An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns
Midwinter Gathering 2011
To All Friends Everywhere,
We send you love from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns Midwinter Gathering, held from February 18-21st, 2011 in Browns Summit, North Carolina.
There was a time when we could not say our name. We dared not say our name -- even in the Religious Society of Friends. We were the Committee of Concern. This community has grown up around the concept of “radical inclusion” – the willingness to welcome new and different kinds of people into our community even when we had not expected them, recognizing the expansion of our understanding of who we are as a form of continuing revelation. Some of those who helped form this community continue to actively be a part of our community, for which we are blessed. Others have moved on. Still others have passed on. Yet all these Friends are still very much with us, standing in their own integrity, and calling us into our own.
We came together once again to witness to the power of radical love and radical inclusion to transform and sustain us spiritually – both individually and as a community and to discern how we are called to deepen our commitment to that call. Framed by our theme, “Reclaiming our Past; Proclaiming our Future,” we heard stories of what happens when we do this well. When we are faithful, we recognize that love is a practice, that in relationship we reveal and discover our true selves. We share the stories and truth emerging from our lives; when needed, we say to one another, “You’re standing on my foot! Please get off!” And then we talk about it. We experience the gifts of receiving and giving love that is shaped by the quirks and flavors of each of our individual essences; in so doing, we invite each other into wholeness, greater integrity, a fuller understanding of who we are as a community, and even greater integrity, and thus the cycle begins again.
As we shared our truths with one another in worship, Spirit revealed to and through us how wholeness, community, love, and integrity are intimately intertwined with each other. As one Friend said, “With Quakers, I cannot lie about who I am.” He spoke about how Friends from this community “kicked me out of the closet” – not through violence, but through holding him to a higher standard of integrity and by loving him for exactly who he is. Another Friend gazed into the eyes of each speaker on a panel of our elders, expressing how she could feel the flavor of each life moving through her, transforming her. A third urged that in an unsafe and sometimes hostile world, we must nevertheless go cheerfully where we are led, understanding that only as we bring our full selves forward can we make the world safer for those who will follow. A fourth speaker, an attender for whom this gathering was hir* first experience of Quakerism, spoke powerfully at the end of the gathering of how way had opened for hir* to be here, and a sense of how “I am supposed to be where I am right now. Life is overwhelming but I can do it.” Young and young adult Friends spoke deeply of the condition of a continuum of sexual and gender identities and the urgent necessity of a place of full and unconditional love and acceptance to call forth one’s true self. They spoke of the blessing of a safe space where they could be fully known, of the feeling that FLGBTQC was a place where there was no “card check,” where all were welcome, warts and all, where they could bring their whole selves forward.
We also know our own stories of the pain it inflicts when radical love and inclusion are absent – experienced within this community and others. We know that we have work to do to more faithfully practice radical love and inclusion with people of color and Young Adult Friends and Young Friends, and those who may yearn for but not be aware of or have access to our community.
We ask for the prayers of all Friends everywhere as we do our work, and we ask you, as way opens, to support us and join with us in our struggle. We offer you our unfolding witness and testimony to the power of radical love and inclusion in this community and an invitation to join in this experience at gatherings in the future. Co-clerks can be reached via telephone at 267-270-2315 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is http://flgbtqc.quaker.org/.
On behalf of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns,
Deborah Fisch, Co-Clerk
Kody Hersh, Co-Clerk
* Many people who identify as neither men nor women prefer to be referred to by non-gendered pronouns, and this attender is among those people. The word "hir" in this case is grammatically equivalent to "her" as the possessive ("this is hir [item]") and object form ("I gave it to hir") but carries no connotation of a female or male gender.