An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns

Midwinter Gathering 2009
Dear Friends General Conference and Friends Everywhere,

We send loving greetings to you with this letter, as well as an invitation.

We are gathered at Camp Adams near Molalla, OR for the 2009 annual Midwinter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. During our time together, we have been exploring this year's theme "Faith Calls for Justice on the Same Terms". On our first evening together, we heard stories from and about our spiritual pioneers (both in modern and biblical times). We spent time in worship and worship sharing. We tended to the business of our beloved community. We participated in interest groups on a variety of offerings including trans and other queer concerns, Walt Whitman, Love Makes a Family, singing and others. On Saturday evening, we were blessed with a one-person play by a member of our community who has written about trans folk in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. During all of these times, as well as in fellowship around meals, during walks in the woods surrounding the grounds, and in private conversations we found a blessed time to renew our spirits and support each other.

During our meeting for worship with attention to business a letter from the clerks of the 2009 FGC Gathering was read. While we were glad to learn of the work being done to help ensure the safety of our families who are planning to attend this year's gathering in Virginia, we were also saddened that once again the Gathering is being held in a place where state laws and constitutions have been re-written to take away our civil rights, including freedom of religion and equality. It is with great sadness of heart that we realize how difficult it is becoming for FGC to find a site for the Gathering where this is not the case. More and more, our families fear that they will not be allowed to make medical decisions about their loved ones or they fear that authorities may not recognize their adoptions, civil unions, and legal marriages. We continue to face the nightmare that loved ones may find themselves alone, while we are prevented from being with them at the times they most need us!

We remembered with gratitude that FGC joined with us in creating opportunities for witnessing to the power of God's Love in our lives and in our marriages the last time the Gathering was in Blacksburg, and that they stood with us and spoke out for us at that time. We also remember with gratitude the loving minute approved by the FGC Central Committee a few years ago affirming "Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Our experience has been that our gatherings and Central Committee work have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts. Our experience confirms that we are all equal before God, as God made us, and we feel blessed to be engaged in the work of FGC together."

We acknowledge and appreciate the many times FGC and our meetings have stood for us and with us by approving minutes of support and acknowledging and celebrating our unions and families. We still have work to do. We are now led to invite you to explore ways you, our meetings and faith communities can walk with us in witnessing to the World what we know experientially; that God's love is indivisible and is not withheld from anyone or any couple seeking to live faithfully in holy union. Our silence and the silence of supportive faith communities make it easier for those claiming to speak with the authority of faith to insert their religious doctrine into the laws that govern our lives, as witnessed recently with the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

Today we are called to:

We want to affirm to you all the power of the witness that our straight allies bring to our own lives and in the wider community. We do not experience this issue as simply a matter of marriage rights, but as a need to affirm and recognize that it is the richness of diversity that has strengthened and nurtured this country and our faith communities through the ages. Friends have long witnessed to a testimony of equality and we ask Friends to join with us in asking our government for equal protection and equal rights for all people.

God has been joining members of our LGBTQ community in loving marriages and relationships for long before these modern times. We are certain that some day civil laws will be enacted that legalize and recognize LGBTQ marriages and other civil rights. We have faith that God will continue to bless our lives. We have hope that civil rights will be in our life times. We know that Love, radical Love, will prevail.

With love and on behalf of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns,
Karen Lightner and Neil Fullagar, co-clerks
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC)