Report, Annual Session 2015, Plenary Session # 7 (Appendix)
The Friends from Multnomah Monthly Meeting who spoke were Betsey Kenworthy, Erin Eichenberger, Anna Fritz, Camille Day, and Gail Sanford.
The first Friend who spoke told of gratitude for this year’s opportunity to witness on-going challenges, pain, joy, grace, discernment, faithfulness, laboring in the Spirit together, and influencing their entire meeting community.
Other Friends reviewed the history of their work. Their committee about gender concerns arose because many members of the community were unaware of gender issues. Out of a threshing session, those interested began meeting regularly as a deeply grounded, spiritually focused ad hoc committee doing spirit-led actions. They experienced repeating cycles of evaluation, discernment, and action. They reached out to other committees; as a whole, a welcoming community arose from this work.
They hope to inform yearly meeting and other monthly meetings. The ad hoc committee began because of a conflict that arose during consideration of renting the meetinghouse to an outside group that was threatening to transgender members of the meeting. Many in the meeting had little or no knowledge of issues confronting transgender individuals.
After much discernment they took the first step, which was to bring education to the meeting. They were blessed because there were many external resources available in the city, and they recruited trainers from the local community to teach about sensitivity and how to use appropriate language. The education sessions were followed by worship sharing. The committee then chose to put specific faces on the issues. A panel of transgender people, including one of the committee’s members, spoke about what they experienced in navigating the world, including their religious organizations. They tried to let the Spirit lead the process.
Each step of the way, the committee sought the input of the meeting as to what was needed in the way forward.
They invited Peterson Toscano, a performance artist, who presented about biblical references to gender, grounding experiences, and issues in faith. The performance was surrounded by discussions. Multnomah Meeting now holds an annual meeting for worship in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which recalls all those transgender people who have been murdered that year—a long list. Transgender members can now sit in the meetinghouse and remember those people.
After a year of programs within the meeting, the committee reached the point of crafting a minute that would welcome people of all genders into the meeting. In the process of drafting the minute, they met with members of the standing committees about their work and how looking at the work through the gender lens would influence their work. The intention was to remain true to their own meeting community, the larger Quaker community, and the community at large. Multnomah Meeting united with this minute in the spring of this year.
The minute that the meeting approved in April 2015 was read in its entirety:
Multnomah Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a Quaker Meeting, is an open and affirming faith community. We welcome all who come as religious seekers to share in worship and fully participate in the activities of our common life. The Religious Society of Friends cherishes a greater than 360-year tradition of witnessing to the spiritual belief in the equality of all people.
Multnomah Monthly Meeting understands that the Divine Source is leading the Meeting to honor the gender identity and expression of each person, as determined by that person. We affirm that gender expression and identity may be fluid and changeable. We recognize that when we embrace the Light within the full spectrum of gender identities in our Meeting, our worship deepens and our community is enriched.
Multnomah Monthly Meeting minutes our commitment to becoming an affirming, safe, and nurturing place for everyone to live fully that which the Spirit is leading them to be. We extend our loving care to people of all genders, including transgender, genderqueer, cisgender, gender non-conforming and intersex persons, their families and friends.
The minute was accompanied by a list of supporting action items that are in progress. Some of these are for the Multnomah community; some are for yearly meeting; some are for the community at large.
The members of the group spoke to their experiences as they did this work.
Informed and nurtured growth as a Quaker
Knew so little; learned so much
Great inspiration to see older meeting members become vulnerable and open to the challenge, become advocates and allies
Opportunity to sense the Spirit’s involvement and motion