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Posts Tagged ‘Quaker’

Clegg joins campaign for gay marriage in church

In Marriage and family on July 6, 2012 at 8:40 am

The fight for gay equality won a boost today after Nick Clegg revealed he will push for same-sex marriages in church.

The deputy prime minister told the Evening Standard that religious organisations should have the choice to hold same-sex weddings if they wanted.

“I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage,” he said.

The comment takes the prime minister’s promise to legalise gay civil marriages one step further. Under the present consultation on gay marriage there is no option for willing churches to be able to hold same-sex ceremonies.

Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper held a conference in Westminster with leaders from the Quakers, Church of England and liberal Jews to push for gay marriages in church.

“I have a very strong sensation that once the dust settles everyone will look back and think, ‘what on earth was the controversy about?'” Clegg said.

“It just seems a perfectly natural thing to do. I don’t think it is anything to get hot under the collar about, or aggressive or polemical.”

However, the topic is still causing deep rifts within religious organisations and Tory MPs.

Canon Chris Sugden of the pressure group Anglican Mainstream said: “If you remove gender from marriage, then nobody ends up married.”

– Politics UK.

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UK Religious Leaders Launch Campaign to Back Civil Gay Marriage

In Marriage and family on July 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

Religious figures who support gay marriage will today launch a fightback against church leaders who have come out against same-sex marriage.

Representatives from the Church of England, liberal Jews, the Quakers and the Unitarian and Free Church will join forces at Westminster to declare their backing for the Government’s plans to legalise civil gay marriage, which have provoked strong opposition from leaders of the Anglican and Catholic churches.

Some faiths want the Coalition to go further by giving churches the freedom to carry out religious same-sex marriage.

Those attending the conference will include Giles Fraser, a priest who resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral last autumn following the Occupy protests; Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans; Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for the Quakers; Rabbi Roderick Young; Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches; and the Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

Mr Parker said the Quakers believe that all committed relationships are of equal worth.

“The new proposals allow civil partnerships in Quaker meeting houses, but that is not a marriage; it is a legal contract, not a spiritual one,” he said. “We don’t seek to impose this on anyone else. For Quakers this is an issue of religious freedom.”

Rabbi Young, who will represent the Movement for Reform Judaism at the conference, said: “The proposal to extend civil marriage to gays and lesbians is greatly to be applauded. However it is not enough. It is a bizarre situation when lesbian and gay rabbis may perform a legal religious marriage for heterosexual couples, but are denied the right to experience that joy for themselves with their partners.”

Today’s meeting has been organised by Labour, which backs David Cameron and Nick Clegg in their efforts to bring in gay marriage, despite vocal opposition from many Conservative MPs. Labour also wants the Government to give churches the freedom to carry out religious same-sex marriages – without forcing them to do so by law.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said last night: “Many religious organisations and people within different faiths support same-sex marriage.

“Whilst opposition from some church leaders has been strong, other prominent church figures are supporting same-sex marriage. It should be recognised that there are many views within and between different faiths. If you believe in religious freedom, those organisations that do want to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies should be allowed to do so.”

She said Mr Cameron must not be deterred by opposition within his own party and beyond and urged him to call an early debate in Parliament rather than stall on the issue.

The Government is expected to reject the calls to allow churches to “opt in” to religious same-sex marriage, a proposal which could fuel the Conservative revolt on the issue.

But church leaders fear the planned civil marriage law would spark legal challenges in the European Court of Human Rights by gay rights campaigners, which would force churches to conduct religious same-sex marriage against their will.

– more at  The Independent.

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Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

In Trans Issues on July 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm
Jemima Wilkinson / Publick Universal Friend (Wikimedia Commons)

Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago today on July 1, 1819.

Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” The breakaway Quaker preacher spoke against slavery and gave medical care to both sides in the Revolutionary War.

It’s especially appropriate to consider the Publick Universal Friend now with Independence Day coming up on July 4. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender.

– full report at Jesus in Love blog

Wilkinson was 24 when she had a severe fever leading to a near-death experience. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world. She insisted on being called the Publick Universal Friend or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or use gendered pronouns.

The preacher and prophet known as “the Friend” defies categorization. The Friend has been labeled a “spiritual transvestite” and is on lists of “famous asexuals” and “a gender variance Who’s Who.” As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous Friend was many things to many people.

Jemima Wilkinson was born to a Quaker family in Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 1752. She showed a strong interest in religion while growing up. On Oct. 13, 1776, the Sunday after her rebirth, the Friend’s gave a public sermon for the first time. Quaker officials rejected the Friend as a heretic, but s/he went on to preach throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The Friend blended traditional Christian warnings about sin and redemption with Quaker pacifism, abolitionism, plain dress and peaceful relations with Native American Indians. Women had no legal rights in the United States, but the Friend advocated equality of the sexes. The Friend was a firm believer in sexual abstinence.

People were drawn not only to this progressive message, but also to the Friend’s forceful personality and genderbending appearance. S/he rejected standard women’s attire and hairdos for a unique blend of male and female. The Friend commonly wore a flowing black male clergy gown with female petticoats peeking out at the hem. The Friend’s long hair hung loose to the shoulder. The rest of the Friend’s outfit often included a man’s broad-brimmed hat and women’s colorful scarves.

The first recruits were family members, but the Friend soon attracted a diverse group of followers, including intellectual and economic elites as well as the poor and oppressed. Known as the Universal Friends, they upset some people by proclaiming that the Friend was “the Messiah Returned” or “Christ in Female Form.” The Friend did not make such claims directly.

The Friend founded the Society of Universal Friends in 1783. Members pooled their money and started a utopian communal settlement in the wilderness near Seneca Lake in upstate New York in 1788. As the first settlers in the region, they cleared the land and became the first white people to meet and trade with the Native Americans there. By 1790 the community had grown to a population of 260.

Hostile observers put the Friend on trial for blasphemy in 1800, but the court ruled that American courts could not try blasphemy cases due to the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution. The Friend was a pioneer in establishing freedom of speech and freedom of religion in American law.

Like other isolated utopian communities based on celibacy, the Society of Universal Friends dwindled. The Friend “left time,” as the Universal Friends put it, on July 1, 1819 at age 61. The organization disintegrated within a few years of the founder’s death.

The Publick Universal Friend continues to fascinate people today. One of the most authoritative biographies of this mysterious person is Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey Jr. In recent years the life and work of the Friend has been examined by feminists and LGBTQ scholars, including gay historian Michael Bronski in his new Lambda Literary Award-winning book, A Queer History of the United States.
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Related links:
Chapter on Jemima Wilkinson from “Saints, Sinners and Reformers” by John H. Martin(Crooked Lake Review)

The Assumption of Jemima Wilkinson by Sharon V. Betcher (Journal of Millenial Studies)
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

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