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News for September 2015

Monthly meeting dismissal over LGBTQ acceptance leads to appeal

On July 24, the board of elders of Northwest Yearly Meeting announced in a public letter the dismissal of West Hills Friends Church (in Portland, Ore.) from NWYM membership. The decision was made during NWYM’s annual sessions held July 19–23 at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., and came following longtime disagreements over allowing those who are openly gay to become members of the meeting. NWYM members are assumed to be in agreement with the yearly meeting’s Faith and Practice, which does not approve of same‐sex relationships.

West Hill Friends Church has officially welcomed LGBTQ members since 2008 and affirms same‐sex relationships in their community; the church performed its first same‐sex marriage ceremony in May of this year. WHFC’s position on the issue was considered “shattering” to the yearly meeting two years ago, prompting a process to bring West Hills back into compliance with the policies of the yearly meeting.

The one‐page letter from the NWYM board of elders, signed by clerk Ken Redford, begins: “Recognizing that our yearly meeting is unable to embrace our current diversity, and recognizing the shattering that is ensuing, with grace and charity we sorrowfully release West Hills Friends Church from NWYM membership. It is our hope that this will free WHFC to pursue the call of God they have discerned.” The letter also states, “Our Faith and Practice provides a way to appeal this decision.”

Two days after hearing the news, an impromptu group of NWYM Friends met to discuss the process of appeal. Present at the meeting were 47 Friends from 8 local member meetings of NWYM, clerk of elders at WHFC Kathy Edge, and NWYM board of elders member Nancy Thomas. The open meeting ended with a clear sense of leading to create a corporate appeal to the decision.

A tangible outcome of the meeting was the creation of a website, nwymunity​.com, to host information and updates about the appeal process, including the text of the appeal itself (dated July 29) and the option for interested Friends to electronically sign the public appeal, indicating their affirmation of its message, in brief: “We believe this decision should have been postponed until Northwest Yearly Meeting reached a sense of the meeting on the Faith and Practice statement on human sexuality.” At press, 181 Friends had signed their names (including membership status and affiliated meeting) to the appeal. NWYM’s Faith and Practice stipulates that official appeals are to be submitted by members.

A number of Friends have been blogging about the decision, including Mark Pratt‐Russum, a pastor at West Hills Friends, at markprattrussum​.com/​w​o​n​d​e​r​-​a​n​d​-​w​i​l​d​e​r​n​ess; Sarah Kelley, a member of North Valley Friends Church and of the QUILTBAG community (queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender/transsexual, bisexual, asexual/aromantic, gay/genderqueer) at unabashedbird​.wordpress​.com; Gregg Koskela, a pastor at Newberg Friends Church, at outofdoubt​.wordpress​.com; and many others outside of the NWYM community. The decision to revoke WHFC’s membership in NWYM comes one month after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5‐to‐4 decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

Interfaith festival celebrates peacemakers

The fifth annual Wild Goose Festival took place July 9–12 in Hot Springs, N.C. The four‐day, outdoor festival is the main annual event of the Wild Goose community, self‐described as “gathered at the intersection of spirituality, justice, music, and the arts.” Many Quakers and friends alike enjoy attending the interfaith festival, which takes its name from the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit.

This year’s theme was Blessed Are the Peacemakers, which was addressed by dozens of leading authors, activists, and musicians from around the world in presentations, performances, and activities during the family‐friendly festival. Notable speakers and performers on the festival lineup included John Dear, author of The Nonviolent Life; Traci Blackmon, who ministered on the front lines of Ferguson; William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays movement; Zachary Moon, a Quaker military chaplain and author of Coming Home; critically acclaimed and Grammy‐nominated musical collective Gungor; and Timothy’s Gift, a band who brings a message of hope and reconciliation to the imprisoned.

Bree Newsome, the 30‐year‐old African American activist who climbed the flagpole at the South Carolina State House to take down the Confederate flag, was also among the attenders.

Earlham School of Religion, a Quaker graduate seminary located in Richmond, Ind., also had a presence at the festival with an information table set up in the Spirituality Tent.

The Wild Goose community organizes smaller, more specialized events in other parts of the country throughout the year. For more information, visit wildgoosefestival​.org.

Anniversary exhibit honors witness and action on conscientious objection to war

An anniversary exhibit celebrating and honoring 75 years of the Center on Conscience and War was held at Swarthmore College’s McCabe Library in Swarthmore, Pa., on July 9–27. Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college founded in 1864 by a committee of Quakers from Hicksite yearly meetings. The event was organized by the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, a research library and archives established circa 1930 to gather, preserve, and make accessible material that documents non‐governmental efforts for nonviolent social change, disarmament, and conflict resolution between peoples and nations.

A reception for the exhibit was held in the lobby of the McCabe Library on Thursday, July 16, with refreshments and remarks from past and current conscientious objectors, including Bill Galvin, CCW’s counseling coordinator and Vietnam‐era CO; Bill Yolton, CCW’s former director; and former Senior Airman Jarrod Grammel, whose CO application was approved earlier this year. Attenders of the reception also learned about the current legal climate for rights of conscience in the United States from Peter Goldberger, a lawyer from Ardmore, Pa., who has practiced CO law for some three decades.

The Center on Conscience and War (CCW), formerly the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (NISBCO), is a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C., working to extend and defend the rights of conscientious objectors since 1940. The main mission of CCW is to support all those who oppose their participation in war, including those members of the U.S. military who, following a crisis of conscience, seek discharge as conscientious objectors.

All services are provided free of charge. Learn more at centeronconscience​.org.

The Golden Rule sails again on a peace mission

goldenruleOn June 20, the historic sailing ketch named the Golden Rule launched off the coast of Eureka, Calif., after four years of hard work by a restoration team led by Veterans for Peace. The ship first set sail in 1958 for the Marshall Islands in a nonviolent protest against nuclear weapons testing; the original crew included Albert S. Bigelow, a convinced Friend who adopted Quaker principles of nonviolence.

The backstory of the peace ship, including being raised from the depths after sinking in 2010 and discovered via an ad on Craigslist, was told in Friends Journal’s August 2013 issue: “The Golden Rule Shall Sail Again” by Arnold (Skip) Oliver. The Golden Rule is now sailing again to promote a nuclear free world.

“Nuclear weapons are still with us, and the threat of nuclear war is very real,” said the Golden Rule’s captain David Robson, a Veterans for Peace member from Baltimore, Md. “We are dismayed that the U.S. government plans to invest one trillion dollars into upgrading its nuclear arsenal, instead of reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons, as called for in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”

The restored boat’s maiden voyage went from Eureka to San Diego, arriving in Half Moon Bay on the evening of July 25. The ship will return to Eureka in October after visiting ports along the California coast as it works its way north from San Diego. Over the next ten years, the Golden Rule will carry its message of peace around the United States and possibly around the world.

Learn more about the Golden Rule Project and follow the ship’s new journey at vfpgoldenruleproject​.org.

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