Group discusses details, documents
In a brief notice dated July 10 and released July 14, the Transition Team announced it had met on Saturday, July 8, to discuss details and documents “needed for further clarification on several issues before moving forward.” The notice also referenced but did not disclose details of a report from the Friendsview Retirement Community board.
The transition team, according to Northwest Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk Brad Holton, “will facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting,” though the team may not have authority to act, as it must report to the Administrative Council, which “is committed to completing the transition with dignity and honor for all churches.”
In a report released in March, the Transition Team identified itself as having been “appointed by the Administrative Council to facilitate a fair and equitable division of assets for the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting.” In April, the team announced research of a fiduciary trust that “would empower both yearly meetings by holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature and currently benefit all parties.” In June, a sub-committee was assigned to work out the details of that trust, and it was clarified that “the work of the Transition Team is subject to review by the Administrative Council.”
At a meeting hosted by North Valley Friends Church in February, NWYM Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that questions “for the Transition Committee to consider and answer” should be directed to her by email – email@example.com.
At least four members of the Transition Team attend churches that are leaving NWYM. Churches leaving NWYM do not have representation on the Administrative Council.
Interim Committee forms rough agenda, schedule
Anyone who is interested may join sessions for Our New Thing at George Fox University the week of July 24-26. The group will gather in the Lemmons Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Monday, July 24
2 to 5 p.m. informal gathering and community building
Tuesday, July 25
8 a.m. worship, small group discussions, large group times to integrate the leadings from small groups
10:30 a.m. a panel of folks from the LGBTQ+ spectrum will talk about their experiences and what would help them to feel welcome and safe within the new organization.
12 p.m. lunch
1 p.m. discussion about learning/noticings from the panel discussion
2 p.m. small group discussions on questions and concerns related to forming a new organization
4 p.m. regather as large group to consider leadings
Wednesday, July 26
Meet from 8-5 on Wednesday, starting with worship. “If the sense of the meeting is that there is unity around some basic decisions, we will consider whether we are ready to approve steps such as:
- agreeing to form an organization,
- deciding what form the organization will take,
- describing its purpose and identity in general terms,
- choosing a name,
- nominating and empowering committees to work on different facets of the New Thing
- deciding when to gather next to continue our work.
“If we are not yet ready to take those steps, we will move back into listening mode, perhaps in small groups if that feels helpful. We may revisit the organizational steps later in the day if that feels right. At the end of the day on Wednesday, we will close with worship and celebration of wherever Spirit has led us in our time together.”
Is this part of the NWYM Annual Sessions?
“Yes and no. Our schedule and agenda is independent of NWYM, but we are sharing the campus facilities and there will be opportunities to interact if desired. Click here for the NWYM schedule.
“The 1-2 p.m. NWYM workshop times will overlap with our sessions. Participants can choose which to attend. Our New Thing will not have formal sessions in the evenings during the NWYM worship services, but there will be an opportunity for unprogrammed worship in “our” space during that time for those who would prefer not to attend the NWYM worship.”
What does it cost?
“We are still part of NWYM at this point, which allows us to use space at George Fox during Yearly Meeting Sessions at no cost and with housing and meals provided at reasonable cost. Childcare is also available if you register ahead. Registration for the whole event is only $25 if you are not staying in the dorms or buying a meal package. Click here to register.
“For any questions regarding registration, lodging, meals, childcare, etc., call NWYM at (503) 538-9419, ext. 100”
What if I want to serve on a committee or work group going forward?
“Send your self-nomination to Helen May at helen[dot]morasch[dot]may[at]gmail[dot]com. She is collecting names and will forward them to the Nominating Committee.”
Letter outlines 3 points of unity
The document, sent out by Marie Cammack, describes the reorganization of Northwest Yearly Meeting into two organizations: “Churches and individuals of NWYM who believe actively practicing LGBTQ persons should be introduced into full church membership, including potential leadership roles, are being invited to form a sister yearly meeting that better reflects their theological position. In this re-organization, NWYM churches and individuals will remain faithful to orthodox Christian theology on this issue as our present Faith and Practice outlines.”
Leaders at Rosedale outlined three points around which the Salem Area congregation has reached unity:
- We at RFC will continue to accept, welcome and encourage people from all walks of life, regardless of their status, gender, ethnicity or the sin issues they personally struggle with.
- We believe we all are equal as sinners in the sight of our righteous God, and none of us are called to stand in judgment over one another.
- We also realize that to identify any of our present spiritual struggles need not be judgmental, and none of us will ever be encouraged toward righteousness if our sins are not first recognized as being the spiritual death they are.
“We will continue to believe it is inappropriate to elevate people into leadership while they are personally embracing life altering sins.” The letter includes an illustrative list of sins that would potentially prohibit an attender from service and that also might require a person “be discipled before being considered for membership.”
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 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> is collecting input from anyone who has ideas or suggestions for what should be included, discussed, or accomplished at Yearly Meeting.
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.”
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 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.
‘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.