Yearly meeting decision inconsistent with Quaker process
Members of Camas Friends committed themselves last week to following Quaker process and avoiding “the authoritarian path that led to the NWYM administrative council’s decision to restructure NWYM without us.” The minute, approved in a regular meeting for business, was published in the Washington church’s weekly e-newsletter on Wednesday.
“Our Quaker practices and testimonies are timely for our time and place,” pastor Matt Boswell wrote in a follow-up email. “I hold the hope that this ‘new thing’ will allow us to live more fully into our Quaker identity in a way that is compelling and inviting to many and life-enhancing and life-saving to many others.”
Camas Friends’ approval of a Welcoming Statement in October resulted in its removal from Northwest Yearly Meeting, along with at least three other monthly meetings – Eugene, Klamath Falls and West Hills.
“We advocate for healthy relationships and will support them, whether between people of the same or opposite genders,” reads a portion of that statement. “While human sexuality is a particularly weighty topic of conversation in our religious context, we do not see our desire to equally value straight and LGBTQ identity as something that should define our meeting. It is simply one expression of what is most important to us.”
Boswell wrote that the yearly meeting decision to restructure has created unique opportunities: “We are hopeful about the path we are walking, even if our destination is a bit unclear at the moment…. I see the emergence of an organization that hits a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the spiritual hunger of many: a Christ-centered, progressive, non-liturgical, non-showy, socially conscious, inclusive and spacious Christian spirituality.”
Boswell added that this split doesn’t end conversations on human sexuality, and it certainly doesn’t resolve them: “Meetings who have not talked about sexuality and gender need to talk about sexuality and gender. Meetings who have had the conversation need to keep growing in their understanding and not assume they are enlightened and thus ‘finished.’”
Boswell also suggested that churches take advantage of this transition to do “honest, self-reflective work about their religious identity,” work that might include sitting with some of the following questions:
- Are we really Quaker? How do we know?
- What’s the Bible?
- What do people need to believe or do to be one of us?
- What do our ministries and programs say about what is important to us?
- How are the demographics of our congregations implicating what we feel, say, and do about the marginalization of LGBTQ+ persons but also racial minorities, women, religious “others,” foreigners, and the earth?
- What’s a yearly meeting, and why should we care?
- What’s the value of being independent versus tied to others; and “tied” in what sense?
- What does a future network of meetings look like?
- What is “future us” doing in the PNW, the world, in our gatherings, with our resources, etc.?
- How do we start to take steps toward this future version of ourselves?
“This conversation could be very exciting,” Boswell wrote, “assuming we listen to one another, are aware of our anxieties and the limitations of our perspective as individuals, open to learning from others, and aware of what is at stake: not just our happiness as religious practitioners seeking a new spiritual home but the potential consequences for others – especially suffering others – of what we do (or don’t do) and how we do it.”
The minute approved by Camas Friends has three parts:
- Camas Friends needs to take plenty of time in the decision-making process concerning future affiliation with other Friends churches or becoming independent.
- We need to get our non-profit status taken care of, to allow us to move forward.
- We want to commit ourselves to following Quaker process, seeking God’s direction for Camas Friends. We do not ever want to fall into the authoritarian path that led to the NWYM administrative council’s decision to restructure NWYM without us.