Plans for parallel summer session placed on hold
One possibility for monthly meetings leaving Northwest Yearly Meeting might be some kind of combination with the Western Association of the Religious Society of Friends. The three WARSF meetings – all in California – have expressed interest, according to Brian Young (Berkeley), but there are also reasons for caution.
Young said the physical distances may be daunting, “especially for the folks from southern California. That will have to be determined as we get further into this process, and visitation will probably give us the best indication.”
In a 45-minute conversation at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting in Stony Point, NY, this last month, Julie Peyton (West Hills) and Young discussed the possibility of representation from WARSF at annual sessions this summer.
Peyton had originally been given a green light from NWYM Presiding Clerk Brad Holton and Superintendent Retha McCutchen “to pursue a parallel program, one geared towards those leaving the yearly meeting. My intent was to share dorms, cafeteria, and worship but have some programming … that would help ground this new thing.” But Peyton reported that in a meeting last Tuesday, McCutchen shared with Peyton her concern that this not be “a divisive situation, where Friends see some workshops geared toward one group or the other,” effectively putting plans for a parallel program on hold this summer.
Young said he intends “to draft a report to WARSF’s Board of Oversight on [the] dialogue thus far in the next week or so, and I will be sure to mention the annual session dates” as an option for visitation.
No matter what happens, the priority for WARSF meetings, according to Young, “is to provide connections with Friends United Meeting and other Friends organizations – American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and FWCC. I believe that I can speak for most WARSF Friends in saying that we would want any organization that we might join, or any meetings that might want to join with us, to actively support those same connections.”
The next meeting for churches leaving NWYM, as well as anyone interested in the process, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Eugene Friends Church, 3495 W 18th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402.
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.
‘Quakerism should have consequences’
Nearly 100 Friends from 14 monthly meetings found unity Saturday in their commitment “to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.” The Quaker gathering of worship for the conduct of business formally recognized “that it has not always been a safe place in the past.”
The minute – drafted from the floor and approved after nearly 12 minutes of discussion and edits – was a surprise to some. Just over an hour earlier, before taking a break, acting clerk David Peyton reported to the meeting his sense that there was no clarity or unity: “This meeting is saying we’re not ready. We don’t know what we want to build. Maybe we don’t want to build anything.”
But after the break, A.J. Mendoza acknowledged for the first time in the meeting that there were gender and sexual minorities in the room.
“Every LGBTQ person in this room is perfect – is not sinful.” Mendoza countered the notion some had shared that there isn’t yet unity to stay or to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting, pointing to the fact that gender and sexual minorities don’t get that choice. “To hear people talk about not wanting to move to a new home while I’m sleeping in the street is not good medicine…. I’m asking you to adopt the position of somebody who can’t go back. Quakerism should have consequences.”
Elijah Walker reminded the group that the reason for this gathering is that affirming churches “were forced out of a larger body of churches. A handful of communities said they want to be a safe space. We want to hold that leading in mind.”
After several more shared, a woman highlighted the fact that the feeling in the room changed after the break. “I grew up in church, and I’ve never heard someone declare before a body of believers that ‘God loves you’ as an LGBT person.” The woman said she’s 22 years old, and “I pray that no youth has to go 22 years before hearing in front of a body of believers that God loves them.”
Bernie Bosnjak announced during a potluck supper that Hillsboro Friends would be available for another gathering on Saturday, March 18. That weekend had been set aside for a Portland-area gathering. Bosnjak said anyone interested in helping to plan or host the gathering should contact Forrest Cammack, the clerk of that quarterly meeting.
Clyde Parker extended an invitation to a yearly-meeting-organized gathering at Eugene Friends on Saturday, April 22.
Of the four churches being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting – Camas, Eugene and West Hills all had representatives at the meeting. A representative from Klamath Falls shared via Facebook that she was unable to make the trip up for this gathering. Friends from the following meetings were also present, although many made clear that they were present as interested individuals, not necessarily as representatives of their meetings:
- Bridge City – North Pacific Yearly Meeting
- Freedom – independent, unaffiliated
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- South Salem
David Peyton clerked the meeting, and Krissi Carson served as recording clerk. Elders for the meeting were Bernie Bosnjak, Gil George, Lynn Holt, Jim Miller, Greg Morgan, Catherine Olson and Elijah Walker.
Click here for minutes from the meeting.