Thursday, October 30, 2014

Letter to New Association of Friends

Hey Margaret, thanks again for messaging me back. I'm sorry this took a while but I wanted to think about my answer a bit.
My name is Daniel, I'm a (mostly) convinced Friend and have been since January.
I'm a 24 year old once and future college student, currently working as a library page in Cleveland Ohio. 

I grew up SDA and was planning to work for that denomination in some capacity. Sociology and Religion were my two majors at Andrews. But I had a falling out based on the fact that I'm gay (which the SDA church is not affirming of). Actually it was more the Biblical and Theological reasoning behind that non-affirming status that caused me to walk away. I realized that I did not think that the arguments were very good in light of  scripture, church history and experience. I might have stayed as a dissenting voice in that debate, but I realized that, because I wanted to do ministry, at some point I would have to be urging young gay persons like myself to join a church that I did not feel fully welcome in. And I didn't think I could give that invitation honestly and with a clear conscience. So I left.

I spent about 3 years looking amongst affirming faiths for a spiritual home. There were a lot of different groups that almost fit but not quite. I settled on Quakers because I welcomed it's emphasis on the present and continued revelation of Christ in the individual and the community as well as Scripture. I also liked the idea of Jesus as the Word of God and the notion that many Friends share that he is the lens through which we discern what to do and how to live in the World. I was glad to be a part of a Christ centered community of faith that held such views AND was LGBT friendly. But then I realized that this really wasn't the case. Many LGBT Friendly Yearly meetings weren't very Christocentric. And the most Christocentric meetings and churches were pretty clear about their disapproval of LGBT relationships. This was very disappointing to say the least. Pus,coming from an Adventist background, I was more comfortable with programmed or semi-programmed worship And again, it seemed like the more programmed the less LGBT friendly and vice versa. 

But then I was invited to one of those "Intro to Seminary" tours that Earlham School of Religion does, and while doing  research on Earlham, came upon an article by Stephen Angell on the split in Indiana Yearly meeting. I read everything I could about the new Yearly meeting that was being created. When I went to ESR I even got to see Derek Parker, pastor at First Friends meeting. So I always said that when I went to ESR I would be sure to join up with the New Association of Friends.

 The problem for me is that there is a long way to go before I move to Richmond. So where can I find a local Friends community that is both Christ centered and welcoming to people like myself? There isn't any really. And I haven't had a local community of faith to be a part of since I left the SDA church 3 years ago. I've gone to the local meeting, but there wasn't much spiritually there for me. I seriously considered giving up on Friends frankly, because I really miss that fellowship aspect, I miss belonging fully to a community bigger than myself. I feel myself becoming a bit spiritually unmoored, to be honest.

So I'm trying to build ties now in the present, with Christ centered Friends, in anticipation of a more engaged future. I've been talking to Micah Bales and the Friends of Jesus Fellowship and trying to establish a relationship there. I'll try to attend the spring meeting with them next year. Meanwhile, I'd like to start engaging more deeply with a more established Yearly Meeting. I've started to give monthly to FUM. And I'd like to be formally in fellowship with some Yearly Meeting. Hence my Facebook message to you. It's not much, I won't be able to be as active or engaged as I like until I get to graduate school (which is about 5 years away). In the meantime I'll just keep attending my local Meeting, at least for the fellowship and spiritual discipline aspect.

I hope this isn't too much info. Thanks again for responding.