Melanie Weidner, B.A. Religion/Christian Ministries, Art Minor (1991), writes:
Dear friends at George Fox University, Seminary, and Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church,
I imagine you find yourselves tugged in your hearts and minds by this latest upswell of passionate conversation about sexuality and faith. I find myself heartened by the courage and compassion I see in those raising the issues yet again, and so I signed the OneGeorgeFox.com letter in solidarity with the request to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer or questioning students and alumni. I also feel waves of my own grief rising as I consider my college and life experience and what I hope for the University and Yearly Meeting.
My grief comes in three parts. First, I weep for the pain I felt and I caused by years of living inauthentically without my knowing, and for the tremendous loss and rejection I experienced coming out as a lesbian woman when I discovered and later accepted the truth. Second, I grieve when I feel the tightening grip of a cultural rather than spiritual theological tradition that oppresses and silences LBGTQ individuals and puts them in inner and outer danger. Third, I feel heartsick for those caught in Biblical argument who could be freed by a fresh understanding of the Life-giving embrace inherent in the Gospel.
It seems to me that much of this suffering stems from different views of Biblical interpretation. While I honor the longstanding faithfulness of GFU and NWYM to stay true to their roots and the teachings of Christ, I invite these communities to listen also to the people among you who have discovered a spacious way to live faithfully with the Bible and affirm the goodness of human nature and healthy LBGTQ sexuality. Many followers of Jesus hold scholastically and theologically valid interpretations of Scripture that lead them to trust that God loves, blesses, and celebrates all of us in our authentic sexuality and spirituality. As a Quaker, I believe the Light of Christ within teaches this truth as well.
For each aspect of my grief, I hold a corresponding hope and celebration of courage. First, I rejoice in the healing, freedom, and joy of breaking through to live authentically, guided by the Spirit, into the full expression of who I am and what I can give as a child of God and lesbian woman in a beautiful, nourishing, committed relationship. I now know from the inside out what Jesus meant when He invited us to lose our lives to find them. In fact, the education and nurture given by both George Fox College and NWYM prepared me to walk faithfully into my truth. I am forever grateful.
Second, I dream that in time, each person in the University and Yearly Meeting might be supported and equipped to courageously live into his or her authentic spirituality, sexuality, and creativity, for the blessing and flourishing of us all. Third, I’ve lived through the frightening transformation from a more literal understanding of Scripture to a dynamic and empowering relationship with its complexities and deep themes of compassion, justice, surrender, and faithfulness. I and so many others can give witness to an unimagined wholeness and vibrant faith on the other side of the loss of certainty.
With these indelible experiences and prayerful confidence, I invite University and Yearly Meeting communities to once again carefully consider the witness of those who hear Christ’s Spirit calling them to affirm LBGTQ individuals as created and blessed by God– as all people are– in the fullness and expression of their sexual identity and spiritual wisdom.
1991 George Fox College, B.A. Religion/Christian Ministries, Art Minor
1998 Earlham School of Religion, M.Min. Spirituality Emphasis
2006 Namaste Center, Certificate in the Art of Spiritual Direction
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