We, the Montana Gathering of Friends, are heartbroken over the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last week and the 33,000 people who lose their lives to guns each year through suicide, spousal abuse, accidents, and mass shootings. We are heartened by young people across the country finding their voice on the issue of gun violence with clarity about how it impacts their safety, security, well-being and hope for the future. We empathize with the pain and fear they feel going to school every day with the knowledge that the students and teachers they value in their own schools and in schools across the country face this threat.
Though we recognize the current need for defense procedures in schools, we hold the belief that establishing lasting safety is more important than solely ensuring physical defense. The idea of bringing guns into schools to protect from shooters – who often are students themselves – is a violence that is just as scary as the threat it’s reacting to. Our schools are not war zones.
Our children demand that our government, school systems and the adults in their lives take this problem seriously and take steps to face the root causes of violence in our society. A sense of safety needs to be established for everyone in our schools, including and especially those students who could potentially be violent towards themselves or others. We support our youth in sharing their hopes and concerns. We join in their vision of a world without a ubiquitous background of violence where people learn how to express feelings of anger and pain constructively. We have been numb to this need for too long. An issue this important should not be polarizing and it should not be postponed. We should look towards peace through compromise and engagement. This is an issue for us to unite around in protection of the children and people we love.
As Quakers, we believe that there is that of God in everyone. We find ourselves in a time of increasing fear for many who feel threatened and marginalized because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status or political beliefs. We witness this same fear in communities across our country and around the world. We cannot ignore this conflict without violating our belief in the just, equitable and democratic principles of our country and our faith.
We acknowledge that labeling people as the “other” emphasizes differences between people and violates the testimony of equality we have shared around the world for the past 365 years. We therefore speak truth to power. When anyone’s safety and security are violated with labels, hate and violence, we must reach out in love, offer protection and build connections between communities. We are committed to the hard work of building bridges and without judgement, opening our hearts to one another to address the fear of those delivering anger rather than love.
We step forward to protect all people who feel endangered by their differences. We seek to magnify our presence by working in alliance with individuals and organizations also offering loving protection. We are committed to healing, love and growth of understanding that there is that of God in everyone.
To all people of faith:
We live in a time of fear. Americans fear for their personal and economic security. We fear terrorism, external enemies, and environmental collapse. Others in the world fear Americans. We call on all people to recognize that true security lies within and among us - in our mutual participation in our common lives as creatures on this planet. Only thus can we honor the birthright of respect for all, regardless of their circumstances and fortunes.
Seventeenth century George Fox said, “I live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all war.” When our actions are motivated by the wisdom of this spirit, we cease creating pre-conditions for war and enter into the service and nurturance of all creation. When our actions are motivated by fear and self-protectiveness, we sow the seeds of division and war.
We must commit to changing public policies to build a just and sustainable economic future.
We invite others to consider the following queries with us:
To paraphrase the Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org), a Quaker lobbying group: Imagine what our nation’s foreign policies would look like if love and respect for humans dignity were our guiding principles instead of fear.
As a spiritual community, Quakers understand marriage as a deep and sacred commitment undertaken by two people in the presence of the Spirit and the faith community who take the new family under their care. The Montana Gathering of Friends (Quakers) affirms that the intrinsic value and the spiritual basis of marriage are the same regardless of the gender of the partners. This is in keeping with the historic Quaker testimony of equality and the belief that there is that of God in everyone.
A government does not create a marriage, it recognizes a commitment. A legally recorded marriage contract confers important legal rights and privileges as well as responsibilities from which unmarried couples are excluded. The exclusion of same gender couples is actually a deprivation of rights, inconsistent with the basic law of the land as well as Friends’ beliefs. Any governmental act that removes or restricts the rights of any one group is a deliberate attack on the foundation of our society, on our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is intended to limit the power of the government, not the rights of the people.
Montana Quakers support the legal recognition of the union of marriage between two consenting adults. We oppose any attempt to place legal limits on such recognition, whether at the local, state, or federal level such as the proposed Montana Constitutional Amendment 96 restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman which will be on the ballot in November.
God’s creation continually presents itself to us afresh. One aspect of the creation is our sexuality. Our aspiration as Quakers is, humbly, to open ourselves to the ongoing creation, to nurture, serve, and celebrate it. We urge the citizens of our state to be courageous in affirming God’s creation and to recognize that fear and excessive desire for control can cause us to reject what we should celebrate and affirm.
Recognizing our continuing concern about the curtailment of civil liberties in our country, the Montana Gathering of Friends (Quakers) states its opposition to the USA Patriot Act. We believe that this Act:
This Act reflects a spirit of fear and mistrust that is the antithesis of the Spirit of Love to which we are all called. Our true security comes from building a just society.
Friends urge all citizens to contact their elected officials to encourage them to work actively to repeal the USA Patriot Act and to seek to protect the fundamental rights of all people. Friends also urge our community organizations and governments to take public positions opposing the USA Patriot Act, recognizing that the city governments of Missoula, Dillon, and Bozeman have already passed such resolution.
The Montana Gathering of Friends wholeheartedly believes that there is that of God in everyone.
On February 4, University of Montana professor Carla Greyson and her life partner Adrienne Neff sued the Montana State University system because they were not given the same access to health benefits that their heterosexual colleagues receive. Four days later, while the women and their young son were sleeping, their house was set on fire with apparent intention of murder.
This violence compels us to re-affirm our belief that every member of our human family has the inalienable right to commit their love to whomever they choose without fear. We strongly urge the Board of Regents to act quickly to extend equal health benefits to all their employees.
Quakers in Montana joyfully perform marriages for all committed couples in our care, regardless of sexual orientation. We proudly support every family in our congregations in all their brilliant diversity. Religious communities are visible beacons of inspiration and guidance. We encourage all Montana faith communities to join us in being visible welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Hate-filled, derogatory messages propagate a climate of violence in our homes, neighborhoods and towns. We encourage all people of faith to lend their voices to messages in the peaceful spirit of Christ who asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
For 350 years, Friends have actively worked for equal rights. We continue to pray that the spirit of peace lead us to face the roots of hatred within our live, congregations and communities.
When MGOF finds itself called as a body to witness, a Minute of that testimony is recorded and distributed.