Group hopes to avoid splitting ‘non-theological’ assets
A report from the yearly meeting transition team, released yesterday, identified one research item, one item of discussion, three recommendations and one next step. Two of the recommendations in the 278-word document were clarifications from the working group’s last report.
The transition team identified a fiduciary trust as an ongoing research focus. The trust would allow Northwest Yearly Meeting and the new coalition of monthly meetings to avoid splitting as-yet-undefined assets by “holding certain assets that are non-theological in nature” and distributing the dividends of these assets proportionally between the two groups.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen has not yet responded to an emailed request for clarification as to which assets might be included in this trust, and according to one member of the group, others are remaining “silent, at least for the time being, in agreement with the stated policy” of the transition team. McCutchen confirmed in an earlier email that “the group decided that I would be the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.”
The three recommendations from the transition team are “to the Administrative Council.” Earlier language from Presiding Clerk Brad Holton said the team would report to the council, leaving some ambiguity about what deliberative body has final approval. Holton had earlier written that the Administrative Council “is committed to completing the transition” but that the transition team would “facilitate the creation of a newly formed yearly meeting.”
The recommendations, the first two of which are clarifications of an earlier report, include the following:
- All current churches (whether they choose to stay in NWYM, join a new YM, or go independent) will retain their property along with any associated debt.
- Employed pastors and staff (current and future) will continue to have access to the 401(k) pension plan and be able to contribute new funds.
- All current churches will have access to the Friends Church Extension Fund.
The transition team reported ongoing discussion of Quaker Hill, Quaker Cove, Twin Rocks, and Tilikum camps. The team has asked each individual camp board to review its “bylaws and policies and report back to the transition team” whatever changes seem best in light of the yearly meeting restructure.
The transition team did not list Twin Lakes Friends Camp, nor has it commented on the disposition of that property, 22 acres on Upper Twin Lakes near Rathdrum, Idaho.
The next meeting of the transition team is scheduled for Saturday, June 3, and members plan to “look at related organizations” during that meeting.
Restructure may extend past June 2018 deadline
[This article was updated on March 26 with additional comments from Superintendent Retha McCutchen]
The yearly meeting transition team met in closed session on Saturday, March 18. The team produced no minutes but did approve a report that was released the following Wednesday. That report counters one point from an earlier published Administrative Council decision, clarifies others, and prompts some new questions.
In a follow-up email, Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that she was named “the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.” She said that several of the questions raised “have not been answered yet.” She promised to provide more information as it becomes available.
After a list of those present at the meeting, the report says that “no decisions were made. The team familiarized themselves with assets of NWYM and its related organizations and decided what research needs to be done to have the documentation necessary to make informed decisions.”
The report identifies four points of information:
Transition date flexible, all churches may choose to join new yearly meeting
In the decision announced by the Administrative Council in January, affirming churches will be set aside as independent churches or “may be a part of the newly formed yearly meeting.” This transition process was to be completed “on or before June 30, 2018.”
But the report released Wednesday walked back that language from the Administrative Council, calling June 30, 2018, a “soft date. Churches are not under a deadline to make decisions regarding their status within this time period. The transition team will offer a time frame after June 2018 where churches might still leave NWYM with their property.”
McCutchen clarified that “this is not a hard and fast deadline that a church meets or else. Churches might make a decision in the next six months or they may not reach consensus within their meeting until after June 30, 2018.”
The report also clarifies that churches not currently holding an affirming stance on human sexuality “are welcome in either yearly meeting.”
“The reorganization as presented by AC and amended during the January Reps meeting is intended to invite those churches who are diverse, and who have decided to keep their community together and live within that diversity, to be a part of either yearly meeting,” McCutchen said.
According to the published Administrative Council decision, a new yearly meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with the newly formed yearly meeting Faith and Practice.” Northwest Yearly Meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
Nobody loses nonprofit status
“All churches currently members of NWYM will remain under NWYM’s 501(c)(3) until a new yearly meeting is formed and [has] obtained a 501(c)(3) for member churches.”
The exception to this coverage is that any “local church [that] has secured its own designation” will at that point, presumably, cease to be covered by the yearly meeting’s nonprofit status.
What about independent churches?
The transition team considered the reality that some churches may choose to be independent rather than stay with Northwest Yearly Meeting or join a new yearly meeting. The transition team has not determined what share those churches might have in yearly meeting assets.
Retirement accounts may remain where they are
Anyone who has invested in a 401k(k) tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension account, will be allowed to keep their individual contributions where they are, or withdraw their account, “regardless of the yearly meeting choice.”
“This statement is only intended to reassure people nothing is changing with their pension terms and conditions,” McCutchen said.
The transition team meets again on Saturday, April 15. Click here for the full report from Saturday’s meeting.