The Australian Friend
A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal.
The Organ of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia
April 20, 1963
"Towards a Quaker View of Sex"
E.B.P.--Now that we've both read this booklet, what do you think about it?
E.J.P.--I think it is a very valuable and honest little bookl certainly a tremendous lot of through has gone into it. It must be read from cover to cover so that no sentence is taken out of its context, and that nothing of the writer's spiritual message is missed. For a small book the coverage is very thorough.
E.B.P.--Yes, it describes normal sexual development, homosexuality (at length), counseling and sources of professional help (in England) and sex deviations.
E..P.--The title is perhaps unfortunate and it is easy to see why some Quakers (particularly older ones), do not want to be associated with what the authors call "a new morality."
E.B.P.--The authors are eleven Friends mostly professional people with some direct or indirect concern with advice for young people. They were set off on this quest by young Quaker students asking for help in homosexual difficulties who found little help from the Society. They met monthly for five years before producing this book. Although published by the Friends Home Service Committee it is not an official document of the Society and has been received with some criticism that it gives the appearance of being an official publication, and that Friends had no opportunity of reading it before it was published and gained much publicity in the press and on T.V.
E.J.P.--From time to time human problems arise and must be viewed from a new angle; this time these Friends are having a look at the Christian Churches' attitude to sex in view of the problems of today. Is Christianity outmoded in its treatment of problems having a sexual aspect? Is its claim to know exactly what is right and what is wrong acceptable nowadays? As I see it there is bound to be an enormous amount of unhappiness, secrecy, hypocrisy and repression resulting from the centuries in which the Church has regarded sex as fundamentally sinful.
E.B.P.--The most controversial aspect of the book seems to be that in recognising the existence of widespread pre-marital relationships and the existence of homosexuality in many persons, the authors are so understanding and tolerant that they almost seem to condone these things. In fact they do say in some cases that these practices may not be a bad thing.
E.J.P--Yes, I can't say that I can go along with all they say either. Sex is after all the most easily abused of God's gifts. We are told that we are in the middle of a fast moving period of transition. It may be difficult to see what is needed to help persons involved. This book could be a pointer to a new attitude to these human problems.
E.B.P.--I think that the whole tone of this book is very much in line with Quaker tradition in that it tends to discard the outward rules and to look to the spirit within. It really calls for a disciplined outpouring of love which will in its intensity and fullness of life render the prohibitions and silences of the traditional code unnecessary. It recalls St. Augustine's words, "Love God, and do as you like" describing this as a statement of the greatest freedom, but also of the deepest obligation. It further points out that God is not primarily a maker of rules, but a creator.
E.J.P.--That is all very well for persons of high principle and strong wills, but there must be some rules of conduct generally accepted for the great majority of people. No one can deny the compassion, tolerance and sincerity written here and we can only hope that it opens a few eyes and sets people thinking.
E.B.P.--The book says little about celibacy, and of course does not deal with a whole lot of aspects of sex which come to mind. However it is a brave attempt and we hope that all Friends will read and discuss it. It will almost certainly widen their understanding
("Towards a Quaker View of Sex," an essay by a group of Friends, edited by Alastair Heron. 73 pp. Friends Home Service Committee, London. 3/6 Stg.)