Letters - 22 March 2019

From the YFGM statement to encouraging Young Friends

YFGM statement

As gender-concerned Friends we read YFGM’s statement with interest. We believe biological sex is a material reality, not ‘assigned at birth’. Our sex determines the gendered way in which patriarchal society seeks to limit us. But we also believe that our testimony to equality empowers us to challenge damaging ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ stereotypes.

We share YFGM’s conviction that, whether or not our lives accord with traditional stereotypes, everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and without discrimination. We agree that Friends need to educate themselves with current debates about sex and gender.

But we cannot affirm ‘the right of everyone to selfidentify their gender, recognising all genders as valid and real’. Asking us to believe a person must be whoever they say they are is a demand to abandon truth and discernment. Self-identification opens the doors to individuals who would abuse the legal right to create new identities. This could create risks for the safety of children, women and other vulnerable groups.

Traditionally Quakers have excelled in the difficult field of conflict resolution. However, discord cannot simply be resolved by affirming that: ‘There is no conflict between trans inclusion, feminism, and liberation from gender roles and stereotypes. We do not support the use of Meeting houses to host events which claim otherwise.’

Our belief is that the promptings of love and truth take many forms. We shouldn’t seek to cut short a debate that has significant implications for Quakers and for society as a whole.

Diane Brewster (Lewes Meeting), on behalf of the Gender Concerned Quakers Group

No ‘God’

I want to acknowledge that it is indeed tough, for some, to witness the demise of references to ‘God’ in Quaker literature and other Quaker exchanges (8 March). However, it is tough for Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) too, in trying to establish our identity in an appropriate way to the era in which we live.

I certainly do not see the absence of any reference to ‘God’ as a denial of our true colours or a form of ‘insidious de-spiritualising’ of BYM.

For Friends like me, other terms are needed, if not instead of, then at least in addition to the use of ‘God’ language, to refer to that power which is greater than self; the divine spirit that embraces and connects all sentient beings. We need to be able to recognise a form of spiritual identity that means more to us than what sometimes feels like anachronistic associations with the term ‘God’. We seek a language that reaches out to the deeply spiritual, as well as ‘religious’, seekers of today. The planned revision of Quaker faith & practice would seem an ideal opportunity to broaden our identity without chucking out the best of our heritage. This issue is also admirably addressed in two other places in the 8 March inspiring edition of the Friend: firstly, the article reviving the concept of ‘a testimony to community’ by Terry Hobday and also Roger Iredale’s review of Peter Jarman’s investigation of the meaning of God, prayer and spiritual experience.

Susan Holden

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