'You will say,' George Fox is reported as declaring in 1652, 'Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?'
Ahead of next week's debate, I'm reprinting the letter sent to the JEP by the Quakers in favour of the proposition; it shows that not every religious group in Jersey is against the idea that same-sex couples should be able to have a civil wedding (that is, a wedding outside of a church, with no religious elements).
The Quaker's in the UK were also supportive of legislation there, and have some useful documents relating to this, which can be found here:
Of these, here are a few selections. From the 1963 publication, "Towards a Quaker View of Sex":
"Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters: one must not judge by its outward appearance but by its inner worth. We see no reason why the physical nature of a sexual act should be the criterion by which the question whether or not it is moral should be decided. An act which expresses true affection between two individuals and gives pleasure to them both, does not seem to us to be sinful by reason alone of the fact that it is homosexual."
Quoting this at the time of the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Baroness Brinton said:
"Quakers see God in everyone, and all commitments to relationships as of equal worth. So I am pleased that the Quakers have said publicly that they will opt into the registration arrangements and carry out equal marriage with enthusiasm."
And their discussions hark back to their founder George Fox, who said:
"For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests or magistrates; for it is God's ordinance and not man's and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord's work, and we are but witnesses."
They have also examined the biblical basis for marriage, and come to very different conclusions from those of the Jersey Evangelical Alliance:
"Scripture has been cited in opposition to same sex marriage: first, as condemning same sex relationships; second, as ruling out the possibility that 'marriage' can be understood as applying to same sex couples. As regards the condemnation of same sex relationships, the key texts are Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.14 It seems clear to us that none of these prohibit same sex relationships per se. Rather, they either assume heterosexual marriage, condemn the abuse of power exhibited in particular same sex relationships or incorporate homosexuality within a purity code that is not generally regarded as binding."
From Cathy Eglington, clerk, Jersey Quaker Meeting..
In considering changing the law to allow same sex marriages, we would like you to know that Quakers in Jersey would welcome this change to the law.
Quakers see the light of God in everyone and that leads us to say that all committed, loving relationships are of equal worth and so Quakers in Jersey wish to celebrate same-sex marriage in the same way.
The civil partnerships law is a legal contract, not a spiritual one. That is why we hope the change in the law, so that same-sex marriages can be celebrated within a couple's worshipping community, will be passed in Jersey.
We do not seek to impose this on anyone else. For Quakers, this is an issue of religious freedom.
Quaker marriage is not open to all, but is for members and those who, while not in formal membership, are in unity with its religious nature and witness.
Some of us were at Quaker Yearly Meeting in York in 2009 when over 2,000 Quakers agreed to seek a change in the law so that same-sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state and recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite-sex marriages are celebrated in Quaker meetings.
Quakers consider that they should be able to follow the insights of their membership in celebrating life-long committed relationships between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, in exactly the same way as they currently recognise the marriage of opposite-sex couples.
Quakers in Britain welcomed the Marriage (same sex couples) Act which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013 and we hope that the law will be passed allowing same-sex marriages in Jersey.
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