Quakers mark fiftieth anniversary of outspoken report on morals

By staff writers
September 11, 2013

Quakers in Britain are this week marking the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of a controversial publication described as one of the most forthright reports on sex and morals ever published by a religious body. It sold half a million copies.

There will be an open meeting to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the controversial publication,Towards a Quaker view of sex.from 12 noon to 2.30pm, on Friday 13 September at Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London.

Keith Wedmore, a retired barrister and the last surviving member of the original authorial group of eleven influential Quakers, will speak about the creation of the book and the public response to it.

Manchester Quaker David Blamires, author of Pushing at the Frontiers of change: A memoir of Quaker involvement with homosexuality will speak about Quakers’ involvement in huge social change. Fifty years ago, being openly homosexual was a criminal offence and today the law allows equal marriage.

The 1963 report insisted on the basic similarity of homosexual and heterosexual emotional and moral experience. During the recent House of Lords debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Baroness Brinton quoted from the book, saying: “The Quakers, as ever, set the pace on this. In 1963, in their paper, Towards a Quaker View of Sex, they said: ‘Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters; one must not judge by its outward appearance but by its inner worth … We see no reason why the physical nature of a sexual act should be the criterion by which the question whether or not it is moral should be decided. An act which expresses true affection between two individuals and gives pleasure to them both, does not seem to us to be sinful by reason alone of the fact that it is homosexual.’”

Towards a Quaker view of sex was not an official Quaker statement on sexuality but was published by the Literature Committee of the Friends Home Service Committee as a contribution to thought on an important subject, with funding provided by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.


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