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.”