My most vivid memory of David was not a personal encounter, but in the pages of WIN Magazine, a “radical pacifist” journal published by the War Resisters League. In 1969 he joined several other elder eminences in coming out there. These were the first confrontations I had had with homosexuals as sympathetic figures and colleagues.
An Interview with Stephen Angell. Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies at Earlham School of Religion.
NOTE: Wilmington Yearly Meeting comprises three Quarterly Meetings, two in southwest Ohio, and a third in eastern Tennessee, three hundred miles south. The group is mostly pastoral and programmed, and has been affiliated with Friends United Meeting.
A Friendly Letter (AFL): Steve Angell (SA), thanks for doing this. So give us the scoop: has there been yet another yearly meeting split? Which one, when, and about what?
SA: The topic today is Wilmington Yearly Meeting, one of the smallest North American yearly meetings in Friends United Meeting. Its congregations are located in southwestern Ohio and Tennessee. ( A history of WYM to 1940 is online here.) The controversy is longstanding, and the background to the current difficulties is covered in Quaker Theology #30-31.
But the current intense phase arose in September 2016, when Cincinnati Friends Meeting, a semi-programmed meeting, held a wedding under its care for two women.
This event stirred up controversy over a set of issues that we’ve seen before, including Biblical interpretation, the authority of the yearly meeting, and the autonomy of monthly meetings.
The boss has landed the key appointment with the Big Man. He’s almost ready, wearing his special suit.
Just before the Big Man’s secretary opens the office door, the Boss’s assistant notices a tiny white speck on the Boss’s shoulder. The assistant moves fast, raising a hand, ready to brush–
But the Boss is already walking through the door. The assistant sees him reach out to shake the hand of the Big Man–
And then–OMG!–the Big Man is raising his hand, and flicking the speck of dandruff off the Boss’s suit himself.
Oh, the shame. the humiliation. The assistant stands frozen. Of course the instant has been recorded by cameras that will flash it all over the world in minutes. The assistant imagines his career crumbing right before his eyes.
Yeah, this is a clumsy parable of the next round in the Friends Central School (FCS) discrimination lawsuit. Continue reading Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back
I won’t try to predict who will be nominated for Anthony Kennedy’s seat. I only vaguely recall the list of names that was floated before the 2016 election; the ones I recognized ranged from the outrageous to unthinkable.
I didn’t recognize Gorsuch then; but now we know that anything is possible, and lily Tomlin was RIGHT:
So let’s consider some of those legal landmarks that are now in deeper peril. Continue reading Full-Court Press: Apres Kennedy, Le Deluge?
On May 25, Sa’ed Atshan was chosen by the Swarthmore College Class of 2018 to speak at their “Last Collection,” an opening ceremony of their Commencement exercises.
Here are some excerpts from his talk. (A full length audio version, 26 minutes, and a transcript of the talk are here. ) I’m posting them as a sample of Atshan as a speaker, and as a man sharing his identity and evolution with younger peers. I believe much of this would have been in the talk he was planning for Friends Central last year.
But this was an experience denied to the students at Friends Central School. To prevent him from speaking there, two teachers at Friends Central were fired, and a high administrative official left. This shameful incident is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. (More on that lawsuit and its background here.)
Atshan’s Swarthmore talk was intriguing to me for several reasons, but one was a question I’m still seeking the answer to:
What is it about this talk, and about this person, that was worth destroying the jobs of three loyal faculty at Friends Central School to stop him from giving it on their campus?
Many readers will know that the Friends Central administration has refused comment on this matter. So we’re on our own to sort it out. This talk is not a final answer; but is worth reading and pondering as the seeking continues.
A Long Read for a Holiday Weekend
Those who are still curious about the notorious (in many Quaker circles) case of two teachers at the Friends Central School in Philadelphia (described in earlier posts here, here, here & here), who were fired after inviting a Palestinian scholar to speak there, now have a chance to lift the curtain (at least somewhat) on it.
Although the teachers, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa, were fired a year ago, the case popped up again in local media earlier this month after the two filed a federal lawsuit on May 7. They charged the school’s head and other authorities with six counts of discrimination, retaliation and defamation, and demanded hefty damages.
All yesterday I had half-recollections in my head, kind of like an ear-worm but not music, instead a name: Gerry Studds. I kept wondering: why hasn’t his name come up recently, in all the furor about public figures and sex scandals. Was I remembering right — what did happen to him?
I did remember who he was: a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts; his district covered much of Cape Cod. And he got in sex trouble — but from there it was kind of hazy.
So I looked him up. Turns out he was gay (I remembered that), and — well, some basics first:
He was elected to Congress in 1972. His district is known to outsiders as a place where many well-heeled folks hang out in the summer. But the locals are heavily involved in fishing. And so Studds became an expert on fishing and maritime issues. He also helped preserve many stretches of their beaches. Continue reading Remembrance of Sex Scandals Past — Gerry Studds
Many friends of mine are upset about a recent anti-LGBT screed called the Nashville Declaration. I don’t begrudge their anger; yet I wish they would take a break from the issuance of indignant counter-screeds to ponder some of the upside resources offered by this piece.
I urge this because the “Declaration,” and its sponsor, the “Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” (the Bibs, for short), look way overdue for a new approach: lampooning.
I mean, at the least, the Bibs deserve a Career Achievement Award from LGBT groups.
Earlier this year I posted about a controversy at Friends Central School in Philadelphia, where a Palestinian Quaker, Sa’ed Atshan, was invited to visit and speak, then abruptly disinvited & the two teachers who invited him, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa, were suspended.
The news site philly.com reported on May 10 that the two teachers have now been terminated effective June 30. Along with that decision came an invitation from the school to Sa’ed Atshan to speak at Friends Central sometime in the future, on “his personal experiences and path to peace education.”
The report added that
[The suspended teachers] were offered severance pay of $5,500, but that is contingent on their dropping a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, said Mark Schwartz, their lawyer.
“This is a ridiculous offer,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they took it. Unlike the school, these two have some principles.”
School representatives on Tuesday declined to give a reason for the terminations.