BREAKING: PRO-GAY Oregon Meeting Expelled by Northwest YM

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.

WHF-Logo-Expelled

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.

QT-24-CoverThe 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:

While the decision to come under the care of the [Board of] Elders [or BoE] is usually initiated by the local church, there are times when the BoE may choose to propose such an arrangement first. Exceptional cases where the church is in severe decline,
is experiencing unresolved conflict, or is out of compliance with Faith and Practice in a way that is shattering to the local church or Yearly Meeting community, may prompt the BoE to intervene and place the local church under their care. . . .
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)
Which they just did to WHF. Here’s the full text of the Elders’ letter:

From the Board of Elders, NWYM, July 2015

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!”

Ken Redford,
Clerk Board of Elders, NWYM

The concept of “shattering” noncompliance is a unique offense in Books of Faith & Practice, at least to our knowledge. The Quaker Theology report analyzed in its institutional  and historical context, noting that these illuminate

. . . 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.”

Expulsion was not the Elders’ only option: they could have continued laboring with West Hills, or even decided that its “noncompliance’ was not actually “shattering.” Several Meetings had sent them minutes urging them not to expel WHF; though there were also murmurings from some more conservative churches about leaving if WHF was not dealt with.

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.

However, North Carolina’s Faith & Practice has no provision for expelling or abolishing member meetings; and changing the F&P itself is by intention a very long and deliberate process.
The response so far has been a series of loud demands to, in effect, ignore or toss out the F&P and force the welcoming meetings out willy-nilly.  All but one of the targeted meetings have resisted this effort.
Next Saturday, NCYM will convene a Representative Body session to consider all this again. As they do so, the example of Oregon will likely be on the minds of many.
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:
From a statement by a WHF member to the NWYM Elders, 2011:

“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.

16 thoughts on “BREAKING: PRO-GAY Oregon Meeting Expelled by Northwest YM”

  1. This “release” indeed marks a sorry chapter in the history of Friends, and the unwillingness of NWYM to respond to that of God in all Friends – even Friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or allies is inexcusable and reprehensible.
    I would however urge caution in the use of the “LGBT” acronym. NWYM appears to be exercised on the issue of same sex relationships, and not on non-conforming gender identity. While I would expect a similar outcome were the issue of transgender and intersection Friends raised directly, it is inappropriate to simply assume this conflation. I would therefore ask all Friends to not confuse sexual orientation with gender identity, but instead to offer a welcome and an affirmation to all who are included under the LGBTI umbrella, with discernment for the meaning of each “letter”.

    1. Chloe, I think you’re incompletely informed. At George Fox University, where this YM was held and to which it is closely tied, there is an ongoing situation with a trans man, “Jayce,” and the YM is well aware of it.
      (More on that in this New York Times piece: Hunt, Joshua and Richard Pérez-Peña. 7/24/2014.“Housing Dispute Puts Quaker University at Front of Fight over Transgender Issues. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/us/transgender-student-fights-for-housing-rights-at-george-fox-university.html )
      So perhaps my acronym usage needs adjustment, but the “T” in LGBT is by no means absent from this struggle as I am aware of it, and that acronym was not used here at all loosely.

  2. An important distinction is that this decision was not just about sexuality. It was also riding on questions of the authority of scripture, revelation, etc. Gay marriage did play a role in it, but was perhaps in some ways the manifestation of a number of other disparities. I think that the best way to love WHFC and NWYM is to be careful about the sensationalism and oversimplification that can be tempting to spread over the internet.

    This is also true with North Carolina, as it was with Indiana. The timeliness of gay marriage seems to be an indicator of differences that have been around for decades.

    1. Yes, Jared L, I have long considered LGBT matters to be what I call “fish hook issues.” That is, when they come up out of the turbulent waters of our culture, attached to them, like old boots to an angler’s line, are the Bible, ecclesiology and church authority, and several other related matters. And to be sure, most of these have been around, fouling the lines of the most dedicated gospel fishers, for several generations.
      Nevertheless, as I argued in a previous post, in my experience among Friends (which, in this matter, goes back to 1977) LGBT issues have reliably been the trigger and the fuse. I believe that is true in North Carolina, and there’s no question it is what precipitated the expulsion of West Hills in Northwest.
      And if one finds my reporting on these matters “sensationalistic” and “oversimplified,” I invite the critics to either cite chapter and verse and back up such charges, or start their own blogs, and make their case there.

  3. The integrity of organization is a key issue. It is more difficult for us to breach differences with people whom we know at a distance than it is with people with whom we are familiar. We have people in our meeting who disagree profoundly and yet know that they love each other and would not want to leave or expel because of those differences.
    “In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”, M. Scott Peck.

  4. WWJD? Welcome the sinners then give them the truth. Then tell them to go and sin no more. I think this whole issue is bogged down by the assumption that welcoming sinners is inviting them to become part of the fellowship and never giving them the truth that will at first convict them, and then set them free if they will respond to the call of the Holy Spirit. Even worse is condoning and even celebrating a sinful lifestyle.
    Of course, I am assuming that Christians believe that homosexual behavior is sinful (not the temptation, but the act). And if the Friends Church cannot agree on that, then it is destined to become as ineffectual and irrelevant as the main-line denominations.
    As a lifelong Quake (63 years), I’ve seen the gradual slide of the denomination toward liberalism. My fear is that if the Friends Church goes much farther down the slippery slope, it will no longer be able to take a stand on anything, much less issues that contradict the obvious teachings of God’s Word.
    The truth can be painful to those that are in rebellion. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, ” (2 Timothy 4: 3-4)
    The BOE finally did the right thing. But instead of making a strong statement, they weenied out with ” It is our hope that this will free WHFC to pursue the call of God they have discerned.” What? Are you kidding? What discernment? How could that have been the call of God?
    It’s time to get back to the basics of the Bible. And instead of coddling those that would drag the denomination into the mire of humanism, leadership needs to take a solid stand.
    And if people want to turn the NWYM into something other than an evangelical denomination, let them leave. It would be better to have fellowship with a handful of true believers than to cater to the leaven that will eventually leaven the whole lump.

    1. “It would be better to have fellowship with a handful of true believers than to cater to the leaven that will eventually leaven the whole lump.”
      Well, be careful what thee wishes for, Friend. After eight NWYM monthly meetings protested the action against West Hill Friends, with vigor and eloquence, along with 200-plus mostly younger Friends who signed a like-minded letter, it doesn’t take much vision to foresee continued shrinkage into the “holy handful.” Further, my own sense is that the fact that the NWYM elders have evidently been deadlocked about enforcing this decision for more than a year since “officially” making it, suggests they are aware that the shape of the future they may be about to create.

      1. Hi again Chuck, This is the stuff of church splits. There comes a point where the organization has to define what it stands for and against.

        I’m a little fuzzy on the history, but isn’t this similar to what happened back in the mid 1800’s? A portion of the church stayed with the evangelical focus, and the rest went the way of social justice? That’s where the ultra-liberal, non-Christian Friends churches got their start.

        I’m afraid that the same spirit of social gospel is forcing its way into the remaining evangelical Friends church. And it’s probably just a matter of time before the denomination morphs completely away from its evangelical roots.

        This really is a huge issue. One that requires people to take a stand. I think NWYM needs to take that strong stand and encourage those churches that don’t stand with them to dis-associate. And let the chips fall where they may.

        I’m sure it’s not easy to think of severing fellowship with lifelong friends. But if there is strong division over such a crucial doctrine, there are only three options: Restoration, compromise or separation.

        The evangelical position is very clear. So if some churches cannot agree, and they cannot be persuaded to abandon their position, they really need to be removed. There can be no compromise. If there is, NWYM will need to stop kidding itself, drop the evangelical charade, and come to grips with what it is becoming.

        A church divided against itself cannot stand. Now is the time for strong leadership.

        Thanks for the forum, Chuck.

        Mike

        P.S. The fact that so many of the young members opposed the actions of the elders really tells us where the denomination is heading.

        1. Well, yes, Mike –the Religious Society of Friends has faced similar times of internal conflict before. And when you say “the evangelical position is very clear,” I tend to agree, but perhaps from a perspective you might not share. What’s clear to me in that position is that there are two kinds of folks in a group like Northwest YM: those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don’t.
          I get that your view is that those who have different views from yours either have to shape up or ship out. Yet I suggest those are not the only faithful alternatives. There were numerous occasions in Friends history when those “in power” decided to sidestep a schism or a purge, and live with a conflict and see how it worked out over time. And in several of these cases, the conflicts did work out, and some positions changed, and the situations did not become an occasion for schism.
          Among these differently handled conflicts were some pretty big issues: slavery, for one (after all; it’s taught in the Bible)– Friends, like most other Christians, accepted it for a century; then, after several decades of disagreement (in one case, Indiana in the 1840s it resulted in a short-lived split); participation in war, which was grounds for immediate expulsion, after some struggle became a matter of individual judgment; marrying non-Friends, also grounds for immediate expulsion, ceased to be so; and some others.
          The outcome of these changes are regarded differently by various Friends, as either progress or not (tho I haven’t heard anyone defend slavery recently). Yet to me the process of living them through was not only a sound Christian way of proceeding, it was quite biblical, following Gamaliel’s counsel in Acts 5, and some other passages.
          It seems pretty evident that both tendencies are operative in Northwest YM today. How will it work out there? Well, my crystal ball (or urim & thummim, if you insist) are busted and in the shop right now, so I can’t predict the future very well. So I’ll continue to follow it as closely as I can from a considerable distance.

  5. There is that of God in everyone.
    Can you speak truth to power and
    Still Love one another?
    Can you resolve conflict without violence?
    Do you pray that the ocean of darkness can be
    overcome with the ocean of Love?

    If you witness to your beliefs, you may call yourself a
    Quaker…and/or Christian…and be a Good Person.

    1. Jesus said in Mattew 18:6 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

      Peter and Paul both warn of the false teachers that would attack the church. They would come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The church leadership is told to deal with these false teachers very decisively.

      One of the strengths of the Friends Church is also its greatest weakness. Friends are loving and accepting. When confronted with false teachers or those engaged in sinful behavior, Friends are more inclined to look for ways not to be confrontational; not necessarily so they can win them over, but sometimes just to show that they are non-judgmental and loving of everyone. (Dare I say PC?)

      Jesus and the apostles were certainly loving, but they didn’t tolerate sin or put up with the religious leaders that were leading people astray.

      I blame the church leadership for not taking a strong stand on the issues that are corrupting Christ’s church. Look at what Paul says to the leaders of the Church in Ephesus in Acts 20:28-30:
      28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

      Paul calls teachers of falsehood wolves. By that definition, someone teaching “Christian” homosexuality is a wolf. A shepherd guarding a flock doesn’t invite the wolf in for some soul-searching dialog. His job is to guard the flock. He will kill the wolf or drive him away.

      The Friends church leadership needs to take a look at the New Testament and see what their role really is. The wolves are at the door. Some are even among us. And they are picking off our young and our weak. And our leadership takes 2 years to issue a letter wishing the wolf God-speed as he pursues the will of God as he has discerned.

      In our desire to show love for sinners, we need to be careful not to celebrate their sin or allow it to take root in His church.

      Pray for strong leaders.

      1. So I’ve just been advised that another Northwest Meeting, Camas, has formally become “welcoming” in its stance. Is it your view that they too should now “killed” like a wolf, or driven away?
        Is anybody else bothered by the use of quotes calling for killing people who affirm LGBTS in their church? We’ll take note of that.

        1. Come on, Chuck. Of course we’re talking metaphorically. The point of Paul’s message (I didn’t dream this up) was to warn leadership to guard the flock against false teaching.

          The shepherd-sheep analogy is really a perfect example. That’s why Christ called himself the Good Shepherd. Our shepherds need to learn what it means to be a shepherd in a Biblical sense. It’s not all love and care. It’s also defense of the sheep. And here the church is sadly lacking.

          I know these are harsh words, but unless the NWYM takes a stand on some of these crucial issues, they will stand for nothing and leave every church and every member to “do what is right in his own eyes.”

          It’s up to the leadership of each church to guard their people from false teaching. I’m not talking about driving away people that need salvation. Every church should “welcome” LGBTQE into their services, just as they would a drug addict or Muslim. How else will they hear the truth? But if they are not merely welcomed in, but are invited to become voting members (thereby impacting church policies and practices), and are allowed to influence other sheep and draw them away into error, then the church leadership was not guarding their flock.

          These people might not have started out as wolves. But Paul says wolves will also arise from among the body. And at some point they endanger the flock.

          If a shepherd won’t guard against the wolves, they need to be replaced by one that speaks truth. It might mean that some members will leave. If they don’t want truth, what can you do? You can’t make them accept it. But the alternative is to acquiesce and just let the cancer grow within that body and the greater denomination (as that church influences other churches by association).

          Unfortunately, I know that this concept would not be easily accepted among Friends because they are congregational-led. If the shepherd teaches against what they want to hear (even if the shepherd is teaching truth from the Bible), the sheep will take a vote and cast out the shepherd.

          Interesting conversation, Chuck. I’ll admit I get pretty black-and-white on matters that I believe are clear in the scriptures. And I’m saddened to see the church heading down some slippery slopes.

          Thanks for the forum.

          God bless

          1. “Come on, Chuck. Of course we’re talking metaphorically.”
            Maybe you are. But many others preaching similar messages are not at all speaking metaphorically.
            That includes Quakers, such as the leadership of Friends Church Kenya. As I documented in the journal “Quaker Theology” in 2013 (at this link: http://quakertheology.org/QT-23-Friends-Church-Kenya-vs-Homosexuals-Text-and-Responses-Quaker-Theology-Number-23.html ), that leadership issued a public statement, which included the following:
            “God’s attitude toward the vile behaviour of homosexuality is clear. He prohibited and condemned homosexuality in Gen. 19:5 when He destroyed the city of Sodom. It is clear that the homosexuality of the people of Sodom carried an uncontrollable lust that defied restraint so that even when the people were blinded they still tried to fulfil their lust (Gen. 19:11). Actually God outlawed all homosexuality and bestiality as sexual perversion that should not be tolerated. All sexual perversions were worthy of death, indicating their loath sameness [sic] before God. . . .
            For this matter, Friends Church in Kenya condemns homosexuality in the strongest term possible without reservation.”
            This statement was in support of Kenyan laws that criminalize homosexuality, and subject homosexuals to lengthy prison sentences. It is not “metaphorical.”
            It is in line with even more repressive anti-homosexual laws in nearby countries, particularly in Uganda. Violence against actual or perceived LGBT persons in these countries is widespread. and documented by Amnesty International in its report, “Making Love A Crime: Criminalization of Same Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The full report is online at:
            http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR01/001/2013/en/9f2d91b7-bc0e-4ea7-adae-7e51ae0ce36f/afr010012013en.pdf
            Moreover, this report and another by Political Research Associates (PRA) documents that much recent anti-gay actions and legislation in these countries, including proposals to apply the death penalty, was advocated and supported, not only by preaching but with financial aid, by very well-funded American evangelical leaders and activists. The PRA report is:”Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia, 2009.” Online at: http://www.publiceye.org/publications/globalizing-the-culture-wars/pdf/africa-full-report.pdf
            A key figure in the American antigay persecution effort is activist/evangelist Scott Lively, whose career includes a long history of public anti-gay legislative advocacy in Oregon. (Detailed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Lively )
            Lively’s efforts in Africa, especially Uganda, have been so blatant that he was sued by a group representing sexual minorities in Uganda, on the basis of international law. That lawsuit has been upheld by two U.S. federal courts, and it will proceed in a federal court in Massachusetts in just a few days from now. More information about that accountability action is here: https://ccrjustice.org/home/press-center/press-releases/sexual-minorities-uganda-submits-extensive-documentation-anti-gay
            The upshot, Mike, is that language about killing people for being homosexual based on certain interpretations of the Bible is neither rare, nor without concrete consequences in many places today, and most of it involves U.S. evangelicals, some with connections to antigay crusades in Oregon. So I take such language very seriously, and do not settle for claims that it is merely “metaphorical.” Furthermore, the commandments to put to death homosexual-acting men in Leviticus 20 and Romans 1 are by no means “metaphorical,” and I consider it entirely justified, especially dealing with persons who claim a “high view” of the truth and “authority” of the Bible, to pursue exactly what is being proposed.
            New steps in Northwest Yearly Meeting are scheduled for early December, as reported in the blog. I won’t predict the outcome, but will say that I hope any echoes of this death to the gays rhetoric will be promptly called out and ruled out of order.

  6. Death to the gays? My challenge to leadership to grow a spine turns into “Death to the Gays?”

    I’m not talking about the lost soul that needs to find the light in our churches. I’m talking about the false teacher that brings heretical teaching into the church. Or, the person that rises up in the church and begins spreading the false teaching.

    And, no. I wouldn’t suggest we kill them. Removing them (or correcting them if possible) would suffice.

    BTW, Romans 1 doesn’t command death to homosexuals. Paul says they are deserving of death, which was the prescribed punishment handed down in the Law.

    Thankfully we are in the age of grace.

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