quaker process hurts people and it’s your fault or, I don’t believe that you care about people more than you care about your ego
EDIT: I KNOW THE JARGON THAT I AM USING “INCORRECTLY” HERE. Yes, a “Quaker church” is called a meeting. The thing is, most of my readers would not understand what a meeting is. I care more about being accessible than about playing this shitty game with jargon.
Google Quaker process.
But if you aren’t a Quaker or are relatively new to Quaker jargon, the search results might be confusing and overwhelming. If you are a Quaker like me and have been trying to become a Quaker for four years, then you might cry.
Like every other organized religion and institution, Quakers have their own system, structure, and language. Quakers aren’t special because they talk in code.
Quakers, however, keep their code, structure, and system a secret. A secret cloaked in the language of inclusion and equality and welcome. If you don’t understand the system, you just aren’t trying hard enough (or so they tell me).
“QUAKERS,” they shout, “REJECT HIERARCHY. EVERYONE HAS THAT OF GOD IN THEM. WE LISTEN TO EVERYONE’S VOICE.”
Quakers also kick people out of their meetings for being the wrong kind of people, and they do it in the name of this thing called Quaker process. In my experience, it is most often gender and sexual minorities and people of color who are kicked out of meetings. Other people sometimes choose to leave if they are unhappy with how things are going, but they are rarely forced out.
If you are reading this and are thinking, “Damn, it would be so helpful if you would define Quaker process so I could figure out what you’re talking about,” please consider yourself in good company. Dear friend, I also have no fucking clue what Quaker process is or how it is supposed to function. I have googled it. I have been to business meetings. I have read pamphlets, spoken with too many Quakers about it, and written papers on it in graduate school. Through all of this, I’ve learned a few things. Mostly, I’ve learned that I have good reason to be very suspicious of Quaker process.
Quakers rarely define Quaker process without resorting to a different kind of Quaker code to explain it.
This could be because communicating is hard. I get it, welcoming new people is difficult. It might be worth the effort, though.
It’s funny, because I wrote a piece about this last year for my local church. I wrote about trying to fit in with Quakers having grown up outside of the Quaker church. The organizing structure for my church and other Quaker churches in the area also published my piece with my permission.
And yet, after publishing that piece not a single Quaker in my church did anything to make church more accessible to newcomers.
I did get kicked out, though.
I guess I should be more specific. I wasn’t kicked out of the church I attended for three years. Technically, I was never allowed to be a member there – being queer was against Quaker rules. I still showed up, though. Still had people to sit with. I still found home there.
But then my church split over the existence of queer people (because it was Quaker process). And after the church divided, half of the church decided to create their own “affirming” church. I guess this half of my community didn’t feel the Spirit leading them to speak out against my exclusion until the church divided and they were made uncomfortable because of their perspective on my existence.
Maybe it wasn’t the sense of the meeting to disrupt bigotry when it was hurting queer people all those years. I wouldn’t know. And I guess we’re still waiting on the Spirit to lead us into a discussion about how fucking racist Quakers are?
(Sense of the meeting, for all you non-Quakers and unfamiliar-with-jargon-Quakers, is the rationale used behind whatever decision is made by the governing Quakers and Quakers with power. Usually white and straight people.)
When this new, affirming church decided to form, I was asked, along with a person of color, not to attend a meeting because the group of all white and primarily straight people needed to decide if they approved of us joining their group trying to create an inclusive community.
There are a few problems with telling a queer person and a person of color that they must be approved to join a group that is attempting to make space for queer people and people of color. Interestingly, we had already attended a meeting with this group. And unfortunately, we did not make the group process easier. It turns out that it’s harder to be inclusive when actual queer people and people of color are present. The group did not appreciate this.
We were asked not to come back in the name of Quaker process. At least until we were approved. Tell me, friends, do you think we are really supposed to trust this process?
After this, the group disbanded and regrouped without us. We were too mean. Too hostile. Too aggressive. It hurt their feelings to hear they were continuing to harm gender and sexual minorities and people of color. Why couldn’t we offer more grace?
If this is what Quaker process is for, then to hell with it. If Quaker process requires that we exclude or vote on the existence of queer people and people of color, then it is way past time to trash it.
Quaker process and the jargon that accompanies it creates unnecessary barriers for people seeking community. It is inaccessible, and it revels in it’s inaccessibility.
It is cruel to use jargon and ambiguous language against the lived experiences of people. It is lazy to refuse to educate those in your community about the way your community functions. It is irresponsible to ignore the very inaccessible and invisible structure of Quaker business meetings and then force people to defend their existence in these very meetings.
I am lucky. I am connected to two Quakers who are very familiar with Quaker jargon. These Quakers (two!! two of them!!! In my entire denomination!!!) sit by me in business meetings and receive my angry texts with patience. They whisper interpretations to me, despite the dirty looks I get for whispering in a business meeting. They try to help me see what I cannot see.
I’m hitting walls that I don’t know exist and I’m angry because who put these fucking walls up and why do you all know how to navigate them?
And even though I love these two Quakers, they don’t always see when they fall into the same trap. They don’t always see the boundaries in their own community. They’ve grown up inside of it, why would they see what I see?
The problem isn’t that I hit a wall. I don’t need specific instructions for how I should navigate this one particular wall. The problem is that no one is interested in tearing these walls down with me.
I originally titled this post, “fuck quakers” as a joke. And then I realized I wasn’t joking. And it wasn’t very funny.
Quakers, for all the grief they give me, are sometimes doing important work in their meetings. And I can’t understand them. And this frustrates me to no end.
Quakers are often very racist and very sexist and very homophobic in their meetings. And I am often dismissed when I try to fight back because I’m speaking with the wrong symbols. Or I don’t know the protocol for speaking at all. Or because people are too busy congratulating themselves to see the people they’ve stepped on in their progressive journey.
And of course, this is bigger than Quakers. This is about institutions that are rooted in whiteness and patriarchy. Quakers are just a damn good example.
Quakers could maybe one day be a people that respect the light that is in each person. But they aren’t going to get there if they value process and jargon, whiteness and patriarchy, liberalism and their egos, more than they value people.