North Seattle faces third affiliation
With its first meeting in 1905 in a tent on an empty lot, North Seattle Friends has been in existence now for over 100 years. That’s a lot of history.
“From our beginning as Friends Memorial Church in 1905 to 1948 the church was part of Indiana Yearly Meeting,” Pastor Lorraine Watson wrote in an email. “In 1948 Friends Memorial was accepted into Oregon Yearly Meeting (renamed to NWYM in 1974). In 2004 Friends Memorial changed its name to North Seattle Friends Church. Sometime soon we will exit Northwest Yearly Meeting for our third affiliation.”
Watson emphasized that in spite of that history, members of the Quaker church aren’t stuck in the past: “Our current meeting is very much alive with the sense that God is present among us today. We are … committed to listening deeply to God in community, following the leadings that come and freeing each other to live into the ministries that arise in our midst.”
In spite of its size and location, North Seattle Friends is “not a neighborhood church,” Watson said, “but a place [to which] people come from all over the area looking for a Christ-centered Quaker presence. We invite all people to join us, recognizing that those who stay are those who have a similar thirst for knowing God.”
“We gather in meeting each week with our primary purpose being to listen together to God who is present in our midst and speaking to us. Whatever else happens is of no consequence if we do not listen together and allow God to speak to us. Generally, we also include music, God stories, and a message, but not always. We are very aware that we all bring something to this gathering and that it is not up to the upfront leaders to create the experience for us. We bear witness to how God works in our midst.”
Watson said that weekly worship gatherings serve as touch-points for community: “We have a strong sense that we accompany each other as we go through the week, so we often announce where the community is going the next week. We also love blessing each other, whether it be going out in ministry or submitting to surgery. But no matter what else we do, we always have a time of silence so that we can listen deeply to God and in that time, we invite people to share their leadings out of the silence.”
In light of the yearly meeting restructure, Watson said, “We grieved the news that NWYM is unable to hold the diversity that has long been present in this yearly meeting. It was our sense that we would do our best work if we stayed together.”
North Seattle decided in April to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting and to help build a new organization: “We hold hope that this will be a Quaker organization that can truly live into what it means to be Christ-centered Quakers in the Northwest…. Once there is definition to the process, we will discern whether we are to join this group, although I think there is little question but what we will become members.”
“I really yearn for a strongly Quaker and Christ-centered yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest,” Watson continued. “It has felt to me for many years like there has been a tug and pull in NWYM between various parts of the YM. Quaker vs. Evangelical, social concerns vs. evangelism and the struggle around joining FWCC are the areas that I’ve been most aware of. I believe this struggle goes way back to 1925 when Oregon Yearly Meeting (now NWYM) left Five Years Meeting (now FUM) and probably before that…. With the restructuring, I yearn for us to move forward in freedom as both Quaker and Christ-centered.”
AC decision intended ‘to lessen the tension’
In a letter sent to pastors today, yearly meeting presiding clerk Brad Holton issued four clarifications “regarding NWYM churches and the current restructure.”
1. “It was not the intention of the AC [Administrative Council] to force churches to discuss this division.”
This clarification may be in response to churches such as Newberg Friends, which announced on March 3, that “because of the yearly meeting decision to restructure, all churches have decisions to make” or North Valley, which announced on March 21, that “because of the yearly meeting decision to ‘restructure,’ all churches in NWYM have decisions to make.” The transition team also clarified on March 22 that “churches are not under a deadline to make decisions.”
2. “NWYM would be composed of meetings who align with current Northwest Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. It also may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
This clarification repeats information from the March 22 transition team report: “It was the intent of the AC decision, as revised at the Mid-Year Representatives meeting, that churches that have not made a statement regarding human sexuality are welcome in either yearly meeting. NWYM will require support of the current Faith & Practice. The new group envisions including those affirming churches as well as those who agree to disagree.”
3. “The AC made the decision to restructure in order to lessen the tension within NWYM and to open a path where everyone could move forward in their respective ministry.”
This clarification adds background insight for the June 3 transition team report that it is “the spirit and intent of the AC to be respectful, fair and impartial” to all churches.
4. “Under the AC decision, churches who are diverse and choose to value their shared community and not divide over this issue would be able to stay in NWYM. Or they may discern to go independent or join another yearly meeting.”
This clarification repeats information from the January 28 AC announcement: “This may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
Group would assist in ‘process of prayerful rebuilding’
Scotts Mills proposed establishing a special task force in an email to Northwest Yearly Meeting pastors, elders, clerks and representatives Wednesday.
“We are eager to get on with what God has called NWYM to do since 1893 and do not want to wait until 2018 to begin the process of rebuilding our structure and unifying our vision,” Pastor Wanda Jenkins wrote. “We believe that across NWYM are many Friends committed to Christ and NWYM Faith and Practice who have ideas and skills that would be helpful to the process of prayerful rebuilding, and who are excited about moving forward.”
In the email, Jenkins identifies the reality that the ongoing NWYM restructure requires significant resources: “By appearances, all the present administrative forces are by necessity focused on the legal and financial tasks of separation, not on the future of NWYM. It is our observation that many holes will be left in NWYM which need to be addressed, including, but not limited to: Administrative staff including a new superintendent, committee structure and membership, finances, vision and plans for a future.”
Establishing a task force would facilitate inter-church communication and collaboration, according to Jenkins: “This group would be charged with communicating between the churches gathering, collating, and reporting ideas, visions, concerns, resources, and needs (structural and spiritual) from churches around NWYM through all possible means (face-to-face gatherings, video conferences, etc.) and reporting recommendations to the AC, Elders, and entire NWYM as appropriate. This special task force would make public recommendations for future progress with NWYM.”
Our New Thing to gather for worship and business
The interim committee for the group leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting released a tentative schedule for annual sessions. Each meeting – Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls, Newberg Emerging Friends Church, North Seattle and West Hills – is to name one person to serve on a nominating committee that would start meeting the Monday of Yearly Meeting.
The group is looking for people to self-nominate for the following positions:
- Clerk (1 volunteer)
- Recording Clerk (1 volunteer)
- Financial Committee (3-5 members)
- Spiritual Care Committee (no set limit)
- Interim Committee (5 at-large members, up to 5 members nominated by local churches)
- Prayer Team (no set limit)
- Bylaws, Faith & Practice
- People Work
- Quarterly Gatherings (responsible for worship, fellowship, and educational content)
Click here to read the complete minutes from the interim committee.
Representative group to form Covenant of Separation
Clerks at Newberg Friends recommended a formal process for separating into two congregations in a letter emailed to the church info list on June 8. The message, signed by Mark Ankeny, Phil Smith and Ron Mock introduced an interim budget and a plan for forming a representative group that would “draft a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30.”
The purpose for the process is “our abiding concern that the coming transition be done well, to preserve relationships and allow both congregations to be thriving bodies of believers following the leadings of Jesus,” according to the letter.
The proposed minute acknowledged that the group is already in the process of dividing, that “none of us wish to leave Newberg Friends Church,” and that “each group includes people who have been members of Newberg Friends Church for all or most of their lives.” The minute also lays out parts of the Northwest Yearly Meeting restructuring process, especially those points that apply to the split at NFC.
The over 150 people present for the business meeting Sunday approved a second check signer and an interim budget of $101,100 – continued employment of one pastor, support staff, utilities, maintenance, program expenses, and yearly meeting local church support – for the period beginning July 1, and ending September 30, 2017. The meeting also approved the following minute:
We direct that a representative group be convened by our clerks to develop a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30, 2017, which focuses on our relationships, finances and other matters.
Church expresses hope for renewal, growth
Scotts Mills Friends Church announced its commitment to stay a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting in a letter shared with pastors, elders, clerks and reps. The email that included the letter as an attachment was signed by Pastor Wanda Jenkins and sent on Saturday, June 2.
The letter offers hope for the future – “We recognize the Lord God leading us to new and renewed faithfulness of life through the Holy Spirit, and look forward to a new life that will be given by the Lord Jesus”
Hope for a new start – “as renewal was given to our forebears. Much as they left old practice to follow the Lord’s leading, we expect this new life to look different from what has gone before.”
Hope for growth – “We rejoice that it will be an exciting new growth of God’s Kingdom as we turn from our failings to the glory of God, recognize the high priority of our identity as Jesus’ family, grow in the Spirit, and love our neighbors. May Jesus Christ be lifted up!”
The letter briefly explains the community’s decision in response to the yearly meeting restructure: “As a committed part of NWYM, Scotts Mills Friends Church witnesses to the unfailing truth of the Bible, given by the Holy Spirit through centuries. The Faith and Practice document of NWYM, crafted by earlier Friends, summarizes doctrines we still believe.”
The letter also offers historical context for the decision. Click here to read the entire letter.
Churches may get up to 18 additional months for discernment
Churches that choose to become independent will not “share in liquid asset distribution,” according to a report released today by the yearly meeting transition team. The team met Saturday, June 3, to continue work on the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting.
Camp boards of Tilikum, Quaker Hill, Quaker Cove and Twin Rocks reported changes they anticipate in light of the NWYM restructure. Boards of George Fox University and Friendsview Retirement Community will be asked to provide similar reports.
Dave Green, Silas Olson, Roger Watson and Gordon Crisman were named to work out the details of a possible fiduciary trust.
Churches that haven’t discerned whether to stay with the yearly meeting or leave the yearly meeting by June 30, 2018, “should notify the Administrative Council for up to an 18-month extension.” Churches still in “process as of December 2019” may request additional time, and the Administrative Council will make decisions about such requests “on a case by case basis.”
Group plans for Yearly Meeting sessions
Churches leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting have each named representatives to an interim committee, and the group plans to meet on June 7, in Salem. Members of the committee include the following:
- Joann Boswell, Camas
- Chris Durost, West Hills
- Joanne Halgren, Eugene (alternate)
- Cecilie Hudson, North Seattle
- Faith Marsalli, Klamath Falls
- Marie Matsen, Eugene
- Helen May, Camas
- Elizabeth Price, Eugene
- Elijah Walker, West Hills
- Carol Whorton, Klamath Falls
- Jan Wood, North Seattle
The committee is considering the following questions in preparing an agenda for the meeting in June: “What presentations, if any, do we need to hear? What business items do we need to approve to move forward? What working groups do we need to name and get started?”
The represented churches and others interested in being part of a new organization will worship together at Yearly Meeting in July. Joann Boswell <[email protected]> is collecting input from anyone who has ideas or suggestions for what should be included, discussed, or accomplished at Yearly Meeting.
Gathering brings together Quaker women
The Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference announced the theme for its next gathering: Answering that of God in every person – recognizing, naming, imaging, abiding.
The planning committee shared in a letter, “Our hope is to build a community among us that nurtures the souls of all involved. Our purpose for 2018 is to foster a community of spiritual refuge by answering that of God in every person and abiding in the Divine, which radiates to the wider world and nurtures our Quaker witness.”
The conference started as a friendship between two women, grew into a group that met “to encourage each other in our individual ministries and leadership roles within the Society of Friends,” and eventually a series of retreats that are “centered on experience. This keeps us from arguing over meanings of words, and allows us to come to know and accept each other without having to defend particular belief systems against the prejudice of the others.”
The conference will be held June 6-10, 2018, at Canby Grove Christian Center in Canby, Oregon.
The planning committee is looking for participants who may also have gifts and be willing to serve in one of the following areas:
- Producing publications
- Facebook facilitator
- Friends traveling to publicize the conference among the meetings
Congregational meeting scheduled for sharing, listening
In an email last week the North Valley transition task force and elders called a congregational meeting for sharing and listening. The meeting, scheduled for this Sunday evening, will give people an opportunity to consider the results of a meeting-wide survey about how NVFC might respond to the yearly meeting restructure.
“This is not a business meeting, and we are not seeking a decision at this meeting,” Scot Headley emphasized in the email. “Have conversations with your family and friends in the congregation, and with others you don’t know as well Now is a time to listen to one another about what are our hopes and concerns regarding the yearly meeting transition. Keep one another in prayer and remember our friends in our local congregations, as well.”
In the report, the transition task force presented several findings of fact:
- Based on inquires made about Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI, an umbrella group for NWYM), churches may not be jointly affiliated with an EFCI YM and other YM, such as a Friends United Meeting (FUM) YM.
- Churches may not independently affiliate with FUM.
- Based on statements from the YM superintendent and presiding clerk, no appeals of the January YM administrative council decision will be heard.
- Information regarding the work of the YM transition team is not very conclusive at this point. There is general agreement from this group to seek fair and impartial means of apportioning physical assets, but as of yet, no clear guidelines or decisions have been published. NV Elder, Silas Olson, serves on this group.
- Information regarding a possible new YM that may emerge in the region is also inconclusive. There have been several listening meetings in this regard, but as of yet, no clear direction is apparent.
The survey results indicated that although the most selected option was some kind of joint affiliation with Evangelical Friends Church – North America and Friends United Meeting, a separate survey question illustrated that respondents were more willing to support joining a new yearly meeting than any other option.
Themes identified by the task force in responses to open-ended questions in the survey include the following:
- Schedule corporate discernment that incorporates meetings for worship, focused on healthy vulnerability, listening, and Quaker process
- Focus on welcoming, loving, and including our LGBTQ members and attenders
- Affirm unity in diversity as NVFC previously discerned
- Expressions of frustration and desire to appeal/reverse the YM decision to split
- Become independent now and acquire 501c3 status
- Hold fast to Quaker distinctions, history, process
- Desire that NVFC to be an example of love and trust to others
- Hope for trust/reconciliation with NWYM in the future
- Continue NVFC process/discernment/conversations around human sexuality
- Be transparent and informative during this process
Central Oregon congregation ‘hopeful for the future’
Metolius Friends Church reported in a letter yesterday that it is staying with Northwest Yearly Meeting. The decision, a response to the Administrative Council’s announced restructuring process, was shared by Pastor Jadon Ross in an email to yearly meeting pastors, representatives, elders and clerks.
“We are hopeful for the future of NWYM, and we are encouraged and excited to continue to have a voice and influence in NWYM. With the help and guidance of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit we know that people’s lives will be transformed, God’s Kingdom will expand, and Jesus will be lifted high throughout the Northwest.”
A follow-up email to Ross proposed the following questions:
- Regarding the helpfulness of moving through a formal process like the one you describe for Metolius in the letter. How has that been good for the congregation? How might that kind of process benefit other churches should they choose to similarly engage?
- NWYM is going to look different a year from now. What signs of hope do you see in the midst of what we’re going through now? What do you hope for? What hope might you offer for others who may be feeling hopeless?
- Do you think that having gone through this process and coming to unity as a congregation might positively affect the quality of relationship or of interactions that Metolius has with the yearly meeting going forward?
Each group names reps to Saturday meeting
Newberg Friends Church didn’t split on Sunday night. The roughly 250 people who attended the business meeting were unable to reach unity to approve the recommendation from the leadership team that members “discern whether we are being called to form two congregations,” so presiding clerk Mark Ankeny asked people to keep doing the work of talking to “folks we disagree with.”
He said elders and clerks would meet the following night and schedule a follow-up meeting: “We’re not going to wait weeks before we meet again. It could be as early as two weeks [from now].”
But on Tuesday, a letter was sent to “each of the emerging congregations,” encouraging them in their meetings “Wednesday or Thursday evening” to choose “thoughtful people representative of the diversity of opinion and experience in your group” for a Saturday morning meeting. This afternoon, an email was sent to the larger congregation, announcing the Saturday meeting as well as the five named representatives with an “affinity for staying in NWYM” and the five named representatives with an “affinity for leaving NWYM.”
“Since our Sunday night congregational business meeting the clerks have heard from people who expressed great concern about having another meeting in two or three weeks as announced at the end of our meeting. We have decided to honor those concerns and have invited leaders from each of the emerging congregations to send five people to meet this Saturday at 10 a.m. to discuss possible ways forward.”
Julie Anderson, Hank Helsabeck, Dick Sartwell, Ron Stansell, and Dave Woolsey will represent the first group. Davida Brown, Aaron Dunlop, Gary Fawver, Lisby Curtis Gemeroy, and Lisa McMinn will represent the second group.
DVD receives praise for ‘astute readings of the Bible’
Now a graduate of George Fox University, Samuel Neff worked with Quaker theologian and performance artist Peterson Toscano to produce a performance lecture of biblical texts that explore gender transgressions. Theologians speak highly of Toscano’s work, which he has recommended for study groups, church libraries, and anyone interested in letting scripture challenge their view of gender and sexual minorities. Click here to see a trailer and more reviews.
Toscano brings a deep reverence for the Biblical text with him into his exploration of gender transgression. This play is mesmerizing and compels the viewer to see well known Bible stories in a brave new light.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
I applaud Peterson for bringing to the fore in this play a new way of looking at the Bible! Bravo! No, bravissimo! I had to look at my own sexual stereotypes and how I bring them to biblical interpretation!
-Michael Willett Newheart, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Howard University School of Divinity
In a word, Peterson is phenomenal. I was hooked in fifteen minutes. I sat there, watching him bring moments of scripture to life in ways I had not considered, and scrambled to figure out how soon I could bring him to my campus. It turns out, he’s even more delightful in person. His compassion matched by conviction and a wickedly smart sense of humor, a rare combination, make interactions with Peterson memorable, uplifting, and often life-changing.
-Dr. Jennifer G Bird, PhD, Bible scholar, speaker, and author. www.permissiongrantedthebook.com
As a Jewish Studies scholar, educator, and activist for TBLG inclusion in Jewish communities, it was a thrill to see confident transgender characters from the Hebrew scriptures given flesh via the performance activism of Peterson Toscano –and, more importantly, to recognize through his performance that those characters fulfilled social roles in Jewish communities as gender variant folk. Bring Transfigurations to your shul and create an opportunity to dialogue about present-day transgender people in Jewish communities.
-Noach Dzmura, Editor, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, and Director, Jewish Transitions
Peterson Toscano’s work combines astute readings of the Bible with great story-telling and comedy. He offers interpretations of the texts and insights that even experienced biblical scholars haven’t seen before. When portrayed by Toscano, Bible stories and characters come to life with wit, sympathy, and humor.
-Dale Martin, PhD Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University. Author of Sex and the Single Savior
Group prioritizes autonomy in split from yearly meeting
The North Carolina Fellowship of Friends is one of two new associations emerging from the split in North Carolina Yearly Meeting. The clerk of Vision Committee, Sara Beth Terrell, said that the speed of the restructure had forced “some hurried organizing” that has made it difficult for the group to determine its purpose.
Many “would be happy with a new Faith and Practice, for example,” Terrell wrote in an email, but “we have been told that for legal reasons we need to claim the old one as bylaws.”
The fellowship also determined at a meeting in April that it will focus on common ministries rather than theological nuances.
“We aren’t going to focus on what divides us but on what we can come together around,” Terrell wrote. “And one reason to state that up front is to make space for meetings that may not be theologically on the same page, but also don’t want other meetings to have the right to interfere in their life as a meeting.”
“Getting through the divorce as well as possible,” is what Terrell identified as the group’s primary concern. The pressure to act and act quickly is partly financial: “The division of trust funds and assuring that Quaker Lake Camp will survive are key motivators for many.”
Terrell said that the Vision Committee she clerks “is starting from a different place. We agreed that the starting place is that there is one Christ Jesus who can speak to our condition, and he has come to teach his people himself. This is the basic organizing principle for Quaker faith and practice over the years as well as our congregation-based polity.”
Terrell suggested some questions or queries for all Friends everywhere who are concerned with the future health of our movement:
- Do we have the right to call ourselves Friends?
- Can we use this seeming tragedy to call us back to the essentials?
- Will we allow the Spirit to re-shape this Body of Christ?
Terrell also offered her “blessings on your journey as a body of faith!”
The next NCFF meeting is scheduled for May 20.
Report to Board of Oversight suggests YM visit
At its annual meetings in Berkeley, Calif., the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends (WARSF) discussed “the impending division of Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM)” and approved a proposal to “open and continue a dialogue with the congregations that are leaving NWYM.” In his report back to the Board of Oversight, Brian Young wrote that “the annual sessions of NWYM might be a better opportunity” for discussing possible affiliation.
“YM sessions are generally open to having visitors from other Friends groups,” Young wrote, “and sometimes are quite good at welcoming such visitors.” He offered as his reason for not attending the meeting in Eugene earlier this month that “the group that is leaving NWYM has no clear sense of what they want in terms of continuing affiliation.”
Fraser offers notes from Indiana schism
Back in February 2012, Margaret Fraser began documenting the emergence of something new among Friends in Indiana. She was later named the New Association’s presiding clerk.
Fraser shared the following linked pieces from her blog in the stated hope that her documentation of their process might prove helpful to Northwest Friends embarking on a similar journey:
February 2, 2012 – There was a problem of chicken and egg. Many people feel too exhausted to want to talk doctrine, money and structure. In fact, for some, the whole idea of an organization is an issue that they are not ready to get back into. Yet there has to be one to receive property, restricted funds and other assets as part of the separation from Indiana Yearly Meeting, and there are short deadlines attached to that. We knew we had work to do.
July 29, 2012 – And here we are, in 2012 in a different crisis. While many issues – the interpretation and role of scripture, organizational polity and authority, the nature of sin, God’s will and so on, have arisen, at the heart of it is an issue – the potential violation of conscience – that, it seems, cannot be accommodated. Some things can be worked through by compromise, by giving up a cherished tradition in order to keep the peace and stay together. But for one group of Friends to take a course of action, or withdraw from a course of action that they, in conscience, after deep prayer, cannot do, is a different matter.
July 17, 2013 – We had to move forward – deadlines had been set. However, too much pressure to be “in” or “out” would add to the stress in meetings, as well as adding to the lines that had already been drawn. We wanted to avoid wounding splits in congregations. With a lot of trust, and some hugs and tears, we began the process of building a new Quaker family. We decided to delay choosing a permanent name for ourselves until we knew what our ultimate geographical boundary was, and incorporate simply as The New Association of Friends.
August 2014 – We share a renewed sense of the encouragement that can be found in relationship with each other. Many of us spoke of how wonderful it was not to approach a gathering of Friends with apprehension, but with hope, joy, even an anticipation of having fun. We are still in discernment about the future of the New Association of Friends. We rejoice at how far we have come, trusting God will continue to lead us to deepen and strengthen our ties, and to increased effectiveness and faithfulness.
Group ‘to lay some groundwork’ for new church
Although the invitation is open to anyone, Brown wrote that she especially hopes people will attend who “feel part of NFC … but cannot see clear to stay in NWYM after the restructuring process.”
“In the manner of Friends, we will convene a meeting for worship in business, spending time in intentional community, listening to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and to one another. The committee will also share information about practical developments and offer opportunities for all who wish to join in the planning to do so.”
To RSVP (for childcare or transportation from Friendsview): contact [email protected]
The meeting will be Thursday, May 4, from 7 to 9 p.m., in the sanctuary at Newberg Friends.
Structure in NW contradicts distinctive of equality
Silverton Pastor Bob Henry said in a letter to Quaker News this morning that the unrest in Northwest Yearly Meeting is caused, at least in part, by what he calls “a Pastor/Leader Centricity Complex. This is where pastors, leaders, or groups of like-minded leaders in the yearly meeting have an obsession or excessive fear of ‘losing control’ when their personal beliefs or understandings are threatened (in ways real or imagined) or even questioned by those who believe or think differently.”
Henry said NWYM sees this problem playing out because of “local and yearly meeting leadership with a great deal of power to define who is ‘in or out’ while seemingly neglecting or acknowledging our Quaker distinctive of equality. And I am not just talking about those embracing our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers. I am also talking about fellow pastors, leaders, and entire local meetings who have been subjugated to this type of leadership and taught to draw lines, label, and refuse a variety of people a place at the table.”
And church leaders suffer: “Many of the pastors in our yearly meeting have suffered greatly (and will continue to suffer more than will ever be known) as pastoral care is replaced by rejection, estrangement and a set of hoops to jump through to prove oneself worthy of being called a pastor in the NWYM. Sadly, this often occurs at the hand of fellow pastors and leaders within the yearly meeting. It is already a hard club to break into without people working in opposition to one’s entrance. This is one of the many reasons I ultimately refused to take part in the NWYM Recording Process. I believe as Friends we are to be recognizing the gifting that God has bestowed on women and men alike, and recording what God is showing us.”
In the letter, Henry identifies a list of reasons his family joined Quakers:
- We sought a people who embraced the universal presence of God in all people.
- We sought a people who desired building healthy communities that appreciated one another for the gifting God bestowed on them and their neighbors.
- We sought a people who did not fear the future, emerging wisdom, or people different than themselves.
- We sought a people who understood themselves and their actions in terms of the world’s needs.
- We sought a people who were given permission to explore beyond their horizons with creativity and energy.
- We sought a people who were safe and would help us raise our children to love God and neighbor.
- We sought a people who were committed to the Quaker S.P.I.C.E.S. in daily life.
Henry, who is leaving Silverton to serve at Indianapolis First Friends, offered these words of encouragement: “I pray that the NWYM would take time to embrace potential and possibility while committing to persistent learning and seeking Truth wherever it may be found. Most of all, I pray that each person in the NWYM would take a moment to appreciate those pastors, leaders and their families who have tried hard to listen to God’s leading and remove themselves from the center, without completely losing themselves in the process. They are humble women and men who have heavy hearts for the people of this world and deserve a BIG thanks.”
Leaders sever ties with NWYM
In a letter to those attending the gathering at Eugene, Saturday, Starr and Cross Reardon announced their “intention to sever all relationship with the governing body of the NWYM…. It is our desire to journey with you as you create a new yearly meeting.”
Starr is working on her master of divinity. Cross writes music, sings and plays a variety of instruments. The couple is planting a Quaker worship group in Pocatello and has also ministered there as part of the Portneuf Valley Interfaith Fellowship.
“Jesus came to include not exclude,” they wrote. “We believe all people are welcome at the table. We believe in hope- that all things/people have the potentiality to be made whole in our relationship with Teacher. We have optimism in our future, as Christ can work through us to transform our communities and our world. We seek to challenge oppression wherever and whenever it is encountered. We believe that Jesus resisted the status quo and leads the way into freedom.”
Clerk sees transition as opportunity for identity work
Bob Henry announced his resignation at Silverton Friends in an email earlier this month. But John Pattison, clerk of the meeting, said the transition (Henry was called to pastor at Indianapolis First Friends) doesn’t “change the work that’s left ahead…. We still have to discern whether to stay in Northwest Yearly Meeting, join the new yearly meeting, or go independent.”
That’s because “the decision about the yearly meeting, as well as what our position will be regarding welcoming LGBTQ people, won’t be coming from the ‘top down,’” Pattison wrote in an email. “We have to do the hard, patient work of seeking God’s direction together.”
Northwest Yearly Meeting is setting off five churches as part of a restructure announced in January. Other monthly meetings may choose to stay in NWYM, join the new association or become independent Friends meetings. Each church has been asked to decide by June 2018.
“I hope Silverton Friends Church uses this time as an opportunity to become crystal clear about who we are, what’s important to us, and what God is calling us to do and be in our particular community,” Pattison wrote. “The concept I’ve used to describe it is one borrowed from psychotherapy: self-differentiation…. A self-differentiated leader is one who is clear about … values and vision, isn’t anxious, is willing to be vulnerable, willing to take risks. I want Silverton Friends to become a self-differentiated church.”
Pattison said that means Silverton won’t rush to hire a new pastor: “Hiring a permanent pastor before we are confident in our identity makes it more likely that we will rely on a new pastor to give us that identity. That’s not fair to the pastor or to us.”
“The church is fortunate to have a group of elders right now who are wise and humble and committed. The next step, as far as the elders and I can tell, is to set aside a few Sundays before Bob leaves, to talk as a whole congregation. Over the last several years, conversation has become a formational practice for our church. Though we’re far from perfect at it, we’ve intentionally trained ourselves how to talk well across our differences. We’re going to lean into that skill. Every few weeks, between now and mid-June, we are replacing the full sermon with focused conversations meant to clarify our identify in Christ, discuss what it means to be a Quaker follower of Jesus in the Silverton area, build closer community, and listen for God’s voice together.”
In his letter to the congregation, Henry brought up these same conversations: “I was proud at the most recent ‘family meeting’ to see people feel safe to share from their hearts on difficult topics – that only comes through strong relational bonds, patient listening, and faithful presence together. I know there are more difficult conversations ahead, but you have proved to be a people who can weather those and find a positive future.”
Pattison said these conversations are especially vital now that the yearly meeting is in transition: “What I’ve been experiencing as clerk since the Northwest Yearly Meeting decided to split – and especially since Bob announced that he is moving to Indianapolis – is new terrain for me. I can barely see the road ahead, and I have no clue how everything will play out. What I’m committed to do is just be faithful to the very next step, as that next step is revealed.”
Excerpts from Saturday’s meeting
Jan Wood, North Seattle, opened the meeting Saturday: When we enter the door we lay down our preconceptions, convictions, planned speeches – and take on a neutral space in the spirit of Christ, to align with the heart of Jesus. It’s like shedding the garments that need to be shed, that encumber us, and take on the garment of Christ, that frees us. Whenever an organism experiences pain, the natural reaction is to resort to coping mechanisms, to change our behavior to protect itself, to protect itself from that pain ever happening again. We are being birthed out of woundedness and pain, and are vulnerable to resorting to these defenses. We need to release those we are angry at, hold in judgment, have wounded us—release them into the hands of Jesus.
During the meeting, we identified six priorities for an interim steering committee:
- “People work.” Jan asked Eric Muhr to elaborate on “people work.” He offered that we are usually inclined to think in terms of superstructure, rather than infrastructure. We might want to give attention to concern about an undergirding infrastructure to provide for the individuals not connected with these five churches, but who might want to be involved.
- Research into what’s been done before in similar situations, what the YM is requiring, what bylaws are needed. Retha McCutchen, NWYM Interim Superintendent, noted that we don’t need a full Faith and Practice, but merely bylaws (Roger Watson added later that we will need articles of incorporation as well).
- Identity work (who are we, what throws us together).
- Plan for ways to serve the interests of folks not affiliated with departing churches.
- [This was added later in the discussion.] Plan for alternative, parallel business meetings to be held during YM sessions in July 2017.
Wood clarified: We are pretty clear on a steering committee with a limited shelf life expiring at yearly meeting, a time frame for the steering committee to be formed, and a strong concern for a large, pained group in the middle without a departing church to affiliate with, and an identification with their pain.
Jade Souza, Reedwood: I would like for the committee to consider institutional support for meetings that are currently unclear, churches that are restructuring, or new plants or new worship groups.
We approved the following minute:
We approve the creation of an interim committee for the purpose of proposing a structure for the association of the five churches that must leave Northwest Yearly Meeting by 2018, to be comprised of two members appointed from each of these churches. It will serve as the point group for communication among the Friends coalescing around the formation of the new entity, and for communication with NWYM. The interim committee will decide on the scope and priorities of its work. We will ask the five churches leaving NWYM to name their representatives by May 21, 2017. The work and continued existence of this group will be re-evaluated at a meeting of the departing churches to be held during NWYM’s 2017 annual sessions.
Roger Watson, NWYM Director of Finance and Development, spoke to us about relevant legal and financial matters. As a NWYM staff member he has a fiduciary responsibility to us, in both practical matters (such as IRS 501(c)3 eligibility), and also matters concerning our relationship with NYWM. Transition team is working on a plan for the fair and equitable disbursement of the earnings from financial assets. The larger representation our group can achieve, the larger our share in the earnings from the financial assets. We need to show ourselves as a “going concern” here today and at least through the next year. To show good faith effort, we must show ourselves as a legal entity. This involves creating incorporation papers and bylaws. The Faith and Practice of NWYM is their bylaws. In establishing who you are, it’s important also to establish why you are, your purpose.
The next meeting will be during the 2017 NWYM sessions in July.
Click here for the complete minutes from the meeting.
Letter from clerk identifies hopes for way forward
In a letter to the gathering at Eugene this last weekend, Doreen Crail, presiding clerk at West Hills, listed six “things I believe we would expect for any new yearly meeting or affiliation.” Four of the items address issues of inclusion and equality:
- It is of utmost importance that any and all members of WHF are allowed to fully participate and provide leadership in any affiliation level meetings, committees, etc.
- We have amazing released pastors who have many gifts. We would want to collaborate only with others who value and appreciate these individuals as much as we do.
- It is a priority for relationships to be respectful and communication transparent.
- It is important that diversity is respected and people are safe from the judgment of others.
- There would need to be a commitment to follow Quaker process and decision making.
- It seems we may not want to participate in an arrangement where an individual or committee has authority to tell our local meeting what we should or should not do, but WHF has not discussed this topic.
Churches leaving YM take step toward incorporation
[This article was updated on April 23, to include the final, approved minute]
Just over 90 people from 17 meetings gathered at Eugene this afternoon to discern next steps for those leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting.
The group approved for a communications team to begin work directly following the meeting. That team is tasked with broad dissemination of information, increased transparency, and an infrastructure that supports multi-directional connections for the continuing work of discernment.
Jan Wood, North Seattle, clerked the meeting. “We need a comprehensive way to do communication,” she said.
“Let what we’re doing become public,” Rachel Swain Kidd, Eugene, encouraged the group. “As long as we’re part of the Northwest Yearly Meeting, what we’re doing should be posted there.”
In addition, each church leaving the yearly meeting – Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls, North Seattle and West Hills – will name two representatives to serve on an interim committee that could begin meeting as early as May 21. The interim committee will decide the scope of its work and will serve as a place for ideas to be shared, reporting back to the next gathered meeting at annual sessions in July.
John Price, Eugene, pointed out that having an interim committee will give the yearly meeting Transition Team a group that it can begin working with.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen briefly shared that this new association does not require a Faith and Practice in order to operate. “You just need bylaws,” she said.
The importance of having bylaws and of getting incorporated, according to Roger Watson, yearly meeting director of finance and development, is that “it’s going to be a sign to Northwest Yearly Meeting as a whole and to the Administrative Council in particular that we are serious about what we are doing.”
Watson clarified that incorporating will also help the Transition Team: “One of the questions that the Transition Team is dealing with is the question of division of … earnings from some financial assets…. The larger representation we have in this group, the more share you get to have in the earnings of those financial assets.”
The following minute was approved by the group:
We approved the creation of an interim committee for the purpose of proposing a structure for the association of the five churches that must leave Northwest Yearly Meeting by 2018, to be comprised of two members appointed from each of these churches. It will serve as the point group for communication among the Friends coalescing around the formation of the new entity, and for communication with NWYM. The interim committee will decide on the scope and priorities of its work. We will ask the five churches leaving NWYM to name their representatives by May 21, 2017. The work and continued existence of this group will be re-evaluated at a meeting of the departing churches to be held during NWYM’s 2017 annual sessions.
Friends from the following meetings were present:
- Betweeners (worship group in Tualatin)
- Bridge City (North Pacific YM)
- East Hill
- Eugene Friends Church
- Eugene Friends Meeting (North Pacific YM)
- Friends in Common
- Klamath Falls
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- West Hills
The communications team includes Gil George, Rachel Hampton, Connor Magee, Thomas Magee, Eric Muhr, Kjiersten Schmidt and Lorraine Watson.
New group to use F&P for ‘reference and counsel’
The North Carolina Fellowship of Friends, formerly known as the Autonomy Group, approved in its April meeting for business “less organizational structure (including fewer committees) and more emphasis on fellowship and ministry.” The decision, minuted and approved by representatives from seven monthly meetings, illustrates a central concept for the structural principles approved in that same meeting.
Joshua Brown (Springfield) published the list on his blog:
- We are a Christ-centered fellowship of Quaker meetings. We affirm the autonomy of each meeting in Quaker faith and practice.
- We will operate using the 2012 version of North Carolina Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, as printed, for reference and counsel.
- We will worship and serve our local community without interference from other meetings or a higher level organization.
- We will respect the right of other meetings to do the same.
- We will focus on common ministries rather than theological nuances.
- We will closely resemble North Carolina Yearly Meeting in its most peaceful form.
- We agree that we will have differences, but they will not stay us from our common, Christ-centered fellowship.
The new Fellowship plans to accept both individuals and monthly meetings as members. There is also a plan for dual affiliation for monthly meetings that want to stay connected with both the Authority Group and NCFF, though the former may not allow affiliation from those affiliated with the latter.
The Fellowship is still in the process of incorporating and at this point has just five committees: stewardship & finance, communication & outreach, education, peace & mission, and nominating.
The next NFCC meeting is scheduled for May 20. Click here for minutes from the April 8 meeting.
Group hopes to avoid splitting ‘non-theological’ assets
A report from the yearly meeting transition team, released yesterday, identified one research item, one item of discussion, three recommendations and one next step. Two of the recommendations in the 278-word document were clarifications from the working group’s last report.
The transition team identified a fiduciary trust as an ongoing research focus. The trust would allow Northwest Yearly Meeting and the new coalition of monthly meetings to avoid splitting as-yet-undefined assets by “holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature” and distributing the dividends of these assets proportionally between the two groups.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen has not yet responded to an emailed request for clarification as to which assets might be included in this trust, and according to one member of the group, others are remaining “silent, at least for the time being, in agreement with the stated policy” of the transition team. McCutchen confirmed in an earlier email that “the group decided that I would be the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.”
The three recommendations from the transition team are “to the Administrative Council.” Earlier language from Presiding Clerk Brad Holton said the team would report to the council, leaving some ambiguity about what deliberative body has final approval. Holton had earlier written that the Administrative Council “is committed to completing the transition” but that the transition team would “facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting.”
The recommendations, the first two of which are clarifications of an earlier report, include the following:
- All current churches (whether they choose to stay in NWYM, join a new YM, or go independent) will retain their property along with any associated debt.
- Employed pastors and staff (current and future) will continue to have access to the 401(k) pension plan and be able to contribute new funds.
- All current churches will have access to the Friends Church Extension Fund.
The transition team reported ongoing discussion of Quaker Hill, Quaker Cove, Twin Rocks, and Tilikum camps. The team has asked each individual camp board to review its “bylaws and policies and report back to the transition team” whatever changes seem best in light of the yearly meeting restructure.
The transition team did not list Twin Lakes Friends Camp, nor has it commented on the disposition of that property, 22 acres on Upper Twin Lakes near Rathdrum, Idaho.
The next meeting of the transition team is scheduled for Saturday, June 3, and members plan to “look at related organizations” during that meeting.
- Open Worship – Waiting Worship
- Organizational issues and questions
- Identity – Who do we want to become?
Spring play includes critique of restructure discussion
The spring play at George Fox University explored the tension related to the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Deus Ex Millennia “centers on the stories of seven students who find themselves hiding in a closet during an active shooter event.” At least one of the students is gay.
In a university press release, Director Rhett Luedtke said, “Each character faces a specific hardship that millennials, and others, encounter on a daily basis…. How do our students navigate a divisive and divided culture?”
Specific hardships include aspects of poverty, sexual assault, immigration, loss, identity and equality.
Near the end of the performance, a modified pdf of Newberg Friends Church Discernment Process Information document is displayed on screens above the audience while two characters – both college students – discuss the announcement of “a split.”
PHILIP: What are we supposed to do with this? This is ridiculous.
QUINN: I don’t know, Philip. I really don’t know. I thought it wasn’t that bad, you know? Like what’s so terrible about a split? Maybe we could actually be in a denomination that cares.
PHILIP: Quinn, what if the church doesn’t decide to go that direction? What if we decide it’s not important? How many terrible meetings will we have to sit through? I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here and pretend like LGBT people don’t want to kill themselves while we take all of this time to argue…. I can’t do it. Do you hear me? This isn’t loving! This isn’t how families treat one another! Like their belonging is up for debate?
(Church member approaches their table and asks the two if they’ve heard about the split.)
CHURCH MEMBER: Maybe we don’t have to choose. This is bigger than human sexuality. It’s not worth dividing over.
PHILIP: I don’t know if you mean what you’re saying. Maybe it is worth dividing over.
CHURCH MEMBER: I get it, really. Like this is important. But we can’t just give up over an issue. I’m willing to live in the tension. We all have to listen to each other, you know? We have to love people where they are at and that includes the people with a traditional view on human sexuality. That’s what it means to be a church. A family. It’s not like it’s a life or death issue.
QUINN: Are you serious? It is! It is a life or death issue. People are literally dying because of this. They’ve done studies – you know that right? Conclusive studies that show LGBT people are bullied more, have more thoughts of self-harm and suicide than other populations. And it’s worse if you’re in a church where people talk about you all the time as if you don’t matter – as if you’re up for debate! Do we really need to listen to people who think others shouldn’t exist or have love? Maybe those people should shut up! I’m so tired. I’m just so tired.
CHURCH MEMBER: What did I say?
PHILIP: Some people are living in the tension, others are dying in it.
At the scene’s close, Philip comes out to Quinn as gay. She hugs him and tells him she loves him. Then, in the following interlude, Quinn crouches inside a closet while members of the ensemble yell at her:
“Why aren’t you willing to live in the tension? I don’t like her voice – it’s annoying. I love you anyway. You’re too aggressive, consider where the others are coming from. I mean it’s fine but just keep your sexuality to yourself. Care less. You’re making yourself sick. Just work harder. It’s not impossible. Wow, you’re not a scary feminist after all. I don’t support that lifestyle. I just feel more comfortable learning from a male pastor. You’re the problem. This is just the way things are.”
Survey report second of five discernment meetings
Newberg Friends released survey results this last week as part of its ongoing discernment about whether to stay a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Nearly 400 survey responses are included in the data, available online, and the meeting Sunday was the second of five scheduled by pastors, elders and clerks.
Of the two survey items given the most time in Senior Pastor Gregg Koskela’s review of the data – “I want NFC to remain in Northwest Yearly Meeting” – had 356 responses in which 51.4 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 6.7 percent were unsure. The other item – “I agree with and support the current NWYM Faith and Practice statement on human sexuality” – had 353 responses in which 50 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 8 percent were unsure.
Tim Goodfellow, an elder, reminded the more than 200 people in attendance that the survey “has limits. There are people who didn’t take the survey. There are people who didn’t answer every question. In each one of those columns, there are people, people we care deeply about…. How we move forward is not determined solely by the pastors, the elders and the clerks. Each of us plays a role and has responsibility in how we move forward in this process.”
At the next two meetings – listening forums scheduled for the afternoon and evening of April 23 – people will have an opportunity to share their reasons for staying in the yearly meeting or for leaving. Then on May 7, the NFC leadership team plans to bring a recommendation to the business meeting.
At an informational gathering on March 5, monthly meeting clerk Howard Macy said the 2-month discernment process is intended to “help us seek God’s guidance about our life together. We want to find a path forward, what we need to do to maintain our vitality.”
In that same meeting, Administrative Pastor Elizabeth Sherwood clarified that the survey was not designed to be “a voting process. It’s a way for you to share your heart.”
A similar survey for members of North Valley Friends closed on April 9. Results of that survey have not yet been made available.
How a Bible-believing Christian can accept gay marriage
Former NWYM Superintendent Becky Ankeny released an ebook this weekend, A Leisurely Introduction to How a Bible-Believing Christian Can Accept Gay Marriage in the Church. The study, designed to take 10 days, starts out with the following excerpt from the introduction:
“When I did a rhetorical study of the introduction and opening chapters of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, I realized that he was not actually trying to convert atheists. In fact, he says several things that exclude atheists from his intended readership. Instead, I found he was writing to those on the fence, those who wanted to believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Church, but feared it was intellectually disreputable to do so.
“This linked study is one that I hope you will take ten days or so to digest. It is intended for those who have the intuition that God wants LGBTQ people welcomed into the church, that God accepts their marriages and families, but they fear that leaning into that intuition and allowing it to become a conviction will mean they must throw out the Bible as a source of guidance and accountability.
“This study is not intended to convince those with the opposite convictions. I do not even expect them to read it, but if they do, I hope to help them recognize how someone can claim to be following the Bible and yet disagree with the exclusion of LGBTQ persons from the local congregation or the church in general. If they recognize this, perhaps they can continue to worship and serve alongside those whose convictions in this area differ.
“As a former church leader, I was in the middle of the denominational debate over full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. I have listened to many folks stake out their positions and use the Bible to do so. I saw no one convinced by arguments using history, the original languages, the changes in culture, the unchanging nature of God. My own response came to be that the central themes of the Bible support full inclusion.
“However, someone recently said they had not heard anyone present a systematic approach to explaining biblical support for those affirming gay marriage and full participation in the life of the church. So I’m giving that task a shot. I do not claim to express the point of view of all affirming churches or individual Christians, nor do I expect my thoughts to be adequately systematic for all readers.”
Plans for parallel summer session placed on hold
One possibility for monthly meetings leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting might be some kind of combination with the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends. The three WARSF meetings – all in California – have expressed interest, according to Brian Young (Berkeley), but there are also reasons for caution.
Young said the physical distances may be daunting, “especially for the folks from southern California. That will have to be determined as we get further into this process, and visitation will probably give us the best indication.”
In a 45-minute conversation at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting in Stony Point, NY, this last month, Julie Peyton (West Hills) and Young discussed the possibility of representation from WARSF at annual sessions this summer.
Peyton had originally been given a green light from NWYM Presiding Clerk Brad Holton and Superintendent Retha McCutchen “to pursue a parallel program, one geared towards those leaving the yearly meeting. My intent was to share dorms, cafeteria, and worship but have some programming … that would help ground this new thing.” But Peyton reported that in a meeting last Tuesday, McCutchen shared with Peyton her concern that this not be “a divisive situation, where Friends see some workshops geared toward one group or the other,” effectively putting plans for a parallel program on hold this summer.
Young said he intends “to draft a report to WARSF’s Board of Oversight on [the] dialogue thus far in the next week or so, and I will be sure to mention the annual session dates” as an option for visitation.
No matter what happens, the priority for WARSF meetings, according to Young, “is to provide connections with Friends United Meeting and other Friends organizations – American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and FWCC. I believe that I can speak for most WARSF Friends in saying that we would want any organization that we might join, or any meetings that might want to join with us, to actively support those same connections.”
The next meeting for churches leaving NWYM, as well as anyone interested in the process, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.
Church to decide status at later date
Four monthly meetings, all of which hold an affirming statement, will not be allowed to remain members in Northwest Yearly Meeting after the restructure: Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls and West Hills. Yesterday, a fifth monthly meeting approved leaving as well.
In a meeting for business Sunday, North Seattle Friends approved the following minute:
Northwest Yearly Meeting has announced a restructuring process, which will create a newly Yearly Meeting on or before June 2018. Churches leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting may become independent or join the new Yearly Meeting. In response to this information, North Seattle Friends Church minuted their decision to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting during the restructuring period. As the newly formed Yearly Meeting has not yet been created, North Seattle Friends Church will decide on independent status or membership in the new Yearly Meeting at a later date.
Lorraine Watson as pastor, Jan Wood as clerk, and Cecile Hudson were approved as representatives to the newly forming entity. April 22 is the next gathering for this group.
Patty Federighi remains our rep to NWYM as long as we belong to NWYM.
In the process of creating structures that begin a process to form a new Yearly Meeting or Association, we trust and empower our representatives to discern and take action on our behalf. We understand that any substantive matters will be brought back to North Seattle Friends for discernment.
Watson sent an email, saying that she remains hopeful.
The meeting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, will be at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.
California, Indiana groups show new way for meetings to partner
Churches removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting and those considering leaving started discussions in February about what a new thing might look like. Two associations – one in California and another in the Midwest – give meetings examples for a way to be together.
The Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends (WARSF) is an organization of independent Friends meetings. Each church has its own 501(c)3 tax status and does its own recording.
WARSF, a collection of three California meetings, is similar to the New Association of Friends, based in Indiana, as both groups are part of Friends United Meeting and have full status in Friends World Committee for Consultation and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
WARSF has minuted inviting churches leaving NWYM to join them. It’s also been suggested by one member of WARSF that they might be interested in joining something created by monthly meetings in the Pacific Northwest.
Points of interest from the bylaws:
- “Individual Friends who are members, regular attenders, or supporters of monthly meetings that do not participate in the New Association” may themselves be members of the New Association if they “desire to participate on a personal basis.”
- “Monthly meetings and individuals that desire to maintain affiliation with another body of Friends are allowed to do so.”
- “Release from membership shall be without penalty or retribution.”
- Decisions are made “according to the Quaker process of prayerfully seeking unity under the leading of God.”
- A process for removal of the presiding clerk is defined in section 9.6.
- “No property belonging to the New Association of Friends shall be deeded, assigned, or in any manner transferred or disposed of without the passage of a resolution by the meeting for business.”
New site has 1,311 visitors, $7,600 in financial support
Launched on February 23, Quaker News announced its intent to move “formal communications out of the yearly meeting headquarters and into the hands of an independent and connected network of professional information hunter/gatherers.” Creation of the site was prompted in part by perceptions that gossip and conjecture were filling an information vacuum and potentially interfering with discernment.
Northwest Yearly Meeting released its communications coordinator in November 2015, and the yearly meeting Board of Communications is without a clerk.
Since its start, the site has developed four guiding truths:
- Movement toward transparency builds trust.
- Separating communications from the decision-making process reduces perceived conflicts of interest.
- Entrusting a third party with observing and reporting increases the yearly meeting’s perceived trustworthiness and objectivity.
- Contracting communications functions to an outside expert reduces yearly meeting costs and increases efficiency.
Quaker News averaged 102 views per day for the month of March, 204 views per day over the last week. The site has had 1,311 unique visitors, 25 subscribers, and gifts and pledges of support totaling $7,600.
Quaker News is the work of Barclay Press, where we hold to two truths: 1) Sharing stories changes lives, and 2) Open, equal access to information improves our discernment. You can support the work of Quaker News with donations through Barclay Press.
Restructure may extend past June 2018 deadline
[This article was updated on March 26 with additional comments from Superintendent Retha McCutchen]
The yearly meeting transition team met in closed session on Saturday, March 18. The team produced no minutes but did approve a report that was released the following Wednesday. That report counters one point from an earlier published Administrative Council decision, clarifies others, and prompts some new questions.
In a follow-up email, Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that she was named “the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.” She said that several of the questions raised “have not been answered yet.” She promised to provide more information as it becomes available.
After a list of those present at the meeting, the report says that “no decisions were made. The team familiarized themselves with assets of NWYM and its related organizations and decided what research needs to be done to have the documentation necessary to make informed decisions.”
The report identifies four points of information:
Transition date flexible, all churches may choose to join new yearly meeting
In the decision announced by the Administrative Council in January, affirming churches will be set aside as independent churches or “may be a part of the newly formed yearly meeting.” This transition process was to be completed “on or before June 30, 2018.”
But the report released Wednesday walked back that language from the Administrative Council, calling June 30, 2018, a “soft date. Churches are not under a deadline to make decisions regarding their status within this time period. The transition team will offer a time frame after June 2018 where churches might still leave NWYM with their property.”
McCutchen clarified that “this is not a hard and fast deadline that a church meets or else. Churches might make a decision in the next six months or they may not reach consensus within their meeting until after June 30, 2018.”
The report also clarifies that churches not currently holding an affirming stance on human sexuality “are welcome in either yearly meeting.”
“The reorganization as presented by AC and amended during the January Reps meeting is intended to invite those churches who are diverse, and who have decided to keep their community together and live within that diversity, to be a part of either yearly meeting,” McCutchen said.
According to the published Administrative Council decision, a new yearly meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with the newly formed yearly meeting Faith and Practice.” Northwest Yearly Meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
Nobody loses nonprofit status
“All churches currently members of NWYM will remain under NWYM’s 501(c)(3) until a new yearly meeting is formed and [has] obtained a 501(c)(3) for member churches.”
The exception to this coverage is that any “local church [that] has secured its own designation” will at that point, presumably, cease to be covered by the yearly meeting’s nonprofit status.
What about independent churches?
The transition team considered the reality that some churches may choose to be independent rather than stay with Northwest Yearly Meeting or join a new yearly meeting. The transition team has not determined what share those churches might have in yearly meeting assets.
Retirement accounts may remain where they are
Anyone who has invested in a 401k(k) tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension account, will be allowed to keep their individual contributions where they are, or withdraw their account, “regardless of the yearly meeting choice.”
“This statement is only intended to reassure people nothing is changing with their pension terms and conditions,” McCutchen said.
The transition team meets again on Saturday, April 15. Click here for the full report from Saturday’s meeting.
Yearly meeting decision inconsistent with Quaker process
Members of Camas Friends committed themselves last week to following Quaker process and avoiding “the authoritarian path that led to the NWYM administrative council’s decision to restructure NWYM without us.” The minute, approved in a regular meeting for business, was published in the Washington church’s weekly e-newsletter on Wednesday.
“Our Quaker practices and testimonies are timely for our time and place,” pastor Matt Boswell wrote in a follow-up email. “I hold the hope that this ‘new thing’ will allow us to live more fully into our Quaker identity in a way that is compelling and inviting to many and life-enhancing and life-saving to many others.”
Camas Friends’ approval of a Welcoming Statement in October resulted in its removal from Northwest Yearly Meeting, along with at least three other monthly meetings – Eugene, Klamath Falls and West Hills.
“We advocate for healthy relationships and will support them, whether between people of the same or opposite genders,” reads a portion of that statement. “While human sexuality is a particularly weighty topic of conversation in our religious context, we do not see our desire to equally value straight and LGBTQ identity as something that should define our meeting. It is simply one expression of what is most important to us.”
Boswell wrote that the yearly meeting decision to restructure has created unique opportunities: “We are hopeful about the path we are walking, even if our destination is a bit unclear at the moment…. I see the emergence of an organization that hits a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the spiritual hunger of many: a Christ-centered, progressive, non-liturgical, non-showy, socially conscious, inclusive and spacious Christian spirituality.”
Boswell added that this split doesn’t end conversations on human sexuality, and it certainly doesn’t resolve them: “Meetings who have not talked about sexuality and gender need to talk about sexuality and gender. Meetings who have had the conversation need to keep growing in their understanding and not assume they are enlightened and thus ‘finished.’”
Boswell also suggested that churches take advantage of this transition to do “honest, self-reflective work about their religious identity,” work that might include sitting with some of the following questions:
- Are we really Quaker? How do we know?
- What’s the Bible?
- What do people need to believe or do to be one of us?
- What do our ministries and programs say about what is important to us?
- How are the demographics of our congregations implicating what we feel, say, and do about the marginalization of LGBTQ+ persons but also racial minorities, women, religious “others,” foreigners, and the earth?
- What’s a yearly meeting, and why should we care?
- What’s the value of being independent versus tied to others; and “tied” in what sense?
- What does a future network of meetings look like?
- What is “future us” doing in the PNW, the world, in our gatherings, with our resources, etc.?
- How do we start to take steps toward this future version of ourselves?
“This conversation could be very exciting,” Boswell wrote, “assuming we listen to one another, are aware of our anxieties and the limitations of our perspective as individuals, open to learning from others, and aware of what is at stake: not just our happiness as religious practitioners seeking a new spiritual home but the potential consequences for others – especially suffering others – of what we do (or don’t do) and how we do it.”
The minute approved by Camas Friends has three parts:
- Camas Friends needs to take plenty of time in the decision-making process concerning future affiliation with other Friends churches or becoming independent.
- We need to get our non-profit status taken care of, to allow us to move forward.
- We want to commit ourselves to following Quaker process, seeking God’s direction for Camas Friends. We do not ever want to fall into the authoritarian path that led to the NWYM administrative council’s decision to restructure NWYM without us.
Reps agree to continue in fellowship regardless of affiliation
[This article was updated on March 28 to reflect additions to the minutes.]
All three clerks tendered their resignations at the start of business Saturday, suggesting that the ongoing restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting likely means the end of a united Portland area. But just over 40 representatives from 11 monthly meetings agreed that they should continue to gather “regardless of formal affiliation.”
Keri Kimberly, an elder at West Hills, clarified that the area meetings could continue to meet “even if various monthly meetings end up in different places.”
“Portland area is one of the areas that’s most affected by this [restructure],” Tonya Comfort (Clackamas Park) said, noting that the area includes some churches that will likely stay with the yearly meeting, some that will join a new yearly meeting and others that may decide to become independent. “It would be important that there be a time together where we maintain those contacts. I don’t want to lose contact with those people I love and care about.”
Bernie Bosnjak (Hillsboro), Forrest Cammack (Tigard), Tonya Comfort and Brian Morse (Clackamas Park) agreed to serve on a planning committee. The next gathering of the Portland Area will be during annual session this July. A fall gathering will be hosted by Clackamas Park Friends on Saturday, October 14.
During the five-hour meeting, Julie Peyton (West Hills) reported on the importance of visitation for the sake of building and maintaining relationships. Eric Muhr (Newberg) offered a talk on reconciliation with the first two chapters of Philippians as his text. Elijah Walker (West Hills) facilitated an open worship experience in which participants prayerfully produced drawings, collages and a number of other art pieces.
In the 3-o’clock session, Bosnjak prepared the group for final business by encouraging people to consider what feelings they have experienced – individually, in local churches or as part of the area gathering – and what those feelings might suggest as to what should be shared with the larger yearly meeting: “Some people say, ‘I have feelings and I want to tell somebody and I’m not sure who to tell.’ Other people might say, ‘I have feelings and I want to tell somebody and I’m not sure who will listen.’ Do you have something to say to Northwest Yearly Meeting?”
Before the end of business and a shared potluck meal, the meeting approved the following minute: “We are sensitive to the pain many have experienced as a result of the announced restructure of our yearly meeting. We note, from our conversations, a desire to be mutually vulnerable in our work toward reconciliation. We are more together than we are apart, and many stated their desire that we find a way to nourish relationships and stay together. We intend to continue meeting in fellowship together as a Portland area gathering regardless of formal affiliation.”
Click here for the complete minutes from Saturday’s quarterly meeting.
Convening clerk seeks dialogue about value of wider association
A small group of Friends meetings in California is interested in joining with Quakers in the Northwest. The convening clerk for the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends (WARSF) sent an email last week that has since been shared among members at Eugene, North Valley and West Hills.
“We would like to open and sustain a dialogue with the meetings that are being separated from Northwest Yearly Meeting,” wrote Brian Young, pastor at Berkeley Friends, “to discern what value there might be in a wider association.”
Young wrote in a follow-up email that the association doesn’t have “a clear sense other than to say, ‘We believe we have a great deal in common and would like to explore whether that is true with you.’” WARSF may send a representative to future meetings of churches leaving NWYM, as “face-to-face interactions would be helpful in deepening the dialogue and building trust.”
The California association includes three monthly meetings – Whittier First Friends, Berkeley Friends and Bakersfield Quaker Meeting.
“We meet annually, alternating between Berkeley and Whittier,” Young wrote. “A significant part of WARSF’s purpose is to serve as a connecting body between our local meetings and Friends United Meeting, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Friends World Committee for Consultation.”
Young offered a brief history of WARSF: “In 1993 Southwest Yearly Meeting announced its intention to leave Friends United Meeting (FUM) because of disagreements over theology and mission. When that separation was formalized in 1996, Whittier First Friends withdrew from Southwest and formed WARSF in order to retain the connection with FUM. Bakersfield joined WARSF after a year or two. Berkeley remained with Southwest for another five years, but departed in 2001, primarily because of concerns over changes to Faith and Practice.”
Young noted that WARSF was formed by meetings “choosing to leave the yearly meeting rather than by expulsions, and the underlying reasons had to do with, first, a desire to retain connections with FUM and other Friends organizations, and second, differences in how Christian Quaker faith should be expressed, rather than disagreements over whether and how to welcome sexual minorities. Nonetheless, today both Whittier and Berkeley welcome and include GLBT people.”
Young can be reached through the contact form linked here.
Klamath Falls pastor reflects on effects of restructure
“In the wake of the news,” pastor Faith Marsalli wrote, “we have been reflecting on the spiritual DNA of our meeting. Among the qualities we most value is being able to provide a safe haven for folks who have had negative church experiences, a place where questions are welcomed, diversity is celebrated, and all are invited to participate in the full life of the meeting.”
Marsalli wrote that the Administrative Council decision also creates an opportunity to do something completely different: “I sense the ‘new thing’ will not just be a NWYM II with all of the familiar organizational trappings. It seems we need to be spacious around the dreaming process and not rush to build the new thing too quickly without the leisure of time and prayer and lots of conversations about who we want to be and do together.”
Klamath Falls is a small faith community of anywhere from 30 to 40 worshipers on a typical Sunday. It is an hour from the closest Quaker gathering at Sprague River and more than 90 minutes from the next two closest Friends churches in Talent and Medford.
“I think that Klamath Falls Friends has felt isolated from the yearly meeting,” Marsalli wrote. “The downside is that many in our meeting, with few exceptions, don’t have the connection or feel the grief that I have in being put out of the yearly meeting.”
Marsalli, who has lived in Klamath Falls for 26 years, said that being put out from the yearly meeting makes her work as pastor even more important “to make sure a Quaker meeting remains here in Klamath Falls long after I leave and for years to come…. While we have a lot of people attending who are still new to Friends, we value our Quaker distinctiveness and are making space to listen for how God is leading us to live more fully into our Christ-centered Quaker identity.”
That Quaker identity is getting lived out in several ways, according to Marsalli. “Our meetinghouse is located in one of the most economically poor neighborhoods in Klamath Falls…. The property next door to our meetinghouse is used as a food pantry and garden space. It has given us many wonderful opportunities to interface with our neighbors and extend help to those who suffer from food insecurity.”
Marsalli also wrote that “there is much work to do in this fearful and reactive political environment…. We wonder what we will be able to do together as churches that are separating from Northwest Yearly Meeting to be a presence of hope. We wonder if our light will shine brighter than ever before.”
And for anyone interested in getting to know Friends in Klamath Falls, Marsalli offered her hope that “we will be able to visit each other more often and not allow the geographical distance between us to hinder our connection. We need each other!”
The next open meeting for transition planning is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W. 18th Ave., Eugene, Ore.
‘New, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting’
Friends in Eugene created a bulletin board in January for anyone interested in joining a “new, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest.” Nearly 30 people have signed up so far.
“The NWYM Administrative [Council] reached a decision that a new yearly meeting would be created, and that the four churches with published LGBTQ+ affirming statements would be spun off into that new yearly meeting,” administrator John Price wrote in a post explaining the purpose of the site. “This is where we find ourselves today, and it is the reason this bulletin board exists… to provide a place where people from these four NWYM churches, and anyone else interested in joining the new yearly meeting can communicate with each other in a moderated, safe environment.”
The board, hosted by John and Elizabeth Price, features threads for people to process grief, share inspirational thoughts, and discuss Faith and Practice language on human sexuality. It also includes a proposal for a new quarterly meeting, and several collections of documents and notices.
Although the site-hosted discussions are slowly developing, some contributions have already suggested possible ways forward:
Lynsley Rollins suggested simplifying Faith and Practice “to see only one behavioral requirement written into a practice document: a statement that the new YM followed Quaker process, and that if at any time some of its members felt unable to await a uniform leading, and a schism threatened, then those who were unwilling to wait would be the ones to leave.”
Peggy Senger Morrison suggested a revision of Freedom Friends statement on human sexuality: “We hold dear the gift of our sexuality, which is given to all persons regardless of gender identity, orientation, or marital status. Because sexuality and spirituality are closely related, all believers are called to be thoughtful stewards of their sexuality. Sexuality that is de-humanizing, promiscuous, violent, non-consensual, manipulative, or predatory in nature is always harmful.”
The forum is public and read-only for anyone without a login. Click here to visit the site.
Speakers offer glimpses of what might be next
At least four churches are being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting by June 2018. Members from 14 monthly meetings gathered Saturday at Hillsboro Friends to grieve together and to process what’s next.
The four-hour meeting didn’t generate answers, but in the listening and sharing, there were glimpses of what might be next. The following is an incomplete but ordered summary of excerpts from that meeting:
Lorraine Watson: “We want to rush to what’s next. There are lots of feelings. The most important work we can do is to listen together in community to God who is present.”
Cynthia Price: “People feel grief over the loss of connection.”
Julie Peyton: “How long can I wait before I know? How do I not try to control this?”
Peggy Senger Morrison: “The force that draws anything – any soul – to the center is Love. It will draw all things to itself, and everything is attracted to it…. When you’re near somebody else who’s grown to God you feel in line with them. Jesus has been saying to me recently he doesn’t care about our buildings. Jesus cares about love. Jesus cares very much about how we treat each other. Jesus doesn’t give a fig about what we build except that it might be a place where people are loved.”
Cherice Bock: “What does it mean for us to be the Friends of Jesus in the Pacific Northwest?”
Greg Morgan: “I have no sense of what we are in the process of becoming, and I don’t need to know that. I’m just deeply moved by the desire to be part of a community of love. What do we have that we can offer? And what do we need?”
Paul Frankenburger: “Just because you want to send somebody out doesn’t mean they stop being part of the body. We don’t get to throw people away. We need to find a way to be together that isn’t exclusive.”
Jade Souza: “I’m mindful of those who will be left behind. Some are prepared to move forward earlier than others.”
Bethany Muhr: “When you’re on the outside, [you find] people you didn’t know were there. It took being thrown out to see that.”
Cynthia Price: “I was hurt by a lot of churches. I thought this was God hurting me. I don’t want us to be that body. I don’t ever want to be that person who is not showing God’s love.”
Gil George: “What you see depends on where you sit. I’ve been on the margins for a year and a half. The view is very different from the edges. I was able to find healing from others who were wounded. As Christians, we have to defer to the margins.”
Becky Ankeny: “I’ve always wanted the church to be a place where there was space for anyone…. I thought I could do some good from the inside, but I undoubtedly did harm. I’m sorry.”
Click here for minutes from the meeting.
Inclusive youth gathering now taking sign-ups
Quakers in the Pacific Northwest could have a new youth camp this summer.
A small group of youth workers from Lynwood, Newberg, North Valley and West Hills Friends churches announced Saturday their intention to host a 5-day “inclusive, community-driven and grace-filled camping experience that affirms the Light in each camper.”
Living Light Quaker Camp – open to students in 3rd through 12th grades – is tentatively scheduled for the first week in August 2017 and will most likely be in Oregon, though a location has yet to be determined. The planning group has met three times this month and is open to help from additional volunteers.
“Our desire is to create a camp for participants and facilitators to experience and know unconditional community,” the group states on their web site, “where everyone is welcome to participate and facilitate.”
The site is live, and anyone interested in volunteering or coming as a camper can sign up online.
‘Quakerism should have consequences’
Nearly 100 Friends from 14 monthly meetings found unity Saturday in their commitment “to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.” The Quaker gathering of worship for the conduct of business formally recognized “that it has not always been a safe place in the past.”
The minute – drafted from the floor and approved after nearly 12 minutes of discussion and edits – was a surprise to some. Just over an hour earlier, before taking a break, acting clerk David Peyton reported to the meeting his sense that there was no clarity or unity: “This meeting is saying we’re not ready. We don’t know what we want to build. Maybe we don’t want to build anything.”
But after the break, A.J. Mendoza acknowledged for the first time in the meeting that there were gender and sexual minorities in the room.
“Every LGBTQ person in this room is perfect – is not sinful.” Mendoza countered the notion some had shared that there isn’t yet unity to stay or to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting, pointing to the fact that gender and sexual minorities don’t get that choice. “To hear people talk about not wanting to move to a new home while I’m sleeping in the street is not good medicine…. I’m asking you to adopt the position of somebody who can’t go back. Quakerism should have consequences.”
Elijah Walker reminded the group that the reason for this gathering is that affirming churches “were forced out of a larger body of churches. A handful of communities said they want to be a safe space. We want to hold that leading in mind.”
After several more shared, a woman highlighted the fact that the feeling in the room changed after the break. “I grew up in church, and I’ve never heard someone declare before a body of believers that ‘God loves you’ as an LGBT person.” The woman said she’s 22 years old, and “I pray that no youth has to go 22 years before hearing in front of a body of believers that God loves them.”
Bernie Bosnjak announced during a potluck supper that Hillsboro Friends would be available for another gathering on Saturday, March 18. That weekend had been set aside for a Portland-area gathering. Bosnjak said anyone interested in helping to plan or host the gathering should contact Forrest Cammack, the clerk of that quarterly meeting.
Clyde Parker extended an invitation to a yearly-meeting-organized gathering at Eugene Friends on Saturday, April 22.
Of the four churches being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting – Camas, Eugene and West Hills all had representatives at the meeting. A representative from Klamath Falls shared via Facebook that she was unable to make the trip up for this gathering. Friends from the following meetings were also present, although many made clear that they were present as interested individuals, not necessarily as representatives of their meetings:
- Bridge City – North Pacific Yearly Meeting
- Freedom – independent, unaffiliated
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- South Salem
David Peyton clerked the meeting, and Krissi Carson served as recording clerk. Elders for the meeting were Bernie Bosnjak, Gil George, Lynn Holt, Jim Miller, Greg Morgan, Catherine Olson and Elijah Walker.
Click here for minutes from the meeting.
Threshing meeting to consider way forward in face of YM split
Hillsboro Friends will host a gathering for business and worship from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 25. The meeting – planned by representatives at midyear boards and open to all interested Friends – is intended to give people an opportunity to grieve the planned split in Northwest Yearly Meeting while also hearing “from one another about how Christ is calling us in our own communities.”
The meeting is in response to the Administrative Council’s announcement during midyear boards on January 27, 2017, of its decision to restructure the yearly meeting. Four churches are being removed from NWYM: West Hills, Eugene, Camas and Klamath Falls, while several other meetings may also choose to leave. The intended completion of this restructure is June 20, 2018.
“Many from the four released meetings and other meetings expressed a desire to come together to fellowship and hold This New Thing in the Light,” the group said in an email sent out Friday. “And so, let us gather!”
The proposed schedule includes introductions at 2 p.m. followed by waiting worship and threshing sessions. All are invited to stay for a potluck dinner from 5 to 6 p.m.
Hillsboro Friends is at 332 NE 6th Avenue.
Click here for the packet handout provided for anyone interested in attending the meeting.
All monthly meetings remain full members for now
Members of 12 Friends churches gathered at North Valley last week to discuss starting a new yearly meeting. But nobody’s out yet.
“All churches will remain full members of Northwest Yearly Meeting,” according to the minutes from Saturday, “until the transfer takes place on or before June 2018.”
Local churches with representation at Saturday’s meeting included the following:
- Klamath Falls
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- Second Street
- West Hills
A transition team tasked with making decisions about yearly meeting assets has its first meeting scheduled for March 18. The next yearly-meeting-organized gathering for those interested in forming a new yearly meeting will be held at Eugene Friends Church on Saturday, April 22.
Questions for the transition team can be directed to NWYM Superintendent Retha McCutchen by email – [email protected]
Click here for the complete minutes