in 2010. As you can read on their website: "The Community of Welcoming Congregations (CWC) is an Oregon and SW Washington interfaith ministry and advocacy organization working toward full inclusion and equality for transgender, lesbian, bisexual, gay and questioning persons. Our work brings together people of faith who believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every person." We have been very grateful for our connections with CWC, and the guidance they have provided.
In 2011, Welcoming Ways invited Colin Saxton and Becky Ankeny to meet with us. At the time, Becky was clerk of NWYM Elders and nominated to be our next Superintendent. After this gathering, Becky invited Welcoming Ways to meet with yearly meeting Elders during annual sessions. We wanted the Elders to know about the successful process we had enjoyed at WHF, and to offer ourselves as a resource to the Elders as they discerned how to facilitate a conversation at the yearly meeting level. At that gathering, we reiterated our commitment to NW Yearly Meeting. We provided Elders with a handout on the history of our process, and a statement of our core values as embodied in our version of the Benedictine Cross.
Welcoming Ways sent another letter to yearly meeting Elders before their midyear gathering in January, 2012. In our letter, we advocated starting the work of pastoral care for LGBTQ Friends and their families, even before we adopt a policy.
In their reply, the Elders stated, "YM Elders with consultation with the AC have been working on a framing document on the broad and inclusive topic of Human Sexuality. This is in response to West Hills and others in the Yearly Meeting. The purpose of this framing document is to help us (the whole YM) to begin the discussion about Human Sexuality in entirety." Once again, we accepted the wisdom of waiting for the conversation to proceed according at the pace set by Elders.
In March of 2012, an alumni group called OneGeorgeFox wrote an open letter to school administrators and NW Yearly Meeting, asking for acceptance of LGBTQ students. We at West Hills Friends are very grateful for the work of OneGeorgeFox, and the on-campus student organization, Common Ground. We believe their call for dialogue is healthy and appropriate. Ready or not, the conversation has landed on the doorstep of NW Yearly Meeting.
Some in our yearly meeting are alarmed to find themselves in a conversation about same-gender relationships. Some perceive questions about welcoming gays and lesbians to be an intentional disregard of Biblical authority. For some, it is a shock to discover that one church in the yearly meeting has already declared itself, "Welcoming."
At West Hills Friends, we have felt the backlash of those who reject our position. Some have suggested that we have "broken covenant." Some have suggested that we would have more integrity if we left the yearly meeting. Some accusations have been harsher still. Although these voices can be hurtful, we remain committed to NW Yearly Meeting. We believe that we have acted in good faith at every step. We found ourselves called to this conversation by the work of God's Spirit among us. Instead of ignoring this call, we did the work of discernment together. Throughout the process, we communicated honestly with Superintendents and Elders over a span of years.
We are very grateful for work done during annual sessions in 2012 to create a safe space for Friends to speak from their own experience on matters of sexuality. Often, these gatherings were tender and loving, even when they revealed our different perspectives. We have seen God's hand at work in the process.
At WHF, we encouraged people from our community to participate in the discussions at annual sessions. We also made it clear that our goal in participating was not to win a debate, but to listen with loving hearts (and thereby model what made our own process a success). We remain committed to the process of listening for the guidance of our Inward Teacher in the wider fellowship of NW Yearly Meeting.
We also continue to deepen in our understanding of what it means to be a welcoming community. Our life together is enriched by the LGBTQ people in our community. We see the Light of God in each of us.