Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Young Quaker magazine December 1960


The December 1960 issue of Young Quaker magazine published a 3-page article, "Towards a Quaker View of Sex," by Keith Wedmore that described the Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex and the study they are developing.


clipping in Keith Wedmore Papers


Young Quaker
A Young Friends Monthly Journal
December 1960

Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Origin of concern: in 1955 it became known that in one active Young Friends' group there were a number who were concerned, for one reason or another, with sexual and particularly homosexual problems. They were in the highly unusual position in having sufficient confidence in the older Friends in the Meeting to share the problem with them; and received, in the end, much help. But several things became obvious: one, that there were far more Young Friends anxious about sexual problems, especially the less orthodox ones, than older Friends realised; two, that practically never was the ordinary machinery of Eldership and Oversight fit to deal, or even being asked to deal, with these problems; and principally that sexual enlightenment has yet to come where many are concerned, and that there is a need for research into sexual problems; and--it was honestly felt--a review of the Christian attitude to sexual problems and sexual morals.

Quaker Group on Homosexuality and other problems of sex: In 1957 there began to meet a group of Friends who, for one reason or another, felt that the time had some for a fresh search for the Quaker view of sex. The group was as follows: Anna Bidder (Cambridge lecturer in Zoology), Chairman; Lotte Rosenberg (consultant psychiatrist), Secretary; Duncan Fairn (Director of the Prison Commission); Mervyn Parry (Headmaster); Kenneth Nicholson (Headmaster of a Friends School); Alastair Heron (Industrial Psychologist); Kenneth Barnes (Headmaster); Alfred Torrie (Consultant Psychiatrist); to these were later added Keith Wedmore (Barrister); Richard Fox (Consultant Psychiatrist); and Joyce James (Marriage and Parenthood Committee).

The Group has met a frequent intervals ever since 1957; has head evidence from and consulted with many Friends Groups; has written a preliminary article (The Friend, May 20th), and held a one-day conference for invited Friends (In June, at Hampstead Meeting House). At the moment the group is working on a pamphlet for the Friends Home Service Committee.

The chapter headings of this pamphlet may give some idea of its contents:--
1. Introduction; 2. Heterosexuality; 3. Heterosexual Problems; 4. Masturbation; 5. Homosexuality; 6. Perversions; 7. Causation (of sexual problems); 8. Homosexuality and the Law; 9. Towards a Quaker view of Sex (i.e., Morals); 10. How can help be given; 11. Summary.

Our future work must much depend on the reaction of Friends to this pamphlet. If it is encouraging, the Group might enlarge its activities. There is a need for a more comprehensive programme of research, both scientific and moral. This, however, will be both slow and expensive; and is beyond the resources of the Group in its present form.

Towards a Quaker View of Sex: We have asked ourselves: what do we really think wrong, and why? What are the essentials of a Christian relationship? Is "sin" to be inferred from sexual acts, or must one know the inner content of a relationship before one can assess its moral worth?

It proved impossible to consider homosexual problems in isolation, as it was increasingly felt that the criteria for judging all relationships are the same; and the group has also been compelled, of necessity, into a sweeping view of the sexual activities and morals of the modern world; and into a far wider "agonised reappraisal" of the traditional view of sex than it had intended. We have been forced to spend much time in trying to ascertain simply what are the sexual facts of life (as to which we found that even such a specialist body needed a great deal more information) in order to go further, or to consider Christian morals. (In this, as in other spheres, it is no good arriving at a conclusion until one knows all the relevant facts. The group has been horrified to discover how difficult it is to point to any reliable way of discovering them.)

It would be unwise to anticipate the group's tentative conclusions until publication of the HSC pamphlet. But of this there is no doubt, that the Group now feel, more than when they began, that these problems are most serious; and that Pauline theology does not offer the modern world the equipment to answer them. Here is a problem too large for any one group--the redefinition of sin; and the answer to the question, "what is love?"

West Byfleet Keith Wedmore

The author of this article would like to emphasize that the account here given of the group's activities is entirely his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Group as such; and that the Group regrets that it cannot undertake to provide help form, or enter into correspondence on, personal problems at this time. Representations or suggestions (or, of course, offers of assistance) will naturally be forwarded.