo.; and Geoffrey Kaiser of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Read all of the responses by accessing the full issue of Quaker Theology at Quaker.org/quest/QT-23-Friends-Church-Kenya-vs-Homosexuals-Text-and-Responses-Quaker-Theology-Number-23.html.
New York Yearly Meeting
In August 2013, New York Yearly Meeting approved a minute of concern regarding drone warfare (see below). The minute originated at Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, Calif., and has also been approved by Fifteenth Street (N.Y.) Meeting and New York Quarterly Meeting. These meetings encourage other meetings to take a similar stand.
As Friends (Quakers) who believe there is “that of God” in everyone and therefore every life is sacred, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The United States is leading the way in this new form of warfare where pilots in U.S. bases kill people, by remote control, thousands of miles away. Drones have become the preferred weapons to conduct war due to the lack of direct risk to the lives of U.S. soldiers, but these drone strikes have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians (including American citizens) in countries where we are not at war, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
We urge our government to put an end to this secretive, remote-controlled killing and instead promote foreign policies that are consistent with the values of a democratic and humane society. We call on the United Nations to regulate the international use of lethal drones in a fashion that promotes a just and peaceful world community, based on the rule of law, with full dignity and freedom for every human being.
Friends are also encouraged to read Barbara Ehrenreich and Medea Benjamin’s book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control and to engage in study on how to address this concern.
Olney Friends School
At its July 2013 meeting, the Olney Friends School Board of Trustees decided to reaffirm its April 2012 decision to refrain from leasing the mineral rights beneath the school’s 68-acre campus in Barnesville, Ohio, to natural gas and oil drilling companies for hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking.
A year after the original decision, a number of considerable changes, including “the leasing of 80 percent of the property surrounding the school to gas companies, the threat of forced pooling, and the school’s increasing budgetary strains,” prompted another comprehensive evaluation of the school’s situation. This time, the wider Olney community of faculty, students, alumni, and supporters was consulted in an open process that invited all to offer feedback.
The involvement of the community during the process of discernment was reassuring as it became clear that many viewpoints of the board mirrored those of their constituents. Following the final decision, the board encouraged all members of the community to “help us move forward in the Light to transform our convictions into opportunities to strengthen the school’s future.” Four ongoing efforts were listed at the end of the statement: (1) creating a solid foundation of long-term financial support, (2) growing enrollment to full capacity of good-fit students, (3) embracing viable, alternative sources of income, and (4) articulating and supporting a clear environmental policy for Olney.
Read the full statement on the Olney Friends School website: Olneyfriends.org/news/2013/08/board-reaffirms-decision-no-fracking.
In the spring of 2013, Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school in West Chester, Pa., announced a modification to its living requirements. Beginning with the 2014–2015 school year, students who enrolled in Westtown before eighth grade will be allowed to decide whether or when they will board in the Upper School, an option that was previously a requirement.
Westtown School was founded in 1799 by Philadelphia Quakers and is the oldest continuously operating co-educational boarding school in the country. The decision to change the boarding policy was made by the board of trustees as part of a new strategic plan that began last spring with the formation of a committee to review the school’s programs in education, sustainability, and curriculum. Head of school John Baird said, “The strategic plan gave us the opportunity to talk to all our constituents about the school to ensure it continues to thrive.”
The new policy was decided on after careful deliberation through a thoughtful and inclusive process, and reflects a recognition that the boarding requirement, although important in preparing students for college and life, is often a barrier at the local level. Board clerk Jonathan Evans said, “To thrive, Westtown needs students and parents who are committed to and desirous of a Westtown education—children both from around the world and around the corner, children of alumni and Quakers and those just discovering the richness and distinctiveness of a Friends education.”
Original story from Daily Local News of Chester County, Pa.
Quakers in Action
Chestnut Hill (Pa.) Meeting
In September 2013, members of Chestnut Hill (Pa.) Meeting began worshipping in their newly constructed Quaker meetinghouse, which includes a Skyspace by world-renowned contemporary American light artist James Turrell. The first new meetinghouse in Philadelphia to open in over 80 years, the new building will lead Quaker worship into the twenty-first century by offering a larger and more sustainable worship space and by attracting people of all faith backgrounds to experience the Turrell Skyspace, a peaceful place for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation of art.
For more information on the meetinghouse and public viewing times of the Skyspace, visit Chestnuthillskyspace.org. Also look for articles on the story of the new meetinghouse and Friend James Turrell in the February 2014 issue of Friends Journal.
Earth Quaker Action Team
On Monday, October 21, 2013, more than 1,000 people lead by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) protested at several PNC Bank branches in Pittsburgh, Pa., in order to bring public attention to the bank’s financing of mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive practice that causes cancer and birth defects in Appalachia. The major action took place on the final day of Power Shift 2013, a summit of thousands of young climate activists from across the country.
Participants employed a model of rapid-fire escalation to threaten the green image PNC has tried to promote. Starting in the morning with silent occupations at ten PNC branches around the city, the momentum continued with the disruption of the bank’s lunchtime business at several downtown branches before the final “Tell the Truth” action by EQAT members speaking out, committing civil disobedience outside of a locked branch. Seven representatives were arrested; and EQAT, the environmental group founded by Philadelphia Quakers, completed another step in their escalating campaign against PNC, a Pennsylvania-based bank with Quaker roots, still the bank of several Quaker institutions.
To keep up to date on EQAT’s work, visit their website at Eqat.org.