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.”
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
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.”