I write from the Friends General Conference, the gathering of liberal Quakers in North America, which meets this week in Blacksburg, Virgina at VA Tech. In addition to co-leading a workshop with Kody Hersh, I plan on attending as many talks and worship sessions as possible.
Yesterday I heard ‘Ben’ Pink Dandelion speak on Quaking with Confidence. He believes Friends have every reason to be confident and to share what we have with others. Our good news is that we have a practice, silent worship, and a confidence, that we can each individually as well as corporately, get guidance from the divine, God, the Light (whatever word you may use). We have the confidence that in our mostly silent worship, something happens–we change, we grow, we connect, we become better people, more aware, more engaged with the world. Good news indeed.
I also attended the worship hosted by the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns (the FLGBTQC–or as one Friend talk me, the Flibbity Gibbits). This group has met since the early 70’s, plenty of the original members still take part, and have developed a deep, centered worship time that at each FGC gathering meets for an hour each day from 4:30-5:30, much of that in silent listening and waiting.
Years ago when I first began performing my Homo No Mo play (availible at Quaker books 🙂 I briefly dated a Lutheran pastor very involved in a group called Lutherans Concerned. Not knowing the first thing about most LGBT faith groups, I still remember the moment in his car when I turned to him to asked, “Yes, but what are you all concerned about?” “Oh about LGBT issues,” he explained, athough he may have thought I was joking.
It’s a really great name “Lutherans Concerned.” I have since run into other LGBTQ faith groups with general sounding names where it is not apparent immediately what they do. There is Evangelicals Concerned, the Human Rights Campaign and in the UK they have Changing Attitudes.
What I like most about these names is that they don’t tie us down to ONE issue. Sure these groups focus on LGBT issues (more GL–in that order–and to a much lesser degree BT) but who’s to say that Lutherans can’t be and aren’t concerned about something else like homelessness (as the very queer trans Lutheran minister Megan Rohrer is) or that Evangelicals cannot be concerned about prison reform, assylum seekers and immigrants or the environment.
Among the queer Quakers of the FLGBTQC I know that many individuals carry leadings and burdens to do all sorts of work that do not directly affect LGBTQ people. John Calvi, aka my queer Quaker Daddy, who I wrote about recently, has been very active in the anti-torture movement. Many of the people I know from this group have one if not several issues for which they have felt leadings to do more, to organize, to get involved.
In the US where I live there is a constant fight for LGBTQ rights with some genuine advances and setbacks. After the mulitple failings of ENDA two years ago and the introduction of a new and improved Employment Non-Discrimination Act that now INCLUDES gender-expression/identity, LGB(T) groups have a chance to express active concern for transgender people. (Check out the Transgender Law Center to see how you can get involved).
As we gain more rights and security for LGBTQ people in the US, when and how do we look beyond ourselves to concerns in the wider world? These individual callings and burdens that we have–literacy, clean water, health care, elder rights and care, etc–when and how do the organizations we belong to grow in such a way to take on one ore more of these concerns?