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.
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.”