[Sayma-Discuss] New England Yearly Meeting, FUM and sexual ethics

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Fri Aug 17 13:51:54 EDT 2007


I've subscribed to a number of Quaker blogs and, hence, have been able to follow the posts and comments of a number of Friends who took part in NEYM's recent discussion of its affiliation with FUM, with regard to the matter of the FUM personnel policy.

One post comes from Peter Bishop, with comments by Cat Chapin-Bishop and others, on their blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections.

Peter's post is "Headbutting the Hornets' Nest," http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/2007/08/headbutting-hornets-nest-peter.html, dated 8/9/07.

What I particularly want to call Friends' attention to is a very thoughtful comment from Johan Maurer, whose own blog is "can you believe?" http://johanpdx.blogspot.com/

Johan's comment is at http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/2007/08/headbutting-hornets-nest-peter.html#c3364142900585555942

I think it important enough copy in its entirety here.

Thank you, Friends,

At 9:35 AM, Johan Maurer said... 

I had a very hard time wrestling with these words: "We are outraged by what we feel is a narrow minded and hateful stance FUM has taken on sexual ethics, but we have never come to any unity ourselves—have never even considered—making a statement of our own about sexual ethics."

I appreciate the candor of the statement, and realize that it is a general description, not a manifesto. But I was there when the FUM personnel policy was adopted, and there was nothing at all going on remotely similar to "taking a stance," nor was the context narrow-minded or hateful. 

In fact, I keep wanting to challenge the apparent idea that "FUM" as an organization is somehow a black box in which narrow-minded, hateful things go on and "stances" are taken. What actually happened was that months of consultations and study led to a General Board meeting, clerked humbly and carefully by Paul Enyart, in which a decision was made almost regretfully by a roomful of people practicing mutual submission. Many people had to give up something desired by their home constituencies, including those Friends who still felt that homosexuality was criminal or should at least be socially disadvantaged. The actual policy goes directly against those points of view, and upholds the civil rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation. I don't remember how many New England YM Friends were at that meeting, but I do remember the one who said "This is as far as God has taken us at this time." (Not an exact quotation.)

My main point is that Friends United Meeting isn't an organization that takes actions by running roughshod over its members. It IS its members. You may know that in your head, but if people keep objectifying the connection point, pretty soon newcomers and outside observers can be excused for believing that the problem lies solely in that narrow-minded, hateful connection point. 

If a YM breaks the tie with FUM, it's not the relationship with an organization that they're severing (formally), it's with the other Friends in other parts of the world for whom FUM was that connection point. We can certainly have ties only with Friends who never differ with us on anything that is important to us (and perhaps it is sufficient only to have bilateral connections with just one other yearly meeting at a time) but let's admit that that's what we're doing, not breaking ties with some mean-spirited group that doesn't, in any compact sense, actually exist.

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