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.”
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.”
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.”
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.