Traveling to Knit Us Together
Our purpose, as presented to Interim Meeting, is to spiritually oversee and financially support a traveling ministry of presence within Friends United Meeting- a traveling which we hope will knit us together. What is intervisitation under the care of our committee, and what is it not?
The committee does not sponsor travel “with a concern” to change the personnel policy of FUM, though most of us hold the firm truth that FUM’s policy is hurtful. Our purpose is not “to promote dialogue” about the policy or sexuality issues, though we hope honest conversation and open sharing are not strangers to our gatherings and visitations.
Report of Initial Meeting – March 5, 2005
On March 5, our committee met for almost five hours and had the goal of taking the first steps in bringing into being an intervisitation program between Baltimore Yearly Meeting and other yearly and monthly meetings that are part of Friends United Meeting. We met after two of the three 2005 meetings had been held to discuss a recommendation on how BYM should allocate funds for Friends United Meeting.
Through our March 5th meeting, we drafted a mission statement for an intervisitation program, discussed what an intervisitation program would look like, considered requests regarding intervisitation projects that we have already received, shared our collective knowledge of Friends’ history and practices, and enjoyed getting to know one another better.
Present at the meeting: Howard Fullerton, Ken Stockbridge, Georgia Fuller, Sharon Stout, Walter Brown, Rebecca Richards, Marcy Seitel
The mission of an intervisitation program
The intervisitation program of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting is being planned because of BYM’s concern for Friends United Meeting’s policies on sexual diversity and sexual conduct in community. This concern has awakened us to the fragility of the relations among the yearly meetings and monthly meetings of FUM. We encourage, prepare, and support Friends to travel with the faith that we can listen, strengthen our relationships, offer care for each other, build our faith community, and lay a groundwork for discussions around sexual diversity and other issues as they arise. This plan assumes that intervisitation will be in all directions, and those interested will offer and receive hospitality.
We recognize that diversity raises issues and opportunities within all the FUM monthly meetings. Our purpose is to strengthen the Religious Society of Friends in the hope of leading us toward a clear sense of what it means to know and live in the beloved community of Friends.
This mission statement can best be understood in the context of the full report of this ad hoc committee’s initial meeting of March 5, 2005. We propose that this mission statement be reviewed in five years.
We expect that our committee will receive traveling minutes specifically for those visiting under our program and that we will consider and present them to interim or yearly meeting for endorsement.
The idea of an intervisitation program first arose in the summer of 2004 when BYM Friends began to realize how deep were their concerns were about FUM’s employment policy on sexuality. While the idea of visiting was discussed at Annual Sessions, a committee to come up with a formal plan did not come into being until the Fall Interim Meeting in October 2004. The Ad Hoc Committee on Intervisitation was formed with representatives from the four committees which hold the concern over BYM’s financial commitment to FUM, which are Ministry and Oversight, the ad hoc Committee for Gender and Sexual Diversity Concerns, Finance, and Advancement and Outreach.
Visiting – what it is
Because of the diversity of needs, concerns, and interests of the meetings, yearly meetings, and individuals involved, we thought it would be best to keep an open view of what visiting means. Each visit will likely be unique. We discourage the idea of visiting in the role of ministers who travel to impart a truth, but rather to build relationships so that the sharing of truth is done with respect and in an atmosphere of trust. On the other hand, friends traveling may have the intent of only listening, but feel led to share their ministry.
There are meetings among FUM friends who have suffered because of decisions about their members who have come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. With those meetings our purpose would likely be more pastoral. Other meetings may want simply to know more Friends, and so our purpose is more of traveling to build community. Visitors may be asked to share their faith and experience, and at times this will likely become more like the visit of a minister. We ask traveling Friends to be open to all these possibilities. We trust that visiting Friends will be open to the leadings of the Spirit as they travel.
The purpose of traveling is to share our life experiences and faith experiences. Those who travel should expect that they will in ways be changed. In addition, traveling Friends may have to be present to people who really believe that being against GLBT Friends is right, and promotes Gospel Order. We hope that this program will change people’s hearts and their lives. We may find that we don’t agree on some important things, but that we can live together.
Who visits and how prospective visitors are prepared
A visitor can be any Friend in Baltimore Yearly Meeting who feels they want to travel. Friends can volunteer, or can be recognized and encouraged. It is our hope that Friends of a wide age range will want to travel. We recommend that Friends consider serving as visitors over a three-year period so that they gain experience with this process.
A person who is interested in traveling should request a clearness committee with their own meeting first. If traveling seems right, then the friend would receive a traveling minute from their monthly meeting. The next step would be to meet with members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Intervisitation of Interim Meeting and be endorsed by this group.
All those traveling would receive an orientation from the Ad Hoc Intervisitation Committee to help them learn about FUM meetings and some of their practices, and learn about practices for listening in potentially divisive situations.
All of these steps are necessary for anyone who wishes to travel as a visitor. After traveling, each visitor would be asked to report back to the Intervisitation Committee to let us know how the visit went, the major concerns of the visited meeting, and what kinds of things were accomplished.
We recommend that people travel in pairs or in larger numbers. It would be best if one of the travelers could be a GLBT Friend, or one who has first hand experience with GLBT Friends and can speak from this experience and another be self-identified as a straight person..
To date, we have focused more on preparing members of BYM to be visitors, but we also hope to receive visitors from other yearly meetings. Shaping this part of the program will be on the agenda for future meetings.
Role of Ad Hoc Intervisitation Committee
We recommend that our committee be kept going for five years, and then have next steps for the program be considered. We would help Friends discern their leadings and help them prepare for visiting. We would receive requests for visiting and seek to fill them. We would support those who visit over the period of time that they serve as visitors, and keep visitors informed of each other’s experiences. We would also regularly report experiences of visiting back to Interim Meeting.
As we proceed, we will be learning more about FUM, the diversity of Friends generally, historical facts, and other information that we would like to share with BYM and other FUM Friends.
Requests for support of programs in 2005
By the time we met in March, our committee had already received three requests regarding intervisitation. Two were for funds to cover programs that are being planned, and one was our first request to have BYM Friends visit a monthly meeting. Joan and Rich Liversidge are planning a marriage enrichment program with a Kenyan couple, and travel and other expenses need to be met. Aron Teel and the Ad Hoc Committee on GLBT Concerns is sponsoring a workshop at Annual Sessions that will include travel expenses. And finally, Winston-Salem Friends Meeting in North Caroline has invited Friends to visit them. All three requests seem important to support.
It is not known where this program will take us. It might be good to plan a conference for all Friends on the topic of sexuality, or on the topic of the diversity and core of our faith and practice. We may find many ways to gather Friends, share our faith experiences, and strengthen the Religious Society of Friends.
Everyone is invited to participate in this program in some way. Some Friends may want to start a correspondence with another FUM Friend, visiting a meeting can be on the agenda of a vacation, there are workshops and other gatherings to attend that include a diversity of Friends. We encourage all members of BYM to consider how they can learn more about other FUM Friends and help deepen the relationships among Friends everywhere.
If you would like to join in this program either as a visitor or a host, please contact the Ad Hoc Intervisitation Committee using our contact page.
We welcome any comments.