Wilmington Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends to consider same-sex marriages

By Gary Huffenberger - [email protected]

WILMINGTON — A major focus of the faithful who gather at the Wilmington Yearly Meeting (WYM) of the Religious Society of Friends will concern same-gender marriages on Friday and Saturday.

The WYM consists of 28 Quaker congregations in Ohio and Tennessee, including 10 in the Clinton County area.

Small-group discussions on same-sex marriage and WYM unity will start Friday afternoon, and the subject is scheduled to be revisited Saturday afternoon during the WYM’s annual business session.

In a June letter announcing that the topic will be officially addressed, WYM Presiding Clerk David Goff wrote, “There are some Meetings and some individuals who strongly believe that the time has come for Wilmington Yearly Meeting to endorse ‘Marriage Equality,’ or at the very least to allow those who strongly believe this way to practice their beliefs without disciplinary consequences. Others would be inclined to discipline those Meetings who have openly conducted same-gender marriages, or who have said that they will do so if opportunity arises.”

One option, according to Goff’s letter, comes from Fairview Friends Meeting in the New Vienna area. That group, on Jan. 15, 2017, adopted the following: “Fairview supports the ability of each Monthly Meeting to chart its own course on sensitive and complex issues. Fairview Monthly Meeting advises that the Yearly Meeting not discipline any Monthly Meeting for their stand on such issues.”

In his letter, Goff forewarns that if no option is found to be agreeable, “perhaps we may need to begin the process of a separation into two or more groups.”

The Quaker congregation that meets in downtown Wilmington — Wilmington Monthly Meeting of Friends — has a statement on the matter on its website where information is provided for being married there.

The faith community there “welcomes people of all orientations and seeks to provide guidance and support to all intimate relationships that reflect the love of Christ. It is our experience that this deep love is not restricted to heterosexual relationships. Therefore Wilmington Monthly Meeting of Friends will treat all requests for marriage equally, without regard to gender,” the website states.

Twenty years ago in 1997 in WYM sessions, there was a statement adopted that says in part: “Wilmington Yearly Meeting recognizes the diversity of views held by Friends concerning sexual ethics, but remains committed to the traditional Quaker understanding and practice that sexual expression is confined to the context of marriage between one man and one woman. We, as monthly meetings within Wilmington Yearly Meeting, will not bless same-gender unions.”

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

By Gary Huffenberger

[email protected]