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British Quakers accept homosexuality

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2013

“An act which expresses true affection between two individuals and gives pleasure to them both, does not seem to us to be sinful by reason alone of the fact that it is homosexual.”

“Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters: one must not judge it by its outward appearance but by its inner worth. Homosexual affection can be as selfless as heterosexual affection, and therefore we cannot see that it is in some way morally worse.” Or so the Religion Society of Friends (the Quakers) in Britian say in their book Towards a Quaker View of Sex.

Okay, it’s not exactly a revolutionary statement, but it certainly was 50 years ago when they published the book. (Guardian)

To mark the anniversary, the Quakers, officially known as the Religious Society of Friends, held a meeting in a hall in London on Friday to hear the sole surviving member of the group that produced the publication explain how it came about.

Keith Wedmore, now 81 and a retired barrister based in California, was among a group of 11 Quaker authors, also taking in psychiatrists, psychologists and teachers, gathered together by the Cambridge zoologist, Anna Bidder, in 1957 to consider issues surrounding homosexuality. Wedmore, then aged just 25, was himself bisexual and deeply aware of the pressures facing gay people after having discovered, several years earlier, the body of a fellow undergraduate who had gassed himself.

“We examined each issue completely freely, and you don’t often get a chance to do that.”

The initial remit of homosexuality soon widened, he said: “We realised we couldn’t do that in isolation. They, we, aren’t some kind of strange breed where the rules apply to them alone. So we started thinking: what is a relationship, what is bad and what is good, and came to this famous conclusion.”

The conclusion was virtually unprecedented for the era, and still significantly more definitive than most religious organisations can manage half a century later.

Comments

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Roy Dalgleish
September 15th, 2013 | LINK

Timothy,

I know I’m being a REAL pedant,, but Quaker Oats actually has nothing to do with us Quakers – funny, considering just how many well known brands were actually started by Quakers.

Such is life.

Nice anyway, that someone noticed we haven;t cared about people’s gender when marrying them, for years really. Commitment and love are, in the end, all that matters.

Erp
September 15th, 2013 | LINK

Roy, I was going to be the pedant if you hadn’t beaten me. However I’m not sure a pair of Clarks shoes would trigger the right association.

Other yearly meetings of the Society of Friends haven’t necessarily reached the same understanding (notably many of the African yearly meetings or the programmed American yearly meetings).

Joseph Singer
September 15th, 2013 | LINK

Just in case you did not know, The Quaker Oats Company has no affiliation whatsoever with the society of Quakers.

MattNYC
September 16th, 2013 | LINK

Go Quakers! (Especially the University of Pennsylvania ones :)

In all seriousness, that is pretty amazing. I’ll have to root around, but this must be the earliest public show of support by an organized religious group–the only ones that could possibly be earlier might be the Unitarians (I don’t think Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism made statements until the 70s).

Roy Dalgleish
September 16th, 2013 | LINK

I found Keith Wedmore’s words uplifting, but in fact, I found the original wording of the report even more so.

“It is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters; one must not judge by its outward appearance, but by its inner worth.

Homosexual affection may of course be an emotion which some find aesthetically disgusting, but one cannot base Christian morality on the capacity for such disgust. Neither are we happy with the thought that all homosexual behaviour is sinful; motive and circumstances degrade and ennoble any act…

We see no reason why the physical nature of a sexual act should be the criterion by which the question whether or not it is moral should be decided. An act which (for example) expresses true affection between two individuals and gives pleasure to them both, does not seem to us to be sinful by reason alone of the fact that it is homosexual. The same criteria seem to us to apply whether a relationship is heterosexual or homosexual”.

Towards a Quaker view of sex, 1963

Put simply, get your agenda out of the biology and consider the intent of the act. Surprisingly bold a perspective for 1963!

Ian Charles
September 16th, 2013 | LINK

The Quakers were one of the main groups pushing for marriage quality in the UK. Thanks to them religious groups can officiate same sex marriages. With the exception of the CofE because they got all stupid about it. Oh well.

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