On July 30, the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, voted to withhold their $17,400 annual membership donation to the Friends United Meeting, an international Quaker organization, in protest of the larger organization’s anti-gay hiring policy.

The Society of Friends is a Christian organization that originated in England around 1650, with voluntary groups throughout the world but no centralized leadership. The Society has been known for its policies of pacifism and opposition to slavery and racial segregation.

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) is a gathering of 40 Quaker meetings from Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania that are comprised of more than 4, 300 members. The BYM’s 333rd meeting was held in Harrisonburg, Virginia, at James Madison University.

Quaker congregations are named after how often they meet for matters involving the church’s business. Most local organizations are called monthly meetings. Eight local monthly meetings of the BYM submitted proposals to end the Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s annual membership donation of $17,400 to the Friends United Meeting.

According to a letter released by the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, the Friends United Meeting enforces a personnel policy that “effectively bars from staff and leadership positions those Friends [Quakers] who can not sign, abide by and enforce a policy of discrimination against any person in a sexual relationship outside the bond of marriage, defined in the policy as between one man and one woman.”

The letter claimed that the Baltimore Yearly Meeting had benefited from the leadership of many Friends who would not be hired or hold leadership positions under this policy, and hence could not endorse the policy of the Friends United Meeting.

Another proposal was made at the Baltimore Yearly Meeting for the mid-Atlantic group to leave the Friends United Meeting. This proposal was not adopted. Rather, the BYM’s letter stated they hoped to remain within the larger organization and work for change from within.

—Stefen Styrksy

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