As a student at Earlham College in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I felt the need for a conversation between people within Quakerism who accepted gay and lesbian Friends and those who felt homosexuality was sinful. When I returned to Earlham to work in the late ’90s, my re-arrival in Indiana to rejoin the Earlham community — this time as an out employee — catalyzed a leading to conduct a research project and write a book on the subject.
The intent was to lift up views on all sides, to build bridges for conversation on an otherwise divisive topic. While in Indiana, I received two grants to aid in the project, but the work itself didn’t begin till I moved to North Carolina, where in fall of 2003 I traveled around the country and interviewed about 150 Friends. I offer the book in a spirit of unity, love, respect, and listening among Friends.
What Others Say about the Book:
This is a close look at how pain and conflict can be better understood when a tone of reverence and respect is used. One can see how this conflict is constructed and how it can be dismantled — a rare treat in our society. Kirsten Bohl has accomplished a full portrait by much careful work and records a historic shift among Quakers in the US. — John Calvi
Whenever we encounter great differences in experience and attitude around an issue, the safest way to begin to build a bridge of understanding is by saying, “This is my experience and this is how I feel.” By presenting a range of voices speaking in this way, Kirsten offers a valuable foundation for building bridges across the gaps in our understanding of one another around the topic of same-sex attraction. –Fran Taber
George Fox says he came to know the leadings of God “experimentally” or by direct experience. He had to feel his way into knowing the human condition, including his own, by listening, by trying out in action the principles that seemed most truthful to him. He learned how to live obediently, with integrity. Many Quakers share that understanding of religious faith and its implications in action that arise from direct experience.
Kirsten Bohl has composed a book which approaches a fundamental question for Quakers at this time: is there a place for gay people in the life of the Religious Society of Friends? She has done so by asking the right questions and painstakingly recorded the answers. The broadest range of Quakers are represented here, from evangelical to liberal and their responses recorded in their own words. Among these are Friends who believe homosexuality is sinful and forbidden in scripture, and Friends who believe that learning to love others faithfully (even the sinners) opens us to receiving all people striving to live with integrity and openness, into the Religious Society of Friends.
This book explores key “testimonies” of Friends as they can throw light on how gay and straight people may find a genuine worshiping community and sustain each other in good living. By quoting the exact words of those she interviewed, the book shows us the human pain, the confusion, but also the health and joy, and the strong views about being gay and unaccepted, or being straight and trying to reconcile Christian rejection of homosexuality while trying to accept the other in worshiping fellowship.
Approach the various testimonies of this book with an open heart and a willingness to learn what life feels like to the Other, and the reader’s mind and spirit will be enriched. — Paul A. Lacey