Paul Landskroener, the clerk of the Twin Cities Friends Meeting (St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN) announced on Monday on Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered that the group will stop signing marriage certificates for opposite sex couple until same sex marriage is legalized in Minnesota.
Landskroener said, “We’re simply trying to be consistent with the will of God as we perceive it… Everything else proceeds as it normally has, except that we will not sign the marriage certificate.” The religious group, perhaps better recognized by the name “Quakers”, is one of a handful of Quaker Meetings nationwide that has made the decision to stop signing the marriage certificates for opposite-sex couples until the state of Minnesota legalizes gay marriage.
While a recognized religion, Quakers, or Meetings of Friends as they are also known, do not ordain ministers. Marriages are conducted by couples reciting their vows in front of the congregation, after which witnesses sign the marriage certificate.
In the context of this new decision, the signature of a Justice of the Peace or Judge or other officiate will be required to make the ceremony legally recognized. The Quakers have been holding wedding services for both same sex and opposite sex marriages, despite the lack of recognition for those same-sex wedding ceremonies.
After a three year period during which this new decision was considered, this group of Minnesota Quakers made the decision that this form of protesting the lack of gay marriage recognition was consistent with how they perceived the will of God.
Some Meetings of the Friends feel that not recognizing gay marriage is unjust. Others do not. There is much less centralization within the Society of Friends as each local group sets their own policy. A web site for an Ontario group, Religious Tolerance.org, addresses the range of positions held by the local meetings which are similar to the range of positions professed by other Christian denominations regarding homosexuality and bi-sexuality.
For example, according to the web site, as far back as 1963 in the UK, British Quakers published the book “Towards a Quaker View of Sex” embracing the position that God can be present in any relationship “where there is a measure of selfless love”, and the Westminster UK Quakers accepted the view that God loves all people regardless of their sexual orientation, and that sexuality was God-given.
In the United States, the Hartford, Connecticut Quakers as far back as 1986 issued a statement recognizing both same-sex and heterosexual celebrations of marriage, and in 1988 the Beacon Hill Quaker Meeting in Massachusetts also issued a statement in support of recognizing same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Beacon Hill Quaker Statement says, in part,
“Mindful that only the heterosexual couples among us currently have the right to legally sanctioned marriages and its privileges, the Meeting asks Friends, and particularly couples preparing for marriage, to examine how best to respond and bear witness to the inequalities still present in the system.”
The Quakers in Madison issued a statement, “Madison Affirmation on Homosexuality and Christian Faith”, declaring they believe homosexuality was “neither a sickness nor a sin”, and finding that “homosexual persons have been condemned and mistreated by the followers of Jesus Christ”.
In New Zealand, the Aotearoa Quaker Meeting in 1995 similarly pledged “to seek formal ways of recognizing a variety of commitments, including gay and lesbian partnerships.” That statement also asserted the beautiful words “Love has many shapes and colors and is not finite. It cannot be measured or defined in terms of sexual orientation,”
Other Quaker groups just as emphatically do NOT share this view of marriage and sexual orientation. In 1992, the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Meeting affirmed an opposing position, comparing homosexuality to adultery, condemning both. They issued the statement, which included the view “Homosexual activity, like an adulterous relationship, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures.” and “We as Evangelical Friends believe that sexuality has moral implications unlike race, gender, and or national origins.”
Although Minnesota is certainly ‘Mid-American’, the Friends Meeting of the Twin Cities has sided with their co-religionists in Madison, Wisconsin rather than the position of the Evangelical Friends.
I won’t be able to look at my morning cylindrical cardboard box of Quaker Oats’ oatmeal from now on quite the same.