Quaker Theology - Summer-Fall 2013 Issue #23
Text & Responses
In This Section:
“Quakers & Homosexuality Press Statement,” from Friends Church Kenya
Background & Context: Homosexuality, Law, Religion
&Violence In Africa Today, by The Editors
Responses to the FCK Statement:
Epistle to the 2012 World
Conference of Friends, held in Kenya, from Friends for Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Concerns
FRIENDS CHURCH IN KENYA REG. NO. 13113
RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS (QUAKERS)
“You are my Friends if you do what I command you”
P.O. BOX 465
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
QUAKERS AND HOMOSEXUALITY
It is common knowledge that Quakerism is early
Christianity revived and therefore can never be developed in isolation
from historic Christianity. Christianity is not a notion but a way and
a life. Therefore, Quakerism being historic Christianity revived can
never be construed to become merely subjective. It is a living inward
experience of righteousness in a Quaker’s life and if one does not
follow this inward experience then his or her religion is a mere
delusion or he/she has deviated from the Truth. Quakers are the
children of Light and must be walking in the Light.
During George Fox’s time, (the founder and father of
Quakerism) in the Seventeenth Century, there was a time when some “less
stable characters worked havoc by going out from the Spirit of God into
their own notions”. When George Fox noticed this anomaly, he wrote a
“wise letter” to Friends and cautioned them that “they might depart
from the truth into their earthly wills, and so give room for the
enchanter and sorcerer and the airy Spirit”. He warned that as soon as
Friends “left the cross and that which was pure and eternal and let in
that which was mortal to be servants to it, there, the image of God in
them would come to be lost”. (Fox, Epistles No.32).
What is pure and eternal in the Spiritual journey of
a Quaker especially in terms of marriage and relationships? Is it
homosexuality or heterosexuality? Is it same sex marriage or opposite
What is Biblically pure in the eyes of God in terms
of human sexuality? Homosexuality is a sin that is roundly condemned in
scripture. Gen. 19:5, Lev. 18:22-23, Rom. 1:26-27, 1Cor. 6:9-11, Eph.
5:3-5, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Tim. 1:9, 10, Jude 7.
God’s attitude toward the vile behaviour of
homosexuality is clear. He prohibited and condemned homosexuality in
Gen. 19:5 when He destroyed the city of Sodom. It is clear that the
homosexuality of the people of Sodom carried an uncontrollable lust
that defied restraint so that even when the people were blinded they
still tried to fulfil their lust (Gen. 19:11). Actually God outlawed
all homosexuality and bestiality as sexual perversion that should not
be tolerated. All sexual perversions were worthy of death, indicating
their loath sameness before God.
Homosexuals are those who have deliberately deviated
from what is normal sexual practices as God intended it to be, to bad
behaviour of transverstism, sex changes and other gender perversions.
As Quakers and for that matter Christians, we are supposed to discern
and have more knowledge than the gay people and therefore greater
accountability will be required of us. We cannot and will not give
ourselves over to sexual immorality. Instead, we urge those practicing
this immorality to abandon this abomination and repent and change their
ways so that the Lord can forgive them.
According to the Faith and Practice of Philadelphia
Yearly Meeting (1972) marriage is between husband and wife. Who is a
husband and who is a wife? With reference to the Oxford University
Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, husband means “man to whom a woman is
married”, and wife means “married woman, especially in relation to her
In the Church Government of Britain Yearly Meeting
(1980) the certificate of marriage is signed during the wedding “by the
man (husband) and the woman (wife) with her surname used immediately
prior to marriage”(907). According to this book, one of the conditions
observed in preparation for marriage is the completing of form B (for
man) or form C (for woman).
With reference to the book of Margaret Fell, the
mother of Quakerism, by Isabel Ross-1984, PP 56 “Marriage is between
man and woman who appear personally before their meetings for clarity
purposes prior to their wedding.”
When George Fox married Margaret Fell he reminded
Friends “how God did join man and woman together before the Fall. And
man had joined in the Fall but it was God’s joining again in the
restoration ……………” Journal P.506). God did not join man and man or
woman and woman.
By re-branding sexual immorality to mean human
rights and by confusing that of God in everyone to mean Spiritual
liberty would mean departing from Quaker core values of truth and
uprightness as Children of the Light into our own earthly wills. How
can we abandon that which is pure and eternal and still consider
ourselves to be the Light of the world and good salt of the earth? Then
we are not worthy of our calling. Modernizing Christianity to meet our
own selfish desires is immoral. The God of yesterday is the same today
and tomorrow and His commandments have remained and will remain forever.
For this matter, Friends Church in Kenya condemns homosexuality in the strongest term possible without reservation.
By Zablon Isaac Malenge
FCK PRESIDING CLERK
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Background & Context:
Homosexuality, Law, Religion
& Violence In Africa Today
“Culture Clash”? Two Presidents on Same Sex Marriage
In much of Africa, it is not safe to be gay. It can
also be unsafe even to speak positively about homosexuality. U.S.
President Barack Obama recently found this out. Some Quakers found it
out a year earlier. We recently found out more.
President Obama visited Africa in late June 2013. He
landed first at Dakar, Senegal on the western coast of the continent.
His arrival coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking
down the “Defense of Marriage Act” or DOMA.
The DOMA decision substantially increased the
legitimacy of same sex marriage in American polity. It also lifted the
bar to same sex marriages in California, the most populous U.S. state,
and the thirteenth state to legalize such unions. At least thirty per
cent of Americans now live in jursidictions which recognize same sex
The DOMA decision demanded some comment. At a news
conference with Senegal’s President Macky Sall, Obama said the decision
marked “a proud day for America,” and added that “When it comes to how
the state treats people, how the law trteats people, I believe that
everybody has to be treated equally.”
But according to the Associated Press report,
the Senegalese leader was having none of it. Sall retorted that his
country was “very tolerant,” but it is “still not ready to
Obama went on with his African tour; but the exchange in Dakar has left a significant media wake. The New York Times’s Adam Nossiter reported on June 28 a sharply different picture of what Sall called a “very tolerant” society:
In Senegal, never mind about same-sex
marriage: gay men and lesbians are abused by the police, beaten and
sometimes tortured, with impunity. They are threatened by mobs, mocked
on the front pages of newspapers and subject to criminal prosecution
for being gay. And the persecution is even more severe elsewhere in
Local media, Nossiter noted, were quick to praise Sall’s rebuke:
“No, We Can’t,” trumpeted Liberation.
“Macky says no to Obama,” said Walfadjri on its front page.
“Obama makes a plea for the homos, Macky says no!” said Le Pop.
“President Sall has closed the debate on homosexuality,” read a headline in L’Observateur.
And contrary to Sall’s statement, abuse of LGBT persons (or those
suspected to be such) has been well-documented here. A 2010 Human
Rights Watch report, "Fear for Life: Violence against Gay Men and Men Perceived as Gay in Senegal,” (HRW) detailed numerous cases of violence and other abuse, and urged corrective action:
“Men who identify as or are perceived
to be gay increasingly became targets of popular vengeance and
arbitrary arrests. In research conducted in 2009 and early 2010, Human
Rights Watch documented a range of abuses, including police abuse and
arbitrary detention, physical threat, assault, and verbal abuse by
private individuals, and blackmail, extortion, and robbery. We also
examined how media and religious institutions have contributed to the
climate of violence . . . .
The report also details other instances of arrests and police torture
of gay men and men perceived as gay as well as violence by non-state
actors, and the social context and cultural climate of fear and
suspicion in which these attacks take place.
We conclude with recommendations . . . . It is essential that
Senegalese authorities uphold the fundamental rights of all Senegalese
residents, address the impunity with which private actors attack
individuals known or perceived to be gay, provide clear access to
justice and redress to individuals who face homophobic violence, and
promote a culture of tolerance and diversity.”
Further, The Times’s Nossiter
noted, “Senegal is one of 38 African countries that criminalize
‘consensual same-sex conduct’ . . . and it is not the worst in its
persecution of gay men and lesbians.”
Kenya and Gay Quakers: A Difficult Encounter
Kenya is another of the 38 African countries with
laws against homosexuality, and where suspicion of being homosexual,
and/or advocacy for acceptance of homosexuality can be dangerous. And
it was in Kenya in April of 2012 that 800+ Quakers, gathered from
around the world by the Friends World Committee for Consultation, ran
smack into the culture that sustains such attitudes.
The issue surfaced through a background feature of
the conference: the posting of epistles to the conference from various
Quaker groups. But one epistle, from the US-based Friends for Lesbian
Gay Bisexual Transgender & Queer Concerns (reprinted on page 61,
below), kept disappearing from the collection.
More about the resulting controversy is in the
responses below. Our attention was brought to this topic by an event
eight months after the conference dispersed: distribution to Kenyan
media of a statement by the leadership of Friends Church Kenya (FCK).
It appears that this statement, while “public,” was
not meant for American eyes. Yet its condemnation of homosecxuality is
so sweeping and unconditional that it seemed to us that readers
elsewhere in the world ought to have access to it, and a chance to
comment. So it is reprinted here, complete. Responses by several
American Friends of various perspectives follow the statement.
As we have delved into the legal and cultural
background, the seemingly unique quality of the FCK statement’s
vehemence receded: in its social setting, it is neither unusual nor the
most extreme. But this context needs some explication.
Two sources have been of particular value in filling
in this context. One is a report from Amnesty International, issued
very near the time of President Obama’s visit to Africa. The other is a
2009 report by a U.S.-based research group, Political Research
How Bad Does It Get for Gays In Much of Africa? Very Bad
Let us turn first to the key points of the Amnesty report, Making Love A Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct In Sub-Saharan Africa:
The continued criminalization of
consensual same-sex conduct in 38 African countries is a serious cause
for concern. The existence and implementation of these laws violates a
raft of international and regional human rights norms, and serves to
marginalize one group of Africans based on their sexual orientation and
gender identity alone.
The last decade has witnessed efforts in some sub-Saharan African
countries to further criminalize LGBTI individuals by ostensibly
targeting their behaviour, or to impose steeper penalties and broaden
the scope of existing laws. . . .
Even in countries where anti-homosexuality laws are not routinely
implemented, the existence of the laws alone provide opportunities for
abuse, including blackmail and extortion, both by police and by
non-state actors. Furthermore, the existence of laws that criminalize
one group of people based on who they are and who they (are presumed
to) have consensual sex with, sends a message to the broader population
that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender
identity is acceptable, and that human rights do not apply to LGBTI
people. This creates an environment in which harassment, intimidation
and violence against LGBTI people can flourish, and people can
perpetrate such acts with impunity. . . .
The report notes that a few tiny African island
countries have eased or abolished anti-gay laws; but on the mainland,
the trend is largely in the opposite direction. Further, the impact on
freedom of expression is frequently very negative. This comment could
have been a prophecy of the FWCC conference experience:
LGBTI people in some sub-Saharan
African countries are criminalized for the expression of their sexual
orientation not only in the context of their intimate relationships,
but in their social lives and activities. Sometimes, the
criminalization of LGBTI individuals takes the form of laws that limit
their ability to communicate with others, to organize for the purpose
of advocating for LGBTI rights, to dress in a manner of their choosing,
to display affection for others of the same sex publicly, to write for,
appear in, or possess, literature and media, and to have access to or
distribute materials relating to sexual health, including HIV
prevention and treatment . . . .
Whipping up anti-gay hysteria to divert public attention away from more
basic issues of justice and official corruption has become a common
Political leaders often use statements
characterizing same-sex sexuality as ‘un-African’ and attacking
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and groups to drum up
support amongst conservative constituencies, to attack their opponents
and to distract from issues facing the country. The Presidents of
Zimbabwe and Namibia, for example, have made statements linking
homosexuality to corruption, paedophilia, child murder, pornography and
other social ills.
For political leaders who feel vulnerable, attacking an already
marginalized group such as LGBTI people can be a prelude to attacking
other groups like opposition parties and the press. Political leaders
sometimes express hostility towards LGBTI people in attempts to divide
civil society. Fortunately, an increasing number of civil society
organizations embrace and advocate for an inclusive human rights
agenda, supporting the human rights of LGBTI people, such as for
example the Civil Society Coalition Human Rights and Constitutional
Law, the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, and ADEPHO in Cameroon.
Compared to some countries, the work of Kenya’s
Human Rights Commission, founded in 1992, is a sign of progress. But
this commission is unofficial; it is funded by foreign donors; and its
main tools are information gathering and monitoring. To keep this in
perspective, consider the testimony of one public gay activist in Kenya:
Denis Nzioka, a gay activist based in
Nairobi and the then spokesperson for Gay Kenya, explained to us the
incidents of harassment and violence he has experienced. Although the
Kenyan media is generally less sensationalist than the Ugandan media
when it comes to LGBTI issues, Denis has still faced threats and
harassment because of his media exposure through his work. Denis told
“One radio station, Easy FM, put my name on their website. This
received thousands of comments. People blamed me for the drought, the
tsunami, everything. There were some really nasty comments. Now I only
go on TV or radio if necessary. I have a security plan in place. I have
also been evicted a number of times. The first two times were because
of neighbours harassing me. In the first place, the neighbours sent a
letter saying, ‘We, the residents of the apartment block, because we
know you are homosexual, and you will target our kids, are giving you
three days to leave, lest we get some of the ‘boys’ to come and evict
you. . . .
In general though the harassment here is sporadic when compared to
Uganda – it is much more common there. Also, there is a lot of
positivity here. A bus full of girls met me recently, and they giggled
and said that they read my columns. I am in the media a lot.
I have been evicted three times, and attacked twice by strangers.. . .
I have received countless death threats, by email, telephone and
through Facebook - one of which said ‘I have been sent to kill you.’”
Kenyan newspapers often feature articles which express hostility
against LGBTI people and rights, and sometimes border on advocating
hatred and inciting violence against LGBTI people.
Religion As A Driving Force of Homophobia
A key section of the Amnesty report deals with the role of religion as
an instrument of antigay propaganda and action. Here there are
important connections to churches in the U.S.:
Discriminatory practices within certain
religions and discrimination espoused in the name of religion mean that
LGBTI people in some African countries often find themselves excluded,
harassed and victimized from yet another angle . . . .
Some politicians, religious leaders, and other public figures
frequently refer to Christianity and Islam as part of an authentic
African identity that excludes the possibility of LGBTI Africans. In
many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Amnesty International found that for
some, discrimination is both justified in the name of religion, and
religion itself is used as a vehicle to discriminate. Many individuals,
including LGBTI individuals, find deep personal meaning and strength in
their religious faith. Therefore, when religious leaders promote
discriminatory attitudes towards, or the rejection of, certain
populations, many members of society see this as legitimate and even a
mandatory part of expressing their faith . . . .
In strongly religious communities, public condemnation of LGBTI people
by religious leaders gives implicit permission to individuals to
express their own homophobia in public, which they often do in violent
ways. In turn, LGBTI individuals, many of whom are religious, are
unable to confide in their religious leaders for fear that they will be
expelled from the congregation, possibly publicly. They may also fear,
from experience and from reports of the experiences of others, that
their stories will be published in newspapers, that they will be
reported to the police, or that they will be denounced from the pulpit
as evil or demonic.
Religion is often conflated with notions of culture and tradition, and
then used as a justification to condemn same-sex sexuality. The very
existence of LGBTI Africans is often denied and same-sex sexuality or
behaviour is largely blamed on the West. Meanwhile, the loudest and
most public Western influence on this issue arguably comes from Western
preachers, like [California megachurch] Pastor Rick Warren . . . .
In recent years, attitudes of some churches in the West have become
more accepting of ‘out’ LGBTI parishioners and of the human right to
non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender
identity, including, in some cases, with regard to marriage. Some
conservatives, particularly from the USA, are therefore increasingly
turning to African congregations to further their anti-LGBTI agenda..
They rely on African delegates to block the acceptance of LGBTI clergy,
and present some churches’ support for human rights as cultural
imperialism, forcing ‘Western homosexuality’ on African societies.
Their efforts seek to further the notion that same-sex sexuality is
fundamentally immoral, against religion and against culture.
American Conservative Church Groups:
Fanning The Flames In Africa
This extensive American conservative influence on antigay religion in
Africa deserves more attention. A very revealing resource on this is a
2009 report, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches & Homophobia, from Political Research Associates (PRA).
U. S. conservatives have successfully
recruited a significant number of prominent African religious leaders
to a campaign seeking to restrict the human rights of lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The flagship issue of this
campaign is the ordination of LGBT clergy by mainline Protestant
denominations . . . . The campaign’s consequences in the home countries
of the African clergy– including Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria . . . are
even more threatening to the human rights of sexual minorities than the
setbacks engineered in the United States. As a direct result of this
campaign, homophobia is on the rise in Africa– from increased incidents
of violence to antigay legislation that carries the death penalty.
In this campaign, the U.S. conservatives have engineered a paradoxical role reversal:
For decades in Africa, U.S. mainline
Protestant churches joined struggles– opposed by the U.S. Right– to
topple racist colonial regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South
Africa, and to empower oppressed people of all sorts.
But one of the main organizations promoting homophobia in both Africa and the United States over the last decade is the Institute on Religion and Democracy
a well-funded neoconservative think tank that opposed the African
liberation struggles. In Africa, IRD and other U.S. conservatives
present mainline denominations’ commitments to human rights as
imperialistic attempts to manipulate Africans into accepting
homosexuality– which they characterize as a purely western phenomenon.
For IRD, this campaign is part of a long-term, deliberate, and
successful strategy to weaken and split U.S. mainline denominations,
block their powerful progressive social witness promoting social and
economic justice, and promote political and social conservatism in the
United States. Using African leaders as a wedge in U.S. conflicts is
only its latest and perhaps most effective tactic.
The IRD aims most of its efforts at large denominations such as
Methodists and Episcopalians/Anglicans; but the impact of its
widespread propaganda and that of its allies in ratcheting up the fever
of homophobia in Africa is evident in the Friends Church Kenya
statement, which repeats the meme that homosexuality is “worthy of
death,” and couches its condemnation “in the strongest term possible without reservation.”
The PRA report minces no words about the hazards of this international campaign:
News coverage of the marriage equality
and ordination conflicts in the United States not only glosses over
U.S. religious conservatives’ cross-continental organizing but also
underreports the growing persecution of LGBT people in African
countries whose churches are players in the U.S. church conflicts.
As they have cultivated African political and religious leaders,
conservatives ranging from megachurch minister Rick Warren to Holocaust
revisionist Scott Lively have used their broad access to push for
antigay politics in Africa. Christian Right activists use rhetoric
about “family values” to foment homophobia in Africa with disastrous
consequences, such as the currently pending national antigay
legislation in Uganda that would persecute and even issue the death
penalty to homosexuals. . . .
While homophobia in Africa is fomented largely for U.S. domestic
purposes, by depicting advances in the United States as evidence of a
worldwide neocolonial homosexual threat, U.S. conservatives have
engendered an insidious, inverse relationship between LGBT rights in
the United States and in Africa. Scott
Lively and other evangelicals portray victories for equality in the
United States as evidence of the encroaching gay conspiracy, exciting
bigotry and violence among their African audiences. In this
respect, Africans have become a kind of “collateral damage” of the U.S.
culture wars. The globalization of the U.S. culture wars requires that
human rights advocates reconsider their responsibility and role in
respect to Africa, as well as the actions required to overcome the
opponents of LGBT equality at home. (Emphasis in original.)
In Summary: Learn and Speak Out
Given this ongoing, highly organized, lavishly-financed campaign, the
PRA report includes some forthright recommendations for U.S. readers:
Progressives should expose these
groups’ full agenda both in the United States and in Africa, thereby
facilitating more effective human rights organizing on both continents.
African Christians and political leaders will be able to make
better-informed decisions about the alliances they make in the United
States. The right-wing ecumenism of IRD-sponsored renewal movements
cries out for more robust ecumenical work among U.S. church-based human
rights activists and their allies.
A similar sentiment underlies our publication of the FCK statement and
several responses. We believe it is important for such statements to be
APPENDIX: Laws In Kenya & Senegal
For reference, we include here a summary of the laws criminalizing
homosexuality in both Kenya and Senegal, as listed in the Amnesty
International report, along with the laws from other African countries:
Kenyan laws relating to homosexuality:
Cap. 63 Penal Code 396 (Sections amended by Act No. 5 of 2003)
“Section 162. Any person who -
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her
against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony and is liable to
imprisonment for fourteen years: Provided that, in the case of an
offence under paragraph (a), the offender shall be liable to
imprisonment for twenty-one years if -
(i) the offence was committed without the consent of the person who was carnally known; or
(ii) the offence was committed with that person’s consent but the
consent was obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of
some kind, or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false
representations as to the nature of the act.”
“Section 163. Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences
specified in section 162 is guilty of a felony and is liable to
imprisonment for seven years, with or without corporal punishment.”
“165. Any male person who, whether in public or private commits any act
of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male
person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to
procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself
or with another male person, whether in public or private, is guilty of
a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years, with or without
Penal Code of 1965411 Article 319 (3): [Translated from French]:
(“Without prejudice to the more serious penalties provided for in the
preceding paragraphs or by articles 320 and 321 of this Code, whoever
will have committed an improper or unnatural act with a person of the
same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years
and by a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs. If the act was committed
with a person below the age of 21, the maximum penalty will always be
Amnesty International, Making Love A Crime: Criminalization of Same Sex
Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Full report also at:
Associated Press, “President Barack Obama clashes with Senegalese President Macky Sall over gay rights,” June 27, 2013.
Human Rights Watch, “Fear for Life: Violence against Gay Men and Men Perceived as Gay in Senegal,”
Full Report: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/11/30/fear-life-0
Adam Nossiter, “Senegal Cheers Its President for Standing Up to Obama on Same-Sex Marriage,”
New York Times, June 28, 2013
Political Research Associates, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia, 2009.
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A Letter to Zablon Malenge:
P.O. Box 3811
Durham NC 27701 USA
May 29, 2013
Zablon Malenge, Clerk
Friends Church Kenya
P.O. Box 465
Dear Zablon Malenge,
The enclosed press statement dated December 12, 2012 recently came to
my attention. I have concerns and questions about both the language in
the text regarding homosexuals, and the views of the Bible and Quaker
religion that it exhibits. I wonder if you can please help me
understand this better by replying to a few questions:
1. What was the occasion for issuing this public statement? What were the objectives of doing so?
2. What is the practical meaning of your statement that, “God’s
attitude toward the vile behaviour of homosexuality is clear. He
prohibited and condemned homosexuality in Gen. 19:5 when He destroyed
the city of Sodom. . . . Actually God outlawed all homosexuality and
bestiality as sexual perversion that should not be tolerated. All
sexual perversions were worthy of death, indicating their loath
sameness before God.”
I am particularly interested to know what your statement means for both
Quaker groups and for public laws in secular societies. Does FCK
recommend or approve of laws that call for execution or long
imprisonment for homosexuals? Can you please explain these practical
implications of the FCK statement?
Further, was this statement approved by the governing body of Friends Church Kenya? If so, when and where did that occur?
3. Your release also states that “In the Church Government of Britain
Yearly Meeting (1980) the certificate of marriage is signed during the
wedding “by the man (husband) and the woman (wife) with her surname
used immediately prior to marriage (907).” The statement also
references the 1972 Faith & Practice of Philadelphia Yearly
Is FCK aware that in 2009 this same Britain Yearly Meeting changed its
position and formally expressed support for same sex marriages, and is
petitioning the British government to make them legal? Is FCK further
aware that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith & Practice edition
of 2002 now permits same sex marriages as well? What response does FCK
have to these revised positions by Britain Yearly Meeting and
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting?
4. Several other Yearly Meetings in North America have also approved
homosexuality and same sex marriage. Can you please explain what FCK’s
message is to these groups of Quakers?
5. The statement concludes with the declaration, in bold italicized
print, that “For this matter, Friends Church in Kenya condemns
homosexuality in the strongest term possible without reservation.” Are
there any clarifications or supplementary statements to this one that
we ought also to read? Can you make any such statements available?
Thank you for your prompt response to this inquiry. Feel free to use
the email address above for a faster transmission of your reply.
In the Spirit of Quaker Truth-Seeking,
Chuck Fager, Editor
[NOTE: No reply to this letter had been received when this issue went to press in mid-July 2013.]
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A response to the Friends Church Kenya proclamation
on sexual orientation.
D. Pablo Stanfield
It was no surprise to me that the Friends Church
Kenya has responded to Britain Yearly Meeting’s advocacy of same-sex
marriage by publishing a refutation of liberal theology. It has been in
the works ever since the 6th World Conference of Friends in Kenya last
year. That conference was unique in many ways:
● it was the first to
represent the actual racial and cultural distribution of the diverse
world-wide Religious Society of Friends [>50% of the faces were
non-Euro-white; many attendees were not middle class or college
● it was the first to
make a corporate decision [the Kabarak Declaration on Eco-Justice,
q.v.] since the second Conference founded the Friends World Committee
for Consultation in 1937
● it was the first to involve modern technologies of communication at all, and so on.
One of the subjects that was widely discussed at
that Conference was the cluster of questions about gay/lesbian rights,
the place of sexual difference in Quaker family morals and the theology
of same-sex marriage. The issues were not named as such at the time, of
course; they were referred to as “What happened to the Epistle from
This letter of greeting from the North American
liberal Friends “ community of radical inclusiveness”
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer Concerns (see
page 61, below) was taken down several times from its place posted
among other letters of greeting from Quaker groups around the globe.
Each time it was put back up and one of the Conference organizers even
announced that taking it down was an act of discriminatory violence.
As much as anything that pronouncement provoked
The controversy was handled fairly well – all things considered – by
discussions in all morning “home groups”, which were set up for
worship, exchange of viewpoints and learning about differences, as well
as networking and support. Some groups took significant time, others
only a little, but almost everyone heard at least two sides on the
happening, generally summarized as:
(1) That Friends of all kinds were welcome at the
World Conference and no one could unilaterally exclude a group,
especially when large numbers of Yearly Meetings had felt led to accept
same-sex commitment as God’s will.
(2) Or that God has clearly prohibited illicit
sexual relations, including homosexuality, and that they were illegal
as well and brought opprobrium on Kenyan Friends.
As you can see, those incompatible stands leave
little ground for discussion and attempts to find compromise, let alone
reconciliation. In fact Friends from both positions included many more
nuanced reactions and some groups had long and deep exchanges about all
the ramifications of the removal of the epistle. To non-Africans one of
the more surprising viewpoints was that of some Kenyans, who were
willing to accept the presence of lesbian and gay Friends and even to
tolerate (on some level) other Yearly Meetings’ decision about same-sex
relations, but who believed that having a publicly accessible document
like it on the campus, which is owned by the former dictator of Kenya
Daniel arap Moi, exposed the whole Conference to being shut down by the
government. I have no idea how valid this concern was, but enough
people expressed it that it gives an interesting insight into the
national culture, similar in many ways to those of the other former
British colonies it borders: especially Uganda and Tanzania.
East Africa Yearly Meeting and its many daughters
[there are now 18 Quaker bodies in Kenya] are the largest Quaker
population in the world today and the largest in percentage of the
population in the areas where they exist, primarily the western
provinces. These bodies make up a significant portion of the Friends
United Meeting, and have moved in a little over a century of experience
from missions to their own Yearly Meeting, then explosive growth, power
struggles and fragmentation into many, in a yet undocumented series of
crises at the end of the 20th Century.
Friends Church Kenya [FCK] is a relatively new
umbrella association that exists to recover some of the former unity of
the separated brethren, to respond to a State requirement for a
denominational polity, and to offer some coordination to the yearly
meetings’ many cooperative activities. Although FCK has no hierarchical
power, it can and does speak when all the yearly meetings’ officials
are in unity, as in response to past election violence.
Stating religious positions from the top is a
significant difference from Friends in North America, where most Quaker
officials can speak for their yearly meeting only if the body has
minuted a position in its meeting for worship for business. The
difference appears to me to be because most eastern African yearly
meetings are quite patriarchal – despite a recent attempt to raise the
consciousness of the men, empower the women, and flatten the hierarchy
in more traditionally Quaker ways.
Although there are many women pastors and most of
them are highly respected and actively managing yearly meeting
ministries, most yearly meeting executives are male pastors, and they
are empowered to make theological decisions for the yearly meeting. The
yearly meeting superintendent, clerk and recording clerk (who holds a
semi-staff position that makes him the spokesman of the yearly meeting
much of the year) hold a level of control amazing to Friends from
Europe and North America. Although there is autonomy for local churches
and women’s groups and equality compared to the culture, the leaders’
ability to fix policy, especially around such things as doctrine,
amazes liberal Friends and even many English-speaking pastoral Friends.
This policymaking is not done in a tyrannical
way: the leaders can speak with authority because a consensus
does exist. It exists because they already have almost a creed of
orthodox Christian beliefs, centered in the Richmond Declaration of
Faith of 1887, which is not to be questioned, examined, updated or
adapted. Anyone with differing interpretations of Quaker Christianity
is free to leave quietly for any other denomination of their choosing.
In addition, the separation of laity and clerics is maintained by
church membership classes, requirements for training for ministry and
traditional power circles.
There are many cultural and historical reasons for
this situation. Patriarchy is alive in Kenyan popular culture today,
even among Friends, who educate their girls. Further, respect for
elders, authority and structure are key elements in the Kenyan social
psyche. I am sure there are young radicals who debate many elements of
freedom in Kenyan life, but I would be surprised if they were Quakers.
In a church (as 99% of Kenyan Quakers are) where praise hymns trance
the group, long hours of preaching define religion, and salvation by
obedience to the set teachings of Jesus, as fixed in the Richmond
Declaration, is the goal, there is no time or energy for theological
I will not say that Kenyan Quakers are stuck – those
I met have a deep faith and are moved to great acts of charity and
relief among their poorer neighbors (most Kenyan Quakers are lower
middle class and rural poor themselves). They are living witnesses to
their beliefs and contrast with the even more revivalist charismatic
Christians, the “modern atheist consumer”, or traditional animist
cultures around them. They do not sense any call (that I could see) to
be tearing down the pillars of the World, except its greed, drugs and
libertinage. And all homosexuality is libertinage, by their standards.
Victorian ideals of morality are part of the mission
culture of most African Christians’ mindset. Sex cannot be for
pleasure, only for procreation; it is a part of life outside of
religious review. Individualism, especially of the extreme,
self-centered type represented by Anglo-North American society, is seen
as unrelentingly selfish and unspiritual. Africans are occupied with
differentiating themselves from the “White” world; an important example
is the almost unanimously believed African myth that homosexuality is a
white-persons’ disease that does not affect their people – an
illusion without (of course) any credible corroboration. The right-wing
driven anti-gay political view that has infected most Christians in
Africa is considered a righteous stand by many Quakers there, who are
as shamed as other denominations by their European and North American
branches that are so tied up in debating or affirming this heathenish
practice. The concept of ontology – that one might be BORN attracted to
the same sex is seen simply as foolishness, since God does not create
mistakes. They wonder why leaders in our part of Quakerdom don’t just
stand up and say, “It’s wrong. Repent and Jesus will make you
straight.” That leaders who have attempted to draw such a line here are
now in full retreat is a detail they are unaware of and that might not
impress them. Talk of rights and scientific or socio-psychological
issues that matter in the Occident are not relevant to most FCK leaders.
I last talked with my friend Zablon Malenge,
executive of FCK, the day before the Conference ended and we covered
many concerns that had arisen among Kenyans who were seeing the
diversity of Quaker theology first-hand for the first time. I foresaw
that issue statements like the one reprinted here would be produced,
and doctrine about homosexuality appeared to head the list. We did not
talk about details, because I was wrestling in my mind with the concept
of trying to educate him, to use our 20 years’ acquaintance and mutual
respect to slow down the process, to help him at least comprehend that
they could not and should not make a universal doctrinal pronouncement,
and to give my testimony: God uses me, a gay man, as a minister of
divine blessing and Spirit; any attempt to exclude me has to be a limit
on God’s grace and power. I was not led to come out then and I believe
it would have made no difference.
We unprogrammed Friends should look at this
statement as an attempt to re-assert African independence from the
mother denominations in the corrupt, over-developed nations. It is also
a necessary stance for them in the face of any questioning that may
have been raised by last year’s Conference: any Africans who actually
engaged in full listening with queer Quakers and respected them, or any
who were moved to investigate, to learn about not only gay rights but
real lesbians and gay men as three-dimensional people (many spiritually
centered and mature, some as Christian and orthodox as they) had to be
returned to the center path. Friends Church Kenya also had to act to
retain the respect of the leaders of other denominations. The statement
is speaking to other Africans, not to us.
It would be lovely if – as a number of evangelical
Friends expressed after long days’ wrestling with our tiresome liberal
ideas – the Religious Society of Friends Wesleyan salvation churches
and its more traditional branches meetings could separate and ignore
each other; or do as we are often urged, especially by liberals: just
celebrate our differences, recognizing that we have a deep underlying
unity in history and commitment to serving God, and let differing
groups go on without comment. Unfortunately for dreamy idealists, the
Conference also reminded us that what other Friends do not only
reflects on us, it affects this whole Web-linked world instantly and in
ways that we cannot ignore.
Just as it would have been impossible for John
Woolman not to visit slave-holding Friends and labor with them, Friends
who do believe in new or continuous revelation, who don’t automatically
accept traditional interpretations of the Bible as final answers for
all of life’s questions, will have to labor with this proclamation.
African Friends have here let us know how they feel about living with
our stands. We cannot forget that only 31 years ago the first same-sex
wedding was held in a Friends meeting and it provoked concern and even
alarm as well as about 30 years of controversy. Many of the sources
cited by FCK in support of its uncompromising pronunciamiento are from
long superseded editions of more liberal books of Faith and Practice,
used without irony or understanding how and why we have moved. Those
were meant as descriptions of Friends practice, not permanent
prescription – “for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth Life.”
Kenyan Friends need to know that the position they
have identified is identical to that of many older Quakers in liberal
meetings not that long ago. Yet many of these Friends came, through
prayer, study, personal experience with sexual minority Friends, and –
yes! – revelation, to discover that love of all God’s children demands
a different response. Some learned that what they thought the Bible
said was not so. (See K. Renato Lings’s book, newly released in English, Love Lost In Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible.)
Others learned that Queer Quakers are not some aliens “out there”
threatening the integrity of Friends; they are among those most active
in living as testimonies of integrity within the tradition.
Even Yearly Meetings in Evangelical Friends Church
International have had to re-think their absolutism on this, the one
sin listed in many books of discipline. Northwest YM of Friends Church
is in the middle of several years of a learning and discernment
process. The one interest group at the World Conference that looked
deeply and openly at the issue was led by an evangelical Quaker from
Rocky Mountain YM. FCK leaders’ refusal to listen to these Friends will
not pass tacitly.
It cannot be let go quietly. Other African nations
have been world leaders in attempting a hard-line against sexual
minorities. The Anglican Communion world-wide has almost split under
west Africans’ insistence. The death penalty is again being activated
for gays in Uganda and a similar proposal is spoken of in Kenya.
Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is the latest to join their camp.
Is this really what Kenyan Friends want?
Nigerian and Ghanaian queers are requesting asylum in Europe. A number
of us American Quakers questioned going to Kenya last year, when
homosexuality was “merely” an arrest-worthy offense there. It had not
occurred to organizers that this might cause some Friends problems.
What happens when Kenyan Friends present their weight and their stands
Friends, when these policies, dispassionately made
in the dim light of an 1887 creedal statement or by misinterpretation
of 3000 year-old cult rules, lead to death threats – for the letter
killeth – against members of your own meetings, will you be willing to
re-examine and reconsider this Kakamega Condemnation of December 12,
~ D. Pablo Stanfield
Pablo Stanfield is a member of University MM in Seattle, WA, in North
Pacific YM, (unaffiliated liberal). He has a recognized ministry for
religious education for peace and travels under a concern for good
eldering. He recently retired from a career as an intercultural
communications specialist, mediator, trainer and translator.
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Response by Cindy S. Perry
“I am deeply hurt” the woman told us one morning at
Worship. She paused, choking back tears. Nearly 900 Quakers from all
over the world were assembled that morning in Worship at Kabarak
University in Kenya for the World Conference of Friends in April of
“I am deeply hurt” she went on to explain, “that
someone has defaced and removed an epistle from gay and lesbian
Quakers, a letter wishing us a fruitful and worshipful World
The assembly fell quiet. “We shall replace the
epistle, print another copy, and we shall respect the good wishes of
all Quakers, all people,” she said.
The next day the the epistle was reprinted. But the
day after that, the epistle was again torn down. “We shall replace the
epistle; we can make as many copies as necessary to bring good wishes
of all Friends to the World Conference,” the woman said.
In the days I spent at the World Conference, I too
was deeply saddened and hurt by the intolerance shown by many Kenyan
Quakers. And now, the public press release from the Presiding Clerk of
Friends Church Kenya brings back the sting of that hurt over a full
American Friends, amid our own diversity, have long
been supportive of the growth and independence of Kenyan Quakers and
their yearly meetings. This support has been particularly strong
through the United Society of Friends Women (USFW) and their support of
clinics, missions and schools in Turkana, Lugulu and Samburu. It has
taken many concrete forms, and I have proudly joined with it and
wholeheartedly supported this work. Given this history, I anticipated a
reciprocity of welcome among Kenyan Friends in their country. Although
we received a warm welcome, I was disappointed on this particular
issue. Perhaps I was na´ve.
At the world conference, the Kenyans hastened to
tell us that Kenyan law forbids same-sex relationships, as though that
justified the acts of bigotry. But that explanation brought no
consolation. Once, American laws forbade interracial marriage, stripped
Native Americans of their rights and gave a legal voice to the
cruelties of slavery.
Much of that oppression has since been overcome
here: interracial marriages, for instance, are now legal in all the
U.S. many other human rights are protected by law. The acceptance of
same sex marriage is also advancing, although tragically it is still
illegal in my state of North Carolina.
Further, among American Quakers, many monthly and
yearly meetings have recognized the equality of our gay and lesbian
brothers and sisters, and affirmed their right to marry. For some, this
recognition has been in place for more than twenty years. Similar
recognition has been achieved among Friends in Canada and Great Britain
I realize that such recognition is not universal. In
fact, it is still controversial in my own yearly meeting. Yet perhaps
naively, when I went to what was described as a world Quaker conference
last year, I expected the range of Quaker witness on this matter at
least to be respected by our hosts. It was not. I was disappointed, to
say the least, on this issue, and shared the dismay at the repeated
violation of the visible evidence of it there.
The FCK press statement is also very disturbing. It
borders on urging Kenyan Friends to put themselves explicitly in the
company of those who do violence to gays and lesbians, while claiming
justification by law and religion.
Such a statement brings echoes of some of the worst
episodes in the history of both my country, and of our shared Christian
religion. I hope and pray that in time Kenya’s Quaker leaders will come
to reconsider and work to overcome such attitudes. It would seem that
Friends would be better served in working together in light of the
Peace Testimony rather than intimating violence against our fellow
“Equality was the earliest Quaker social
testimony…it means equality of respect and the resulting absence of all
words and behavior based on class, racial or social distinctions.” says
Howard Brinton in Friends for 350 Years.(p. 159).
The equality of which Brinton writes is the very
reason that Friends stood at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement
in the United States well before our Civil War, and that many later
worked for the Civil Rights Movement and our Civil Rights laws. It is
why many Americans and Europeans, and many Quakers there, now support
full equality for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Judging one another is not our task here on earth.
Judging is God’s purview and privilege. We cannot presume to know God’s
mind on issues over which we pretend to have dominion.
Our task on earth is to extend God’s unconditional
love for us, for all our fellow humans, to use Jesus’ example of
tolerance, kindness and love as we approach one another at work, in
community and in Meeting.
I appeal to Quaker leaders in Kenya to re-examine
the position set forth in the press release. And as you do so, to
please respect those of us who see God’s love in the widest realm.
Please respect our brothers and sisters regardless of orientation, so
we can make the words of the Lord’s Prayer ring true, “Thy will be done
on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Cindy S. Perry is an attorney in civil practice. A lifelong Friend, she
is a member of Spring Monthly Meeting of North Carolina Yearly Meeting
- Friends United Meeting. She was a delegate from her yearly meeting to
the FWCC conference.
The views expressed are those of the author.
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Response to Friend Zablon Malenge’s
press release of 12 December, 2012
By Rich Liversidge,
Member, Sandy Spring, Maryland Monthly Meeting,
Religious Society of Friends
I am responding to the views of Friend Zablon
Malenge expressed in his press release of 12 December, 2012 about
homosexuality, Quakers and the Bible. My response is as an individual
Friend, not as a representative of any Quaker body. However, it has
been seasoned by my experiences within Baltimore Yearly Meeting,
Friends United Meeting, and the Couple Enrichment Program of Friends
General Conference (FGC). Involvement with each of these has enlarged
my understanding of God’s love for us all and His call to treat others
Spiritual discernment is a Quaker process with deep
roots. Proposition 2 of Robert Barclay’s Theological Theses states “it
is only through the testimony of the Spirit that the true knowledge of
God has been, is, and can be revealed.”In Proposition 3, he states “the
scriptures are only a declaration of the source, and not the source
itself, they are not to be considered the principal foundation of all
truth and knowledge.” He cites Rom 8.14 to confirm that “the Spirit is
the primary and principal rule of faith.”(Barclay’s Apology ed. Dean
Freiday, pp. 4-5)
For Friends, this radical vision of spiritual
discernment takes us first to explore the guidance God provides from
the Light we have within ourselves. Then we take the witness we have
discerned to our community to see if it is shared by others. Finally,
we test it against scripture. This multi-level discernment produces a
living, growing faith that changes our lives. For this to work
successfully, we must bring an open heart and listen for God’s
direction at each step.
Friends believe each of us has a spark of God’s
Light within us, but our individual measures of Light vary. No one
person has the full measure of the Light. Donald Thomas, a long-time
member of Ngong Road Unprogrammed Meeting in Nairobi, advises that for
early Friends “The ultimate authority… was always the light of Christ
within… Although Friends used the Bible as a source of wisdom and
inspiration, they did not view it as the ultimate authority”. This is
from his pamphlet “Quaker Origins, Worship and Identity” (Kaimosi
Friends Press), p.11.
Individual discernment comes first. Starting in the
mid-1980s, I was a member of first one then a second monthly meeting in
Baltimore Yearly Meeting where support of same-gender marriage was
considered and, after long seasoning, was approved. I participated in
and supported these decisions. For the last 25 years, my wife and I
have led marriage education programs among Friends in the U.S. through
the FGC Couple Enrichment Program. We also train other couples to lead
couple enrichment programs. Often, our work has included participant
and trainee couples who are same gender couples. What we have found in
this ministry to couples is that couple issues, aspirations and
conflicts do not differ materially between straight and LGBT Friends.
The emotions, commitment and faith are comparable.
During my 15-year involvement with FUM, I have
participated in some important deliberations about our range of views
on LGBT and related matters and what to do about the conflicts that
were produced by differences within the FUM membership. We continue to
seek God’s way forward. Not surprisingly, there are some strongly-held,
honest differences among us. In recent years, however, it seems to me
that FUM has begun to find ways to proceed despite these continuing
differences. I find that very hopeful for FUM and its constituent
In Friend Malenge’s press release, I find an
excessive reliance on a particular reading of scripture, and an absence
of a personal discernment based on knowledge about LGBT Friends in his
community. Where Friend Malenge sees homosexuality as inherently
sinful, I see God’s wondrous hand in creating diversity. I believe God
has created a continuum of natural sexual preference, while he seems to
see homosexuality as a choice that, from God’s point of view, is a bad
choice. My view stems from knowing a number of gay, lesbian and
transgender Friends. I am convinced, based on hearing of their
experiences growing up, that there is a biological basis for their
sexual preferences. And I see God’s hand in that diversity, not Satan’s
work or a random penalty traced back to Adams’ Fall. I recall seeing a
bumper sticker, recently, on a Quaker’s car saying: “I’m straight but
I’m not narrow”. That’s my personal discernment.
A Quaker precept is that when we become aware of
God’s will, we will all unite with it. That’s how testing individual
discernment works in community. There are some areas where Friend
Malenge and I can unite. For example, he sees Quakerism as “early
Christianity revived”, and I agree. The early practice of our faith
enabled us, as individuals, to deal directly with our God. We did not
need intermediaries, such as pastors and other spokespersons.
Many in the world, including some Friends, are
violently opposed to homosexuality. I have heard this kind of contempt
occasionally among East African Friends, among others. That troubles me
especially when it occurs in our “peace church”. For example, I was
present at an FUM General Board meeting in Kenya in 2007 when a Ugandan
Friend, during prayer, said that gays and those who support them are
deserving of death (probably citing Rom 1:32). Do we really believe
killing gays and their supporters – like me– would please God? I
believe Christ Jesus came to save us all (Luke 2, John 3, Hebrews 2, 1
Timothy, etc.). There must be better ways to understand Paul’s intent.
The Bible may be understood in several ways; there
is no single way to interpret the passages, so we must use our own
judgment. I have a different view of what is described in many of the
passages Friend Malenge cites. Often, it is not homosexuality. For
• Genesis 19 and Jude 7 describe the
reasons for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. To me, this is not
because of homosexuality. The passages condemn male rape of strangers
to humiliate them. Rape is a crime of violence. It may also be that
God’s wrath was due to the selfishness of the men of the town (Isaiah 1
and Ezekiel 16), and for not giving hospitality to strangers. It may
even be the forbidden practice of having sex with angels (Jude’s
“different flesh”). That was an issue then, but is not so much now.
• Leviticus 18 addresses primarily incest taboos. But some of those
kinds of incest were practiced by Abraham, Jacob, Moses and King David.
Do we focus on just one forbidden activity (v. 22) and ignore the 16
others? Or do we object just to David and Absalom, who came after
Leviticus, and give Abraham, Jacob and Moses a pass? What about the
love of David for Jonathan? Do we apply verse 22 to everyone but David?
Different interpretations also are possible for 1 Corinthians 6, 1
Timothy, Ephesians 5 and Galatians 5.
Friend Malenge claims to speak for Friends Church Kenya on this matter.
I believe any organization is on shaky ground when it builds on a
foundation of scapegoating people different from them. I hope that all
members of FCK do not consider Quakers who differ from Friend Malenge’s
view as “others”. Each needs to experience his/her personal discernment
process. Friends agree when a sense of unity emerges among us. We do
not have unity on this matter. I suppose God is not finished with us on
I embrace hope and a growth of the Spirit within me.
I have experienced how LGBT Quakers add richness and resources to our
spiritual lives. Several states here in the U.S., including my own
state of Maryland, have made such relationships legal. Of course,
individual churches or congregations may opt out of marrying gays or
lesbians, as is their right. But under civil law the practice is
permitted. I am thankful that my own Monthly Meeting does, also.
To me, this acceptance does not seem contrary to
God’s will. I do not believe we are excluded from God’s grace by
supporting and accepting LGBT Friends. Nor do I believe homosexuality
is inherently evil. I know this experientially to be true and just, and
have tested that successfully within my faith community and against my
reading and understanding of the writings of early Friends and
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What Do Quakers Consider Sin? What Does God?
Richmond, Indiana First Friends Meeting
In the United States, “marriage equality” has
been the phrase at the center of the recent controversy about sexual
orientation. Should same sex couples be allowed to marry, or should
marriage be limited to opposite sex couples? In this political debate,
“equality” and “freedom” have been the central terms.
For those seeking to follow God’s will, however, the
religious terms of the issue are quite different. For us, there is no
escaping the question of sin. We may all be equal in God’s eyes, and
may all be free to choose our life’s path, but what path does God want
us to follow? Which way lies sin, and which way lies righteousness?
Governments may come to allow same sex marriage on
an equal footing with opposite sex marriage, but then governments allow
many forms of sinful behavior from adultery to gambling. The test in
the political sphere is not whether some behavior is sinful but whether
it will demonstrably cause harm to others. So long as we believe there
is no harm to others, we believe individuals ought to be equally free
to pursue the path they please.
But for those who choose to submit to God’s will,
the path that pleases them will be the path that is pleasing to God.
And so, even as marriage equality triumphs in state after state,
and even as public opinion polls show increasing majorities for
allowing same sex marriage, religious denominations continue to be
locked in a cold stalemate about what God wills with regard to
acceptable sexual relationships.
Lutherans are divided. Presbyterians are divided.
Methodists are divided. Even with their autocratic governance, Roman
Catholics are divided. And so forth down the line of U.S.
denominations. With a few exceptions, the question of sinfulness
of same-sex sexual acts is a contentious one within Christian religious
As a general rule, the more inclined a denomination
is to see the Bible as the only and complete authoritative word of God,
the more likely it is to view homosexuality as a sin. Thus,
Evangelicals and Pentecostals are strongly inclined to view
homosexuality as sinful, pointing to six to ten Bible verses they
believe specifically excoriate homosexuality.
Quakers in the United States are divided exactly on
these lines. FGC and other liberal Friends are more inclined to welcome
gays, lesbians and transgendered people, and to affirm committed same
sex relationships. Evangelical Friends are much more inclined to decry
homosexuality as sinful, and same-sex unions (even if legal) as
illegitimate. Many Conservative Friends (viewing the Bible as
important, but not the final word) are tending toward a welcoming and
affirming stance. FUM Friends are divided about the matter roughly in
terms of whether they accept any spiritual authority beyond the Bible.
With such a tense and explosive argument ongoing in
the United States among Christians, we need no additional fuel for the
controversy. But with so many Quakers in East Africa, a strong
statement from the Friends Church Kenya (purporting to speak for all
Kenyan Friends) decrying homosexuality as “a sin that is roundly
condemned in scripture” compels the attention of Quakers everywhere.
The argument of the Kenyan statement rests entirely
upon eight Bible verses, two in the Hebrew Testament, and six in the
New Testament Letters, five of these in letters attributed to Paul.
Three of these texts—Ephesians 5:3-5, Galatians 5:19-21, and Jude
1:7—are simple exhortations to avoid “sexual immorality.” They add
nothing to an understanding of whether homosexuality should be
considered sinful sexual immorality.
The best reading of the other five (Genesis 19:5,
Leviticus 18:22-23, Romans 1:26-27, 1Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy
1:9,10) is by no mean simple or straightforward. There are
questions of translation, for example, and questions of cultural and
historical context. It is unclear whether some of them even are
concerned with homosexuality, as we understand that term today. (And
let us remember, that word was coined in the late 19th century to
demarcate something deviant.) The passages are worth study and
discussion, and a great deal has been written about them. But by no
means does it suffice to simply list the passages to declare the matter
clearly settled. There are many Biblically observant Christians (I am
one) who do not see these passages as telling us anything substantial
about God’s will with regard to same sex sexual orientation or
Ask yourself this: would you accept a listing of
Biblical passages speaking approvingly of slavery as settling the
question of God’s will with regard to slavery? Remember, there are
dozens. How about a list of Bible passages urging women to be silent
and subservient? Again there are many.
I have no knowledge of why Kenyan Friends
undertook to write this recent statement, but every church statement
declaring homosexuality as sinful has a story about how it came to be
written. Generally, that story has more to do with political currents
than spiritual leadings. In the United States, references to
homosexuality were extremely rare in denominational teachings until a
few decades ago.
In 1963, a group of British Friends wrote “Toward a Quaker View of Sex,”
a remarkable, wise and broad-reaching pamphlet that affirmed loving,
homosexual relationships. It met with sharp antagonism especially among
evangelical Friends. That was a surprising, isolated controversy
until the 1970s when more evangelical yearly meetings in the United
States began making statements declaring homosexuality a sin –
statements that resemble the recent statement from Friends Church
In Indiana Yearly Meeting, for example, an FUM
yearly meeting that has recently come to schism over the issue, the
authoritative statement was not adopted until 1982. It declares
“Indiana Yearly Meeting believes homosexual practices to be contrary to
the intent and will of God for humankind. We believe the Holy Spirit
and Scriptures witness to this.” It then lists five Bible verses: four
of those enumerated by Kenyan Friends and one additional verse from
Leviticus (adding Leviticus 18:22-23). Though reference is made to the
Holy Spirit, no support is tendered for the ‘homosexuality is a sin’
view than the list of five Bible verses.
What animated that 1982 Minute? Let us come back to the political terrain for a moment.
In the United States, we can usefully date the
beginning of advocacy among gays and lesbians for full and equal
recognition as human beings to June 28, 1969, when homosexuals in
Greenwich Village (New York City) resisted police raids against them in
what have come to be called the Stonewall Riots, named after a gay bar
frequently raided by police. Before then, homosexuals had submitted to
social stigma and legal persecution. After Stonewall, gays and lesbians
increasingly insisted on an end to such policies and practices. Efforts
to end discrimination of gays and lesbians blossomed across the U.S.
The rise of a gay rights movement quickly triggered
a political backlash. In 1977, less than a decade after Stonewall,
entertainer Anita Bryant began a campaign to overturn a new
anti-discrimination employment law in Dade County Florida. She made
that cause national in creating a group called Save Our Children. That
same year, James Dobson founded Focus on the Family. (Friends may
remember an episode in the summer of 1977 when conflict over
homosexuality erupted at an international conference of Quakers held in
Wichita, Kansas, almost destroying the event.) Harvey Milk, a gay
activist and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was
assassinated in 1978. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979,
declaring a war on homosexuals. And three years later, Indiana
Yearly Meeting felt prompted to declare homosexuality a sin.
Indiana Yearly Meeting’s 1982 Minute came about, I
understand, because the pastor of West Elkton (Ohio) Friends testified
at a child custody hearing on behalf of a woman, a meeting attender,
who had divorced her husband and had settled into a relationship
with a lesbian partner. Some members of the meeting complained to
the Yearly Meeting office; some in leadership across the yearly meeting
mobilized in opposition. And so the Yearly Meeting came to discuss
homosexuality and to minute its view. Thus arose a statement now seen
as fundamental enough to shatter the Yearly Meeting when some Friends
raise questions about what the Bible, read as best we can, really says
is sin in these matters.
When IYM wrote that 1982 minute, whose water was it
carrying? Today, whose water is being carried by the statement of
Friends Church Kenya? Likely there are political currents buffeting the
Friends Church in Kenya – just as in the U.S. in recent decades.
I would not have us turn our attention away from the
Bible. Rather, I would have us take care to see what God is saying to
us through the Bible, not just grab snippets
(treacherous-to-translate-snippets) to decide the matter settled.
I would not have us abandon the religious
discernment of what is sin in favor of engagement with the political
realm’s search for equality and freedom. But I would have us listen
together deeply and tenderly for God’s will in all matters of
sexuality, not jut the sexuality of those who may seem unlike us.
I would have us remember that, in the Gospels, Jesus
says not one word about homosexuality. Over and over he gathers in love
those who others—especially political and religious authorities—would
In our times, Jesus will continue to speak to us,
quietly but persistently, leading us to shed our prejudices, even those
of very long standing. Authoritative statements, however firm or
forceful, will not create a bulwark against God’s love.
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Response by Mary Heathman
Denver, Colorado First Friends Church
It is with deep respect that I write a response to
Quakers and Homosexuality, by Zablong Isaac Malenge. Kenyan Friends are
to be commended for this work which was done in the context of their
country’s laws and the volatility of the issue among their citizenry.
In a Pew survey six years ago, 96 percent of Kenyans
believed that homosexuality should not be accepted (Kohut, Wike, &
Horowitz, 2007). Just over a year ago, 100 people led by religious
leaders rose up against a meeting of homosexuals, and “threatened to
mobilise the community to cane the gays if they organized such” an
“illegal, ungodly and unacceptable” seminar (Nyassy, 2012).
Kenyan Friends considered the issues and drew up
their document in a volatile context. I believe they are to be
congratulated for their efforts.
Also praiseworthy is Malenge’s high view of
scripture as authoritative in its counsel. I applaud the exploration
and application of biblical principles—it is the approach of sincere
seekers of Truth. I also appreciate the context of the paper—firmly
rooted in George Fox's writings. Malenge opened his paper with an
engaging description of early Quakerism as “Christianity revived.”
Notwithstanding my respect for Malenge’s work, his
commitment to Scripture, and courage in the face of controversy, I do
find myself at odds with his perspective. I will make some observations
and comments on a few of his points.
Malenge begins well – setting the context of his
remarks squarely within the topic of sexuality in general when he says
Friends must be: “Biblically pure in the eyes of God in terms of human
sexuality.” But then in the very next sentence he brings the reader
back to homosexuality as the focus. In this, I believe that Malenge
missed the chance to speak from the whole counsel of Scripture. How
much more powerful the Kenyan statement could be if it was put in the
context of sexuality in general, rather than specific to homosexuality.
Homosexual behavior is only one way in which human sexuality is broken.
Targeting homosexual sin separately from sexual sin in general is a
mistake in my opinion. In I Timothy 1 and I Corinthians 6, we see
homosexual behavior listed neither first nor last (positions often used
to emphasize the importance of an issue) in Paul’s list of vices—it is
simply just another sin on the list.
In speaking of the evil of homosexual sin and
inferring that it is worse than other sexual sin, Malenge skates out
onto some thin ice biblically. We do find in the cited scriptures the
clear condemnation of homosexual behavior. However, taking the study
one level deeper with a word study on “abomination” or “detestable,” we
find a distressingly long list of other behaviors that are described in
the same words. In Prov 6:16-19, for example, we read that “haughty
eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that
devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false
witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among
brothers” are all “abominations” before the Lord. It appears that ALL
sin is detestable to God. Calling out homosexual behavior without
acknowledging that ALL sin is detestable to God weakens Malenge’s
When “Paul told the Corinthians not to associate
with sexually immoral people, he warned them that God’s kingdom would
not be inherited by the sexually immoral and gave three examples of
such immorality:. adultery, and two aspects of homosexuality”(Emig,
2003). In Paul’s exhortations, homosexuality is not singled out, but
placed in context with heterosexual sin.
When Malenge states that “homosexuality is a sin
that is roundly condemned in scripture” he has missed a critical
distinction that must be made in discussing the Bible and homosexuality.
Homosexuality (sexual attraction toward one’s own
gender) is not condemned by scripture; rather it is homosexual acts
that are sanctioned. As is so for any sort of sin, it is not the
feelings or the existence of temptation that constitutes sin, but the
offending behavior itself.
On another note, I believe that while making a case
for the sinfulness of homosexuality, Malenge missed an opportunity to
witness to the good news of the gospel. For example, note how Greek
professor, Elodie Ballantine Emig (2003) names the sin, but points the
reader to the good news:
application of I Cor 6:9 that seems most obvious to me is that we must
take more seriously the no-brainers of the faith. For this passage to
flow, as it should, we, too, must consider the behaviors on the list as
vices. Certain lifestyles are wrong, and I do think Paul was speaking
of lifestyles. Lives that are best characterized by covetousness, or
adultery, or thievery, or homosexuality . . . . do not describe who we
were meant to be, who we really are in Christ, and so must be put
behind us. When such things become no-brainers for us again, we will be
in a better position to focus on Paul’s real point—who we are in Christ
is so vastly superior to who we used to be that we should never look
back with longing, but ahead, through the cross, to the joy set before
us (Emig, 2003).
The life of Jesus is also a model for us—he came not to do away with
the law but to fulfill it. Jesus came to mercifully forgive us sinners
and lead us out of sin. Jesus was uncompromising in never approving of
sin, but incredibly gracious in offering eternal life (John 4 &
Malenge’s final paragraph includes a strong challenge to the Church to be “worthy of our calling, to not modernize Christianity to meet our own selfish desires (immoral to do so).”
But then his final sentence reverts back to focus on homosexuality. If
he wants to express the full intent of scripture, then this sentence
should be rewritten to read. “ . . . condemns all sexual sin in the strongest terms possible without reservation, including homosexual sin."
As I stated in the introduction to this paper, there
are good points to commend about his statement. The difficulties I
find, however, are such that they threaten to drown out, or water down,
the very points he is trying to make. Christ followers must always
state the whole gospel – that is where the power is – the good news,
the universality of sin (and the universal need for a savior, no matter
what the need), the forgiveness of sin (for all who call on His name),
the grace that carries and sustains us all, and our universal need to
help one another in our pursuit of the Lord. We need each other in
order to grow in holiness. Malenge’s statement as it is written will
not only fail to bring us together in this way, but is likely to feed
the polarization over homosexuality—both in the Kenyan culture and in
the Church too.
However, there is in the statement enough honest and
sincere effort (to address the issues according to the spirit of truth
and love) to give me hope. I believe that Kenyan Friends have a chance
to do this differently than some of the rest of us have thus far. They
may be able to avoid the polarization in their society that has all but
derailed us in our own. With continued light on the subject; with
continued pursuit of ever more precise and generous application of both truth and grace;
with God’s guidance and direction to a dedicated pursuit of His
standards of sexuality, I believe the Kenyans can get it right and may
lead the rest of us in the way forward—standing for God’s standards for
sexuality and for loving people well.
Emig, E. B, (2003). 1 Corinthian, 6:9. Web: http://www.wheregraceabounds.org/resources/i-corinthians-6.shtml
Kohut, A., Wike, R., & Horowitz, J. M., (2007). Pew global
attitudes survey, p 35. Web: http://pewglobal.org/files/pdf/258.pdf
Nyassy, D., (Feb. 2012). Kenya: Gays flee as irate residents storm
Likoni Seminar, Daily Nation, reprinted in allAfrica.com, 23 February
2012. Web: http://allafrica.com/stories/201202240097.html
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Response by Geoffrey Kaiser
Santa Rosa, California
Quakerism is only one of many religious groups that
have purported to be “primitive Christianity Revived”. In Pennsylvania
the Amish, and Mennonites, make the same claim. They are not alone. The
list of churches that have claimed to be primitive Christianity revived
seems to include most denominations at one time or another. Anyone who
has spent an afternoon with Mormon missionaries has been treated to
their claim they too have revived the true church of Christ. A unique
and bizarre story. Indeed, according to the Mormons, just about all of
the early Quakers are now Mormons thanks to their missionary work among
The early Church married same gendered couples. This
is a fact. An excellent history of this fact is documented by John
Boswell, a Yale University professor. His book, Christianity,
Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from
the beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century is
real, factual history. It includes an account of Saints Serge and
Bacchus who married in the church, and whose faces are in mosaics above
the arches at St. Marks Cathedral in Venice. Boswell also gives the
text of the marriage vows and prayers for homosexual couples, including
the prayer “….and may your love be like that of Sts. Serge &
Robert Barclay in his Apology
tells us that the main purpose of Faith is revelation, always has been,
always should remain so. He also tells us that the Bible is NOT an
adequate foundation for our faith and practice, and while our leadings
may not differ with the scriptures, we should NOT test our leadings
against the scriptures. After all, the primitive Christians didn’t have
or need the New Testament. The Bible is NOT necessary for us to have in
order to walk with God. We learn that from what is often called “the
Old Testament”. As our early Friends pointed out Moses, Elisha, etc.,
etc., had no Bible. Indeed there are a great many non-Christians who,
according to the early Quakers, are members of the True Church of
Many Friends who call themselves “Orthodox”,
“modernized” their theology back in the 1800s to a new form of
Evangelical Wesleyan-ism. When they did, they dumped much of what made
Quakerism distinct, including the Bible-based doctrine of the Inward
Light. These Friends also liked to call themselves “progressive”
because they discarded traditional Barclay-ian Quakerism.
Traditionalist Yearly meetings retained the belief that the Light (God)
is indeed the same as it was when the first people walked the face of
this earth: available to all, to teach and lead. This is the Gospel,
the same Gospel which has not changed since the beginning of time. It
is the Good News. Always has been, always will be. This same Light will
be available after the Bible perishes, the churches and our
civilization all fall.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting meetings have been
overseeing gay marriages for over a generation (about 30 years) now.
All but one of the traditionalist, non-pastoral yearly meetings in
North America allow gay marriages, as does London Yearly meeting. I am
one of the Friends who married in this way under the care of a meeting
in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. We are celebrating our 40th anniversary
this year. There were over 200 people at our marriage celebration who
signed our certificate. They included the clerks of New England,
Baltimore and other Yearly Meetings. Most attenders were good Quakers.
Early Friends had a number of titles they liked for
themselves, one of which was “Publishers of Truth.” It seems to me that
the 17 yearly meetings in East Africa would do well to check their
facts more closely before publishing falsehoods and calling them
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Epistle to the FWCC World Conference from FLGBTQC
February 27, 2012
Dear Friends attending the World Conference of Friends 2012,
We send you love and support from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC). FLGBTQC is a faith community
within the Religious Society of Friends in North America that affirms
that of God in all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender
We share Friends’ conviction that there is that of God within each
person and uplift the focus of the World Conference of Friends on truth
telling, education, and doing God’s work.
Within Friends for LGBTQ Concerns, we are learning that radical
inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony. We
are called to share what we have come to know experientially: that we
are all children of God, that loving same sex relationships come from
the same divine source as heterosexual relationships, and that gifts of
ministry are distributed without regard to sexual orientation or gender
identity. We stand in a place of solidarity both with Friends
everywhere and with our brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, and queer. We are called to speak out against
discrimination or persecution on the basis of gender identity or sexual
orientation wherever it may occur.
We will hold you in prayer as you engage in God’s work of speaking your
truth and listening for the truth in the words spoken by others.
Kody Hersh and Wendy Sanford, co-clerks
Friends for LGBTQ Concerns
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