Saturday, June 21, 2014

When Quakers go Trans

By my title you might be thinking I mean "trans-gender" but I'm talking about another kind of transition at the institutional level.  The ideas of "hormone therapy" and/or "surgery" still have application in this extended metaphor.

When a cis Liberal Meeting decides to pass for Pastoral, it needs to embark upon a somewhat lengthy process.  In the final stages, vital committees considered intrinsic to Liberal Friends, including Business Meeting itself, may be put on ice or shelved.  This is sometimes posed as "an experiment" i.e. lets put aside our structures and just have potlucks and family fun, not worry our heads about such worldly matters as Liberals (remember them?) might be concerned with.

A first sign that a change might be looming is when Friends cannot seem to fill their own Peace and Social Concerns committee.  Why should a bunch of middle class white people enjoying their privileges want to busy themselves with fighting the status quo?  Life is pretty good.  Lets focus on our families instead.

If you have a nice meetinghouse, you'll have "event center" possibilities, i.e. a steady income, and with a Pastoral Care Committee, you'll be able to divvy the surplus among the faithful, meaning mostly members, i.e. those who've demonstrated due obedience to the Pastoral team.

We Liberals sometimes call this form of Pastoralism "kiss butt Quakerism", clearly pejorative, but forgive us, the whole of Quakerism owes itself, in large degree, to throwing off any pastoral caste.  That some Quakers fell back into the slime and lost their evolutionary advantages is not tacit permission for all of us to fall from grace in such a spectacular manner.

The meeting I attend and have served for many decades, as Quarterly Meeting Planner when we host that event (WQM), as Overseer, as Peace and Social Concerns person, even as Assistant Clerk, appears to be undergoing hormone therapy with an eye towards becoming a Trans Church.

As a dry run, the Pastor-Clerks assumed record-level powers and made a secret deal with a radical political group many Liberals have real questions about.  Oversight was bypassed, except for its clerk, whom the pastoral team pledged to secrecy until the deal was done and announced to the world on Facebook, i.e. until it was too late.

News of the deal going down was leaked however, and a delegation of Liberals approached the pastors on bended knee, so to speak, to beg for lenience.  They brought a petition.  Don't sell out by committing a trophy meetinghouse, a symbolic property, so easily, and in such a back-handed manner, was our silent plea -- I said nothing during this April 13 meeting, as I was still trying to understand what was happening to our meeting (e.g. what is "CAC"?).

The pastor-clerks eventually relented, after taking a few days to consult with advisers (the CAC), saying they have great compassion for all members and if anyone feels bullied by any group, they're here to protect them.  A series of special meetings was called, to prove the sincerity of our protectiveness.

This about face totally pissed off the first group (understandably) the radicals with whom the secret deal had already been struck, but their wrath was probably worth the price, as the main point was in terms of internal Quaker politics:  Business Meeting must beg, not decide.  The pastors were in control and were making all key decisions, not the laity, i.e. the surgery was almost complete.

As an Overseer at the time, and of the Liberal persuasion, I understandably went ballistic, and that's where an Eldering Committee comes in, instigated directly by pastor-clerks against any lingering dissident Liberal: lets make an example of this dissenter, by loving him to death ("compassionate listening" they called it).

Likewise Oversight -- soon to be renamed Pastoral Care Committee if the kiss-butts have their way -- was not really a factor in making this decision, either to go with the radicals or to cancel.  The hormone therapy was almost complete.  We're a Quaker Trans Church in the making.  That's the fashionable trend these days.  Pastors rule!

True Liberal Meetings are a vanishing species perhaps.  Don't assume simply checking the Faith and Practice will get you the truth.  Ours is riddled with misleading inaccuracies and, at this point, I'd say outright lies.  It says we have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee.  That's covering up the fact that we don't (no meetings in ages, nothing on the calendar going forward, AFSC ex oficio... gone).

So yes, I see our Integrity testimony as falling by the wayside here, but minus any Peace and Social Concerns, who's to be concerned about it?  You see how it all fits together, in an almost hermetic way.  Quakers are brilliant around process, that much is clear.