It’s not enough that the Young Adult Friends Conference in Wichita has saddled itself with a backward-looking, repressive code of conduct and controlled agenda, which has been criticized here before. (See here and here.)
Now it’s come to us, from a reliable source, that there is high-level involvement in the process from the liberal Friends General Conference (FGC). Can this be true?
Such involvement would put FGC in the position of being complicit with a process that runs flagrantly against the grain of its own values and commitments. But it would, alas, be consistent with a very unbecoming precedent.
A bit of background: a few years back, while I was on the FGC Central Committee, that body adopted a very strongly-worded minute re-affirming the welcome presence and fully equal participation of LGBTQ folks as beloved children of God in all its programs and activities. The group felt so strongly about this statement of support that they took the unusual step of sending copies of the minute to every one of its member meetings across the country.
I admit I’ve mislaid my copy, and can’t quote it exactly. So perhaps someone from FGC could usefully enlighten me on this somewhat crucial point:
Was there a footnote added to it that said, “This equality and support not applicable to YAF conferences where somebody might object”??
It now begins to look that way.
And there is, unfortunately, an ugly precedent for such a sellout: in 2004, FGC poohbahs hurriedly squashed a Quaker sweat lodge program, which had thrilled and inspired hundreds of Young Friends during more than a decade of operation at its annual Gathering. They killed it because of a complaint from someone outside of FGC who had never seen or been involved in it, without any kind of investigation or fair process. (More about this incident here.)
The death of the sweat lodge was a betrayal of the Young Friends who had benefited so much from it, as well as a gross injustice to the dedicated Quakers offering it. Doing so also trashed all standards of fairness and truth that FGC proclaims. The FGC poohbahs want this all to be forgotten, flushed down the memory hole; but many still remember, and the injustice still cries to heaven.
In Wichita, something parallel is taking shape, with the ominous difference that the sellout has been done in advance. Among the many objectionable features of the program is the de facto pushing of LGBTQ folk and their concerns back into a grey closet, so the event will not be “distracted” or “diverted” by their pesky issues and “peculiarities.”
In the multiple promotional videos sent out from the Conference planning committee after its session a week ago, it appears that doughnuts, volleyball/basketball, and food are to serve the memory hole function in Wichita. Certainly these messages were otherwise content-free.
If anybody at FGC knows how to square this setup with that supportive minute they trumpeted so loudly awhile back, I’d sure like to hear about it. And if some participants in Wichita get drummed out and sent home for daring to break the ban or the numerous petty rules, will FGC poohbahs be among those helping run them out of town?
The idea that YAFS can only get together in such a sanitized, oppressive atmosphere was embarrassing enough on its own. The notion that FGC poohbahs are going along with it – now that would be a crying shame.
And it’s a shame that doughnuts and volleyball won’t erase.