Minute: New England Yearly Meeting on Sexual Orientation

New England Yearly Meeting

Minute 04-74

Minute 04-74 is not an action minute, but one which describes our unity on this concern about the exclusion from leadership roles of non-celibate unmarried couples, whether they be heterosexual, gay or lesbian Friends. Also enclosed is a summary of Friends United Meeting’s personnel policy.

04-74. Friends heard the second draft of the Friends United Meetings minute of exercise and asked to include explicit reference to FUM’s hiring policy and practices.

Minute of Exercise on FUM’s Personnel Policy Concerns

New England Yearly Meeting Friends gathered at our annual sessions reaffirm our belonging to Friends United Meeting, not only as co-founders, and firmly led co-participants in its ministries, but as Friends whose faith has been strengthened and recharged by God’s presence in our worship, work, and fellowship with FUM Friends. FUM remains one of the most important places where we meet Friends who challenge our beliefs, and where African, Latin-American, Middle Eastern, and North American Friends meet face to face, growing in love and understanding. Since the 1940s when we were called to re-unite our previously separated Yearly Meetings, and since the early ’90s when we developed special bonds of love and mutual ministry with Cuba Yearly Meeting we have learned to live with our differences, and we have come to feel how painful it would be to live in isolation from other Friends.

At the same time that we cherish our membership and participation in FUM, many of us are troubled by FUM’s personnel policies and practices, which exclude non-celibate gays and lesbians, and unmarried heterosexual couples from leadership roles. Within NEYM we have struggled for years with same-gender marriage, and while support is not universal, we have watched as Friends’ understanding of the truth has grown to include the belief that individuals’ sexual orientation is no measure of their ability to express God’s love through committed long-term relationships.

In the same vein, over the years we have grown to understand that God’s gifts of ministry and leadership are bestowed with no consideration of sexual orientation or marital status. Indeed we have been blessed countless times by the ministry and leadership of those who would not be allowed to serve under the FUM policies.

While some are hurt, and some are angry, we are “all” troubled by the lack of unity on this issue. In the interest of creating a more perfect world, gospel order requires us to seek together for God’s will, and for the love, which has been wounded by our differences.

We invite the FUM Board to come again to New England, to work among us, to worship and be hosted by all of us, to see our lives speaking. We make ourselves available to be invited to worship and testify among FUM Friends, and among other yearly and monthly meetings about these concerns.

As we continue discernment within NEYM, we ask the General Board of FUM to consider, as we have at NEYM 2004 Sessions, “Who is your neighbor?” Jesus taught us that love and compassion for the neighbor who does not look like us is more important than the written law.

Friends approved the minute.

New England YM representatives to the Friends United Meeting General Board were charged to carry our concern during the upcoming FUM Board meeting. We direct that this minute of exercise be sent to our monthly meetings and quarterly meetings under the care of the Ministry & Counsel working party on FUM’s personnel policy concerns, accompanied by whatever other materials seems necessary for consideration. We expect M&C to bring a minute based on the discernment over the year to the 2005 Sessions.