Clerk warns of separation if ‘way forward cannot be found’
Members of 28 Friends meetings in Ohio and Tennessee gather next week for what “may someday be remembered as the most important days in living memory for Wilmington Yearly Meeting.” Presiding Clerk Dave Goff announced the annual-session business focus in a letter sent last month and offered that if a way forward cannot be found on marriage equality, “We may need to begin the process of a separation.”
In the discussions, scheduled to start Friday, at least one proposal under consideration will be to allow “each monthly meeting to chart its own course on sensitive and complex issues.” The minute, proposed by Fairview Monthly Meeting, “advises that the yearly meeting not discipline any monthly meeting for their stand on such issues.”
“There are some meetings and some individuals who strongly believe that the time has come for Wilmington Yearly Meeting to endorse ‘Marriage Equality,’ or at the very least to allow those who strongly believe this way to practice their beliefs without disciplinary consequences,” Goff wrote. “Others would be inclined to discipline those meetings who have openly conducted same-gender marriages, or who have said that they will do so if opportunity arises. One meeting has unilaterally performed a same-gender marriage regardless of the opinion of the Wilmington Yearly Meeting or its affiliated monthly meetings. There are some who think they should be disciplined in some way. Many others believe they should be left alone to do as they believe is right.”
Marriage equality first came to the floor of Wilmington Yearly Meeting for action in 1978: “A concern came from Friendsville Monthly Meeting to Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel regarding a letter, sent to many meetings, from Gay Concerns Committee of Philadelphia Meeting…. Ministry and Counsel recommended this concern for response be referred to the Committee on Public Morals for study and report.”
The Public Morals Committee produced six position papers and released its findings in 1979: “The issue of homosexuality will not go away. The Committee suggests that Yearly Meeting members clarify their own views through study and openness and a waiting on the Spirit. Compassion should be shown to homosexuals.”
The yearly meeting received another request in 1990 to “discuss this issue and formulate a statement.” Then in 1997, “a statement on same gender marriages was adopted with representatives of Community, Wilmington, Eastern Hills and Dover Meetings and five individuals recorded as ‘standing aside.’” Friends approved the statement as a working document.
Campus Friends supports marriage equality and leadership there has encouraged the yearly meeting “to trust monthly meetings to make their own decisions about this issue.”
Cincinnati Monthly Meeting identifies as an Open and Affirming congregation.
Community Monthly Meeting is no longer part of Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
Eastern Hills Monthly Meeting “now holds to a position of favoring marriage equality,” according to leaders there “and would choose marriage equality over membership in Wilmington Yearly Meeting if forced to make a choice.”
Wilmington Monthly Meeting has a Statement on Equality on its website.
Documents from Wilmington Yearly Meeting:
A summary of the use of “working documents” by Wilmington Yearly Meeting from 1970-2013 Minutes that were approved without unity by Wilmington Yearly Meeting from 1970-2013 Minutes on the topic of same-gender relationships by Wilmington Yearly Meeting from 1970-2013
- Fairview Friends Monthly Meeting minute for Yearly Meeting
- Letter from Presiding Clerk Dave Goff regarding this year’s agenda for business