Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Meeting Minutes, 6 Dec 1959


Group discusses next steps with Stephen Thorne and Doris Eddington from Society of Friends; affirmed that what they have learned goes beyond Young Friends and perhaps even the Society; takes first step to draft a statement of concern to publish.


Keith Wedmore Papers


Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex

Meeting held on 6th December 1959

1. Present:
Anna Bidder
Duncan Fairn
Mervyn Parry
Keith Wedmore
Alastair Heron
Joyce James
Alfred Torrie
Richard Fox
Doris Eddington
Stephen Thorne

Kenneth Barnes
Kenneth Nicholson

2. Minutes. With two small corrections the minutes were accepted.

3. In discussion with Doris Eddington and Stephen Thorne we considered how our concern can best be brought before the Society of Friends. Comments are invited invited from Doris Eddington and Stephen Thorne. Anna Bidder says that we feel our concern is for the moral and spiritual imprisonment of the homosexual. We see as our function:
(a) research,
(b) the task to lay our concern before the Society of Friends.

We see the possibility of
(i) presenting our concern to the Meeting for Sufferings,
(ii) writing to THE FRIEND,
(iii) offering a speaker and offering a study-outline, which Eric Baker had suggested might be sent out by the Home Service Committee.

As a group we are not liberated from existence until we have gone a further stage in making our concern known.

Stephen Thorne summarised our position in approximately these terms:

It is clear that the approach of the group has gone beyond the local problems of Cambridge students. It seems that the discussion has become more general and is concerned with wider issues. What is the end of the group's project? This concern extends beyond the Society of Friends. It may be right to have contact with groups from other Christian bodies with the same concerns. He was interested in the group's contact with the Marriage and Parenthood Committee, and the suggestion made by Eric Baker mentioned above. He was not sure that the Home Service Committee was the right link; he would rather think of the Marriage and Parenthood Committee and the Penal Reform Committee. He did not think it clearly advisable to link with the Temperance and Moral Welfare Committee because of its primary concern with temperance. The Marriage and Parenthood Committee seems uncertain regarding its purpose in the Society of Friends because it is a specialised committee concerned with a restricted aspect of the problems of sexual morality and finds its interpretation to the Society of Friends difficult. This is a similar problem to the one facing the group. Many of the problems are not normally seen as deriving from the religious way of life. The relationship of the group to its own meeting is an interesting test. How far could individual members of the group draw their own Meeting into contact with the group? If this is not possible, the implications for the Society of Friends have to be realised. On the periphery of the Society of Friends there is a great deal of activity which it is difficult to bring inside the Society.

Possibly through THE FRIEND or better THE FRIENDS' QUARTERLY the concern could be brought to a wider group, including an invitation to a conference that would be testing the wider interest. An approach to Meeting for Sufferings is doubtful, though individual approaches have been made and produced a useful concern. It is, however, doubtful whether the concern could be brought to Meeting For Sufferings unless through the Penal Reform, Marriage and Parenthood or the Home Service Committee, or through a Quarterly Meeting. A concern brought by an individual group would probably be handed on to another group and not back to its originator. The Penal Reform Committee is weak and it is doubtful whether it could deal with the problem.

Doris Eddington said that is would be advisable to get a wider contact with other groups before making an approach to the Society of Friends.

Stephen Thorne considered it possible that the Overseers' Meeting at Y.M. might invite discussion on this problem. This might be one way to bring the concern to a larger group of Friends and could provide a way to suggesting to Y.M. that a further report, published by the Overseers, Penal Reform or Marriage and Parenthood Committee or by Yearly Meeting might be invited.

Keith Wedmore remarked that people took a moral code for granted. We are concerned that people should revise their moral code.

During the discussion it was said that toleration can be indifference. The Society needs to understand what is meant by pastoral responsibility. We need to re-capture our duty to make a contribution to our group and to people outside.

Anna Bidder said that pastoral responsibility to our own members is an important duty, and equally our responsibility as modern people to those outside the Society of Friends.

Stephen Thorne said that we took for granted too easily that we were concerned with prison reform as a Society of Friends. The Penal Reform Committee is disappointing.

Meeting after lunch: members only were present

4. Finance. It is agreed that Keith Wedmore should approach Christopher Holdsworth, as a Trustee of the Joseph Rowntree Trust, to see whether a grant could be made from their funds towards the group's expenses. Keith Wedmore undertook a re-assessment of the contribution due from members of the group.

5. Further Plans. In discussing the suggestion made by Stephen Thorne and Doris Eddington, most members felt a difficulty in approaching their own Meetings directly. The Penal Reform Committee does not appear to have a strong impact on the Society, but we feel it should be approached. We agreed on the following programme:

(i) We ask A.B. to invite two members of the FTU to attend our next meeting on January 31st.

(ii) We invite two members of the Penal Reform Committee on March 6th.

(iii) To hold further meetings on May 1st or 8th and in July and September. We also note that the FTU is organising a conference in April to which it might be right to send representatives.

The letter to headmasters was considered as a basis of approach to these bodies. We feel it necessary to have a group judgment to offer these groups.

We agree to change our name to "A Quaker Group..."

[section missing]

...of Friends about the social problems of sex and we feel that unless this is recognised the consequences to the spiritual life of the Society can become very serious.

We feel that the time is right to start preparing a draft for the FRIENDS QUARTERLY EXAMINER. We ask Duncan Fairn and Richard Fox to collaborate in making a draft which Alastair Heron will edit, to be submitted to us for general but not detailed criticism at our next meeting or when ready.

Our next meeting will be on Sunday, January 31st at 10.30 a.m.