Putney Friends Meeting is a member of Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting. Our meeting has gone on record that it supports the overall work of FUM internationally, but opposes FUM’s personnel policy that discriminates against gay men and lesbians, including married ones. Below is a recent personal letter to FUM leaders from a member of Putney Friends Meeting who participated in this Fall’s international 40 Days of Prayer sponsored by FUM. It raises important issues about both faithfulness and justice.
Dear Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting Staff and General Board,
Thank for creating a global prayer effort through the 40 Days of Prayer this fall. More than a dozen of us participated from Putney Meeting in Vermont. I heard comments that for many of us it opened our eyes to the important work FUM does with women and children. Others were grateful for the daily practice of prayer that they have continued in their own way. I noticed differences as a Quaker from Putney Vermont, an unprogrammed meeting, in our language and concepts regarding our faith and practices in the world. The themes of “stepping into deeper spiritual waters,” “radical inclusion,” and “healing fractured relationships,” constantly lead me to our testimony of equality.
I find the FUM personnel policy as it defines marriage to be incongruent with the Quaker testimony of equality. In the reader you point out that Jesus uses the words, ”follow me.” We are reminded that Jesus was a,” fisher of people.” We read about “abiding “ in Christ. One writer shares how, “other people carry within them the breath of God.” I believe that the FUM personnel policy denies a certain class of Friends to follow, join, and abide even though they too “carry within them the breath of God.” The personnel policy hurts Friends. The policy points Friends in a different direction. If one is called to follow and abide it is unacceptable for Quakers to reject another Friend’s calling.
The personnel policy is causing suffering. The children you teach do not all identify with the heterosexual model you share in the Belize school. Equality does not mean a select few are acceptable in God’s sight. One of the highest suicide and homeless rates is among gay and lesbian youth. Throughout my hours of prayer, I have felt confusion and deep grief. I am not patient with a policy that causes suffering. Please write an inclusive policy this year. Please do not use slavery as an example. Who today would agree to taking 100 yrs. to abolish slavery?
My suggestion for your strategic priorities around leadership development is that you broaden your acceptance of all who feel called to serve. Go through the routine discernment of course. Seize the opportunity for ministry. Remember, Jesus was a “fisher of people.” There were no exceptions.
In regard to FUM’s Global Partnership; I ask you to consider creating a safe haven, a place of refuge for the very people the personnel policy has hurt. I imagine that our gay and lesbian Friends feel unwanted and unsafe among many people and places in the world. Do we dare to embrace the outcasts like Jesus did? Do we have the “faith, courage and compassion” frequently written about in the reader to stop our part of oppression? Do we Friends in Putney Vermont, Indiana, Kenya, Belize, Ramallah have the courage to open our hearts and minds to the “others who carry within them the breath of God?”
Day 39 reminds the reader that, “ you are FUM.” Therefore, as one who is FUM, I urge heartfelt equality among all Friends, in all places, at all times to do what God is calling us to do in all ways now, before more Friends suffer.
Please choose love.
How can I help?
Holding us all in the light,
Frances E. Herbert-Poma