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.
Group discusses details, documents
In a brief notice dated July 10 and released July 14, the Transition Team announced it had met on Saturday, July 8, to discuss details and documents “needed for further clarification on several issues before moving forward.” The notice also referenced but did not disclose details of a report from the Friendsview Retirement Community board.
The transition team, according to Northwest Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk Brad Holton, “will facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting,” though the team may not have authority to act, as it must report to the Administrative Council, which “is committed to completing the transition with dignity and honor for all churches.”
In a report released in March, the Transition Team identified itself as having been “appointed by the Administrative Council to facilitate a fair and equitable division of assets for the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting.” In April, the team announced research of a fiduciary trust that “would empower both yearly meetings by holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature and currently benefit all parties.” In June, a sub-committee was assigned to work out the details of that trust, and it was clarified that “the work of the Transition Team is subject to review by the Administrative Council.”
At a meeting hosted by North Valley Friends Church in February, NWYM Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that questions “for the Transition Committee to consider and answer” should be directed to her by email – [email protected]
At least four members of the Transition Team attend churches that are leaving NWYM. Churches leaving NWYM do not have representation on the Administrative Council.
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
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.”
Congregational meeting scheduled for sharing, listening
In an email last week the North Valley transition task force and elders called a congregational meeting for sharing and listening. The meeting, scheduled for this Sunday evening, will give people an opportunity to consider the results of a meeting-wide survey about how NVFC might respond to the yearly meeting restructure.
“This is not a business meeting, and we are not seeking a decision at this meeting,” Scot Headley emphasized in the email. “Have conversations with your family and friends in the congregation, and with others you don’t know as well Now is a time to listen to one another about what are our hopes and concerns regarding the yearly meeting transition. Keep one another in prayer and remember our friends in our local congregations, as well.”
In the report, the transition task force presented several findings of fact:
- Based on inquires made about Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI, an umbrella group for NWYM), churches may not be jointly affiliated with an EFCI YM and other YM, such as a Friends United Meeting (FUM) YM.
- Churches may not independently affiliate with FUM.
- Based on statements from the YM superintendent and presiding clerk, no appeals of the January YM administrative council decision will be heard.
- Information regarding the work of the YM transition team is not very conclusive at this point. There is general agreement from this group to seek fair and impartial means of apportioning physical assets, but as of yet, no clear guidelines or decisions have been published. NV Elder, Silas Olson, serves on this group.
- Information regarding a possible new YM that may emerge in the region is also inconclusive. There have been several listening meetings in this regard, but as of yet, no clear direction is apparent.
The survey results indicated that although the most selected option was some kind of joint affiliation with Evangelical Friends Church – North America and Friends United Meeting, a separate survey question illustrated that respondents were more willing to support joining a new yearly meeting than any other option.
Themes identified by the task force in responses to open-ended questions in the survey include the following:
- Schedule corporate discernment that incorporates meetings for worship, focused on healthy vulnerability, listening, and Quaker process
- Focus on welcoming, loving, and including our LGBTQ members and attenders
- Affirm unity in diversity as NVFC previously discerned
- Expressions of frustration and desire to appeal/reverse the YM decision to split
- Become independent now and acquire 501c3 status
- Hold fast to Quaker distinctions, history, process
- Desire that NVFC to be an example of love and trust to others
- Hope for trust/reconciliation with NWYM in the future
- Continue NVFC process/discernment/conversations around human sexuality
- Be transparent and informative during this process
Churches leaving YM take step toward incorporation
[This article was updated on April 23, to include the final, approved minute]
Just over 90 people from 17 meetings gathered at Eugene this afternoon to discern next steps for those leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting.
The group approved for a communications team to begin work directly following the meeting. That team is tasked with broad dissemination of information, increased transparency, and an infrastructure that supports multi-directional connections for the continuing work of discernment.
Jan Wood, North Seattle, clerked the meeting. “We need a comprehensive way to do communication,” she said.
“Let what we’re doing become public,” Rachel Swain Kidd, Eugene, encouraged the group. “As long as we’re part of the Northwest Yearly Meeting, what we’re doing should be posted there.”
In addition, each church leaving the yearly meeting – Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls, North Seattle and West Hills – will name two representatives to serve on an interim committee that could begin meeting as early as May 21. The interim committee will decide the scope of its work and will serve as a place for ideas to be shared, reporting back to the next gathered meeting at annual sessions in July.
John Price, Eugene, pointed out that having an interim committee will give the yearly meeting Transition Team a group that it can begin working with.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen briefly shared that this new association does not require a Faith and Practice in order to operate. “You just need bylaws,” she said.
The importance of having bylaws and of getting incorporated, according to Roger Watson, yearly meeting director of finance and development, is that “it’s going to be a sign to Northwest Yearly Meeting as a whole and to the Administrative Council in particular that we are serious about what we are doing.”
Watson clarified that incorporating will also help the Transition Team: “One of the questions that the Transition Team is dealing with is the question of division of … earnings from some financial assets…. The larger representation we have in this group, the more share you get to have in the earnings of those financial assets.”
The following minute was approved by the group:
We approved 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.
Friends from the following meetings were present:
- Betweeners (worship group in Tualatin)
- Bridge City (North Pacific YM)
- East Hill
- Eugene Friends Church
- Eugene Friends Meeting (North Pacific YM)
- Friends in Common
- Klamath Falls
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- West Hills
The communications team includes Gil George, Rachel Hampton, Connor Magee, Thomas Magee, Eric Muhr, Kjiersten Schmidt and Lorraine Watson.
Survey report second of five discernment meetings
Newberg Friends released survey results this last week as part of its ongoing discernment about whether to stay a part of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Nearly 400 survey responses are included in the data, available online, and the meeting Sunday was the second of five scheduled by pastors, elders and clerks.
Of the two survey items given the most time in Senior Pastor Gregg Koskela’s review of the data – “I want NFC to remain in Northwest Yearly Meeting” – had 356 responses in which 51.4 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 6.7 percent were unsure. The other item – “I agree with and support the current NWYM Faith and Practice statement on human sexuality” – had 353 responses in which 50 percent of respondents disagreed and an additional 8 percent were unsure.
Tim Goodfellow, an elder, reminded the more than 200 people in attendance that the survey “has limits. There are people who didn’t take the survey. There are people who didn’t answer every question. In each one of those columns, there are people, people we care deeply about…. How we move forward is not determined solely by the pastors, the elders and the clerks. Each of us plays a role and has responsibility in how we move forward in this process.”
At the next two meetings – listening forums scheduled for the afternoon and evening of April 23 – people will have an opportunity to share their reasons for staying in the yearly meeting or for leaving. Then on May 7, the NFC leadership team plans to bring a recommendation to the business meeting.
At an informational gathering on March 5, monthly meeting clerk Howard Macy said the 2-month discernment process is intended to “help us seek God’s guidance about our life together. We want to find a path forward, what we need to do to maintain our vitality.”
In that same meeting, Administrative Pastor Elizabeth Sherwood clarified that the survey was not designed to be “a voting process. It’s a way for you to share your heart.”
A similar survey for members of North Valley Friends closed on April 9. Results of that survey have not yet been made available.
Convening clerk seeks dialogue about value of wider association
A small group of Friends meetings in California is interested in joining with Quakers in the Northwest. The convening clerk for the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends (WARSF) sent an email last week that has since been shared among members at Eugene, North Valley and West Hills.
“We would like to open and sustain a dialogue with the meetings that are being separated from Northwest Yearly Meeting,” wrote Brian Young, pastor at Berkeley Friends, “to discern what value there might be in a wider association.”
Young wrote in a follow-up email that the association doesn’t have “a clear sense other than to say, ‘We believe we have a great deal in common and would like to explore whether that is true with you.’” WARSF may send a representative to future meetings of churches leaving NWYM, as “face-to-face interactions would be helpful in deepening the dialogue and building trust.”
The California association includes three monthly meetings – Whittier First Friends, Berkeley Friends and Bakersfield Quaker Meeting.
“We meet annually, alternating between Berkeley and Whittier,” Young wrote. “A significant part of WARSF’s purpose is to serve as a connecting body between our local meetings and Friends United Meeting, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Friends World Committee for Consultation.”
Young offered a brief history of WARSF: “In 1993 Southwest Yearly Meeting announced its intention to leave Friends United Meeting (FUM) because of disagreements over theology and mission. When that separation was formalized in 1996, Whittier First Friends withdrew from Southwest and formed WARSF in order to retain the connection with FUM. Bakersfield joined WARSF after a year or two. Berkeley remained with Southwest for another five years, but departed in 2001, primarily because of concerns over changes to Faith and Practice.”
Young noted that WARSF was formed by meetings “choosing to leave the yearly meeting rather than by expulsions, and the underlying reasons had to do with, first, a desire to retain connections with FUM and other Friends organizations, and second, differences in how Christian Quaker faith should be expressed, rather than disagreements over whether and how to welcome sexual minorities. Nonetheless, today both Whittier and Berkeley welcome and include GLBT people.”
Young can be reached through the contact form linked here.
Inclusive youth gathering now taking sign-ups
Quakers in the Pacific Northwest could have a new youth camp this summer.
A small group of youth workers from Lynwood, Newberg, North Valley and West Hills Friends churches announced Saturday their intention to host a 5-day “inclusive, community-driven and grace-filled camping experience that affirms the Light in each camper.”
Living Light Quaker Camp – open to students in 3rd through 12th grades – is tentatively scheduled for the first week in August 2017 and will most likely be in Oregon, though a location has yet to be determined. The planning group has met three times this month and is open to help from additional volunteers.
“Our desire is to create a camp for participants and facilitators to experience and know unconditional community,” the group states on their web site, “where everyone is welcome to participate and facilitate.”
The site is live, and anyone interested in volunteering or coming as a camper can sign up online.
‘Quakerism should have consequences’
Nearly 100 Friends from 14 monthly meetings found unity Saturday in their commitment “to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.” The Quaker gathering of worship for the conduct of business formally recognized “that it has not always been a safe place in the past.”
The minute – drafted from the floor and approved after nearly 12 minutes of discussion and edits – was a surprise to some. Just over an hour earlier, before taking a break, acting clerk David Peyton reported to the meeting his sense that there was no clarity or unity: “This meeting is saying we’re not ready. We don’t know what we want to build. Maybe we don’t want to build anything.”
But after the break, A.J. Mendoza acknowledged for the first time in the meeting that there were gender and sexual minorities in the room.
“Every LGBTQ person in this room is perfect – is not sinful.” Mendoza countered the notion some had shared that there isn’t yet unity to stay or to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting, pointing to the fact that gender and sexual minorities don’t get that choice. “To hear people talk about not wanting to move to a new home while I’m sleeping in the street is not good medicine…. I’m asking you to adopt the position of somebody who can’t go back. Quakerism should have consequences.”
Elijah Walker reminded the group that the reason for this gathering is that affirming churches “were forced out of a larger body of churches. A handful of communities said they want to be a safe space. We want to hold that leading in mind.”
After several more shared, a woman highlighted the fact that the feeling in the room changed after the break. “I grew up in church, and I’ve never heard someone declare before a body of believers that ‘God loves you’ as an LGBT person.” The woman said she’s 22 years old, and “I pray that no youth has to go 22 years before hearing in front of a body of believers that God loves them.”
Bernie Bosnjak announced during a potluck supper that Hillsboro Friends would be available for another gathering on Saturday, March 18. That weekend had been set aside for a Portland-area gathering. Bosnjak said anyone interested in helping to plan or host the gathering should contact Forrest Cammack, the clerk of that quarterly meeting.
Clyde Parker extended an invitation to a yearly-meeting-organized gathering at Eugene Friends on Saturday, April 22.
Of the four churches being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting – Camas, Eugene and West Hills all had representatives at the meeting. A representative from Klamath Falls shared via Facebook that she was unable to make the trip up for this gathering. Friends from the following meetings were also present, although many made clear that they were present as interested individuals, not necessarily as representatives of their meetings:
- Bridge City – North Pacific Yearly Meeting
- Freedom – independent, unaffiliated
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- South Salem
David Peyton clerked the meeting, and Krissi Carson served as recording clerk. Elders for the meeting were Bernie Bosnjak, Gil George, Lynn Holt, Jim Miller, Greg Morgan, Catherine Olson and Elijah Walker.
Click here for minutes from the meeting.