Interim Committee forms rough agenda, schedule
Anyone who is interested may join sessions for Our New Thing at George Fox University the week of July 24-26. The group will gather in the Lemmons Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Monday, July 24
2 to 5 p.m. informal gathering and community building
Tuesday, July 25
8 a.m. worship, small group discussions, large group times to integrate the leadings from small groups
10:30 a.m. a panel of folks from the LGBTQ+ spectrum will talk about their experiences and what would help them to feel welcome and safe within the new organization.
12 p.m. lunch
1 p.m. discussion about learning/noticings from the panel discussion
2 p.m. small group discussions on questions and concerns related to forming a new organization
4 p.m. regather as large group to consider leadings
Wednesday, July 26
Meet from 8-5 on Wednesday, starting with worship. “If the sense of the meeting is that there is unity around some basic decisions, we will consider whether we are ready to approve steps such as:
- agreeing to form an organization,
- deciding what form the organization will take,
- describing its purpose and identity in general terms,
- choosing a name,
- nominating and empowering committees to work on different facets of the New Thing
- deciding when to gather next to continue our work.
“If we are not yet ready to take those steps, we will move back into listening mode, perhaps in small groups if that feels helpful. We may revisit the organizational steps later in the day if that feels right. At the end of the day on Wednesday, we will close with worship and celebration of wherever Spirit has led us in our time together.”
Is this part of the NWYM Annual Sessions?
“Yes and no. Our schedule and agenda is independent of NWYM, but we are sharing the campus facilities and there will be opportunities to interact if desired. Click here for the NWYM schedule.
“The 1-2 p.m. NWYM workshop times will overlap with our sessions. Participants can choose which to attend. Our New Thing will not have formal sessions in the evenings during the NWYM worship services, but there will be an opportunity for unprogrammed worship in “our” space during that time for those who would prefer not to attend the NWYM worship.”
What does it cost?
“We are still part of NWYM at this point, which allows us to use space at George Fox during Yearly Meeting Sessions at no cost and with housing and meals provided at reasonable cost. Childcare is also available if you register ahead. Registration for the whole event is only $25 if you are not staying in the dorms or buying a meal package. Click here to register.
“For any questions regarding registration, lodging, meals, childcare, etc., call NWYM at (503) 538-9419, ext. 100”
What if I want to serve on a committee or work group going forward?
“Send your self-nomination to Helen May at helen[dot]morasch[dot]may[at]gmail[dot]com. She is collecting names and will forward them to the Nominating Committee.”
Opportunity to ‘remember our story, say our goodbyes’
The clerk of the Yearly Meeting worship planning team sent out a letter today addressing questions about plans for annual sessions. Because of a restructure announced in January, the gathering at George Fox University later this month will be the last such session. The NWYM restructure is set to go into effect in June 2018.
Lynn Clouser Holt wrote that “many may be weary and disillusioned and wonder the reason for gathering together for worship…. We must be committed to reflecting and holding Christ’s Light for each other as we close our last NWYM together to establish a good and strong foundation as we all move ahead.”
Although six congregations have announced their intent to leave NWYM and three have publicly declared they will stay, the reality, according to Holt, is that all “have been shaped by our NWYM relationships – past and present, and by years of participating in worship and service together. I invite you to attend each service and hope you will encourage others to come and worship together as well.”
Each evening service has been planned as “a safe and spacious place to encounter Christ, and the themes of the evenings are similar invitations one would find in a memorial service,” Holt wrote. “There will not be a main speaker but … each service will include silence and opportunity for private personal response if one feels led. A small team will be providing the music. Sitting in worship together – regardless of what label we wear or whether we stay or go – invites us to trust God with one another and exposes us to currents of grace which thankfully are not limited by human division.”
Holt included the theme for this year’s worship gatherings: “When Grace happens, we relinquish [and/or] remember our story and say our goodbyes.”
The worship planning team includes Holt, Retha McCutchen, Nate Macy, Rob Willoughby and Martha Wood.
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.”
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.
Leaders sever ties with NWYM
In a letter to those attending the gathering at Eugene, Saturday, Starr and Cross Reardon announced their “intention to sever all relationship with the governing body of the NWYM…. It is our desire to journey with you as you create a new yearly meeting.”
Starr is working on her master of divinity. Cross writes music, sings and plays a variety of instruments. The couple is planting a Quaker worship group in Pocatello and has also ministered there as part of the Portneuf Valley Interfaith Fellowship.
“Jesus came to include not exclude,” they wrote. “We believe all people are welcome at the table. We believe in hope- that all things/people have the potentiality to be made whole in our relationship with Teacher. We have optimism in our future, as Christ can work through us to transform our communities and our world. We seek to challenge oppression wherever and whenever it is encountered. We believe that Jesus resisted the status quo and leads the way into freedom.”
- Open Worship – Waiting Worship
- Organizational issues and questions
- Identity – Who do we want to become?
Church to decide status at later date
Four monthly meetings, all of which hold an affirming statement, will not be allowed to remain members in Northwest Yearly Meeting after the restructure: Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls and West Hills. Yesterday, a fifth monthly meeting approved leaving as well.
In a meeting for business Sunday, North Seattle Friends approved the following minute:
Northwest Yearly Meeting has announced a restructuring process, which will create a newly Yearly Meeting on or before June 2018. Churches leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting may become independent or join the new Yearly Meeting. In response to this information, North Seattle Friends Church minuted their decision to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting during the restructuring period. As the newly formed Yearly Meeting has not yet been created, North Seattle Friends Church will decide on independent status or membership in the new Yearly Meeting at a later date.
Lorraine Watson as pastor, Jan Wood as clerk, and Cecile Hudson were approved as representatives to the newly forming entity. April 22 is the next gathering for this group.
Patty Federighi remains our rep to NWYM as long as we belong to NWYM.
In the process of creating structures that begin a process to form a new Yearly Meeting or Association, we trust and empower our representatives to discern and take action on our behalf. We understand that any substantive matters will be brought back to North Seattle Friends for discernment.
Watson sent an email, saying that she remains hopeful.
The meeting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, will be at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.
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.
Reps agree to continue in fellowship regardless of affiliation
[This article was updated on March 28 to reflect additions to the minutes.]
All three clerks tendered their resignations at the start of business Saturday, suggesting that the ongoing restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting likely means the end of a united Portland area. But just over 40 representatives from 11 monthly meetings agreed that they should continue to gather “regardless of formal affiliation.”
Keri Kimberly, an elder at West Hills, clarified that the area meetings could continue to meet “even if various monthly meetings end up in different places.”
“Portland area is one of the areas that’s most affected by this [restructure],” Tonya Comfort (Clackamas Park) said, noting that the area includes some churches that will likely stay with the yearly meeting, some that will join a new yearly meeting and others that may decide to become independent. “It would be important that there be a time together where we maintain those contacts. I don’t want to lose contact with those people I love and care about.”
Bernie Bosnjak (Hillsboro), Forrest Cammack (Tigard), Tonya Comfort and Brian Morse (Clackamas Park) agreed to serve on a planning committee. The next gathering of the Portland Area will be during annual session this July. A fall gathering will be hosted by Clackamas Park Friends on Saturday, October 14.
During the five-hour meeting, Julie Peyton (West Hills) reported on the importance of visitation for the sake of building and maintaining relationships. Eric Muhr (Newberg) offered a talk on reconciliation with the first two chapters of Philippians as his text. Elijah Walker (West Hills) facilitated an open worship experience in which participants prayerfully produced drawings, collages and a number of other art pieces.
In the 3-o’clock session, Bosnjak prepared the group for final business by encouraging people to consider what feelings they have experienced – individually, in local churches or as part of the area gathering – and what those feelings might suggest as to what should be shared with the larger yearly meeting: “Some people say, ‘I have feelings and I want to tell somebody and I’m not sure who to tell.’ Other people might say, ‘I have feelings and I want to tell somebody and I’m not sure who will listen.’ Do you have something to say to Northwest Yearly Meeting?”
Before the end of business and a shared potluck meal, the meeting approved the following minute: “We are sensitive to the pain many have experienced as a result of the announced restructure of our yearly meeting. We note, from our conversations, a desire to be mutually vulnerable in our work toward reconciliation. We are more together than we are apart, and many stated their desire that we find a way to nourish relationships and stay together. We intend to continue meeting in fellowship together as a Portland area gathering regardless of formal affiliation.”
Click here for the complete minutes from Saturday’s quarterly meeting.
‘New, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting’
Friends in Eugene created a bulletin board in January for anyone interested in joining a “new, Christ-centered, affirming Quaker yearly meeting in the Pacific Northwest.” Nearly 30 people have signed up so far.
“The NWYM Administrative [Council] reached a decision that a new yearly meeting would be created, and that the four churches with published LGBTQ+ affirming statements would be spun off into that new yearly meeting,” administrator John Price wrote in a post explaining the purpose of the site. “This is where we find ourselves today, and it is the reason this bulletin board exists… to provide a place where people from these four NWYM churches, and anyone else interested in joining the new yearly meeting can communicate with each other in a moderated, safe environment.”
The board, hosted by John and Elizabeth Price, features threads for people to process grief, share inspirational thoughts, and discuss Faith and Practice language on human sexuality. It also includes a proposal for a new quarterly meeting, and several collections of documents and notices.
Although the site-hosted discussions are slowly developing, some contributions have already suggested possible ways forward:
Lynsley Rollins suggested simplifying Faith and Practice “to see only one behavioral requirement written into a practice document: a statement that the new YM followed Quaker process, and that if at any time some of its members felt unable to await a uniform leading, and a schism threatened, then those who were unwilling to wait would be the ones to leave.”
Peggy Senger Morrison suggested a revision of Freedom Friends statement on human sexuality: “We hold dear the gift of our sexuality, which is given to all persons regardless of gender identity, orientation, or marital status. Because sexuality and spirituality are closely related, all believers are called to be thoughtful stewards of their sexuality. Sexuality that is de-humanizing, promiscuous, violent, non-consensual, manipulative, or predatory in nature is always harmful.”
The forum is public and read-only for anyone without a login. Click here to visit the site.
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