A February meeting at North Valley Friends brought together at least 76 people from 14 different churches in Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) to hear more about what it might mean to start a new yearly meeting. An earlier post reported that 12 churches were represented, but the sign-up sheet – uncovered in efforts to establish the historic documentation for Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends (SCYMF) – includes people from two churches left out of that original report.
Represented churches included
Of those, Rosedale has announced its plan to stay with NWYM. Newberg has split into two congregations – Newberg Friends Church and Newberg Emerging Friends Church – with Newberg Friends Church staying in NWYM while Newberg Emerging Friends Church is leaving. Other churches leaving the yearly meeting include North Seattle and Reedwood. Churches removed from the yearly meeting include Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls and West Hills.
Congregations disagree on split of NFC assets
Newberg Friends Church began the process of splitting into two congregations in May, and at a business meeting in June, clerks “recommended a formal process for separating into two congregations.” Representatives from both groups would meet “to develop a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30, 2017, which focuses on our relationships, finances and other matters.”
But at a business meeting Sunday, July 16, the group leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting (NEFC) approved formal withdrawal from the negotiation process: “We leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC [the congregation that will stay with the yearly meeting], releasing all expectations.”
On a series of projected slides, leaders of the emerging congregation claimed they had received a “best and final offer” worth between $250,000 and $375,000. They estimated that the church’s net assets have a value in the range of $3.5 to 5.5 million.
“The process was not a good faith negotiation,” was listed as a point on a slide titled “Why it is Unjust.”
Leaders presented a minute for approval, and although the spirit of that prepared statement was approved, Brandon Buerkle shared in an email that several people in the meeting recommended the minute be revised “to take out language that could be perceived as antagonistic. They wanted to soften it to make sure that the minute spoke out of a desire to love while also speaking truthfully.”
“Some of those who spoke in the meeting about these kinds of revisions were tagged by the clerks to revise the minute alongside the CoS team this last week,” Buerkle wrote. “After a number of revisions over email, the revised minute was brought before the NEFC elders, who made a few more tweaks before approving it.”
The revised minute was shared with clerks and members of the Covenant of Separation talks in an evening meeting on Saturday, July 22, and is excerpted below:
“An offer of 50 percent of the sale price of Friends Center, some restricted and designated funds, and some material assets (e.g. two vans) was offered to NEFC from NWYM-NFC. These represent an estimated 5 to 10 percent of current NFC assets net of liabilities. Subsequent attempts to negotiate have not yielded a change in this offer.
“As members of NFC, we do not affirm an assumption that ascribes ownership and the right to distribute NFC resources to only one of the two NFC communities. Given our assumption that we should be equal partners at the table, we find the situation to be unjust and the offer to be inequitable. We find ourselves at an impasse, with no peaceful path forward.
“As a body, we discerned the call to love one another outweighs the inclination to fight. Above all else, in fidelity to our shared faith, we desire that love mark the conclusion of this difficult process. Knowing both communities have felt the hand of God leading us forward in unexpected ways, we leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC, releasing all expectations.
“We recognize deep wounds in everyone involved. We pray for the grace to forgive, and for healing for all.”
Congregation still determining whether ‘we will remain in NWYM’
North Valley Friends Church met on the evening of July 12, 2017, for the purpose of reviewing and approving the following minute:
We, the community of North Valley Friends Church, are now experiencing grief and sadness as a result of the January decision of the Northwest Yearly Meeting Administrative Council to restructure NWYM by splitting off four churches from NWYM without recourse and making provision for other congregations to leave NWYM. Our congregation is currently in a discernment process to determine whether or not we will remain in NWYM.
We recognize the January decision was the culmination of various events and choose to minute our dissatisfaction with the decision made by the Administrative Council. We believe that the process used to make the decision may have been flawed and was not representative of our commonly held values regarding Quaker decision-making. We realize that it has been stated that there will be no reversal of the decision. However, we desire to inform you and other churches historically a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting of our deep concern with the process and decision.
Dwight Burton and Trisha Hornback, co-clerks
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.
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.