That Demonstrate the Sense of the Meeting
On Issues Important to Our Members
1980 – 2014
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Response to Friends United Meeting (FUM) Policies and Practices Regarding Gays and Lesbians
- Affordable Housing
- Against Torture of Prisoners Held by the United States Military
- Universal Living Wage
- Support for Maryland Anti-Discrimination Act of 2001
- Ecological Sustainability
- Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier
- Prayer at the Northern High School Graduation
- Children in the Life of the Meeting
- Same Sex Exchange of Vows
- Becoming a Monthly Meeting
- Events at Friends United Meeting
- Query on Parenting
- Query on the Environment
- Conscientious Objector Status
- On the Gulf War
- On Unity With Nature: The Spiritual Dimension
- Richmond Declaration
- Peace and Social Action Contributions
- Opposition to the Death Penatly
- Support for Maryland Question 6: Affirmation of Marriage Equality
- Virtual Called Meetings to Address Immediate Issues
Much wisdom and unity comes from patiently waiting and trusting the insight of our Meeting. It is important not to hurry the Quaker process for discernment. And yet, there are times that require immediate action by Patuxent Friends Meeting to support community efforts which speak directly to Quaker values. The most recent was an opportunity to join other local congregations to sign a letter to Senator Miller to solicit his support of the HOME Act. The HOME Act is the proposed bill which would end discrimination for housing based on a person's source of income (section 8, disability, etc.).Supporting this effort is in direct keeping with our core values as Friends, as well as an opportunity to unite with others in community to further social justice causes.
As our Clerk stated via email, “Sometimes these important opportunities arrive without our usual Quaker-requested timeline. We like 6 weeks; usually we get 3 days. I don't want to miss things because of process, but process is important so we don't rush ahead of our guide.”
In the light of this recent happening and the process that was used to come to a decision, the Peace and Social Action Committee propose that we continue to employ the concept of a Virtual Called Meeting, when actions need to be taken quickly. In all matters, the P & SA Committee will first discern the importance of the immediacy of the decision and ask for the Clerk’s guidance. If a Virtual Called Meeting is required, the P & SA Committee will draft an email to the Patuxent Friends Google Group. All members/attenders in Meeting will have an opportunity to respond to the issue at hand. Just as in a Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, not all will respond and not all will be present, but the Clerk will be able to gauge the sense of the Meeting from those who respond. If any Friend voices concern, those concerns will be honored just as in Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business and no action will be taken at that time.
These issues will not involve funding beyond the Peace and Social Action Committee budget. They will pertain to social justice and peace issues in our community that require immediate attention.
Support for Maryland Question 6: Affirmation of Marriage Equality
The following letter to the editor was sent to the Maryland Independent and the Calvert Recorder. It was published in both local newspaper prior to the statewide November election.
As citizens of the State of Maryland, we have the opportunity in the coming election to be the first state to pass a marriage-equality act in a statewide referendum. As members of Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting, we support Question 6 and urge others to vote “Yes” on the question.
We understand Question 6 as a matter of equal civil rights for all of Maryland’s citizens. We believe that passage of the Marriage Equality Act will not only honor the rights of individuals, but it will honor our cherished freedom of religion as well. As he or she prepares to join two people in wedlock, a pastor’s principle concern is spiritual. After passage of Question 6, each pastor will maintain the freedom to decide whether or not to honor the relationship of a same-sex couple in marriage.
The state’s principle concern in marriage is the legal rights and obligations of the parties involved in a contract. It is appropriate that Maryland’s focus be upon fair and equal opportunity and treatment for all. We support the Quaker testimony of equal treatment for all human beings and affirm the goodness of committed, loving relationships.
Opposition to the Death Penalty
This year, the Maryland General Assembly has an opportunity to repeal the death penalty in Maryland.
The members of Patuxent Friends Meeting affirm Quakers’ historic opposition to capital punishment. We do not believe that the death penalty is moral, humane, or in any way beneficial for the health and well being of our community, state or country.
We acknowledge that people have the need and the right to feel safe and have order in their communities. We are aware of the horror and pain that acts of violence bring to a community, and we grieve at the loss of life that victims, families and society experience. However, an eye for an eye does not secure our safety, strengthen our communities or take away the pain that the crime has caused. Capital punishment only magnifies the tragedy of a lost life by killing again and produces the very brutality it seeks to prevent. Furthermore, there have been many innocent people who have been on death row and who have been executed by mistake, a mistake that we, as a society, should not tolerate. Additionally, history confirms that the death penalty has been unevenly applied to minorities and those with low income.
Although always represented as an action of the state, capital punishment requires specific state employees to kill a human being, at a moral and psychological cost to themselves that neither they nor the state can calculate in advance. In fact, a legal execution requires each of us to participate in another person's death as citizens and representatives of the government that sanctions this type of punishment. When the state kills in our name, we are all responsible. We wish to state emphatically that we do not want our public servants to kill in our names or for our taxes to be used in this way.
We encourage those who are concerned about the safety of our communities to join in seeking a society that does not promote violence and vengeance as a legitimate way to resolve problems. Please join us in urging our elected officials to pass the death-penalty repeal bill this year.
Patuxent Friends Meeting allocates a significant percentage of its annual budget for the purpose of making our world a safer, gentler place through community, regional and international contributions. As needs arise, we thoughtfully consider the impact our limited resources may make, and we value the direct insight and/or involvement of a member of our meeting to ensure the funds will go directly to the need. Although we occasionally give to major campaigns through organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) or the Red Cross, we are more likely to contribute directly to a family in need or a smaller enterprise that is known to one or more of our members through personal, professional or community interaction.
While our resources may be modest, we work to apply them in a way that will do the greatest good as the Spirit moves us. We base our peace making and social action initiatives on the Quaker teachings as expressed in Faith and Practice. We report each year on the projects we support. We honor the long tradition of Peace and Social Responsibility.
Minute in Response to Friends United Meeting (FUM) Policies and Practices Regarding Gays and Lesbians
Patuxent Friends are deeply concerned about Friends United Meeting’s newly discriminatory policies and practices with regard to those involved in same-sex relationships. As stated by FUM clerk Brent McKinney, in October 2003, FUM policy reads as following:
We recognize that there is diversity among us on issues of sexuality.
For the purpose of our corporate life together, we affirm our traditional
testimony that sexual intercourse should be confined to the bonds of
marriage, which we understand to be between one man and one woman.
FUM clerk Brent McKinney then wrote that this FUM policy is to be applied to all staff and volunteer appointees of FUM. “ We do confirm that leaders are chosen based on spiritual gifts without regard to sexual orientation; however we do not confirm that leaders are chosen without regard to whether they are in same gender relationship . . .” In sum: persons involved in same-sex relationships would not be appointed to any leadership positions within FUM as a corporate body.
Patuxent Meeting’s core values speak to fair and equal treatment for all based upon the belief that there is “that of God in everyone”. In an August, 2001 minute regarding support of the Maryland Anti-Discrimination Act, Patuxent Friends stated, in part:
Our society has an unfortunate history of judging one another according to age, gender, nationality, race, religion, disability, and more recently, sexual orientation. Discrimination should be easy for us to recognize because almost all of us have fallen into one of these categories sometime during our lives. Maybe we were told we were too old, too female, or too disabled to get a job. Or maybe we couldn't enter a restaurant because of the color of our skin or the name of our God… It's time for us to stop looking at one another as issues and start seeing one another as brothers and sisters. It's time for us to let go of intolerance and fear and offer one another the gift of acceptance and love.”
We have labored with our response to current FUM policies for several months and held those with diverse views in the Light. As a meeting, we respect loving and dedicated relationships in same-sex couples. We welcome individuals in same-sex relationships to the full life of our meeting. We join with Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s many clear statements on this matter.
We think that the context for the Biblical statements against homosexuality cited by FUM is disapproval of exploitation and simple pleasure-seeking, not disapproval of strong, loving relationships. In fact, Biblical statements taken out of context could lead Friends to such other positions as banning women from speaking in meeting and condoning wars made for the advantage of the ‘chosen people.’
Patuxent Meeting has not been able to come to consensus on the matter of withholding funds from FUM. We have a concern that Baltimore Yearly Meeting asked only that its monthly meetings make it known if they wanted apportioned funds from their annual contributions withheld from FUM (and BYM reserved the decision on whether to honor those requests). This tended to focus discussion to finances.
Instead, we think BYM should ask ALL their meetings if they support or oppose FUM’s current policy of discriminating against gay and lesbians in public leadership positions. If we can’t support that policy, the discussion should focus on how BYM can best respond in a way that lovingly but firmly encourages FUM toward a change that more clearly recognizes that of God in every person.
In our creative brainstorming, Patuxent Friends came up with the following list of actions that might be considered in addition to withdrawal of funds:
• Withdraw the names of Quaker meetings who dissent from FUM policy from the list of meetings affiliated with FUM published in its magazine Quaker Life.
• Find out which yearly meetings associated with FUM support this
discrimination policy and correspond with them. If any FUM-affiliated meetings oppose the FUM policy, correspond to encourage them.
• Visit the closest FUM meetings to discuss the issue and state our concerns
• Engage in further discussion about how BYM funds sent to FUM are spent. One creative spirit suggested sending MORE money, not less, to increase our influence in the FUM decisions
• Purchase ad space in FUM’s magazine to state BYM’s statements of non-discrimination against gays and lesbians. Ask readers to contact BYM for our entire minute on the issue.
(Sent to Local Press)
As the Calvert County commissioners consider review of the county's zoning ordinances, members of Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting are united in support of initiatives that will allow and encourage more affordable housing in Calvert County.
The average price of housing in Calvert has nearly doubled in the last five years, leaving home sales and rentals out of the reach of countless working people, young professionals, disabled and those on fixed incomes. We feel it is our moral and ethical obligation to work to rectify this situation. Additionally, by strengthening the social and economic health of our community, all will benefit.
The newly formed citizen's group, Housing For All Calvert, proposes recommendations to increase the number of affordable housing units available as soon as possible. Patuxent Friends Meeting supports these measures and encourages our neighbors to be aware of this issue and join in the effort to find solutions.
It has been reported in the media that the United States Armed Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency are subjecting captives, who are suspected terrorists, to physical and emotional torture. Amnesty International considers the conditions in which most of the detainees have been held a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The International Committee of the Red Cross, as the only nongovernmental organization to have access to the detainees, has taken the rare step of making public its observation that the conditions of confinement have had a very adverse impact on their physical and mental well-being. [NYT 10/9/03] This is being done in places that are not United States soil, so United States laws do not apply. These captives are being called combatants instead of soldiers, so that the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war do not apply.
We abhor the torture of prisoners of any classification in any place. We must not sink to this level of inhumanity.
Our country presents itself as a shining example of morality and right use of power for the rest of the world. We have been shaped in our regard for human rights by Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Carter. The U.S. Constitution provides for due process and fair trial, imprisonment that is not “cruel or unusual,” and innocence until proven guilty. The Constitution extends these rights to "persons," or "the people," or "the accused," and does not limit them to citizens. We proclaim our horror of and our opposition to this inhumane imprisonment. This wrong is not evaded by incarceration outside the United States.
Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
William Penn said, “a good end cannot sanctify evil means, nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it. Let us try what love will do.”
As a body of the Religious Society of Friends, we recognize the serious problems of homelessness and shelter poverty in our community and nation due to the insufficiency of the minimum wage to allow many millions in America to pay for adequate housing. Two million of our neighbors in America are homeless. Many of these individuals, along with their families, are homeless because they work for minimum wage and cannot afford a place to live on their earnings. Nationwide, three of ten households, or 94 million people, pay more than 30% of their incomes for housing; some 14 million spend more than 50%, and another 17 million pay from 30-50% of their earnings for shelter. This is a form of economic violence that threatens people’s opportunity to obtain the basic needs of life – food and shelter. Friends’ long-standing peace testimony compels us to speak out against this form of injustice in our communities. Friends’ concern for equality similarly requires us to object to the inequality inherent in the federal subsidy for homeowners through the federal tax code of $120 billion per year and growing, while federal subsidies to help low income families who cannot afford housing are $30 billion and shrinking.
Therefore, we, we join American Friends Service Committee and other organizations and individuals that support the Universal Living Wage initiative. As we understand it, the Universal Living Wage formula ensures that a 40 hour a week, minimum wage worker will be able to afford to rent at least an efficiency apartment anywhere in the United States while not spending more than 30% of their income on housing. We endorse the Universal Living Wage initiative in the hopes that shelter poverty and homelessness will be eradicated for many of the individuals who do not have an affordable place to live in our affluent society.
(Sent to Local Press)
Recently, there have been a number of letters to the editor written in favor of repealing the Anti-discrimination Act of 2001 (Senate Bill 205). This bill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation with regard to public accommodations, housing and employment. It makes existing laws regarding discrimination applicable to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
If this bill is repealed, it will be a step backward for us all. Our society has an unfortunate history of judging one another according to age, gender, nationality, race, religion, disability, and more recently, sexual orientation. Discrimination should be easy for us to recognize because almost all of us have fallen into one of these categories sometime during our lives. Maybe we were told we were too old, too female, or too disabled to get a job. Or maybe we couldn't enter a restaurant because of the color of our skin or the name of our God. Regardless of the reason, many Americans know what discrimination looks like and feels like because we have first hand experience of its destructive nature. Eventually, our society comes to the conclusion that discrimination should not be tolerated and laws are written to protect individuals. The Anti discrimination Act of 2001 is such a bill.
Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting is united in support of the Anti-discrimination Act of 2001. It's time for us to stop looking at one another as issues and start seeing one another as brothers and sisters. It's time for us to let go of intolerance and fear and offer one another the gift of acceptance and love.
Patuxent Friends believe that ecological sustainability should be added to our existing Quaker testimonies--for the following reasons:
- The concept of ecological sustainability has a spiritual depth. It includes a resolve to live in harmony with biological and physical systems. It also includes a sense of connectedness and the utter dependence of human society within the intricate web of life. It recognizes our responsibility to future generations to care for the Earth as our home and the home of all that dwell herein.
- A testimony of ecological sustainability dovetails with traditional Quaker testimonies such as peace, simplicity, equality, community, and integrity. Each relates to the others.
- We are deeply concerned by resource depletion and environmental pollution caused by rapid growth in population, technology, and industry. We are told that, at the present growth rate of 90 million humans a year, the Earth’s natural resources cannot be sustained or renewed.
As Patuxent Friends, we hereby rededicate ourselves to the above principles. Let us, to the extent of our abilities, respond to disproportionate distribution of Earth’s resources, minimize the effects of cultures of affluence and over-consumption, support voluntary family planning, strive for ecologically and economically regenerative communities with a creative simplicity, and be at peace in this sacred place —our Earth.
Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier, imprisoned Native American Activist
Patuxent Friends join with human rights organizations and concerned individuals worldwide in calling for President Clinton to grant Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier, imprisoned Native American activist. Additionally, we ask that Baltimore Yearly Meeting adopt a minute calling for this presidential action as part of our public Quaker witness.
The Issue of Prayer at the Northern High School Graduation Ceremony
(Sent to Local Press)
As the discussion continues over events at the recent Northern High School graduation, Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting would like to recognize some of the positive aspects of the evening.
We commend Julie Schenk, the student who was willing to honor the concerns of another and call for silent prayer as a substitute for vocal ministry, in spite of her own strong religious convictions.
We appreciate the actions of the Northern High School principal and our elected school board. They did their best to uphold the first article of the Bill of Rights, the rulings of the Supreme Court with respect to separation of church and state, and the right of individual conscience, while still maintaining a spiritual grounding for this public school celebration.
We thank the majority of the Northern High School students and their guests, who respected the intent of the graduation ceremony.
We respect the courage of the young man who stood up for his convictions and objected to prayer as part of the graduation ceremony of his public high school, even though it was not a popular position to take. Whether he knew it or not, he spoke for more than only himself, including the Muslims, Jews, Universalists, Bahais, and people of other beliefs, who were no doubt more quietly in attendance.
We acknowledge the sincerity of the Christians present, who prayed vocally as an expression of their faith, even if many of us wish they had chosen another forum for their statement. The graduation ceremony offered a wonderful opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate the accomplishments of our treasured young people. The principle focus of the evening should have been the celebration of the graduates' achievements. We are all concerned about our rights. It is more difficult, however, to be concerned about the rights of others. There are no freedoms of speech or religion, unless we defend them in the name of the least popular minorities.
In public gatherings, with a diverse audience, it may not be feasible for all to speak their faith. Silent prayer or reflection is a practical alternative. Silence allows people the opportunity to pray or not to pray. It encourages all of us to participate together in our own way, in our own prayerful language, and in the context of our own culture and beliefs. One person’s prayer is just as important, as beautiful and as worthy as another’s.
Like many others in our community, we are mindful of the persecution our forebears suffered because of their religious beliefs. We are thankful for the blessing of religious freedom. We think it important for all of us to be sensitive to the diversity of religions and beliefs that exist in our community and our country. Patuxent Friends (Quaker) Meeting looks forward to joining with our extended community in seeking the grace to listen better to each other's hearts.
Children in the Life of the Meeting
Patuxent Friends hereby renew their commitment to efforts which will nurture the spiritual life of all children of the Meeting. These efforts will include adherence to the following practices:
- Welcoming a Child: At the request of the parents or guardian, a ceremony of welcome will be conducted when a new child is formally introduced to the Meeting. In this ceremony, those present at meeting for worship will offer their support for the child and their commitment to his or her spiritual growth.
- First Day School: Patuxent Friends will operate a First Day School to teach Quaker values, beliefs, practices and testimonies, as well as other spiritual traditions.
- Spiritual Growth: A ceremony of celebration will be conducted at the opening of teenage years, when the child and the family so desire. In this ceremony, those present at meeting for worship will share their joy for the young person’s spiritual growth and their continued support and confidence in his or her search for enlightenment.
- Associate Membership: At the request of the parent or guardian, a child may be accepted as an Associate Member of the meeting. As the child matures, he or she will have the same opportunity as others to determine if he or she is committed to the spiritual and practical responsibilities of full membership.
- Membership: Friends will provide a young person encouragement to apply for formal membership in the Religious Society of Friends when, having gained maturity, he or she feels sufficiently convinced and ready to take this step. The procedure for application for full membership is outlined in Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice.
Same Sex Exchange of Vows
Patuxent Friends believe in the Quaker testimony of equal treatment for all human beings and affirm the goodness of committed, loving relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. We offer recognition and support to those who share this ideal and desire to enter into a permanent relationship. By tradition, the Meeting recognizes committed heterosexual union. The same loving care and consideration will be given by the meeting to the union of same-sex couples. In both cases, the ceremony will be called either marriage or celebration of commitment, according to the wishes of the couple involved.
On Becoming a Monthly Meeting
With the encouragement and support of Annapolis Monthly Meeting, Patuxent Preparative Meeting, after a period of reflection, discussion and prayer, reached clearness on November 6, 1994 on our decision to move to monthly meeting status. Patuxent Friends request Annapolis Monthly Meeting to embrace us as a full monthly meeting. This change will better recognizing our meeting’s actual practice of conducting monthly meetings for business, the expressed need of member to identify and build their spiritual home in the place which is their place of worship, and the meeting’s desire to more fully and directly link to the greater Quaker community. We further ask Annapolis Monthly Meeting to forward to the Chesapeake Quarter, Representative Meeting, and Baltimore Yearly Meeting our desire to seek affiliation as a new monthly meeting.
Affirmation of Faith on the Occasion of Events at Friends United Meeting
In their distress and concern over what was said and written at the Friends United Meeting (FUM) for Clearness on March 12-15, 1992, Patuxent Friends have explored their own beliefs.
We find that central to our shared beliefs are principles that have come to us from the experience of a guiding Presence in our daily lives, from Quaker writings, and from other religious literature and traditions we have experienced. Among these principles are the following:
There is that of God in every person and in the whole of creation, making life sacred, to be cherished and revered.
Following the Inner Light, which is universal in nature but seen differently by different people.
Each person has a direct revelation with the Divine (no intermediaries are needed).
Revelation is continuing (calling for a commitment to seek the truth, whatever its source, and freedom to follow the spirit wherever it might lead.
"What canst thou say?" (Freedom and space for one’s own spiritual journey; no creedal boundaries.)
Recognition, understanding and acceptance of others on their religious path.
Valuing theological diversity as an enrichment.
Letting our lives speak (the intertwining of faith and practice).
Openness and inclusiveness in the Society of Friends.
The centrality of the Meeting for Worship and the process of making Meeting decisions through consensus.
The foregoing principles are reflected in the Faith and Practice of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We reaffirm and defend them.
In seeking to apply these principles to the issue of the future of Friends United Meeting, Patuxent Friends now ee several possibilities One is that United Yearly Meetings now part of FUM (including Baltimore Yearly Meeting) acquiesce if FUM seeks to exclude universalist beliefs. We think that this would not be a manifestation of faithfulness to what we believe to be the spirit of Quakerism.
A second possibility is that we continue to encourage FUM to recognize unprogramed Friends as one of the authentic strains of Quakerism, as well as the more Christocentric and pastoral strains. Patuxent Friends strongly hope that this inclusive path is the one that will be sought by Baltimore Yearly Meeting and followed by FUM.
A third option is simply to ignore the issue and "muddle through", without any response to recent events. But this would likely mean a continuation of the last few years, in which it seems that some members of FUM have denigrated and striven to exclude more universalist Friends.
A fourth option would be to separate Baltimore Yearly Meeting from FUM. This action would be a wrenching experience for many unprogramed Friends, who have had fond ties with FUM over the years. More, such a separation would move away from a diversity of perspectives, a commitment that we see as central to Quaker testimony.
We recommend that Baltimore Yearly Meeting continue to struggle with the light that comes from recognizing a diversity of perspectives, including universalist perspectives.
Other options may, of course, emerge. Patuxent Friends would be interested in hearing how other meetings within Baltimore Yearly Meeting view the issue of the future of Friends United Meeting. In our view, it is an issue of vital concern to the future of the whole Society of Friends.
Query on Parenting
As a parent, do you respect and support each child as an individual?
Acknowledging that children can minister to "adult" concerns, do you seek opportunities in families and community to learn from children?
Do you continually seek to increase your personal knowledge and skills for resolving conflict in family?
Do you consider it a desirable alternative to initiate or add to a family through adoption?
Do you seek to help those families in need of support in your community?
Aware of the connection between over-population and poverty, hunger, infant mortality, women’s subjugation and environmental degradation, do you support family planning services locally and around the world?
Do you live and work to better world-wide economic conditions which would have the effect of lowering the rate of population growth?
Query on the Environment
Do you treasure as sacred the whole of Creation?
Do you treat with reverence the natural resources of the earth, which all living things share interdependently?
How are you bringing your life into harmony with the natural rhythms of life so that you ma pass on to future generations a sustainable world?
What are you doing to teach others, including your children and members of your community, to walk gently over the earth, cherishing each strand of the intricate web of life?
What actions are you taking to halt the destruction of earth’s ecosystems, and what actions to promote her healing?
(Sent to Local Press)
If the U.S. goes to war in the Middle East, the military draft is likely to be reinstituted (possibly to include women).
According the Section 6(j) of the Military Selective Service Act, no person shall be required to perform combatant training and service who is "conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form". A claim to conscientious objector status, however, has to be sustained by the local draft board. This will not happen without convincing documentation to support the claim (e.g. support letters). Document preparation takes time - more time than the approximately ten days allowed between receipt of the induction notice and reporting to a Military Processing Station.
If some of your readers think they might be conscientious objectors to participation in war, they should begin now to prepare their C.O. claim. They might wish to consult a counseling kit on conscientious objection, available at their local libraries. This kit contains the addresses and telephone numbers of two major agencies for military and draft counseling; the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in Philadelphia, Pa. and the National Interreligious Service Board in Washington, D.C.
On the Gulf War
Current events in the Persian Gulf call each of us to examine carefully the purposes for which this nation is willing to use military force. Because life is precious, we are deeply concerned that this nation may embark on a military attack to force Iraq from Kuwait, at the certain cost of countless American and Arab lives.
Nationalistic and religious passions are high in the Persian Gulf region. Therefore, the long term consequences of a military conflict, especially Western-led conflict, in the Middle East are unpredictable. It is likely, however, that the effects of armed conflict would be devastating to further development of a world at peace.
Insofar as the protection of American interests in oil are at the heart of this conflict, we think this nation must begin an all-out effort to cut back on its use of fossil fuels. Increases in fuel and other energy efficiencies on the part of the American public could eliminate a large part of American dependency upon Middle Eastern oil. A national energy policy is now imperative.
Diplomatic and nonviolent political measures, explored through the mediation of the United Nations, have the capacity to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We find no excuse for war.
On Unity With Nature: The Spiritual Dimension
Recently, an increasing number of Friends have spoken to the need for the Society of Friends to recognize the spiritual importance of concern for the natural environment. Such a recognition of the spiritual dimension of our human unity with nature is founded on an awareness that:
The whole of creation is dynamic, interconnected and interdependent; and
All parts of creation are sacred.
Scientists provide knowledge about the natural web of existence, showing how the air, the waters, the land and the inhabitants and resources of the earth interrelate. They also warn that the loss of species, the destruction of ecosystems and the pollution of air and water can destroy the environment upon which all parts of the creation, including humans, rely to survive and grow. As Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe once said: "All things are connected like the blood which unites one family…Man is merely a strand in the web of life…whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
Various sources exist for a realization that care for the natural world is a spiritual concern. Friends who turn to the Inner Light and see "that of God" in every person may also experience "that of God" in the larger created universe. Those who consider the Bible as the primary source of their spirituality may find in that test the notion that Jesus chose the living environment as a natural place to seek communion with God and possessed a deep sense of the interrelated holiness of all life. Both Christians and Jews can derive a belief of the sacredness of all creation from the revelation in the book of Genesis that all of the universe, not simply humans, flows from the divine creative energy. Native American and other spiritual traditions base a like belief in their own creation stories.
An awareness of and sensitivity to the intricate web of creation and its divine composition can also be a sound foundation for a commitment to respect, heal, preserve and restore that web of creation. In our necessary use of the goods of nature, we can act with an attitude of reverence and gratitude for the gifts which sustain our life, limiting our use and directing our management toward the long-term sustainability of ecosystems and consciously choosing some ways to give back to nature in return for it gifts to us. Each of us can seek out ways to honor and cherish the "peaceable kingdom" of creation’s whole.
On the Richmond Declaration
Patuxent Preparative Meeting has diligently studied the Richmond Declaration and considered whether it should be reaffirmed at the coming FUM Triennial. We conclude:
The Richmond Declaration is a formulation of a creed, and hence tends to be exclusive. Tying Quakerism to a particular formulation of belief may cause the Religious Society of Friends to lose the essential ingredient of spontaneous response to inward guidance, which is it defining characteristic. As the minute of Five Years’ Meeting, September 7, 1992, states: "…unity of spirit…will bind us more closely together than uniformity of thought could ever do".
The Declaration expresses an understanding of the basis of the Quaker faith different from ours and does not speak for us. We believe that there is that of God in everyone and revelation is continuous, and that the spirit comes to us and we to the spirit where we are as individuals. Baltimore Yearly Meeting, of which Patuxent Preparative Meeting is a part, should not approve (as a member of FUM) the reaffirmation of the Richmond Declaration.