This morning, we Quakers made the news. Now granted, it was a small blurb in a weekly paper here in Portland, OR, but I am thinking of the people who will be sitting down in cafes across town to read that little blurb. Here it is:
"The Pacific Northwest’s evangelical Quakers met for their annual gathering last week at George Fox University in Newberg. Among decisions made by the group’s elders: banning a Portland church for allowing gay and lesbian members. West Hills Friends Church, located in the Maplewood neighborhood, has officially welcomed LGTBQ members since 2008. The church was informed via letter July 24 that the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends—a consortium of more than 60 Quaker congregations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho—had decided to remove it. “I feel most saddened for the teenagers and young people, both closeted and uncloseted, who basically received another message from a Christian institution that they’re not welcome,” says Mark Pratt-Russum, a pastor at West Hills Friends. “The last thing they need is to be told ‘no’ again.” Click Here to visit the website where the blurb is published.
When I was interviewed for this little piece, my number one priority was making sure that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters heard this message loud and clear: I am sorry that another Christian institution has said no to you, again. I want you to make sure that through all the noise of this situation that we love you. That God loves you. That regardless of what the NWYM has said, there are Christians and Quakers throughout the world who love you.
And that brings me to my next point. In the printed article the word Quaker is in bold. The words George Fox University and Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends is printed in bold. What will our Quaker witness in Portland, OR be as that person flips the page in that cafe?
In the wake of the NWYM's decision I have heard from non-Quakers. Their first reaction is, "But I thought Quakers were different..." And certainly I think that folks will say that today as they read this news blurb. For that, my heart is also broken. I want Quakers, especially those Portland Friends at Reedwood Friends, at Bridge City, and Multnomah Meeting to be known as safe havens for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I pray that the take away is not, "Quakers are unsafe"
I've encouraged folks to read the comment sections of my last two blog posts. I have heard from Quakers from: Philadelphia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts and Brighton (UK). All of the messages have been in support of our decision to support and love our LGBTQ Friends.
The NWYM has an interesting dilemma. As an institution that identifies as both Evangelical and Quaker, it is clear that those two traditions are at odds at times. In this case, their Evangelical identity has been upheld, and their Quaker witness has taken a hit. I'll admit that I've distanced myself from my Evangelical past, and that the combination of the two traditions presents some fundamental head scratching for me. Yet, here is my hope...
This fiasco has energized the young people within NWYM. Folks who have grown up in that institution, who have known Evangelical Quakerism as their spiritual home. I'm not convinced that the Evangelical and Quaker identities of the NWYM need to break apart. Instead I am hopeful that these young people, now with WHF out of the way, can be the leaders that NWYM needs to reveal how God is speaking in this situation. What might God be up to?
In the meantime, I want to stand up for my identity as a Quaker. I have found my spiritual home in a tradition that believes we are still listening, because God is still speaking. We Quakers have a lot to bring to the table.
One last reminder. Wrap your arms around your LGBTQ F/friends today. Make sure they feel all the love and support they need in this time. They are our family.