Indiana Yearly Meeting’s Minute on Homosexuality

January 10, 2012

For the Indiana Yearly Meeting Facebook Page:

Are you comfortable with Indiana Yearly Meeting’s 1982 Minute on Homosexuality? I am eager to hear what others have to say. I feel compelled to speak about my leadings in this matter, but I would very much like to hear from others.

I don’t see how this question can be side-stepped. If you are a member of Indiana Yearly Meeting, the 1982 Minute speaks for you every day. You cannot say “I wasn’t there in 1982,” or “I try not to pay too much attention to what the Yearly Meeting says; I focus on my own Friends Church.” The 1982 statement is still your statement. Your voice and life amplify it to the world. You cannot be a member of Indiana Yearly Meeting and not be under the weight and responsibility of this Minute today.

Because of my membership, I know I am tangled up in this Minute, and that troubles me daily. What I have posted on this Facebook page over the past several weeks reflect where my prayers and devotional readings are taking me, but/and I would like to hear from others in Indiana Yearly Meeting.

The Minute reads:
“Indiana Yearly Meeting believes homosexual practices to be contrary to the intent and will of God for humankind. We believe the Holy Spirit and Scriptures witness to this (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:21-32, I Corinthians 6:9-10, I Timothy 1:9-10).
“We further believe that, whatever our condition of sinfulness, forgiveness, redemption and whole are freely available through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 1:7)”

This is a very strong statement.

The Minute tells many human beings not just that they are not welcome among us, but that they are wrong, wrong to their core. It tells them that they should disown part of their identity as a person. And it cuts them off from the experience of love between themselves and other human beings.

If that Minute is not rightly ordered with God’s will, our proclaiming it causes significant harm and pain to others.

“Are you comfortable?” I learned many decades ago, is a gentle Quaker phrase of considerable steel and depth. It is the question clerks in business meetings often ask as they seek approval for a Minute. That question asks us to search within, to find that place that connects us to God, and ask whether the statement or action in question is aligned with God’s will as we understand it. “Are you comfortable” carries much more gravity for Friends than it does for others.

But once we approve a Minute, it speaks for us, and that question (are you comfortable?) must always be before us. The message contained in a Minute isn’t a message given once. Our comfort with it must be a continuing reality. So long as it is our Minute, it resonates and echoes through our lives and through the lives of others. Its blunt force cannot be bracketed or postponed until a later date.

I became a member of Indiana Yearly Meeting because I found at Richmond First Friends a worship community that nurtured my relationship with God. And yet as I transferred my membership to First Friends, I was aware that I was taking on responsibility for this 1982 Minute.

I am not comfortable with the 1982 Minute. I do not believe either the Scriptures or the Holy Spirit bear witness to the sinfulness of homosexual practices. I do not want the message board on Chester Boulevard outside First Friends to read “homosexuality practices are sinful.”

In Portland Friends Meeting this week, a Friend read the First Query from New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. It is headed “Spiritual Life,” and its questions are these:

• Do you live in thankful awareness of God’s constant presence in your life?
• Are you sensitive and obedient to leadings of the Holy Spirit?
• Do you seek to follow Jesus, who shows us the way?
• Do you nurture your spiritual life with prayer and silent waiting and with regular study of the Bible and other devotional literature?

And so I ask myself, does obedience to the Holy Spirit call on me to condemn homosexual practices? Is castigating homosexuality what Jesus is asking of me today in following Him? Does my study of the Bible lead me to conclude homosexuality is a sin?

I cannot answer yes to those questions, and so I am in a place of deep discomfort.

I doubt I am the only one. In 1994, IYM (that is to say, we) added a Minute that begins: “We acknowledge that the broad spectrum of Friends is not in unity on this issue. Furthermore, we recognize a diversity of beliefs exists within our own yearly meeting regarding the interpretation scripture on this subject and the causes and acceptability of homosexual practices.” That is, we acknowledged we were not in unity. And yet we continued to allow the 1982 Minute to be our message to the world.

This question, I believe, is more pressing than any other that is before us. I am eager to hear from others, that I may test my leadings and discernings in light of yours.

Today, what canst thou say? I ask, Are you comfortable with the IYM 1982 Minute on Homosexuality?

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
This entry was posted in Bible, Homosexuality, Sexuality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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