Minute Regarding Discriminatory Policies of Friends United Meeting (6/2004)

From the minutes of the meeting for worship with a concern for business, 6/6/2004:

Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) membership in
Friends United Meeting

In light of the policy of FUM to discriminate against gay and lesbian Friends, we had a worshipful discussion of what we would recommend that BYM do. This discussion reviewed the history of the Hicksite-Orthodox split in 1827, the formation of FUM and FGC, and the reuniting of the two factions in Baltimore in the 1960s.

More currently BYM sent representatives to the FUM General Board in 2003 asking:

(1) To confirm that FUM policy governing the selection of worship-sharing and workshop leaders and other leadership roles within FUM is inclusive and not discriminatory. That is, to confirm that leaders are chosen based on spiritual gifts without regard to sexual orientation or whether Friends are in same gender relationships.

(2) To review and clarify the respective roles, responsibilities, and authority of FUM staff and committees.

FUM’s response stated: “however, we do not confirm that leaders are chosen without regard to whether they are in same gender relationships.” Many Friends expressed disappointment that BYM’s representatives “stood aside on the approval of the General Board’s response” while acknowledging they did not know all the details surrounding their decision to do so.

While the discussion was initially phrased around the query: “should BYM withdraw its membership from Friends United Meeting?”, some friends felt that it may be premature to terminate the relationship, that a continuing dialog was warranted. To those ends the following minute was approved:

Our experience confirms that we are all equal before God. Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our experience has been that we have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay and lesbian Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts.

In light of our commitment to equality, Patapsco Friends are in unity in opposition to the policies of Friends United Meeting (FUM) that effectively and unlovingly discriminate. We strongly urge Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) to bring our concerns back to FUM and labor lovingly, tenaciously, and faithfully with them to modify their policies. We especially urge our representatives to be steadfast and persistent with these concerns as they affect our fundamental beliefs in the testimonies of equality and integrity.

A second minute on taking further action with regard to discrimination against gays and lesbians was not fully discussed and awaits further clarity. This minute called for BYM to establish a committee to support traveling ministers who would bring the concern to other monthly meetings both within BYM and FUM and, using the model of John Woolman, labor with Friends to see the justice and integrity of their actions.

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