New Online Exhibit Features First Gay-Positive Report by a Religious Group

August 11, 2014

The LGBT Religious Archives Network (www.lgbtran.org) has released a new online exhibition that portrays the dramatic story of 11 British Quakers responsible for the groundbreaking 1963 report Towards a Quaker View of Sex. Dr. Anna Bidder convened this group of social scientists and educators in 1957 to consider an appropriate response to young Friends at university who were struggling with homosexuality. The group met regularly over five years—first to listen, reflect and discuss; and later to write, review and rewrite. Their 74-page report drew from Quaker principles to call for a more compassionate sexual ethic. Its formulation of an inclusive moral framework for both heterosexuality and homosexuality became headline-news in the U.K., the U.S. and internationally.

The Towards a Quaker View of Sex exhibition can be viewed here: http://exhibits.lgbtran.org/exhibits/show/towards-a-quaker-view-of-sex The exhibition is cosponsored by: American Friends Service Committee (www.afsc.org) ; Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns (http://flgbtqc.quaker.org/ and the Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship (www.qlgf.org.uk).

The seeds of this exhibition were planted by public historian Mitchell Gould who approached LGBT-RAN in late 2010 with a major gift to develop an educational resource on Quaker LGBT history. “After consultation with LGBT and Quaker historians and activists we decided to focus on what was likely the most influential, yet largely forgotten, act in Quaker LGBT history—publication of the first-ever religious study affirming gay and lesbian persons” noted LGBT-RAN coordinator Mark Bowman.

Bowman, who also curated the exhibition, further notes: “The big breakthrough was the discovery that one of the writers, Keith Wedmore, is still living all these years later.” Wedmore recorded two lengthy interviews and uncovered a collection of meeting minutes and correspondence that document the work of the group. These became the key artifacts around which the exhibition is constructed.

The exhibition includes over 150 digital artifacts—correspondence, minutes, memos, articles, photos and recollections—which portray the development of Towards a Quaker of Sex from 1957 through 1964. Many of these have never before been viewed in public. Bowman observes: “This exhibition dramatically follows the journey of eleven remarkable people whose Quaker faith impelled them to reach ethical understandings far ahead of their day. You can observe how their views evolved over the years and how they eventually made a huge splash in the civil and religious societies.” The exhibition will also assist historians in placing this oft-forgotten study in its appropriate context in the decades-long struggle for LGBT equality in social and religious institutions.

LGBT-RAN was launched thirteen years ago to preserve the history of LGBT religious movements around the world. Its innovative use of digital technology makes historical data and artifacts easily accessible on its web site: www.lgbtran.org. The Committee on LGBT History (www.clgbthistory.org) earlier this year awarded the Allen Bérubé Prize for outstanding work in public or community-based LGBTQ history to LGBT-RAN’s previous online exhibition on the tragic 1973 Upstairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans (www.exhibits.lgbtran.org/exhibits/show/upstairs-lounge-fire) that killed 32 persons in a second-story gay bar.

LGBT-RAN is a program of the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies in Religion & Ministry (www.clgs.org) at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley (www.psr.edu). CLGS managing director Justin Tanis observes: “The online publication of this historic exhibit from LGBT-RAN is one of the ways that CLGS is at work to transform faith communities and the wider society by taking a leading role in shaping a new public discourse on religion and sexuality.”

You can make a financial contribution to help defray the expenses of the Towards a Quaker View of Sex exhibition here: http://www.lgbtran.org/DonateLink.aspx All donors are named on the exhibit’s Credits page.