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.
We Quakers of Great Falls are connected to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation by the Missouri River. We are connected by our concern for protecting clean water and a healthful environment for future generations. We are connected by our recognition of the power of prayer in the Spirit-led life. We are connected by our common humanity in the great web of life.
Mindful of our connection, we stand in solidarity with the people encamped at Standing Rock.
We recognize the right of the native people who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline to tell their own story. We therefore recognize the name Water Protectors and reject the term “protesters” in this case. We recognize the need for greater respect for the cultures and sovereignty of indigenous peoples, their right to self-determination, their right to live peacefully and unmolested on their own lands, their right to secure a livable environment for themselves and their posterity, and their right to connect to the Divine with the prayer and ceremony of their own traditions in the locations sacred to them.
We join with other faith communities in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.
We understand urgency of the climate crisis, attributable in large part to the burning of fossil fuels. We know that, while we all use gasoline and energy, humanity must reduce as quickly as possible the amount of carbon and other warming agents that human activities are injecting into the world’s atmosphere.
We thank the Water Protectors for their courageous work which benefits us all. We thank the Standing Rock Sioux for extending hospitality and care to their camps. We encourage Friends to prayerfully consider supporting the Water Protectors financially, spiritually, materially, politically, and in all other ways open to us as the Spirit leads.
We stand with Standing Rock.
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.
What sort of community do we aspire to be?
What principles shape and sustain the community we aim to be?
What practices are necessary if our community is to thrive?
What practices would prevent it from thriving?
(From Earlham College Principles and Practices)
Within any community, there must be guidelines to help the individual members to live and grow together. Within a Quaker community, corporately discerned guidelines bear a greater importance because of the delicate and precious nature of the group. Our community's goal is to be a vehicle in which each of us will pursue life's most joyful journey, the search for God. Every one of us has come to Friends as seekers, hoping to experience the realm of spirituality and the inner light. To embark on this path we must strive to shed our fears and our coverings, fully open to the light and the journey together, soul naked.
The need for guidelines and boundaries of personal conduct becomes even more important in our spiritual community as we strive to make the community safe for all. Harm can occur unintentionally and, in that case, we hope the two parties involved can resolve the issue. Abuse occurs when one person has cause to know that certain behavior is hurtful, threatening, or offensive to another person and yet engages in that behavior with that person. The behavior must stop. Guidelines are especially important with the intimacy of a close spiritual community. We have the right to be safe in our Meeting. We will not tolerate sexual, physical, verbal, racial, psychological, social, or spiritual abuse by anyone in the Meeting community.
We as a community commit to caring for and tending to both the person who has been harmed and the person who as harmed her/him. It is our hope that the person who feels unsafe or violated in any way will be able to speak up to the person who has crossed his or her boundary of comfort and that his or her wishes will be respected. In the cases where the person who has been harmed cannot speak up or his or her wishes were not honored, we encourage that person to seek help from a trusted other, or ask for help from Ministry and Oversight. The Meeting is responsible to watch and protect those in our community who, for whatever reason, cannot speak for themselves or have not been heard. Whenever informed, the Meeting, or its committees, will take prompt steps to deal with violations and will inform and include all concerned if possible.
We commit ourselves to an ongoing educational process that creates an environment within the community that encourages those who have been hurt to speak up and those who have been abusive to seek help. We also commit to the following action steps:
1. Develop and adopt procedures to address situations when harm occurs (review Portland, Maine, Friends procedures);
2. Include a statement of confidentiality and its limits in the procedures;
3. Develop and implement an on-going community education for all ages.
We express appreciation to the Portland, ME, and Richmond, IN, Friend for their words and work.
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.
In the past few months the executive branch of the U.S. government has determined that global military dominance and preemptive use of military power will be its main weapon in its war on terrorism and, more immediately, against Iraq. The administration has stated its intent to launch a military invasion of Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, with or without cooperation from other countries, and has not made a clear commitment to seek the authorization of Congress and the approval of the American people for the prospective military invasion.
We in the Montana Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) share the global concern about terrorism. However, because we see that of God in every human being, we oppose the use of war as an instrument of national policy and are convinced that violent responses to terrorism are simplistic, shortsighted and only beget more violence.
There are effective, non-military alternatives to reduce terrorist threats from Iraq and elsewhere. These include:
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.