Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Gorman to Crosfield, 15 Feb 1963


Expecting strong criticism from some Quakers, Gorman wrote a detailed explanation of the TQVOS publication process to Derek Crosfield, chair of a key committee.


HSC Quaker Group on Homosexuality records, Friends House, London.


15th February 1963

Derek Crosfield,
Frating Hall,
Colchester, Essex.

Dear Derek,

With this letter I am enclosing a copy of the pamphlet we have published, which is likely to cause quite a stir in certain quarters. I thought you would like to see it before it is officially published on Monday. The Sunday papers are going to town on it.

One reason for sending it to you in advance is to report the fact that Ted Milligan has already gone up the wall about it. He has told me that he thinks we are quite irresponsible in putting this out, when we must have known it would be taken as an official Quaker document. As a matter of fact, the first notice that has appeared in the press, thanks to the advance publicity we have sent out, hasa emphasised the fact that it is an unofficial document. The paper in question is the DAILY EXPRESS. Of course, they should not have made any notice of it at all, because we told them quite clearly that publication date is Monday. However, I understand the DAILY EXPRESS are quite unscrupulous and will do anything for a scoop. Nevertheless the review they have done is not at all bad.

I think it is quite likely that if members of the Berks & Oxon Ministry and Extension Committee don't raise this matter Ted well may, so you had better know the history. Several years ago I was invited to meet with Duncan Fairn's group as a private Friend, and one of the things I urged them to do was to publish something on the whole subject for the general enlightenment of Friends and the public. As a matter of fact, I think they would have done so in any case. Their feelings at that time was that it would be so popular, they would have no difficulty in finding an outside publisher. However, last October, after General Committee, Anna Bidder came to see me and said that the group had not found an outside publisher and would like the Home Service Committee to put it out for them. She also told me that owing to Kenneth Barnes' good relations with the B.B.C. they had become interested in the group's work and had offered to do a Meeting Point programme on television in February. Anna asked me how soon I should need the document in order to publish it for this discussion; the date I gave her was the middle of November--in fact I got the text in the middle of January.

After mt meeting with the group, to which I referred earlier, I raised this matter with the Literature Committee, and have agreed that subject to the approval of our readers, we should publish this if we were invited to do so by the group. At the December meeting of the Literature Committee we had reports from our readers, based on their reading of one of the final drafts. These were favourable, although they recognised that the subject was controversial, but they encouraged the Literature Committee to publish: (a) because this was the work of a Friends' group who wanted to have our help; (b) because it was a serious treatment of an important subject; and (c) because it has been the policy of the Home Service Committee for many years to publish Quaker material for groups who otherwise would be unable to find a publisher.

As you will remember, the matter was raised with the General Committee to clear the issue of the use of the Home Service Committee's imprint. Since about 1944, the Home Service Committee's imprint has appeared on all pamphlets published by the Literature Committee. You will see, however, that there is a preliminary note in the present pamphlet, making it clear that this is not an official statement, and the same point is emphasised in the introduction to the document itself.

Having to to this point, I discussed with the Assistant Editor of THE FRIEND the best way of ensuring that the pamphlet when published would be treated sensibly by the press. Clifford Haigh's advice was that as the group had already arranged a television programme on it, it would get a lot of publicity, and the best thing to do was to come out into the open and give it to the press with suitable covering notes; these are enclosed.

Ted's reaction is that, despite our notices, the very fact that it is published by the Home Service Committee will mean that people will assume that it is an official document and that we should have anticipated this and consulted Meeting for Sufferings on it. I don't know how many Friends will share this view; the Recording Clerk certainly will, although I consulted him about the disclaimer note to be printed in the FRIEND. He has, in fact, told Duncan Fairn that he would have preferred this document to have been printed privately.

i must say, I find these views rather strange, as it seems to me that the Home Service Committee has a publishing committee ought to be willing to help Friend to publish their views. Of course, there is a risk that some people will take this as an official statement, but any who did could always be referred to the document itself, which makes it quite clear that it is not. As a matter of fact, there is every indication that the publicity we are giving and getting from this will do nothing but good for the Society. The Sunday Times are full of praises for the document and propose to do a write-up on how the Society is moving away from its puritanical outlook.

In our discussion with the Part III Revision Committee we have agreed that we should go to Meeting for Sufferings when we make a new policy departure, but I cannot for the life of me see that this is a new policy departure, as we have been publishing pamphlets for the last twenty years and longer! It is true that the comments made move in a new and a more radical direction, but surely it is our function to help to stimulate new and courageous thinking?

Sorry to unload all of this on you, but I thought you had better have the facts. There is another point over which Ted is very cross, and that is that we have advertised this pamphlet in THE LISTENER and, although he hasn't seen it yet, in the NEW SOCIETY. The wording of the advertisements in both papers is a follows: "Towards a Quaker View of Sex--an essay by a group of Friends to be discussed in MEETING POINT on B.B.C. Television 6:15 p.m. Sunday 17th February, published 18th February by the Friends Home Service Committee, Friends House, Euston Road, London, N.W. 1. Price three shillings and sixpence. By post 4d. extra."

The other thing which raised Ted's ire was the billing in the RADIO TIMES. I cannot remember the exact phrase, but it is perhaps a bit loose, in that it says something about a Quaker report, without indicating that it is by a group of Friends. As a matter of fact, this wording was never referred to me and has obviously been fixed up between probably Kenneth Barnes and the B.B.C. The handout which the B.B.C. publicity man has sent round to the press, on which I was consulted, seems to be quite in order.

I will now stop. Over the weekend I will make some notes about our meeting with Berks and Oxon and then send them to you after I have heard from you in reply to the first batch I sent you.

I hope all this won't make you regret your decision to become Chairman of such a dangerous committee--in such a dangerously cautious Society!

Yours ever,
George H. Gorman