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
Letter outlines 3 points of unity
The document, sent out by Marie Cammack, describes the reorganization of Northwest Yearly Meeting into two organizations: “Churches and individuals of NWYM who believe actively practicing LGBTQ persons should be introduced into full church membership, including potential leadership roles, are being invited to form a sister yearly meeting that better reflects their theological position. In this re-organization, NWYM churches and individuals will remain faithful to orthodox Christian theology on this issue as our present Faith and Practice outlines.”
Leaders at Rosedale outlined three points around which the Salem Area congregation has reached unity:
- We at RFC will continue to accept, welcome and encourage people from all walks of life, regardless of their status, gender, ethnicity or the sin issues they personally struggle with.
- We believe we all are equal as sinners in the sight of our righteous God, and none of us are called to stand in judgment over one another.
- We also realize that to identify any of our present spiritual struggles need not be judgmental, and none of us will ever be encouraged toward righteousness if our sins are not first recognized as being the spiritual death they are.
“We will continue to believe it is inappropriate to elevate people into leadership while they are personally embracing life altering sins.” The letter includes an illustrative list of sins that would potentially prohibit an attender from service and that also might require a person “be discipled before being considered for membership.”
North Seattle faces third affiliation
With its first meeting in 1905 in a tent on an empty lot, North Seattle Friends has been in existence now for over 100 years. That’s a lot of history.
“From our beginning as Friends Memorial Church in 1905 to 1948 the church was part of Indiana Yearly Meeting,” Pastor Lorraine Watson wrote in an email. “In 1948 Friends Memorial was accepted into Oregon Yearly Meeting (renamed to NWYM in 1974). In 2004 Friends Memorial changed its name to North Seattle Friends Church. Sometime soon we will exit Northwest Yearly Meeting for our third affiliation.”
Watson emphasized that in spite of that history, members of the Quaker church aren’t stuck in the past: “Our current meeting is very much alive with the sense that God is present among us today. We are … committed to listening deeply to God in community, following the leadings that come and freeing each other to live into the ministries that arise in our midst.”
In spite of its size and location, North Seattle Friends is “not a neighborhood church,” Watson said, “but a place [to which] people come from all over the area looking for a Christ-centered Quaker presence. We invite all people to join us, recognizing that those who stay are those who have a similar thirst for knowing God.”
“We gather in meeting each week with our primary purpose being to listen together to God who is present in our midst and speaking to us. Whatever else happens is of no consequence if we do not listen together and allow God to speak to us. Generally, we also include music, God stories, and a message, but not always. We are very aware that we all bring something to this gathering and that it is not up to the upfront leaders to create the experience for us. We bear witness to how God works in our midst.”
Watson said that weekly worship gatherings serve as touch-points for community: “We have a strong sense that we accompany each other as we go through the week, so we often announce where the community is going the next week. We also love blessing each other, whether it be going out in ministry or submitting to surgery. But no matter what else we do, we always have a time of silence so that we can listen deeply to God and in that time, we invite people to share their leadings out of the silence.”
In light of the yearly meeting restructure, Watson said, “We grieved the news that NWYM is unable to hold the diversity that has long been present in this yearly meeting. It was our sense that we would do our best work if we stayed together.”
North Seattle decided in April to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting and to help build a new organization: “We hold hope that this will be a Quaker organization that can truly live into what it means to be Christ-centered Quakers in the Northwest…. Once there is definition to the process, we will discern whether we are to join this group, although I think there is little question but what we will become members.”
“I really yearn for a strongly Quaker and Christ-centered yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest,” Watson continued. “It has felt to me for many years like there has been a tug and pull in NWYM between various parts of the YM. Quaker vs. Evangelical, social concerns vs. evangelism and the struggle around joining FWCC are the areas that I’ve been most aware of. I believe this struggle goes way back to 1925 when Oregon Yearly Meeting (now NWYM) left Five Years Meeting (now FUM) and probably before that…. With the restructuring, I yearn for us to move forward in freedom as both Quaker and Christ-centered.”
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.”
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.
Churches may get up to 18 additional months for discernment
Churches that choose to become independent will not “share in liquid asset distribution,” according to a report released today by the yearly meeting transition team. The team met Saturday, June 3, to continue work on the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting.
Camp boards of Tilikum, Quaker Hill, Quaker Cove and Twin Rocks reported changes they anticipate in light of the NWYM restructure. Boards of George Fox University and Friendsview Retirement Community will be asked to provide similar reports.
Dave Green, Silas Olson, Roger Watson and Gordon Crisman were named to work out the details of a possible fiduciary trust.
Churches that haven’t discerned whether to stay with the yearly meeting or leave the yearly meeting by June 30, 2018, “should notify the Administrative Council for up to an 18-month extension.” Churches still in “process as of December 2019” may request additional time, and the Administrative Council will make decisions about such requests “on a case by case basis.”
Central Oregon congregation ‘hopeful for the future’
Metolius Friends Church reported in a letter yesterday that it is staying with Northwest Yearly Meeting. The decision, a response to the Administrative Council’s announced restructuring process, was shared by Pastor Jadon Ross in an email to yearly meeting pastors, representatives, elders and clerks.
“We are hopeful for the future of NWYM, and we are encouraged and excited to continue to have a voice and influence in NWYM. With the help and guidance of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit we know that people’s lives will be transformed, God’s Kingdom will expand, and Jesus will be lifted high throughout the Northwest.”
A follow-up email to Ross proposed the following questions:
- Regarding the helpfulness of moving through a formal process like the one you describe for Metolius in the letter. How has that been good for the congregation? How might that kind of process benefit other churches should they choose to similarly engage?
- NWYM is going to look different a year from now. What signs of hope do you see in the midst of what we’re going through now? What do you hope for? What hope might you offer for others who may be feeling hopeless?
- Do you think that having gone through this process and coming to unity as a congregation might positively affect the quality of relationship or of interactions that Metolius has with the yearly meeting going forward?
Clerk sees transition as opportunity for identity work
Bob Henry announced his resignation at Silverton Friends in an email earlier this month. But John Pattison, clerk of the meeting, said the transition (Henry was called to pastor at Indianapolis First Friends) doesn’t “change the work that’s left ahead…. We still have to discern whether to stay in Northwest Yearly Meeting, join the new yearly meeting, or go independent.”
That’s because “the decision about the yearly meeting, as well as what our position will be regarding welcoming LGBTQ people, won’t be coming from the ‘top down,’” Pattison wrote in an email. “We have to do the hard, patient work of seeking God’s direction together.”
Northwest Yearly Meeting is setting off five churches as part of a restructure announced in January. Other monthly meetings may choose to stay in NWYM, join the new association or become independent Friends meetings. Each church has been asked to decide by June 2018.
“I hope Silverton Friends Church uses this time as an opportunity to become crystal clear about who we are, what’s important to us, and what God is calling us to do and be in our particular community,” Pattison wrote. “The concept I’ve used to describe it is one borrowed from psychotherapy: self-differentiation…. A self-differentiated leader is one who is clear about … values and vision, isn’t anxious, is willing to be vulnerable, willing to take risks. I want Silverton Friends to become a self-differentiated church.”
Pattison said that means Silverton won’t rush to hire a new pastor: “Hiring a permanent pastor before we are confident in our identity makes it more likely that we will rely on a new pastor to give us that identity. That’s not fair to the pastor or to us.”
“The church is fortunate to have a group of elders right now who are wise and humble and committed. The next step, as far as the elders and I can tell, is to set aside a few Sundays before Bob leaves, to talk as a whole congregation. Over the last several years, conversation has become a formational practice for our church. Though we’re far from perfect at it, we’ve intentionally trained ourselves how to talk well across our differences. We’re going to lean into that skill. Every few weeks, between now and mid-June, we are replacing the full sermon with focused conversations meant to clarify our identify in Christ, discuss what it means to be a Quaker follower of Jesus in the Silverton area, build closer community, and listen for God’s voice together.”
In his letter to the congregation, Henry brought up these same conversations: “I was proud at the most recent ‘family meeting’ to see people feel safe to share from their hearts on difficult topics – that only comes through strong relational bonds, patient listening, and faithful presence together. I know there are more difficult conversations ahead, but you have proved to be a people who can weather those and find a positive future.”
Pattison said these conversations are especially vital now that the yearly meeting is in transition: “What I’ve been experiencing as clerk since the Northwest Yearly Meeting decided to split – and especially since Bob announced that he is moving to Indianapolis – is new terrain for me. I can barely see the road ahead, and I have no clue how everything will play out. What I’m committed to do is just be faithful to the very next step, as that next step is revealed.”
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.
Klamath Falls pastor reflects on effects of restructure
“In the wake of the news,” pastor Faith Marsalli wrote, “we have been reflecting on the spiritual DNA of our meeting. Among the qualities we most value is being able to provide a safe haven for folks who have had negative church experiences, a place where questions are welcomed, diversity is celebrated, and all are invited to participate in the full life of the meeting.”
Marsalli wrote that the Administrative Council decision also creates an opportunity to do something completely different: “I sense the ‘new thing’ will not just be a NWYM II with all of the familiar organizational trappings. It seems we need to be spacious around the dreaming process and not rush to build the new thing too quickly without the leisure of time and prayer and lots of conversations about who we want to be and do together.”
Klamath Falls is a small faith community of anywhere from 30 to 40 worshipers on a typical Sunday. It is an hour from the closest Quaker gathering at Sprague River and more than 90 minutes from the next two closest Friends churches in Talent and Medford.
“I think that Klamath Falls Friends has felt isolated from the yearly meeting,” Marsalli wrote. “The downside is that many in our meeting, with few exceptions, don’t have the connection or feel the grief that I have in being put out of the yearly meeting.”
Marsalli, who has lived in Klamath Falls for 26 years, said that being put out from the yearly meeting makes her work as pastor even more important “to make sure a Quaker meeting remains here in Klamath Falls long after I leave and for years to come…. While we have a lot of people attending who are still new to Friends, we value our Quaker distinctiveness and are making space to listen for how God is leading us to live more fully into our Christ-centered Quaker identity.”
That Quaker identity is getting lived out in several ways, according to Marsalli. “Our meetinghouse is located in one of the most economically poor neighborhoods in Klamath Falls…. The property next door to our meetinghouse is used as a food pantry and garden space. It has given us many wonderful opportunities to interface with our neighbors and extend help to those who suffer from food insecurity.”
Marsalli also wrote that “there is much work to do in this fearful and reactive political environment…. We wonder what we will be able to do together as churches that are separating from Northwest Yearly Meeting to be a presence of hope. We wonder if our light will shine brighter than ever before.”
And for anyone interested in getting to know Friends in Klamath Falls, Marsalli offered her hope that “we will be able to visit each other more often and not allow the geographical distance between us to hinder our connection. We need each other!”
The next open meeting for transition planning is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W. 18th Ave., Eugene, Ore.
Speakers offer glimpses of what might be next
At least four churches are being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting by June 2018. Members from 14 monthly meetings gathered Saturday at Hillsboro Friends to grieve together and to process what’s next.
The four-hour meeting didn’t generate answers, but in the listening and sharing, there were glimpses of what might be next. The following is an incomplete but ordered summary of excerpts from that meeting:
Lorraine Watson: “We want to rush to what’s next. There are lots of feelings. The most important work we can do is to listen together in community to God who is present.”
Cynthia Price: “People feel grief over the loss of connection.”
Julie Peyton: “How long can I wait before I know? How do I not try to control this?”
Peggy Senger Morrison: “The force that draws anything – any soul – to the center is Love. It will draw all things to itself, and everything is attracted to it…. When you’re near somebody else who’s grown to God you feel in line with them. Jesus has been saying to me recently he doesn’t care about our buildings. Jesus cares about love. Jesus cares very much about how we treat each other. Jesus doesn’t give a fig about what we build except that it might be a place where people are loved.”
Cherice Bock: “What does it mean for us to be the Friends of Jesus in the Pacific Northwest?”
Greg Morgan: “I have no sense of what we are in the process of becoming, and I don’t need to know that. I’m just deeply moved by the desire to be part of a community of love. What do we have that we can offer? And what do we need?”
Paul Frankenburger: “Just because you want to send somebody out doesn’t mean they stop being part of the body. We don’t get to throw people away. We need to find a way to be together that isn’t exclusive.”
Jade Souza: “I’m mindful of those who will be left behind. Some are prepared to move forward earlier than others.”
Bethany Muhr: “When you’re on the outside, [you find] people you didn’t know were there. It took being thrown out to see that.”
Cynthia Price: “I was hurt by a lot of churches. I thought this was God hurting me. I don’t want us to be that body. I don’t ever want to be that person who is not showing God’s love.”
Gil George: “What you see depends on where you sit. I’ve been on the margins for a year and a half. The view is very different from the edges. I was able to find healing from others who were wounded. As Christians, we have to defer to the margins.”
Becky Ankeny: “I’ve always wanted the church to be a place where there was space for anyone…. I thought I could do some good from the inside, but I undoubtedly did harm. I’m sorry.”
Click here for minutes from the meeting.
‘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.
Threshing meeting to consider way forward in face of YM split
Hillsboro Friends will host a gathering for business and worship from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 25. The meeting – planned by representatives at midyear boards and open to all interested Friends – is intended to give people an opportunity to grieve the planned split in Northwest Yearly Meeting while also hearing “from one another about how Christ is calling us in our own communities.”
The meeting is in response to the Administrative Council’s announcement during midyear boards on January 27, 2017, of its decision to restructure the yearly meeting. Four churches are being removed from NWYM: West Hills, Eugene, Camas and Klamath Falls, while several other meetings may also choose to leave. The intended completion of this restructure is June 20, 2018.
“Many from the four released meetings and other meetings expressed a desire to come together to fellowship and hold This New Thing in the Light,” the group said in an email sent out Friday. “And so, let us gather!”
The proposed schedule includes introductions at 2 p.m. followed by waiting worship and threshing sessions. All are invited to stay for a potluck dinner from 5 to 6 p.m.
Hillsboro Friends is at 332 NE 6th Avenue.
Click here for the packet handout provided for anyone interested in attending the meeting.