Excerpts from Saturday’s meeting
Jan Wood, North Seattle, opened the meeting Saturday: When we enter the door we lay down our preconceptions, convictions, planned speeches – and take on a neutral space in the spirit of Christ, to align with the heart of Jesus. It’s like shedding the garments that need to be shed, that encumber us, and take on the garment of Christ, that frees us. Whenever an organism experiences pain, the natural reaction is to resort to coping mechanisms, to change our behavior to protect itself, to protect itself from that pain ever happening again. We are being birthed out of woundedness and pain, and are vulnerable to resorting to these defenses. We need to release those we are angry at, hold in judgment, have wounded us—release them into the hands of Jesus.
During the meeting, we identified six priorities for an interim steering committee:
- “People work.” Jan asked Eric Muhr to elaborate on “people work.” He offered that we are usually inclined to think in terms of superstructure, rather than infrastructure. We might want to give attention to concern about an undergirding infrastructure to provide for the individuals not connected with these five churches, but who might want to be involved.
- Research into what’s been done before in similar situations, what the YM is requiring, what bylaws are needed. Retha McCutchen, NWYM Interim Superintendent, noted that we don’t need a full Faith and Practice, but merely bylaws (Roger Watson added later that we will need articles of incorporation as well).
- Identity work (who are we, what throws us together).
- Plan for ways to serve the interests of folks not affiliated with departing churches.
- [This was added later in the discussion.] Plan for alternative, parallel business meetings to be held during YM sessions in July 2017.
Wood clarified: We are pretty clear on a steering committee with a limited shelf life expiring at yearly meeting, a time frame for the steering committee to be formed, and a strong concern for a large, pained group in the middle without a departing church to affiliate with, and an identification with their pain.
Jade Souza, Reedwood: I would like for the committee to consider institutional support for meetings that are currently unclear, churches that are restructuring, or new plants or new worship groups.
We approved the following minute:
We approve the creation of an interim committee for the purpose of proposing a structure for the association of the five churches that must leave Northwest Yearly Meeting by 2018, to be comprised of two members appointed from each of these churches. It will serve as the point group for communication among the Friends coalescing around the formation of the new entity, and for communication with NWYM. The interim committee will decide on the scope and priorities of its work. We will ask the five churches leaving NWYM to name their representatives by May 21, 2017. The work and continued existence of this group will be re-evaluated at a meeting of the departing churches to be held during NWYM’s 2017 annual sessions.
Roger Watson, NWYM Director of Finance and Development, spoke to us about relevant legal and financial matters. As a NWYM staff member he has a fiduciary responsibility to us, in both practical matters (such as IRS 501(c)3 eligibility), and also matters concerning our relationship with NYWM. Transition team is working on a plan for the fair and equitable disbursement of the earnings from financial assets. The larger representation our group can achieve, the larger our share in the earnings from the financial assets. We need to show ourselves as a “going concern” here today and at least through the next year. To show good faith effort, we must show ourselves as a legal entity. This involves creating incorporation papers and bylaws. The Faith and Practice of NWYM is their bylaws. In establishing who you are, it’s important also to establish why you are, your purpose.
The next meeting will be during the 2017 NWYM sessions in July.
Click here for the complete minutes from the meeting.
Churches leaving YM take step toward incorporation
[This article was updated on April 23, to include the final, approved minute]
Just over 90 people from 17 meetings gathered at Eugene this afternoon to discern next steps for those leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting.
The group approved for a communications team to begin work directly following the meeting. That team is tasked with broad dissemination of information, increased transparency, and an infrastructure that supports multi-directional connections for the continuing work of discernment.
Jan Wood, North Seattle, clerked the meeting. “We need a comprehensive way to do communication,” she said.
“Let what we’re doing become public,” Rachel Swain Kidd, Eugene, encouraged the group. “As long as we’re part of the Northwest Yearly Meeting, what we’re doing should be posted there.”
In addition, each church leaving the yearly meeting – Camas, Eugene, Klamath Falls, North Seattle and West Hills – will name two representatives to serve on an interim committee that could begin meeting as early as May 21. The interim committee will decide the scope of its work and will serve as a place for ideas to be shared, reporting back to the next gathered meeting at annual sessions in July.
John Price, Eugene, pointed out that having an interim committee will give the yearly meeting Transition Team a group that it can begin working with.
Superintendent Retha McCutchen briefly shared that this new association does not require a Faith and Practice in order to operate. “You just need bylaws,” she said.
The importance of having bylaws and of getting incorporated, according to Roger Watson, yearly meeting director of finance and development, is that “it’s going to be a sign to Northwest Yearly Meeting as a whole and to the Administrative Council in particular that we are serious about what we are doing.”
Watson clarified that incorporating will also help the Transition Team: “One of the questions that the Transition Team is dealing with is the question of division of … earnings from some financial assets…. The larger representation we have in this group, the more share you get to have in the earnings of those financial assets.”
The following minute was approved by the group:
We approved the creation of an interim committee for the purpose of proposing a structure for the association of the five churches that must leave Northwest Yearly Meeting by 2018, to be comprised of two members appointed from each of these churches. It will serve as the point group for communication among the Friends coalescing around the formation of the new entity, and for communication with NWYM. The interim committee will decide on the scope and priorities of its work. We will ask the five churches leaving NWYM to name their representatives by May 21, 2017. The work and continued existence of this group will be re-evaluated at a meeting of the departing churches to be held during NWYM’s 2017 annual sessions.
Friends from the following meetings were present:
- Betweeners (worship group in Tualatin)
- Bridge City (North Pacific YM)
- East Hill
- Eugene Friends Church
- Eugene Friends Meeting (North Pacific YM)
- Friends in Common
- Klamath Falls
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- West Hills
The communications team includes Gil George, Rachel Hampton, Connor Magee, Thomas Magee, Eric Muhr, Kjiersten Schmidt and Lorraine Watson.
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.
Speakers offer glimpses of what might be next
At least four churches are being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting by June 2018. Members from 14 monthly meetings gathered Saturday at Hillsboro Friends to grieve together and to process what’s next.
The four-hour meeting didn’t generate answers, but in the listening and sharing, there were glimpses of what might be next. The following is an incomplete but ordered summary of excerpts from that meeting:
Lorraine Watson: “We want to rush to what’s next. There are lots of feelings. The most important work we can do is to listen together in community to God who is present.”
Cynthia Price: “People feel grief over the loss of connection.”
Julie Peyton: “How long can I wait before I know? How do I not try to control this?”
Peggy Senger Morrison: “The force that draws anything – any soul – to the center is Love. It will draw all things to itself, and everything is attracted to it…. When you’re near somebody else who’s grown to God you feel in line with them. Jesus has been saying to me recently he doesn’t care about our buildings. Jesus cares about love. Jesus cares very much about how we treat each other. Jesus doesn’t give a fig about what we build except that it might be a place where people are loved.”
Cherice Bock: “What does it mean for us to be the Friends of Jesus in the Pacific Northwest?”
Greg Morgan: “I have no sense of what we are in the process of becoming, and I don’t need to know that. I’m just deeply moved by the desire to be part of a community of love. What do we have that we can offer? And what do we need?”
Paul Frankenburger: “Just because you want to send somebody out doesn’t mean they stop being part of the body. We don’t get to throw people away. We need to find a way to be together that isn’t exclusive.”
Jade Souza: “I’m mindful of those who will be left behind. Some are prepared to move forward earlier than others.”
Bethany Muhr: “When you’re on the outside, [you find] people you didn’t know were there. It took being thrown out to see that.”
Cynthia Price: “I was hurt by a lot of churches. I thought this was God hurting me. I don’t want us to be that body. I don’t ever want to be that person who is not showing God’s love.”
Gil George: “What you see depends on where you sit. I’ve been on the margins for a year and a half. The view is very different from the edges. I was able to find healing from others who were wounded. As Christians, we have to defer to the margins.”
Becky Ankeny: “I’ve always wanted the church to be a place where there was space for anyone…. I thought I could do some good from the inside, but I undoubtedly did harm. I’m sorry.”
Click here for minutes from the meeting.