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.”
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
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.
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.
All monthly meetings remain full members for now
Members of 12 Friends churches gathered at North Valley last week to discuss starting a new yearly meeting. But nobody’s out yet.
“All churches will remain full members of Northwest Yearly Meeting,” according to the minutes from Saturday, “until the transfer takes place on or before June 2018.”
Local churches with representation at Saturday’s meeting included the following:
- Klamath Falls
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- Second Street
- West Hills
A transition team tasked with making decisions about yearly meeting assets has its first meeting scheduled for March 18. The next yearly-meeting-organized gathering for those interested in forming a new yearly meeting will be held at Eugene Friends Church on Saturday, April 22.
Questions for the transition team can be directed to NWYM Superintendent Retha McCutchen by email – [email protected]
Click here for the complete minutes