Reflections on preparing the book looking at 50 Years of Quaker Concern for gay equality, by co-editor Marion McNaughton

The preparation of the book ‘A Time to Celebrate , A Time to Remember’ began as part of Quaker Manchester Pride 2013. We wanted to celebrate a significant moment in the long history of the Quaker concern for gay equality: the 50th anniversary of the influential book ‘Towards a Quaker View of Sex’, and the 40th anniversary of the founding of ‘Friends Homosexual Fellowship (now QLGF), both of which anniversaries came in 2013. By happy coincidence this year also marked the final change in the law in England and Wales which legalised same sex marriages, for which Friends had campaigned.

Our project had two parts: we organised a national Quaker conference in Manchester in August 2013 to celebrate the achievements and struggles of Friends throughout the last fifty years; this included distinguished contributions from three well-known Friends (Rosie Bailey, Michael Hutchinson and Chris Skidmore), and moving ministry from the many Friends who attended. The second part of the project was to publish a booklet with the texts of the three main contributions plus a memoir of the woman who initiated the project of ‘Towards a Quaker View of Sex’: Anna Bidder – and interviews with five Friends whose varied experiences illustrated the many facets of the long struggle for gay equality.

Our hope was that both the conference and the book would reveal aspects of a period in our Quaker history which might otherwise remain hidden from general knowledge. We hope it will help all Friends understand how change happens within the Society of Friends, what the obstacles are, why it can take so long, and how Quaker values and processes strengthen the final outcome. Although very particular to QLGF, we hope that this struggle will be seen and owned as part of the whole history of British Quakerism, in the way that Friends’ work towards the abolition of slavery is owned.

We want to acknowledge the loving support of QLGF which enabled us to carry out a task which we felt had been laid on us, and was work that was ours to do.

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