Testimony Equality within Quakers
Our life is love and peace and tenderness; and bearing one with another and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another and helping one another up with a tender hand.
(Isaac Penington, 1667)
The Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) originated in the 17th century as a movement to return to the original spiritual basis of Christianity, free of ritual and hierarchy. With their belief in 'that of God' in every person Quakers quickly became known for their equal treatment of all people especially those who were disadvantaged or persecuted.
At the centre of the Quaker religious experience is the consistently held belief in the equal worth of all people. Our common humanity transcends our differences. We aspire not to say or do anything or condone any statements, actions or situations which imply a lack of respect for the humanity and human rights of any person or people.
Early concerns about the equal treatment of women and children and about prison conditions have continued to this day. A strong commitment to pacifism was followed by conscientious objection to military service. In the 19th century Quakers were involved in the movement to abolish slavery, and, in Australia were and still are concerned for the right treatment of Aboriginal people.
Quakers and homosexuality
Quakers supported the establishment of Queensland's first openly homosexual organisation, CAMP Inc, in 1971. In 1975 Quakers officially stated:
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia calls for a change in the laws ... to eliminate discrimination against homosexuals. This statement is made in the light of the Society's desire to remove discrimination and persecution in the community. The Society also calls on all people to seek more knowledge and understanding of the diversity of human relationships and to affirm the worth of love in all of them.
(Yearly Meeting 1975 Minute 23)
There followed further discussion in the Society over the next decades. Statements were made supporting gay and lesbian people and indicating that some Quaker Meetings wish to support their committed relationships.
Quakers and relationships
By 1994 Quakers were ready to clarify their attitude to committed relationships.
The Religious Society of Friends has always recognised that the Spirit of God dwells in every person, and we believe that this is regardless of gender or sexual orientation (Yearly Meeting 1995 Minute 16).
Committed, same-sex relationships are as valuable as other committed and loving relationships.
Formal celebration of commitment between the partners in a relationship is possible when at least one person is a participant in a Meeting. The clerk of the Meeting will be able to discuss with couples what arrangements may be necessary for such a celebration.
Friends' spiritual experience has led us to a concern for personal integrity, social justice and for peace. We try to bring our lives and actions into conformity with our beliefs.
Quakers believe that there is 'that of God' in everyone and that all people have the same privileges and responsibilities regardless of race, age, creed, gender or sexual orientation. We value all people and affirm the power and joy of all truly loving relationships.
We hope that gay and lesbian people who are searching for truth will continue to find a spiritual home in the Religious Society of Friends. We also hope that our whole community will outgrow its intolerance of differences in sexual orientation and understand that we are all loved by God.
Friends of Lesbians and Gay Concerns group
Sydney, John Dingle
Brisbane, Duncan Frewin
Further information on Gays and Lesbians within the Religious Society of Friends.