Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Monday, March 14, 2011

FUM General Board, February 2011

What follows is a lightly edited version of the report I submitted to New England Yearly Meeting about the February meeting of the FUM General Board.   Since I originally wrote this, one of the things that keeps coming back to my mind is the point Robert Barclay makes to the effect that we are required to follow our conscience, even if our conscience is mistaken.  In other words, we are required to be faithful to the Light we have been given.  It is a help to remember this whenever there is profound disagreement.  It reminds us to respect the integrity of those we disagree with and to always consider that we may be the ones with the mistaken conscience.  It is only the bonds of love that can hold us together

General Board Report
February 2011

This was the final FUM General Board Meeting that I will attend in my current term of service. I have served as the NEYM representative for five years. It has been a challenging, difficult and also rewarding experience. I have learned a lot about FUM and about myself. I have been able to build relationships with people I would not have otherwise met.

FUM finances seem to be improving somewhat but current operations are still spreading the current staff too thin. It is not clear how much longer this can continue. The Board approved the appointment of Colin Saxton to be the new General Secretary beginning in January. We also made arrangements for Sylvia Graves to carry over on an interim basis until Colin can start. I was impressed by Colin and everyone I spoke to seemed to be excited that he was led to this position. He brings new energy to the position and I think he will be able to speak with and listen to a wide range of the membership of FUM.

The Executive Committee had received the minute that the FUM committee of New England Yearly Meeting had sent to the General Board in respone to the murder of David Kato in Uganda, asking it to reaffirm it's minute condemning violence against gays. They expanded the scope of the minute to include other incidents of violence but left in the specific reference to violence against gay men and lesbian women. The General Board approved this minute and it will be sent to the meetings of FUM.

The other major issue on the agenda was consideration of the Personnel Manual. Sylvia Graves had undertaken a major revision of this to bring it into line with Indiana labor law. Most of the changes were fairly straightforward and did not draw forth any discussion. The sticking point was the policy on sexual ethics. It was clear that the General Board would not be able to find unity on this section and, in the course of consideration it was clear that there was little interest in even discussing the substance of the issue. Instead the discussion focused almost entirely on how to approve the policy manual and still respect the conscience of those who could not approve the sexual ethics portion. We ended up approving all of the rest of the manual and noting that we could not find unity on the section on sexual ethics. Neither was there unity is removing it. Because the sexual ethics policy had been approved by the General Board in 1988 it remains in effect and the new manual will indicate that approval and that the current board cannot find unity on it.

In our worship on Saturday morning Doug Shoemaker from Indiana Yearly Meeting led the devotions speaking from Matthew 21 which includes the account of Jesus driving the money changers from the temple, his cursing the fig tree and the parable of the evil tenants and the vineyard. In it he said that he is sometimes challenged by this because much of this teaching is aimed at those who are protectors of the religious status quo. During the open worship that followed I gave a message asking who are we keeping away in our desire to maintain our understanding of purity. What gifts are we refusing? In some ways this seemed like a bookend because I gave a similar message at the Friends Church at Ngong Road in Nairobi on our arrival for the first combined General Board Meeting in Kenya in 2007

I am sometimes a slow learner. It has taken me five years but I am starting to really understand that I have no words that will change hearts on the matter of acceptance of gay men and lesbian women in the orthodox yearly meetings. I don't know that there is anything anyone from New England YM can say that will help with this. The changing of hearts is God's work and not ours. But we can remain in fellowship with these yearly meetings. We can be true to the truth that we have been led to. We can learn to listen in humility to Friends we disagree with in the faith that the power and the love of the Lord is over all.

Blessings to all,

Will T

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Love of God

I have heard it said that the longest journey is the journey from the head to the heart. It can take an amazingly long time for something we know in our heads to sink down into our hearts and become alive there, known in our emotions and our inner being. When the finally happens, it seems like a door is opened and we feel like we are seeing something for the first time. At the same time we marvel that we could not see this before, it was right there in front of us all this time.

George Fox, in his journal makes reference to Scripture being opened to him. Certainly Fox had an incredible head knowledge of Scripture. It was said that if the Bible were to be lost, Fox could recreate it from memory. But he make note of those times when his understanding became something more than just knowing the words, but of seeing how they impacted him or those around him. He came to a new understanding of what he already knew.

I had such an experience recently with Romans 8:38-39

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I came to see that even having imperfect parents and an imperfect childhood and living in imperfect communities could not keep me from the love of God. The sense that I had internalized that I was unloved and unlovable is not the truth. I have experienced the love of God in a number of ways and a number of times. When those old messages about my being unloved and unlovable start playing in me, I can remember that they are false and that there is a different and better truth.

As Friends we believe that God lives in us. This means that God's love also lives in us because God is love. Our challenge is to experience that love and then to express it in our lives and to those around us. The challenge facing our meetings and other Friends communities is to express that love so that anyone coming into that community can feel it. This is an act of devotion because in it we seek to embody God in ourselves and in our lives. It is also an act of service because, by learning to express our love more fully, we heal the scars in ourselves and each other that come from living in imperfect families, imperfect communities and an imperfect world.


Will T