PRO-GAY Oregon Meeting Expelled by Northwest YM
West Hills Friends in Portland, Oregon has been expelled from Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) because of its welcoming stance toward LGBTs.
The expulsion, officially called a “release,” was made public on July 24, in a letter from the NWYM Board of Elders, over the name of Ken Redford, the Board’s Clerk.
The expulsion was not entirely unexpected. West Hills Friends (WHF) had been placed “under care” [which is in fact like being under indictment] by the Elders almost two years ago, after it refused to withdraw or revise its statements affirming LGBT persons and relationships from its website. The Meeting declared itself a welcoming and affirming church in 2008, after several years of study and labor.
WHF had worked to be transparent about what it was doing, and promptly informed Northwest YM officials.
Much of the rest of the history of WHF’s situation is described on the Meeting’s website. The account there is lengthy, but fascinating and revealing; well worth the time of anyone interested in this issue.
More information on how discussions of LGBT issues in Northwest have evolved is contained in a detailed report in the journal Quaker Theology, (QT) Issue #24, by this blogger and Jade Souza, a NWYM member. Much of the reporting/analysis in this report has been confirmed by this new action.
The QT report also details how the Elders oversaw a 2011 revision of the NWYM book of Faith & Practice to grease the skids for the expulsion of WHF, and any other welcoming-inclined Meetings. At least one other Meeting is reportedly “under discipline,” on the same track toward possible expulsion.
The formal charge against WHF was that it was “out of compliance” with the Faith & Practice, and in a way that could be “shattering” to the yearly meeting if it was permitted to stay. The specific section states:
In situations in which a ministry point or local church continues to deteriorate, remains ineffective or out of unity with NWYM Faith and Practice, the BoE, acting for the Yearly Meeting, may discontinue the church or the association of the church with Northwest Yearly Meeting . . . .” (P. 32)
Recognizing that our yearly meeting is unable to embrace our current diversity, and recognizing the shattering that is ensuing, with grace and charity we sorrowfully release West Hills Friends Church from NWYM membership. It is our hope that this will free WHFC to pursue the call of God they have discerned. We record our respect for the process WHFC has followed and the sincerity of their convictions, which include their affirmation of committed same sex relationships and the decision to perform those weddings. We are grateful for the respect this body has shown us as elders and for the friendships that have developed. We grieve our loss, even as we recognize the pain this community will feel at being disconnected from the NWYM of Friends. We have experienced WHFC as a strong, healthy, growing community of Christian Friends, and we know that in spite of this painful and unwanted action, they will continue to thrive, perhaps forming other connections. We nurture the hope that a reconnection with NWYM might be possible in the future.
Even so, out of love for the whole of NWYM, we sense that this is the way forward. While we respect WHFC’s convictions, we recognize that the NWYM as a whole is not in any position to recognize same-sex marriages or record as pastors people who are living in committed same- sex relationships. We discern that taking no action in the case of WHFC would only cause more shattering at this point in time.
Our Faith and Practice provides a way to appeal this decision.
We recognize that as a yearly meeting, we are not in consensus over our statement on human sexuality in the Faith and Practice. We recognize that we need to do the hard work of theological reflection as Friends on the issues of revelation (including the authority of both the written and living Word of God) and human sexuality (in a broader sense than just LGBTQ issues). As elders we plan to facilitate this reflection. We need to seek and discover what God is saying to us at this time around these issues, in a spirit of humility, love and faith in a God who delights to unlock these mysteries.
In the meantime, we plead with the people, pastors and congregations to NWYM, on all sides of these issues, to commit to doing this hard work together. Can we decide to love each other?
Can we hold on to our love of Jesus and the Word of God, refraining from words or actions that would only cause more pain and division? Can we give the culture around us reason to say, “See how they love one another!”
Clerk Board of Elders, NWYM
. . . the unexplained meaning of “shattering.” Because in the American Quaker schisms of the past century, especially those involving evangelical groups, there is a distinctive and oft-repeated pattern: differences, ultimatums, and then some “resolution,” very often involving group departures. . . . Such “disruptions” happen often enough that the Evangelical Friends Church Southwest candidly specifies in its Faith & Practice (p. 50) that church property titles are to be held by the denomination, because that “discourages hostile takeovers, insuring that Friends churches remain Friends.”
It’s too early to gauge reactions among those NWYM Friends who opposed action against WHF. Nor has any formal response yet been seen from West Hills itself.
But this action in Oregon is likely to reverberate clear across the US in coming days. In North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM (NCYM), a somewhat similar struggle has been underway for a year: a group of strongly anti-gay pastors and supporters have been demanding to have several welcoming meetings similarly expelled from the body.
here’s one addition to the Oregon material. It’s from a statement made by a West Hills Member to the Board of Elders, but it could apply as well to many of the welcoming Friends in North Carolina:
“So is it possible to for Christians who strongly believe that homosexuality is a sin and people who believe that gay and lesbian people are just as God made them and should be treated with equality in all things to be friends? To worship together, eat together, learn from each other? To create a safe space where everyone feels respected and treated with kindness? Where no one would attack anyone else in a hurtful way?
West Hills Friends says yes.”
We’ll be following both situations as closely as we can.