Congregations disagree on split of NFC assets
Newberg Friends Church began the process of splitting into two congregations in May, and at a business meeting in June, clerks “recommended a formal process for separating into two congregations.” Representatives from both groups would meet “to develop a Covenant of Separation to be effective on or before September 30, 2017, which focuses on our relationships, finances and other matters.”
But at a business meeting Sunday, July 16, the group leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting (NEFC) approved formal withdrawal from the negotiation process: “We leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC [the congregation that will stay with the yearly meeting], releasing all expectations.”
On a series of projected slides, leaders of the emerging congregation claimed they had received a “best and final offer” worth between $250,000 and $375,000. They estimated that the church’s net assets have a value in the range of $3.5 to 5.5 million.
“The process was not a good faith negotiation,” was listed as a point on a slide titled “Why it is Unjust.”
Leaders presented a minute for approval, and although the spirit of that prepared statement was approved, Brandon Buerkle shared in an email that several people in the meeting recommended the minute be revised “to take out language that could be perceived as antagonistic. They wanted to soften it to make sure that the minute spoke out of a desire to love while also speaking truthfully.”
“Some of those who spoke in the meeting about these kinds of revisions were tagged by the clerks to revise the minute alongside the CoS team this last week,” Buerkle wrote. “After a number of revisions over email, the revised minute was brought before the NEFC elders, who made a few more tweaks before approving it.”
The revised minute was shared with clerks and members of the Covenant of Separation talks in an evening meeting on Saturday, July 22, and is excerpted below:
“An offer of 50 percent of the sale price of Friends Center, some restricted and designated funds, and some material assets (e.g. two vans) was offered to NEFC from NWYM-NFC. These represent an estimated 5 to 10 percent of current NFC assets net of liabilities. Subsequent attempts to negotiate have not yielded a change in this offer.
“As members of NFC, we do not affirm an assumption that ascribes ownership and the right to distribute NFC resources to only one of the two NFC communities. Given our assumption that we should be equal partners at the table, we find the situation to be unjust and the offer to be inequitable. We find ourselves at an impasse, with no peaceful path forward.
“As a body, we discerned the call to love one another outweighs the inclination to fight. Above all else, in fidelity to our shared faith, we desire that love mark the conclusion of this difficult process. Knowing both communities have felt the hand of God leading us forward in unexpected ways, we leave the choice of what to share in the hands of NWYM-NFC, releasing all expectations.
“We recognize deep wounds in everyone involved. We pray for the grace to forgive, and for healing for all.”
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.