Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fellowship of Friends of African Descent



"A Time for Healing Through Community"






April 12-15, 2007
St Helena Island, SC

My mother drove down to the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent Gathering with me. It was important that she went because two weeks prior to our departure I injured my back and was experiencing a lot of pain in my lower back. I was able to sit in the passenger seat of our car comfortably. However, sitting in the drivers seat was painful so my mother drove everywhere we traveled.


Visit Liz in Savannah, GA

We left Monday morning so we could take two days to drive down to Penn Center. I also planned to spend Wednesday with Liz in Savannah. My mother got sick so we spent the day in the hotel instead of with Liz. I used the time to do some work that I had not been able to complete prior to leaving. Mom was feeling better the next day, Thursday, so we spent the morning and early afternoon in Savannah with Liz, Helen & Robin, a former co-worker from Friends General Conference & Robin, her husband. We got a chance to visit Liz in her new house. The directions Frank gave us were perfect. They took us directly to the front door. Liz gave us a tour of the house. Liz, Helen, Robin, mom and I ate lunch at Liz's dining room table. Then we all piled into Liz's car and drove to Tybee Island to do some sight seeing. We stopped at the Lighthouse, but the line was long and we didn't want to stand in the heat to walk up the stairs inside of a very hot lighthouse. The beach was more exciting to us so we left the parking lot of the Lighthouse and drove to the beach. Tybee beach has a pier and pavilion. We walked along the beach, on the pier and around the pavilion. Many people were fishing off of the pier. The beach was surprisingly crowded with people of all ages. We assumed that many of the children and college students were there because their schools, colleges and Universities must have been on spring break. Before we knew it it was late afternoon and mom and I needed to leave Savannah to return to South Carolina so that I could attend the Gathering.


FFAD's 13th Gathering

The Gathering began with dinner on Thursday. It was smaller this year, fewer ad

ults and children attended. Several of my friends did not attend, including Barry. This was the first Gathering I attended without him.


As usual there were new Friends I had not met before who came and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know them. We had several business meetings, heard from members of the American Friends Service Committee's Third World Coalition about conditions in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi post Katrina, poured libations at the beach and watched the FFAD video that one of our members is making.








Fellowship Decisions: Travel to Africa - Kenya or Ghana?

The Fellowship made several important decisions. We decided not to combine our Gathering next year with FGC’s Midwest Regional Consultation for Friends of Color. Our biggest decision was something we had been talking about for several years, a trip to Africa. We talked about traveling to either Kenya or Ghana. As a group we were concerned about the homophobic environment in Kenya. The Fellowship has a diverse membership, we are gay, lesbian and heterosexual. The majority of the meetings in Kenya are programmed with a pastor and are members of Friends United Meeting (FUM). The extreme homophobia, which is deeply ingrained in African culture and reinforced by East African Christian theology Statements heard by members of New York Yearly Meeting who attended the strategic planning meeting about homosexuality while in Africa were:


“We don’t have any homosexuals in Africa. We don’t have that problem here.”
“The suicide rate for gay Friends in Africa is very, very high.”
“In the forty-six languages spoken in Kenya, there is no word for homosexual.”

“In the younger generation of African Friends, homosexuality is not such a big
issue.”
“God made Adam. When he was lonely, God made Eve out of him. God told them
to be fruitful and multiply. How are two men to do this? The Bible makes it very
clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. I do not understand why we
are having this discussion.”


FUM held a general board meeting in Kenya in February 2007. Just prior to this board meeting they had strategic planning meetings in Kakamega. In the morning of the second day of the meeting the clerk of Uganda Yearly Meeting "gave a lengthy sermon on Romans 1:18–32, proclaiming repeatedly that even those who condone homosexuality are worthy of death." Gi

ven this sermon and the general concern about the sexual ethics portion of FUM's personnel policy; the group was concerned about our safety among Friends in Kenya. Finally, on Saturday evening we decided to travel to Ghana, (and possibly Togo and Benin) West Africa in 2009 or 2010. The Friends in Ghana are unprogrammed and Independent, which means they are not affiliated with FUM. A subcommittee was appointed to plan that Gathering. I volunteered to serve on that committee. As a result of our decision to go to Africa we agreed to meet in Atlanta at Morehouse next year June 19-22.


Thank You Penn Center

The Fellowship has enjoyed meeting at Penn Center on St Helena Island in South Carolina. It was a warm, affirming and grounded environment for us. However, travel to the area is expensive for anyone who needs to fly. The nearest airport is Savannah which is about an hour away. Friends then have the added expense of paying for a limousine to drive them from the airport to Penn Center. Our decision to go to Africa encouraged us to relocate to Atlanta which will reduce the expenses related to travel so that Friends can begin saving money for traveling to Africa. We will miss meeting at Penn Center very much. It was like returning home for many of us each year we gathered there.

2 comments:

Kenneth said...

I love the picture of you and your mom on the beach!

It's very, very exciting that the Fellowship decided to travel to Ghana. Thank you for reporting on some of the discussion.

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