Reparations: addressing harm and restoring right relationships
4 October 2023 by Ginny Baumann
Quakers in Britain are an LGBTQ+ affirming faith group. We all have human gifts and friendship to offer and we believe that all can equally access the divine.
The Student Christian Movement suggests these questions to ask as part of their Honest Church campaign. We're answering them here from a national perspective but you are welcome to contact the clerk of the Quaker meeting you are hoping to attend or email firstname.lastname@example.org with further questions. You can find contact details of meetings near you on our Find a Quaker meeting page.
Yes, there are many openly LGBTQ+ Quakers. This includes people you might encounter in a Quaker meeting, people who serve on local and national committees, and people in public-facing roles on both staff and as Quaker representatives on external groups. Quakers do not ask or restrict people from giving service on the basis of gender or sexuality.
Yes. Quakers in Britain celebrate with equal joy the marriages of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. In 2009 we started campaigning for the right to marry same-sex couples in Quaker meetings for worship. These became legal in 2014.
The current wording of the declarations made by the couple is:
Friends, I take this my friend . . . . . . . . . . . [full name] to be my spouse, promising, through divine assistance, to be unto him/her/[commonly used name] a loving and faithful spouse, so long as we both on earth shall live.
The declaration may be prefaced by 'In the presence of God' or 'In the fear of the Lord and in the presence of this assembly'. The word 'spouse' may be replaced by 'wife' or 'husband' as appropriate or by 'partner in marriage'. The phrase 'through divine assistance' may be replaced by the words 'with God's help'. The phrase 'so long as we both on earth shall live' may be replaced by the words 'until it shall please the Lord by death to separate us'.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are sacred gifts and LGBTQ+ relationships are affirmed and celebrated. Quakers do not ask or restrict people from giving service on the basis of gender or sexuality. There are LGBTQ+ Quakers who serve on local and national committees, and in public-facing roles on both staff and as Quaker representatives on external groups.
Quakers also understand conversion therapy to be a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Freedom of religion or belief cannot be used to justify it.
Quaker commitments to inclusion are based on discernment through our local and national structures. Discernment is a Spirit-led process of communal decision-making which all Quakers can participate in. Local Quaker meetings may also have created statements of welcome or be part of bodies such as One Body One Faith or Inclusive Church.
At our Yearly Meeting in 2021 Quakers nationally set out an explicit affirmation and welcome for trans, non-binary and gender diverse people. Before this, Quaker discernment around LGBTQ+ inclusion tended to focus on marriage and the equal celebration of committed relationships. In 2009 Quakers in Britain formally recognised same-sex marriage and began to campaign to change the law. Same-sex marriage became legally possible in 2014.
How we understand, think and act on inclusion necessarily changes over time. We are learning and growing together as we continue to live out the Quaker testimony to equality as a loving and faithful community.
Generally yes, the vast majority of Quakers are supportive of trans people and their right to live as their authentic selves. Quakers have more to do to truly be inclusive and recognise the need to keep listening and learning together.
Discussions and reflections around gender diversity among British Quakers have not always been easy in recent years. The conflict associated with the consideration of legislation reform in Britain has been reflected among Quakers.
In 2021 Quakers in Britain affirmed trans and gender diverse Friends and committed to providing “places of worship and community that are welcoming and supportive to trans and non-binary people" and that work continues. This includes young Quakers who all have an equal right to participate in Quaker events and experience belonging in Quaker community.