Faithful Sexuality

In the past most Quakers believed that sex outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage was wrong. Many Quakers still believe this. Many Friends Meetings no longer take this position but have had a great deal of difficulty agreeing on new guidelines for sexual ethics.


In the Presence of God & These Our Friends: Embodiment, Sex & Our Life in God In December 2005 I wrote a lengthy essay on this subject. This was an initial attempt to prayerfully reflect on the ways that Quaker beliefs about God and social testimonies could be used as guides for sexual practice. It evoked a bit of feelings from some Friends who felt that in writing this I believed I had a special bead on what God thought about these questions. Some Friends also objected strongly to the basic idea that God *has* intentions as to how people should live out their sexuality. My idea in writing this was to simply put down my own reflections on these questions as a way of encouraging Friends to work harder at discovering common vision in this. I wrote it as propositions because I believe God does have ideas about how we should live in every area including this very important one - but I absolutely do *not* believe I have any more access to what God's intentions are in this than anyone else. In fact, my own personal journey with sexuality has been difficult and confusing. If you do have a look at it, I would very much appreciate hearing any feedback you might have on the ideas I put together on this.

My Queries on Sexuality: I have reworked the 14 "propositions" that form the heart of the above essay into a series of queries that that I hope may be of some use to faith communities and/or individuals to help them explore and wrestle with these questions.
Queries on Sexuality & Spirituality. This is a separate, quite different set of queries focusing especially on issues of faithfulness in sexual relationships and awareness of the wounds that can result from exploitative sexual activity.  They were written up by Deborah Haines and others as a result of two very intensely sharing sessions by a broad intergenerational group of Friends from many yearly meetings. The impetus for these reflections were Friends looking back on their expriences of sexual relationships as Young Adult Friends during the 1960s and 1970s during a reunion of Young Friends of North America (YFNA).

Queries on Confidentiality & Openness. When Friends gather to discuss sexual & other personal issues in a meeting or at a gathering, it is often suggested that the discussions be confidential. This is designed to provide a greater sense of safety for those present, but there can be many problems as a result. These queries explore the need to balance the need for confidentiality with other needs within the faith community.  They were written at the 2007 Quakercamp at Stillwater gathering (an annual gathering now known as Quaker Spring).


Quakers Integrating Sprituality & Sexuality.  A number of resources to help Friends and others wrestle with these important issues can be found at I helped create in the 1990's with Ken Stockbridge, Peggy Brick & Betsy Neale. This includes links to online Quaker writings on this subject, bibliographies, and information about the positions different Quaker bodies have taken on this subject.

Working Party of Spirituality and Sexual Ethics.  I am a member of this working group that functions under the care of New England YM's Ministry & Counsel Committee. This group was launched by NEYM in 2007 to help facilitate Friends discernment about rightly ordered approaches to sexuality. It is currently working on writing a draft statement expressing our own understanding of these issues.
I would love to hear from others doing writing in this area. You can contact me about any of the ideas in the essay at peter at quakersong dot org.
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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.

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