And: How do I find an LGBTQ+-friendly Quaker meeting?
If there’s a Quaker meeting in your community, there’s a simple way to find out if it’s queer-friendly: Check their website for a statement recognizing LGBTQ+ people and affirming their relationships, or ask a Friend there if the meeting has ever recorded a minute along those lines. The existence of such a minute is a clear indication that the meeting has given serious consideration to the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community and welcomes queer folks.
You may find out that members of that meeting have proposed such a minute, but the meeting has never found consensus around it. In that case, at least you’ll know that some Friends there understand why you’re looking for an affirming space—and maybe those Friends can offer you the supportive environment you seek. If the meeting has never discussed such a minute, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hostile to LGBTQ+ people—it could just indicate that they’ve never felt a particular urgency to show their support. It’s up to you whether you want to spend more time with them and discern whether that’s due to passive indifference or active intolerance.
Quakers’ views on LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships vary from one Friends community to another, and sometimes within communities. In 2017, for example, different convictions regarding LGBTQ+ leaders and marriages led to the separation of two Christ-centered Quaker groups in the northwestern United States, Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends and Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends. Similar disputes have also taken place in other yearly meetings in Indiana and North Carolina.
Though these cases show that not every Christ-centered Quaker meeting in the United States refuses to accept LGBTQ+ relationships, given the conservative tendencies of such meetings, a focus on “traditional” Christianity can be an early sign of where Friends in a given meeting stand on the subject. Friends United Meeting, an association of Christ-centered Friends that works in the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, and North America supports civil rights for everyone, including LGBTQ people—but the FUM personnel manual stipulates that its staff and volunteers must only have sex within a marriage consisting of one man and one woman. Some yearly meetings in FUM support that restriction, while others oppose it, some so strongly that they are reconsidering their relationship with FUM.
Other Christ-centered Quakers try to find a middle ground, akin to the “hate the sin, love the sinner” arguments made in other Christian denominations. The proposed 2021 draft of Faith and Practice of Evangelical Friends International/ Mid-America Yearly Meeting, for example, states:
“Friends uphold a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. As such, Friends believe that homosexuality goes against our God-given sexual nature. This stance does not limit the ability or calling on Friends to love each person as one in whom that of God dwells. We willingly stand in the gap and hold this tension as part of our mission to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Meanwhile, theologically liberal Quakers, such as those in the Friends General Conference, tend to be more fully accepting of LGBTQ+ partnerships and individuals. For example, FGC has a high school liaison between its organization and Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Concerns. The liaison coordinates an affinity group to offer acceptance and establish community for people of all sexualities and gender identities at FGC’s yearly weeklong Gathering.
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Concerns is a community of North American Friends that convenes bi-annually to worship and build community. They have a winter gathering and also meet at the Friends General Conference Gathering in the summer. They also hold monthly virtual worship.
Outside the United States, many Quakers are accepting of LGBTQ+ people and their relationships. In the United Kingdom, for example, Friends began expressing such affirming views as early as the 1960s. “It is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters,” said one groundbreaking pamphlet from that era. “The same criteria seem to us to apply whether a relationship is heterosexual or homosexual.” Quaker communities in African nations such as Kenya, however, have explicitly condemned same-sex relationships and other “gender perversions” as “immoral.”
“If you don’t quite fit in the structures of this world, if you find yourself in conflict and resistance with them, if you find that the power structures of this world shut you out from a lot of resources or authority or self-determination, you are a central figure in the kingdom of God.”