Shepherdstown Friends Meeting

Archive for Minutes

Quakers Take a Position Against Gun Violence

Thou shalt not kill. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well.

These are profound commandments of moral action present in the Bible.  In Quaker tradition, the testimonies of peace and non-violence counsel us to abhor violence of any kind. Thus we wholeheartedly support pleas for meaningful action on reasonable and rational gun-safety legislation, such as the Friends Council on Education letter of Jan 14, 2013.

Quakers include Democrats, Republicans and independents. We do not oppose gun ownership. Yet unfortunately, guns are often used to enforce one individual’s will against others through violence or threats of violence. We do oppose permitting guns in public areas where there are children. We oppose access to weapons that are never appropriate for civilized use. According to the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 80% of all gun deaths and 87% of all child deaths by guns occur in the US.

Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek is one of the most difficult commandments — difficult precisely because it runs counter to our instinctive nature when we are attacked by another person. Quaker testimony expresses Jesus’ transcendent conviction that the answer to violence is not more violence.  It is not an eye for eye, nor a tooth for a tooth.  Instead it is a path that turns away from fear, hate, and vengeance; that turns instead towards love, hope, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness.

Great religious leaders and philosophers throughout the ages teach essentially the same thing.  We Quakers find that message in our heart to reject violence. Peaceful conflict resolution practices are an attainable ideal. When our forebearers from out of the wilderness laid the foundation of the civilization they could only dream of, they agreed — even in the mythic “Old West” — to leave the guns outside the doors of civil society. In a democratic society, we affirm, under the rule of law, we will seek justice and the remedies to grievances of every kind through civil means, not shoot it out in the street.

This present epidemic of gun violence has deep roots involving many social issues: mental health, culture, social inequalities, poverty and more.  These issues must be addressed. Peaceful conflict resolution is a sober process of distinguishing the positions people take from their real interests.  It requires wisdom and patience to see common ground amidst apparently irreconcilable positions.

Violence is not only about guns, and gun violence is not only about mass killings. However the first step toward a commitment to peace, to an end to violence, is “leaving the guns at the doors” when we sit down to resolve conflict. That does not make the solution easy politically. But the absence of perfect solutions is no excuse for us to give up hope.

We ask that every political and faith leader go on record, now, and lend their voice to urgent effective action to reduce gun violence and insure that current and future generations may live and learn in our country free from the threat of gun violence. Do not remain silent.

Adopted by Shepherdstown Friends Meeting (WV), on January 20, 2013

A Welcome to All People

Shepherdstown Friends extend a welcoming to the wider Shepherdstown community. We invite all who wish to join our Sunday morning Meetings for Worship regardless of religious affiliation and background, whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, or other religion, or no religious belief at all. A sincere desire—or simply a respectful curiosity—to join us in an unprogrammed meeting, based on prayerful meditation after the manner of Friends, is reason enough to attend.

For more than 350 years Friends’ tradition has affirmed the spiritual unity of all people. We cherish the belief that there is that of God in each person, leading us to respect the worth and dignity of all. The Light is present in every human and we seek to embrace it without distinction. This same Light enlightened Jesus of Nazareth and enlightened all great teachers of wisdom. This fact is true regardless of a person’s physical traits or cultural particulars—ethnicity, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, political belief, illness, ability or disability, legal status, or any other distinctions that are commonly drawn to divide people.

All of us are children of God. All are equal in the sight of God. American Friends witnessed this equality in the 17th century by recognizing both male and female ministers in their meetings—in the 18th century by peaceful and fair relations with Native Americans—in the 19th century by efforts to resist and abolish slavery—in the 20th century in the movement for woman’s suffrage and racial desegregation. In the present, Friends witness equality by welcoming gays and lesbians to full participation in society, including marriage. We welcome immigrants regardless of citizen status and affirm their human rights. In all centuries, Friends have opposed war and maintained a commitment to nonviolent engagement as the surest path to resolving conflict.

Shepherdstown Friends Meeting aspires to be a loving community inclusive of the wide diversity of the surrounding national community. Each member and attender has the responsibility to foster that welcoming spirit. We acknowledge that the achievement of our spiritual goals is a lifelong process. Our goal of seeking unity will succeed in proportion to our willingness as individuals to honor our differences as we seek unity and to resist prejudice, discrimination, and injustice. Our ability to do that will succeed in proportion to our ability to seek and find that of God in everyone.

 Affirmed by Shepherdstown Allowed Meeting, 10 January 2010

On Gender and Sexual Equality

Robert Barclay, Ester Biddle, and other early Friends of the 17th century quoted and paraphrased many times the opening verses of the First Epistle of John 1:1-4 to express their experience of the Divine Presence in their lives and the fruits of the Spirit in their communities:

We proclaim what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the gift of life. This gift was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it. This gift is a word that has spoken to our condition. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

21st century Friends in Baltimore Yearly Meeting find these words express our experience of the Light (the gift of life) shining through the lives of Friends whose sexualities do not conform to the expectations of general society, because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and because they find that to live otherwise would be a lie. These dear Friends have worshiped and labored with us as vital members of our Monthly Meetings and our Yearly Meeting. We testify that their presence is a gift among us. We have witnessed the fruits of the Spirit that these treasured Friends have generously shared with us.

We Friends remember the persecution that our Quaker forbearers suffered in earlier centuries for their acts of nonconformity motivated by conscience and their commitment to the truth. Mindful of our heritage and in steadfast growing love, we in Baltimore Yearly Meeting stand in support of full equality – including marriage – for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, and work for the elimination of all policies and actions that diminish their dignity, malign their spiritual worth, or deny their loving relationships.

We acknowledge that many Friends elsewhere in the US, and the world, have not personally known gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender persons, and, lacking experiences akin to ours, have difficulty with this testimony. Many do not share our vision of equality, justice, and peace for nonconforming sexual orientations and gender identities. Because of these facts, we in Baltimore Yearly Meeting will continue to labor with other Friends on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Friends by participation in all our existing memberships in Friends’ associations – as imperfect as each of them is – towards a generous, compassionate vision of the loving community.

Shepherdstown Friends Meeting endorsed this minute at a specially called Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, on 21 Nov. 2010