Why do Quakers want to remove us from the Yearly Meeting?
My wife Pat and I have been part of Northwest Yearly Meeting for a combined total of nearly 140 years. Pat has served on several yearly meeting boards, including the Ministry Committee, where she was Clerk.
I served for 23 years on the George Fox College Board of Trustees and many years with Friends Fund. At Reedwood Friends, I negotiated the land purchase and clerked the stewardship committee that oversaw the construction of the church building.
Pat and I helped establish West Hills Friends after our son-in-law became pastor in 1988. Here too, we have served in many roles, including Sunday School teacher, Treasurer, and Clerk of the Stewards.
Recently we learned that Yearly Meeting elders and leaders have decided that West Hills Friends is out of compliance with Faith and Practice. Why? Because we are called to welcome people into membership without regard to their sexual orientation and to honor the gifts and relationships of our members and attenders without regard to their sexual identity. We have been told our calling is “shattering” to the Yearly Meeting, and some have suggested that we leave.
Pat and I and many others are being hurt by a theological perspective that places a higher value on being “right” than on “being with.” Because we interpret scripture differently than some people in the Yearly Meeting, we are seen as a “shattering” presence in the Yearly Meeting.
From their beginnings, Quakers have testified that the Light is present in everyone, and I bear witness from my experience that this testimony is true. The Light of God is present in everyone, without regard to race, age, gender or sexual orientation.
I had gay friends in high school. I served our country in the Navy along with two gay shipmates who had my back during the Korean War and later became classmates at the University of Oregon. Later still, as a professional, I had close working relationships with gay IRS field agents on my audit team. These relationships opened my eyes to unfair and discriminatory provisions of the IRS code. As an executive, I made every effort to hire without prejudice.
During our 45 years of living in Happy Valley, neighbors on each side of us parented loving gay children. At West Hills Friends, we worship with members and attenders of various sexual orientations. It is through these close relationships that we know that the LOVE of Jesus is in all of us.
As I wait for the Yearly Meeting’s decision on whether to expel West Hills Friends, I pray that God will not allow the ties that have bound us for so long to be shattered by intolerance for differing interpretations of scripture.
“You must be tenderhearted, kind, humble, meek and ready to put up with anything. You must bear with one another and, forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. On top of all this you must put on LOVE, which ties everything together and makes it complete…. And whatever you do, in word or action, do everything in the name of the master, Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the father.” (Col. 3:12-17)